José Ramon Fernández “Marqués de La Esperanza”

Jose Ramon Fernandez is one of the wealthiest men to live in the 19th century Spanish Caribbean area. He achieved his wealth through being a sugar baron. In fact he was the wealthiest sugar baron in all of Puerto Rico. Through his wealth he was able to achieve vast amounts of influence and power in Puerto Rico and th surrounding area earning the title of “Marques de La Esperanza.” His legacy lives on today in Puerto Rico.

Early Years

Jose was born in 1797 to a Spanish naval captain in Puerto Rico. Jose’s father fought pirates and English merchant ships protecting Spanish shipments. Due to his success as a naval captain the Spanish government awarded Jose’s father with property in Bayamon and Manati. There Jose would grow up on a sugar cane and cattle plantation. Jose’s father would name his farm at Bayamon the “Santa Ana Plantation” and his farm at Manati “Hacienda La Esperanza.” He started out just producing rum from a mixture of honey and sugar for his own private and family use. Eventually he had two enormous windmills erected on each plantation to be used to more efficiently extract the juices from the sugar cane. This led to an increase in production as well as scope of his rum production.


Jose would live with his father on his plantation until he was eleven. Once turning eleven he was sent to Spain to get a proper education. While in Spain he studied business administration learning many of the valuable skills that would make him a powerful man later in his life. When he turned seventeen he moved to England to continue his education. While studying in england he became proficient in the English language. He also began to make connections with other business men and form a deeper understanding of the world of business. After completing his education in England he moved to New York. This move was pivotal for Jose’s career as in New York he formed many long lasting and valuable connections that would come to be of great use to him and his business later on in life.

Returning to Puerto Rico

When Jose returned to Puerto Rico he returned to his father’s plantations which had grown to be some of the richest and most prosperous in all of the land. Upon seeing the experience and knowledge his son had gained while away Jose’s father chose to allow him to make many of the business decisions for the plantations. One of the key decisions made by Jose was to form a partnership with the sugar broker and  U.S. Consulate to Puerto Rico George C. Lattimer. At this time he began living in Old San Juan upon San Fransisco Street, the same street today which is home of the El Asador Restaurant. In addition to gaining money Jose also began to gain power politically.

“Marqués de La Esperanza”

In 1868 there was a change in the government in Spain calling for each of the colonies to send representatives to Spain. Due to his plantation “La Esperanza” which he had inherited from his father being one of the richest and most technologically advanced sugar plantations in the world Jose was chosen to represent his colony. He received the title of “Marques de La Esperanza” for this honor. In Spain he convinced the government to divide Manati into two. His reasons for doing this were for his own gain as it allowed him to have his own sea port for shipments.


José Ramon Fernández’s plantation “Hacienda La Esperanza” today is left in the hands of the Puerto Rico Conservation Trust. Who has been restoring the plantation since 1984. It is one of the most valuable assets belonging to the Puerto Rico Conservation Trust.