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Was Rizal unaware of the considerable wealth that was being generated from sugar production on Negros Island, which by the 1860s Spanish colonial officials had dubbed the Emporium of Wealth in the Visayas?Even more intriguing was the fact that in his essay on indolence Rizal nowhere mentioned the prosperity of sugarcane growers in Pampanga, just north of Calamba.With all these disincentives, he asked — without distinguishing between landholder and peasant labourer, or any other class position for that matter — who would bother to work, engage in economic pursuits, and accumulate wealth?To emphasise the debilitating effects of Spanish colonial rule that fostered and magnified indolence, Rizal recalled times past when natives were discouraged from pursuing agriculture, but he also zeroed in on the late nineteenth century: El estar las mejoras haciendas, los mejores terrenos de algunas provincias, aquellos que por sus fáciles medios de comunicación son mas ventajosos que otros, en manos de las corporaciones religiosas cuyo desiderátum es la ignorancia y un estado de semi miseria del indio, para continuar gobernándolo y hacerse necesario a su desgraciada existencia, es una de las causas del por que muchos pueblos no progresan a pesar de los esfuerzos de sus habitantes [The fact that the best estates, the best tracts of land in some provinces, those that from their easy means of communication are more profitable than others, are in the hands of the religious corporations, whose desideratum is the ignorance and a condition of semi-destitution of the native so that they may continue to govern him and make themselves necessary to his wretched existence, is one of the reasons why many towns do not progress in spite of the efforts of the inhabitants.] To prove that agriculture could prosper even without friar involvement, Rizal argued that the friar haciendas of Bauan and Lian were inferior to Taal, Balayan, and Lipa, all in Batangas province, because the latter were ‘cultivated entirely by the natives without monkish interference whatsoever’.
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But in stressing the disincentives to economic enterprise and bemoaning friar control of the best haciendas, Rizal was silent about agricultural production in other parts of the country.
Since the 1810s ships that called in at the port of Manila bought sugar, the principal export commodity that beginning in the 1820s the earliest merchant houses shipped to overseas markets.
In contrast, Negros showcased a range of haciendas of varying sizes in a frontier setting involving different ethnicities and supported by capital and technology mediated directly by foreign merchant houses.
In both locations sugar planters opposed the colonial state, but whereas leaseholders in Calamba, led by Rizal's family, became intentionally political in their resistance, in Negros planters engaged in a persistent and calibrated evasion of the state.