| Conquest and Colonization
La industria azucarera
Contrabando y piratas
French occupation of the western side of the island
Retorno a España
Período de “la España Boba”
La independencia efímera
La dominación haitiana
The Osorio Evictions. Contraband became so important in Hispaniola that early in the 17th century, the majority of the island’s production was acquired by the French, English or Dutch, and to a smaller extent, by the Portuguese, who docked their ships as far away as possible from the city of Santo Domingo (the seat of the royal government). The preferred areas were the north and the west, with the ports of Puerto Plata, Monte Cristi, Bayajá and La Yaguana. In these towns, illegal trade came to be routine and enjoyed the complicity of even the local authorities. The owners of the cattle ranches scattered throughout the island, including those of Santo Domingo, preferred to bring their cattle to these areas and sell their leather to the contraband traders, as they received a higher price.
This economic “independence” that the island’s residents exhibited in the face of the Spanish government was encouraged by the European cultural penetration in the “Banda del Norte”, the contraband region, where Protestant baptisms were held with foreign godparents, and where Lutheran bibles were confiscated.
The Crown then took drastic measures: it decided to depopulate the west and northwest of the island. Named the “devastaciones de Osorio” (Osorio evictions) for the governor that implemented the actions, Antonio de Osorio, they went into effect between 1605 and early 1606. As a result, the towns of the Banda Norte were destroyed.
Immediate effects of the Osorio evictions.
• Destruction of some 120 ranches, abandoning more than 100,000 cattle and 14,000 horses that swelled the wild livestock population in the depopulated zone. Of the tame cattle that were raised in the region, only less than 10% (about 8,000 head of cattle) could be transported to the new locations.
• Destruction of the sugar refineries and mills of the place, which accelerated the decline of the sugar industry and, together with the loss of cattle and canafístola and ginger plantations, poverty increased in the entire colony and diminished the commercial importance of Santo Domingo.
• It allowed for the uprising of many black slaves that settled in the depopulated zones.
• Emigration of many affected residents to Cuba and Puerto Rico.
• Depopulation of more than half the island that left it at the mercy of the very foreigners the Crown wanted to avoid.
The Osorio evictions did not lessen the contraband market.
El Situado. The general poverty that, in the long term, affected the entire colony, caused by the depopulations of 1605 and 1606, deplete the fiscal collections of the colonial administration, to the point that it could not cover bureaucratic expenses nor maintenance of the soldiers in Santo Domingo. From 1608, the Spanish government, among other measures including the reduction of the number of soldiers by half, granted an annual subsidy that came from Mexico and was known as “el situado”. This subsidy continued throughout the rest of the 17th century.
Filibusters and buccaneers. Appropriation of la Tortuga. In 1629, the English and French displaced from the island of San Cristóbal by the Spanish settled on the Tortuga island, adjacent to Hispaniola. This foreign establishment was thrice destroyed by the military forces of the colony (in 1630, 1635 and 1654) and fell into French hands. This made la Tortuga a center of maritime, military and commercial operations whose objective was to conspire against Spanish control and interests, and more concretely, to take over the depopulated zones of Hispaniola, which they named “Tierra Grande”. In fact, in 1648, two groups had moved to the north coast of the island, where they hunted cattle and cultivated tobacco. They were divided into three classes:
Also called “bandits of the sea”, they were adventurers of various nationalities that dedicated themselves to piracy in Caribbean waters, besieging Spanish or Portuguese ships and their ports and cities in the Caribbean. They arrived at la Tortuga to rest and regroup.
They dedicated themselves to hunting wild cattle and pigs that populated northwestern Hispaniola by the thousands. They took root there, landing on la Tortuga regularly to sell leather and buy supplies of powder, ammunition and clothing. The name comes from a type of roaster (boucan) in which they smoked the meat that they ate.
Group of adventurers that opted for pursuing tobacco farming on the northern coast of the island. They sold this product on La Tortuga
Attacks on Hispaniola. Throughout the second half of the 17th century, Hispaniola was besieged by the enemy countries of Spain (France and England) that craved control of the island. Two great battles must be mentioned:
• Invasion of Penn and Venables: April 23, 1655, an English fleet arrived to the waters of Santo Domingo, commanded by Admiral William Penn and General Robert Venables and composed of 34 war ships, 7,000 sailors and 6,000 soldiers. In spite of its strength, the fleet was successfully turned back by the Spanish men and military, who, thanks to an intelligent strategy, not only prevented the capture of Santo Domingo, but also forced them to flee in retreat and caused them 1500 casualties. This same fleet immediately invaded the island of Jamaica in the name of England, which was less populated and poorly defended by the Spanish.
• The French land capture. Definitively established on La Tortuga from 1656, the French intensified the campaign to move inland, position themselves in the depopulated west of Hispaniola and eventually take over the entire island. In 1668, they established a settlement in the surroundings of the old Spanish city of Yaguana (in the far west of the island) and create a new town named Leoganne. In 1681, a census counted 7,848 people that, under orders from the French government, inhabited the western part of the island.
