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Irish Indentured Servants, Papists and Colonists in
Spanish Colonial Puerto Rico, ca. 1650-1800


By Jorge L. Chinea



While it is entirely possible that these Irish settlers successfully countered the false charges of treachery, the urgency of retaining and expanding an economically viable white population in Puerto Rico may have also worked in their favour. The British attack coincided with the Haitian Revolution in the adjacent French colony of Saint Domingue, which resulted in the abrupt flight of thousands of whites fearing for their lives. The Spanish colonial authorities not only forbade Dominguan slaves and free blacks from entering Puerto Rico, but also kept native people of colour under constant watch to prevent what they believed to be an impending race war.

Accordingly, the aforementioned 1815 Cédula de Gracias had a distinctively pro-white slant in that it offered incoming ‘coloured’ farmers a fraction of the land that it allotted to their white counterparts. In this racially tense atmosphere, attracting previously excluded white foreigners willing to embrace the Catholic faith and pledge allegiance to Spain regardless of country of origin became a priority. As a result, the foreign white population, which included the Irish, increased noticeably in Puerto Rico during the first half of the nineteenth century (Chinea 2005).

Jorge L. Chinea
Wayne State University

Vieques Island
(Tropical Destinations)


AGI = Archivo General de Indias, Seville, Spain.

SD = Sección de Santo Domingo

Ultramar = Sección de Ultramar

AGS = Archivo General de Simancas, Simancas, Spain

Guerra = Sección de Guerra

Estado = Sección de Estado

AGMS = Archivo General Militar de Segovia, Segovia, Spain

AGPR = Archivo General de Puerto Rico, San Juan, Puerto Rico

AHC = Archivo Histórico Catedral, San Juan, Puerto Rico


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Copyright © Society for Irish Latin American Studies, 2007

Online published: 11 November 2007
Edited: 07 May 2009

Chinea, Jorge L., 'Irish Indentured Servants, Papists and Colonists in Spanish Colonial Puerto Rico, ca. 1650-1800' in "Irish Migration Studies in Latin America" 5:3 (November 2007), pp. 171-182. Available online (, accessed .


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