Royal Decree of Graces of 1815

The Royal Decree of Graces of 1815 (Spanish: Real Cédula de Gracias) is a legal order approved by the Spanish Crown in the early half of the 19th century to encourage Spaniards and, later, Europeans of non-Spanish origin, to settle in and populate the colony of Puerto Rico.

Royal Decree of Graces of 1815
Real Cédula de Gracia
Royal Decree of Graces of 1815
Original titleReal Cédula de Gracia de 1815
Ratified10 August 1815
LocationGeneral Archives of Puerto Rico in the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture
PurposeIt is a legal order approved by the Spanish Crown to encourage Spaniards and Europeans of non-Spanish origin, to settle in and populate the colonies of Puerto Rico.

Royal Decree of Graces

On 10 August 1815, King Ferdinand VII of Spain approved the Spanish Royal Decree of Graces, which granted Puerto Rico the right to have commercial ties with countries which were in good standing with Spain. It also granted free land to settlers, as well as incentives for investing money and providing technology for agricultural development to any Spaniard willing to relocate and settle in those territories.[1]

Puerto Rico was largely undeveloped until 1830, when immigrants from the Spanish provinces of Catalonia, Majorca, and the Canary Islands began to arrive. They gradually developed the sugarcane, coffee, and tobacco plantations, based on the use of African slave labor.[2] Spain had approved Decree of Graces of 8 September 1777 in regard to Venezuela, and the Decree of Graces of 1789, which granted its subjects the right to purchase slaves and to participate in the flourishing business of slave trading in the Caribbean.

Situation in the Spanish Colonies

At the beginning of the 19th century, the Spanish colonies in the western hemisphere fought for their independence. In South America, Simón Bolívar and José de San Martín led colonists to victory against Spanish rule; in Mexico, José María Morelos led the movement.

By 1825, the Spanish Empire had lost control of all of its territories in the Americas with the exception of Puerto Rico and Cuba. These two possessions were also demanding more autonomy, and pro-independence movements had been gathering strength. Trying to forestall the loss of these colonies, the Spanish Crown revived the Royal Decree of Graces of 1815. It printed the decree in English and French, as well as Spanish, and distributed copies throughout Europe to attract non-Spanish settlers. The Crown offered free land on the condition that new settlers swear their loyalty to the Spanish Crown and allegiance to the Roman Catholic Church. They hoped to supplant the independence movement with new settlers.[2]

The decree encouraged the use of slave labor to revive agriculture on the islands. The new agricultural class immigrating from other countries of Europe purchased slaves in large numbers and labor conditions for them were harsh.[2]

Situation in Europe

During the latter part of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century, great economic and political changes occurred in Europe. Thousands of farm workers migrated to cities seeking industrial jobs and better opportunities. Those who stayed behind to attend the farmlands suffered the widespread crop failures, brought on by long periods of drought and diseases such as the potato fungus which caused the Irish Potato Famine of the 1840s. Cholera epidemics broke out and starvation was widespread in Europe.[3] Social and economic disruption also followed the European Revolutions of 1848, which erupted in Sicily and the German states. The French Revolution of 1848 contributed to the Franco-Prussian war of 1870 and more changes.

These conditions led to a massive European immigration to the Americas. Hundreds of Corsicans, Italians, French, Portuguese, Irish, Scots, and Germans, attracted by the offers of free land by the Spanish Crown, moved to the colony of Puerto Rico and accepted the conditions. As soon as these settlers swore their loyalty to the Spanish Crown and their allegiance to the Roman Catholic Church, they were given a "Letter of Domicile". After five years, the settlers were granted a "Letter of Naturalization" that made them Spanish subjects. In 1870, to attract non-Catholic Europeans, the Spanish Courts passed a law granting the right of religious freedom in the islands.


