1 – French in Puerto Rico

originally posted 02/21/2001

(by Anne Marie Danet)

From material supplied by Eduardo Questell of Ponce, Puerto Rico, there were many more persons who left Saint Barthelemy to establish themselves in Puerto Rico.

It will be a surprise to many descendants of the French from Saint-Barthelemy, when we tell of the French immigrants who chose to settle in Puerto Rico rather than travel to other French islands.

One big attraction was the land grants to these settlers under the Cedula de Gracias of Spain.

There were several causes for this immigration to the Spanish island…  There was, first of all,  the French Revolution of 1789…  Royalists were at risk of losing their heads to Madame la Guillotine, even though Saint-Barthelemy was now under Swedish rule.  Then there was the Emancipation Proclamation of
Sweden and of France and there were many rich men on Saint-Barthelemy who possessed enslaved persons and who were not ready to grant freedom to their enslaved servants. The Spanish had not yet granted freedom to their servants.

Then there was the decline of the economy on Saint-Barthelemy because the Danish Island of St. Thomas, had been declared a free-port and merchant ships chose to trade there instead of on Saint-Barthelemy.

On Haiti, Touussaint L’Ouverture was leading the population in revolt against France, in demand for their freedom and independence.

In the United States, the French Territory of Louisiana was sold to the United States in 1803. This sales caused  many French citizens to decide to relocate to Spanish Puerto Rico.

On 10 August, 1815, the Spanish Crown enacted the Cedula de Gracias, which granted many rights and privileges to the immigrants who would cultivate the land and bring in machinery and slaves to cultivate sugar cane.  Although there were already French from Saint-Barthelemy on the island of Puerto Rico, many more now came to settle and take advantage of the land grant.

We must alert the reader and researcher that names were changed and mis-spelt because of the language.  The following is a list of some of the French from Saint-Barthelemy who relocated to Puerto Rico:

Bernier, Andre Resided in Puerto Rico since 1807.  Was naturalized in April, 1816 to  take advantage of the Cedula de Gracias
Bernier, Jean Pierre Resident of Puerto Rico from 1806 was naturalized in 1816 under the  Cedula de Gracias
Bernier, Maurice Resident in Puerto Rico since 1804 was naturalized in 1816 under the  Cedula de Gracias
Le Blanc, Victoria Single, 30 years of age, domestic servant. Resided in Guayanilla in 1872
Cerge, Louis Was establish in Puerto Rico under the Cedula de Gracias. He was the owner of a farm and brought with him, three slaves
England, Harold French subject, single, 16 years of age and a carpenter, He lived in  Fajardo in 1874.
Giraud, Martin Swedish subject.  69 years of age, a widower and farmer;  lived in  Salinas in 1875
Giraud, Matthiew Widower, farmer, 68 years of age.  Lived in Salinas in 1874
Giraud, Joseph Bachelor, 54 years of age.  He was a blacksmith. He resided in Ponce in 1872
Giraud, Anthoine Resided in Puerto Rico since 1811.   He was naturalized under the Cedula de Gracias
Laplace,  Jean Isidore Married, farmer and land-owner 93 years of age.  Resided in Juana Dias in 1872, along with his  family of four persons
Ledee, Pierre Resided in Puerto Rico since 1804.   Was naturalized under the Cedula  de Gracias
Martin, James Married, Bricklayer or mason.   63 years of age, lived in Fajardo since 1874
Nicot, Charles Steward, Butler or foreman.   Resided in Juana Dias in 1872.  He was 50 years of age
Roche (or Boche), Jean-Marie Established himself in Puerto Rico, in July 1817.  He brought with him four slaves and capitol of 2000 pesos

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