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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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A Self-Sustaining Population

A Self-Sustaining Population

The Family Life of Slaves

(p.132) 5 A Self-Sustaining Population
Slave Families and the Hato Economy in Puerto Rico

David M. Stark

University Press of Florida

Slave families were relatively stable and marital unions were often of long duration. Higher fertility levels exhibited by married and unmarried mothers suggest that fecundity was greater in areas encompassed by the hato economy. Family life was characterized for the most part by a young age at first birth, a long reproductive period, and relatively short birth intervals. Areas where slaves worked outside the sugar economy were linked to greater fertility rates and larger slaver families. A greater incidence of marriage in Arecibo resulted in higher legitimacy rates than documented in many parts of the Americas. Still most births occurred outside the context of marriage. Does this mean that unmarried mothers were involved in unstable relationships and their pregnancies the result of temporary or irregular unions? Some unmarried mothers, after having given birth to one or more children, eventually married the child(ren)’s father. Child spacing intervals observed among unmarried mothers and their married counterparts were similar. Children born to unmarried mothers were often the product of sexual unions that were stable and not the result of sporadic or random encounters implying no permanency of relationship or family unit.

Keywords:   slave families, age at first birth, birth intervals, family size, duration of marriage, legitimacy rates, illegitimacy rates

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