San Mateo de Cangrejos

Historical Notes on a Self-Emancipated Black Community in Puerto Rico

Gilberto Aponte Torres

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Geisteswissenschaften, Kunst, Musik / Geschichte


Originally published in Spanish in 1985 as part of a book series commissioned by Banco Popular, this slim volume makes an invaluable contribution to the history of Black people in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean more broadly. Today, San Mateo de Cangrejos is known as Santurce—a stylish district in the capital of San Juan, birthplace of Harlem Renaissance intellectual and collector Arturo Alfonso Schomburg, and home of the Santurce Cangrejeros for which baseball legends Roberto Clemente and Willie Mays once played. Gilberto Aponte Torres's brief yet transformative history is not about the feats of such "great men" but rather the "human foundations" of this unique municipality. San Mateo de Cangrejos was founded in the seventeenth century by cimarrones, or maroons, who were fleeing enslavement on neighboring islands and were later recognized as free by local authorities. Never losing sight of the significance of this fact, Aponte Torres details the religious life of Cangrejos, its economic and urban development, demography, military contributions, and eventual annexation by San Juan in 1862. Thoughtfully translated by Karen Juanita Carrillo, the English edition of San Mateo de Cangrejos includes photographs, a glossary, and other new features to help situate readers and further illuminate the deep roots of Black culture on the island.