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Slave Families and the Hato Economy in Puerto Rico$
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David M. Stark

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780813060439

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: September 2015

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9780813060439.001.0001

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Until Death Do Us Part

Until Death Do Us Part

Marriage among Slaves

(p.95) 4 Until Death Do Us Part
Slave Families and the Hato Economy in Puerto Rico

David M. Stark

University Press of Florida

This chapter examines marriage among slaves in Puerto Rico, with a particular emphasis on Arecibo (1708–1811), because it has the longest and most complete series of marriage registers on the island. Central to this discussion are the religious context and the social implications of marriage which were important in the efforts of the Catholic Church to promote and regulate nuptiality among the faithful as well as the slaves’ motives underlying the embrace or rejection of Christian marriage. Where labor-intensive cash crops, including sugar, were not widely produced, slaves enjoyed relatively favorable conditions for marriage, as evidenced in the communities examined for this study. Moreover, spousal selection patterns observed in 166 slave and slave/free unions from Arecibo permit the identification of marriage strategies and demographic patterns specifically relating to whom slaves married and what ages they did so, along with the implications for both marital and family life. We can also learn more about the causal link between the agricultural economy and the demographic behavior of enslaved populations by looking at the ways in which the incidence and seasonality of marriage correlates with both the agricultural and liturgical calendars.

Keywords:   marriage, slaves, Puerto Rico, Arecibo, marriage patterns, spousal selection, seasonality of marriage, slave/free marriages

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