30 November 2016

First Civilian Governor 1900 – King of Sugar

War Against All Puerto Ricans by Nelson Denis, 2015, Excerpts

Charles Herbert Allen was the first civilian governor of Puerto Rico [1900-1901]. Though he never served in the armed forces, he loved to dress in military regalia and have people address him as “colonel.” He arrived like a Roman conqueror with a naval cannon salute, infantry band, and hundreds of armed men. During his one year as governor, he developed a passion for business. He wrote:

Puerto Rico is a beautiful island with its natural resources undeveloped, and its population unfit to assume the management of their own affairs.
The yield of sugar per acre is greater than in any other country in the world.

On September 15, 1901, Allen resigned as governor. He then headed straight to Wall Street, where he joined the House of Morgan as vice president. He built the largest sugar syndicate in the world, and his hundreds of political appointees in Puerto Rico provided him with land grants, tax subsidies, water rights, railroad easements, foreclosure sales, and favorable tariffs. He used his governorship to acquire an international sugar empire and a controlling interest in the entire Puerto Rican economy.

By 1907 his syndicate, the American Sugar Refining Company, owned or controlled 98 percent of the sugar-processing capacity in the United States and was known as the Sugar Trust. Today his company is known as Domino Sugar.

Starting in 1926. The United Puerto Rico Sugar Company bought every tobacco plantation and built the second-largest sugar mill on the island, with a 205-foot chimney and boilers that processed 9 million pounds of cane per day. The National City Bank bought another 54,000 acres of farmland, plus warehouses, port facilities, and 133 miles of railroad. The American Colonial Bank, the House of Morgan, and Bankers Trust controlled another 100,000 acres. All of them turned Puerto Rico into a one-crop economy.

By 1931, all the island’s sugar farms belonged to forty-one syndicates. The banks owned 60 percent of the sugar plantations, 80 percent of the tobacco farms, and 100 percent of the coastal railroads, shipping facilities, and maritime vessels. Yale Historian Bailey W. Diffie noted in 1931, “land is passing into the hands of a few large corporations. The sugar industry, tobacco manufacturing, fruit growing, banks, railroads, public utilities, steamship lines, and many lesser businesses are completely dominated by outside capital. The men who own the sugar companies control both the Bureau of Insular Affairs and the Legislature of Puerto Rico.” 

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