About 450,000 European immigrants settled in Puerto Rico during this period. The new settlers soon adopted the language and customs of their new homelands, and many intermarried with the local residents. Many became prominent business and political leaders. The Royal Decree ceased to have effect in 1898, when Spain finally lost her last two possessions in the New World to the United States under the Treaty of Paris that ended the Spanish–American War.[2]

The original Spanish Royal Decree of Graces of 1815 is kept in the General Archives of Puerto Rico in the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture in San Juan, Puerto Rico.[3]

See also


  1. ^ Ponce, Ciudad Senorial: La ciudad es conocida como la Perla del Sur: Desarrollo Economico y Cultural de Ponce: Un buen ejemplo del desenvolvimiento de Puerto Rico en el Siglo XIX. El Nuevo Dia. "Historia de Puerto Rico." Collectible No. 24. 3 July 2007. Page 3. Retrieved 9 April 2012.
  2. ^ a b c d Real Cédula de 1789 "para el comercio de Negros" Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Graces" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  3. ^ a b Archivo General de Puerto Rico: Documentos Archived 2007-10-18 at the Wayback Machine

External links

Afro-Puerto Ricans

The history of Puerto Ricans of African descent begins with free African men, known as libertos, who accompanied the Spanish Conquistadors in the invasion of the island. The Spaniards enslaved the Taínos (the native inhabitants of the island), many of whom died as a result of new infectious diseases and the Spaniards' oppressive colonization efforts. Spain's royal government needed laborers and began to rely on slavery to staff their mining and fort-building operations. The Crown authorized importing enslaved West Africans. As a result, the majority of the African peoples who entered Puerto Rico were part of the forced migration of the Atlantic slave trade, and came from many different cultures and peoples of the African continent.

When the gold mines in Puerto Rico were declared depleted, the Spanish Crown no longer considered the island to be a high colonial priority. Its chief ports served primarily as a garrison to support naval vessels. The Spaniards encouraged free people of color from British and French possessions in the Caribbean to emigrate to Puerto Rico, to provide a population base to support the Puerto Rican garrison. The Spanish decree of 1789 allowed slaves to earn or buy their freedom; however, this did little to help their situation. The expansion of sugar cane plantations drove up demand for labor and the slave population increased dramatically as new slaves were imported. Throughout the years, there were many slave revolts in the island. Slaves who were promised their freedom joined the 1868 uprising against Spanish colonial rule in what is known as the Grito de Lares. On March 22, 1873, slavery was abolished in Puerto Rico. The contributions of ethnic Africans to the music, art, language, and heritage have been instrumental in Puerto Rican culture.

Captaincy General of Puerto Rico

The Captaincy General of Puerto Rico (Spanish: Capitanía General de Puerto Rico) was an administrative district of the Spanish Empire, created in 1580 to provide better military management of the island of Puerto Rico, previously under the direct rule of a simple governor and the jurisdiction of Audiencia of Santo Domingo. Its creation was part of the, ultimately futile, Habsburg attempt in the late 16th century to prevent incursion into the Caribbean by foreign powers. Spain also established Captaincies General in Cuba, Guatemala and Yucatán.

The Captaincy General played a crucial role in the history of the Spanish Caribbean. The institution lasted until 1898 in Puerto Rico, when an autonomous local government, headed by a governor-general and an insular parliament, was instituted just months before Spain ceded Puerto Rico to the United States in 1898 following defeat in the Spanish–American War.

Corsican immigration to Puerto Rico

Corsican immigration to Puerto Rico resulted in the 19th century from widespread economic and political changes in Europe that made life difficult for the peasant and agricultural classes in Corsica and other territories. The Second Industrial Revolution drew more people into urban areas for work, widespread crop failure resulted from long periods of drought, and crop diseases, and political discontent rose. In the early nineteenth century, Spain lost most of its possessions in the so-called "New World" as its colonies won independence. It feared rebellion in its last two Caribbean colonies: Puerto Rico and Cuba. The Spanish Crown had issued the Royal Decree of Graces of 1815 (Real Cédula de Gracias) which fostered and encouraged the immigration of European Catholics, even if not of Spanish origin, to its Caribbean colonies.

Hundreds of families emigrated from Corsica to Puerto Rico. Corsicans and those of Corsican descent have played an instrumental role in the development of the economy of the island, especially in the coffee industry.

Cultural diversity in Puerto Rico

Non-Hispanic cultural diversity in Puerto Rico (Borinquen) and the basic foundation of Puerto Rican culture began with the mixture of the Spanish, Taíno and African cultures in the beginning of the 16th century. In the early 19th century, Puerto Rican culture became more diversified with the arrival of hundreds of families from non-Hispanic countries such as Corsica, France, Germany and Ireland. To a lesser extent other settlers came from Lebanon, China, Portugal and Scotland.

Among the factors which contributed to the immigration of non-Hispanic families to Puerto Rico was the advent of the Second Industrial Revolution and the widespread crop failure in Europe. All this, plus the spread of the cholera epidemic, came at a time that the desire for independence was growing among the Spanish subjects of Spain's last two colonies in the Western Hemisphere, Puerto Rico and Cuba.

