Thursday, March 23, 2017

March 22, 1873 -- the offical date

Yesterday we celebrated the abolishment of slavery in Puerto Rico. March 22, 1873, was the official date. It was announced in La Gazeta de Puerto Rico.

This is the link to where the digital version of the article can be found & read.  Click here

The article is in Spanish. I asked a fellow bilingual genealogist friend to help translate it. The translation reads: 

Overseas Minister to the Captain General of Puerto Rico:

The national assembly in its last session has approved unanimously and with enthusiastic acclaim the following Law.

Article 1: Slavery is abolished forever on the island of Puerto Rico.

Article 2: The free are obligated to serve contracts with their current owners or with the state for a time of no less than three years. In these contracts will intervene as caretakers of the freed, three special employees named by the Superior Government as Protectors of the Freed.

Article 3: The owners of slaves will be paid for their value at six months after the Law is published in the Gazeta de Madrid: the owners not wishing to have contracts with their old slaves will obtain a benefit of 25% of their value in any case.

Article 4: The total redeemable value for slaves is set at 35 million pesetas that will be made effective via a loan to be recovered by guarantee of rent by the island of Puerto Rico at a rate of 3.5 million for interests.

Article 5: Funds will be distributed by a Council composed by the Civil Superior Governor of the island, President, Chief Economist, Audience Attorney, three provincial officers elected by local authorities,Syndicate representative of the Capital government, 2 land owners elected by the top 50 slave owners. Decisions made by the Council will be by majority vote.

Article 6: If the government doesn't pay the owners for their slaves, it will have to turn over the title of ownership of the slaves to the owners.

Article 7: The freed will obtain full rights after 5 years of the publishing of this Law in the Gazeta de Madrid.

Article 8: The Governor will dictate the necessary measures to execute this Law, and attend to the needs and benefits and work that the same will require.

Palace of the National Assembly, 22 March 1873.

I was aware that even after slavery was abolished, there was a law in place that still obligated former slaves to work for free for an additional 3 years. However, I didn't realize till today after reading this translation that slaves became indentured servants by law for more likely 5 years. Then being granted the role as Spanish citizens. That would have been in 1878. Owners that refused to keep slaves as workers were given a payoff, but the slaves were taken by the government and given to others as workers. So slaves weren't really freed in 1873 like most people say or think. They weren't freed at all for an additional 5 years. It's heart breaking, but real.

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