The reduced level of external crown support, and the increasing diversion of resources and activity to the hinterland farms and missions had a negative economic impact on the residents of seventeenth century St. Augustine.

Food, clothing and Spanish material goods were increasingly scarce, and residents of the town’s households had to be creative both in the ways they made ends meet, and in they ways they maintained their status as Spaniards.

For those of elite background, the outward maintenance of “Spanishness” was of paramount importance. Others, less privileged by birth, were able to more freely combine Spanish, American Indian, African and newly-generated criollo traditions into a lifestyle that eased survival in this difficult place.




Catalina de Orellana

Artist's rendering of Catalina de Orellana
Catalina de Orellana: Absent wife

Francisco de la Rua, a peninsulare, was a Captain in St. Augustine’s infantry. He married Catalina de Orellana, a wealthy criolla from Havana, however, she refused to live in St. Augustine with him. On his deathbed in 1659, he wrote that “against my wishes she remains in the city of Havana and despite the many entreaties I have made to her, she has not wished to come to this presidio to live a married life” (Hann garland:498). Captain La Rua left a board house and two black slaves named Juan Gutiérrez Criollo and Mateo Angola. His will listed a wide range of luxury and personal items, including thirteen Guale pots.

Juan Merino

Artist's rendering of Juan Merino
Juan Merino: Blacksmith

Blacksmiths were vital to frontier society, producing the hardware and tools needed for house and building and ship repair, as well as repairing weapons and making horseshoes. Juan Merino was a free black citizen of Havana, Cuba, and a blacksmith by trade. In 1675 he committed an unspecified crime in Havana, and was sentenced to four years labor as a blacksmith in St. Augustine. He worked at the forge of Manuel Roldín, a Master Blacksmith, Armorer and Charcoal burner. Roldín was only 28 years old, and literate, but earned the dislike of Governor Pablo de Hita Salazar, who called him “a clerkish type, young and lazy.” (Bushnell 1981, Blacksmith documents from Connor collection- HASPB).

Francisco Ponce de León

Artist's rendering of Francisco Ponce de León
Francisco Ponce de León: Creole son of the Sergeant major

Francisco was 12 years old in 1676, when his father, the native-born Sergeant Major of St. Augustine (and recent interim Governor) died. Eight years earlier Francisco’s small sister had been killed during a pirate attack on St. Augustine. As was the custom (as a humane welfare policy), the position and pay of the father was passed to his orphaned son, who would soon be old enough to serve as a soldier. The incident sparked confrontations with crown authorities in Spain, who strictly prohibited native-born criollos from holding positions in the government or in the military. Such prohibitions were ignored in St. Augustine, however, where it was almost impossible to attract sufficient Spanish manpower to meet regimental needs. This became increasingly clear, and by the time Francisco took on his fathers “dead pay”, the attitude toward criollos was much relaxed, and nearly half the garrison was made up of criollos (Arana garland:431). Young Francisco went on to serve a career in the military, as did his son and grandsons, one of whom became the colony’s sergeant major in the eighteenth century.

Isavel de Los Rios

Artist's rendering of Isavel de Los Rios
Isavel de Los Rios: Baker and vendor

Isavel was a free mulatta who baked rosquetes, spiral-shaped cakes. She sold these cakes, as well as honey, door to door throughout the town, and from her home. She was an independent entrepreuer in an age when such a status was difficult for any woman, let alone a black woman.

Juana de Herrero

Artist's rendering of Juana de Herrero
Juana de Herrero: Urban Indian

Juana was an Indian woman married to a Spanish soldier named Toma Hernando, and they had a house in St. Augustine. Juana died in 1689, and her death sparked a controversy between St. Augustine’s Franciscan (regular) clergy and their rivals, the secular clergy. The Franciscans claimed that they should see to her burial because she was an Indian, while the Parish priest asserted jurisdiction because she was a resident of the town and his parish, and “lived the way a Spaniard lives”. The case was appealed to the Bishop of Cuba, Diego de Compostela, who decreed in favor of the Parish priests, but not before the Franciscans secretly removed Juana’s body to the Convento de San Francisco for burial. (Kapitske 2001:134).


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