BOOK: Picó on Microhistory and Puerto Rico

Picó, Fernando. Contra la corriente : seis microbiografías de los tiempos de España. Río Piedras, P.R.: Ediciones Huracán, 1995.

From a book review by Teresita Martínez Vergne

“In another timely shift in approach to the rich archival documentation he uncovers continually, Fernando Pico offers six “microbiographies” (life stories of ordinary people) to illustrate the advantages of embracing certain aspects of postmodernism in the writing of history. A brief introduction traces the impact on Puerto Rican historiography of a number of intellectual currents (Marxism, structuralism, dependency theory, quantitative studies, social history) and situates Pico’s own work comfortably within the European camp, namely the Annales school and its offshoots….

“…The two most interesting accounts in the book, in my opinion, are the histories of two slave families in Utuado and the microbiography of don Cayetano Estrella. Pic6 uses the first slave family (which he partially traces for three generations) to suggest that freedmen and freedwomen could have taken advan- tage of a wide array of economic opportunities in the Puerto Rican highlands to advance their social posi- tion and improve their material circumstances. The second slave family is illustrative of the difficulty of maintaining an inherited piece of land intact during the transition to commercial agriculture. Both family histories force historians and utuadefios alike to qucs- tion the insignificance of slave work in the Puerto Rican highlands and the racial purity that is claimed as a result of this alleged absence….”

Contra la Corriente: Seis Microbiografias: Fernando Picó

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