New Book: David M. Stark’s “Slave Families and the Hato Economy in Puerto Rico”


David M. Stark has recently published his new book, Slave Families and the Hato Economy in Puerto Rico (University Press of Florida, 2015). Puerto Rican historian Dr. Fernando Pico says that the author “deftly uses the available parish registers to document the stages of the coming of African men and women to Puerto Rico in the eighteenth century and reveals patterns of family formation and bonds of solidarity among the African slaves and with the rest of society.”

Description: The hato economy—a combination of livestock ranching, foodstuff cultivation, and timber harvesting—figured prominently in Puerto Rico and greatly impacted slave communities. When animal husbandry drove much of the island’s economy, slavery was less harsh than in plantations geared toward crop cultivation, argues David M. Stark. Slaves in the hato economy experienced more favorable conditions for family formation, relatively relaxed work regimes, higher fertility rates, and lower mortality rates, he argues.

While much scholarship focuses on sugar and tobacco production, Stark examines the hato economy to paint a fuller portrait of slavery across the Spanish Caribbean. He uses extensive Catholic parish records to reconstruct slave families and examine incidences of marriage, as well as birth and death rates. The result are never-before-analyzed details on how many enslaved Africans came to Puerto Rico, where they came from, and how their populations grew through natural increase.

[Many thanks to Teo Freytes for bringing this item to our attention.]

For more information, see

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