Trade with Spanish America: 1825-1900

After their revolutions, the U.S. and the countries of Spanish America traded without interference from imperial rulers. U.S. merchants also did a booming business with Spain’s remaining Caribbean colonies—Cuba and Puerto Rico.

In the 1800s, the South American trade helped turn the New York-Brooklyn metropolis into one of the world’s most prosperous urban centers. The city’s advantages already included a deep, safe harbor, access to the U.S. agricultural heartland through the Erie Canal, a huge and skilled workforce, and daring entrepreneurs. The growing volume of trade with South America now spurred the development of industry (from sugar refineries to machine shops), infrastructure (docks and warehouses), and finance (banks and marine insurance companies).

Franciso Oller (Puerto Rico, 1833–1917), Hacienda La Fortuna, 1885. Oil on canvas. Collection of Carmen G. Correa. Estates like La Fortuna, located in fertile Ponce, Puerto Rico, grew and milled sugar cane, shipping most of their product to U.S. refineries. The owner, a Barcelonan émigré, commissioned distinguished Puerto Rican artist Francisco Oller to paint his house, warehouse, mill, and laborers. Oller applied the impressionist techniques he mastered in Europe to studies of his native landscape. 
Franciso Oller (Puerto Rico, 1833–1917), Hacienda La Fortuna, 1885. Oil on canvas. Collection of Carmen G. Correa.
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