Tacit recognition. The Peace of Nimega, signed in Europe in 1678, forced the governors of the Spanish and French towns to come together and establish an active trade of horses, salted meat and cowhide between both groups of settlers (1680). If this did not impede bellicose confrontations between them (1690 and 1691, 1694), or allow Spain to demand the departure of the French from the island, it did imply that, for the first time, a definition of occupied space was proposed. In an informal and completely circumstantial way, it was proposed that the Rebouc or Guayubín river be established as a border to the north, while in the south, an imaginary line would be traced from said river to the island Beata.
The tacit recognition of a French colony’s existence on the western margins of the island was confirmed by the Treaty of the Peace of Ryswick, signed by France, the United Provinces, England, Spain and Germany in 1697. Though its content did not refer to those countries’ colonies in America, it did serve to encourage relatively peaceful coexistence, without problems as to the establishment of borders. This situation was reinforced when the grandson of Louis XIV, Felipe Anjou (with the name of Philip V) ascended the Spanish throne and thus allied Spain and France.
Treaty of Aranjuez. June 3, 1777, after decades of negotiations and hostilities between the colonies as to their borders, the Treaty of Aranjuez was signed, which definitively set the northern border at the Río Masacre and the southern border at the Río Pedernales.
Saint Domingue. Since the Treaty of Nimega of 1678, the western part of the island became known as Saint Domingue. Its formal organization, however, began in the early 18th century, when its territory was divided into the Northern, Southern and Western departments, each ruled by a governor and a general manager named by the King of France. On these lands, the French developed an intensive system of plantations that allowed them to produce coffee, cocoa, cotton, indigo and sugar on a large scale. Quickly, Saint Domingue became the richest French colony in the world.
The mainstay of this prosperous economy was the African slave work force, recruited from, among other ethnic groups, the Congo, Arada, Mondongo, Nago, Ibo, Caplaous and Fang. They were subjected to a cruel work regimen that shortened active life by an average of seven years. At the moment of their separation from France, the enslaving colonial bourgeois and white owners composed 6% of the population of Saint Domingue, free mulattos constituted 7% and the black slaves composed 87% (around 610,200).
The slaves’ custom of living together in collective barracks allowed for the mixing of their different languages and French, leading to the emergence of a dialect known as creole.
Treaty of Basil. The radical republican Jacobins that took power in France declared war on Spain (together with Holland and England), which ended with the signing of the Treaty of Basil on July 22, 1795. Through this agreement, Spain recovered possessions lost on the peninsula (Cataluña and the Basque provinces) in exchange for the cession of the colony of Santo Domingo. The state of instability of Saint Domingue since the beginning of the slave rebellion in August 1791 delayed the occupation of the eastern part of the island by France.
Brief unification of the island. Protected by the Treaty of Basil, Toussaint L’Ouverture, the black leader of the Saint Domingue revolution, took possession of Santo Domingo on January 26, 1801, unifying the island. One of his first measures in the Spanish colony was the abolition of slavery. He also planned to reorient its productive economy, based on cattle ranching, toward intensive agriculture for exportation purposes. This period of unification was, however, brief, as Napoleon Bonaparte sent an enormous expedition to fight the black revolutionary.
French occupation. In February 1802, French troops arrived, commanded by General Charles Leclerc. More than 10,000 soldiers arrived to put down the revolution of Saint Domingue and recovered control of the entire island. They could not stop the liberation movement of the old French colony, which, two years later (January 1, 1804), would proclaim the independence of the Republic of Haiti at the hands of the fighters Jean Jacques Dessalines, Alexandre Petion, and Henri Christophe.
Instead, thanks to the group of Spanish Dominicans, the French armada was able to establish its authority in the colony of Santo Domingo, expelling the forces of Paul L’Ouverture (Toussaint’s brother) and later repelling violent Haitian invasions by Dessalines and Henri Christophe in 1805.
The support the Spanish Dominicans of Santo Domingo gave to the French was vital. Many of them rejected the measures taken by Toussaint, as he regulated property and land use, obligated them to work in agricultural labor, to which they were unaccustomed, and deprived them of the use of slave labor. In addition, the majority of the population, in contrast to the inhabitants of the ex-French colony, was not considered black, but was composed of white Spaniards and mulattos.
From then on, the person who directed military operations to expel Paul L’Ouverture from Santo Domingo and to facilitate the entrance of the French soldiers commanded by General Kerversau was a New World-born military man, don Juan Barón.
Emigrations. After the signing of the Treaty of Basil in 1795, many families left Santo Domingo. The signing of the Treaty, the invasion of Toussaint and the wars against the Haitian forces compelled a large number of the residents to leave the island for Puerto Rico, Cuba and Venezuela. The American-born population, accustomed to living in permanent contact with the French on the western side, with their tendency to inch the border further and further east, rejected the idea that without any recognition of their social, historical and cultural composition, they were to be subjected to French authority and joined with the western settlers of the island. They only supported the Napoleonic forces when they realized that the French armies would liberate them from the Saint Domingue revolutionaries and would reestablish slavery, which is what occurred.