Black Women in the Making of the Hacienda Irurena: A Re-interpretation of a Coffee and Sugar Plantation Landscape in Puerto Rico

Author: ORCID icon
Rodriguez Rivera, Sara, Architectural History - School of Architecture, University of Virginia
Crane, Sheila, Architectural History, University of Virginia
Nelson, Louis, Architectural History, University of Virginia
Rogers, Charlotte, Spanish Italian and Portuguese, University of Virginia

In 1873, when slavery was abolished in Puerto Rico, the coffee and sugar plantation known as the Hacienda Irurena had the largest number of enslaved workers in the municipalities of Moca. Today the only tangible remnant of this site’s history is a two-story, French-influenced manor house that has been transformed into a museum and event venue called the Palacete Los Moreau. This plantation museum now glorifies selected governors and mayors of Puerto Rico as well as the site’s white planters. This current interpretation ignores the fact that this site was once owned and transformed by a former enslaved woman who wielded surprising power. How was this history erased over time? Black Women in the Making of the Hacienda Irurena: A Re-interpretation of a Coffee and Sugar Plantation Landscape in Puerto Rico unfolds a broader chronological history of this site and its cultural landscapes through the life accounts of female agents, whose lives counter the cultural hegemony asserted by the museum. By reading against the grain of archival resources and implementing an interdisciplinary approach, this thesis reveals how the production of coffee and sugar exploited and exhausted this plantation’s lands and workers. More so, it excavates multivalent lived histories of the ones who forged this landscape, particularly the more than 300 enslaved women that were recorded in the Libreta de Esclavas Paridoras [Journal of Birthing Slaves] of the Hacienda Irurena. In addition, a revaluation of the decisions taken since the 1990s by both cultural and governmental institutions reveals how the history of this site has been erased in its current public interpretation. Finally, the insights of a descendant from the enslaved community of the Hacienda Irurena reveals new ways to approach this site, inviting us to consider plantation landscapes and their remaining ecosystems, as witnesses of unwritten histories of women waiting to be heard.

MARH (Master of Architectural History)
Hacienda Irurena, Cornelia Pellot, Palacete Los Moreau, Castillo Los Moreau, Moca, Puerto Rico, Sugar Production, Coffee Production, Slavery in Puerto Rico, Nineteenth Century Architecture, Puerto Rican Architecture, Pedro Pellot, Juan Pellot, Juan Labadie y Larre, Manuel Gomez Tejera, Paul Servajean, Libreta de Esclavas Paridoras, Hacienda, Caribbean Plantation, Coffee Plantation, Plantation Landscapes, Black Women in the Making of the Hacienda Irurena, Black Women, La Llamarada, Enrique A Laguerre
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