Document Type



Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor's Name

Noble David Cook

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

M. Sherry Johnson

Third Advisor's Name

Astrid Arrarás


Puerto Rico, Public Health, Public Works, San Juan, Sanitation, Cabildo, Caribbean, Environment

Date of Defense



The purpose of this thesis is to evaluate and understand the growth of public works as part of urban development in San Juan, Puerto Rico, between 1765 and 1823. In San Juan, attaining basic provisions was complicated by distinctive circumstances such as the increasing population, administrative decisions, and financial limitations. This thesis draws from demography, medicine, urban studies, and primary documents to understand how the changes in San Juan’s established political, economic, demographic, and environmental systems allowed for the growth of public works to support the city’s population. With the introduction of economic and military Bourbon Reforms, the existing colonial system fractured, collapsing in the first decade of the nineteenth century from financial burdens, internal infrastructure decay, and the abdication of the Spanish king. Imperial loyalty and intra-monarchial attention to the general public altered Puerto Rico’s imperial role, establishing a new system that allowed public work and sanitation to thrive.





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