As a consequence the Spanish Crown made concessions with the establishment of the "Real Cédula de Gracias de 1815" (Royal Decree of Graces of 1815), which allowed European Catholics to settle in the island with land allotments in the interior of the island, provided they agreed to pay taxes and continue to support the Catholic Church. In 1870, the Spanish Courts also passed the "Acta de Culto Condicionado" (Conditional Cult Act), a law granting the right of religious freedom to all those who wished to worship another religion other than the Catholic religion.

In Puerto Rico they adopted the local customs and intermarried with the locals. One of the consequences of the diversification of the cultures is that there are many Puerto Ricans and people of Puerto Rican descent who have non-Hispanic surnames. The surnames of Puerto Ricans are not limited to those which originated in Spain. In Puerto Rico it is common for people to use both their father's and mother's surnames. It is thus not unusual to find someone with a non-Hispanic surname and a Hispanic surname. Two examples are Ramón Power y Giralt and Demetrio O'Daly y Puente. Both of these Puerto Ricans have their father’s Irish surname and their mother’s Spanish surname.Other factors, such as the Great Depression and World War II, contributed to the large migration of Puerto Ricans to the United States mainland. Many Puerto Ricans married with non-Hispanics and had children of Puerto Rican descent who were inscribed with non-Hispanic surnames.It should be noted that since 2007, the Government of Puerto Rico has been issuing "Certificates of Puerto Rican Citizenship" to anyone born in Puerto Rico or to anyone born outside of Puerto Rico with at least one parent who was born in Puerto Rico. Puerto Rican citizenship was first legislated by the United States Congress in Article 7 of the Foraker Act of 1900 and later recognized in the Constitution of Puerto Rico. Puerto Rican citizenship existed before the U.S. takeover of the islands of Puerto Rico and continued afterwards.The contributions made by non-Hispanics to music, art, literature language, cuisine, religion and heritage, were instrumental in the development of modern-day Puerto Rican culture. The mixture of both the Hispanic and non-Hispanic immigrant cultures are evident in the island's political, commercial and religious structures.

Demographics of Puerto Rico

The population of Puerto Rico has been shaped by Amerindian settlement, European colonization especially under the Spanish Empire, slavery and economic migration. This article is about the demographic features of the population of Puerto Rico, including population density, ethnicity, education level, health of the populace, economic status, religious affiliations and other aspects of the population.

Dominican Republic immigration to Puerto Rico

Dominican immigration to Puerto Rico dates back to the beginning of European colonization of the Americas. Immigrants have moved from the territory of the Dominican Republic to its eastern neighbor, Puerto Rico, and vice versa for centuries. Dominican immigrants have come from various segments of Dominican society, with varying levels of contribution at different times.

In recent years, the rate of Dominican immigration has declined due to the unemployment and economic crisis in Puerto Rico, and there's been increasing immigration in the opposite direction, from Puerto Rico to the Dominican Republic. Haitian nationals now make the majority of persons trying to reach the commonwealth nation from the island of Hispaniola, usually with the aid of Dominican smugglers.

French immigration to Puerto Rico

French immigration to Puerto Rico came about as a result of the economic and political situations which occurred in various places such as Louisiana (USA), Saint-Domingue (Haiti) and in Europe.

Other important factors which encouraged French immigration to the island was the revival of the Royal Decree of Graces of 1815 in the later 1800s.

The Spanish Crown decided that one of the ways to discourage pro-independence movements in Puerto Rico (and Cuba) was to allow Europeans who were not of Spanish origin and who swore loyalty to the Spanish Crown to settle in the island. Therefore, the decree was printed in three languages, Spanish, English and French and circulated widely through ports and coastal cities throughout Europe.

The French who immigrated to Puerto Rico quickly became part of the Island immigrant communities which were predominantly Catholic also and settled in various places in the island. They were instrumental in the development of Puerto Rico's tobacco, cotton and sugar industries and distinguished themselves as business people, merchants, tradesmen, politicians and writers.

German immigration to Puerto Rico

German immigration to Puerto Rico began in the early part of the 19th century and continued to increase when German businessmen immigrated and established themselves with their families on the island.

However, it was the economic and political situation in Europe during the early 19th century plus the fact that the Spanish Crown re-issued the Royal Decree of Graces (Real Cédula de Gracias) which now allowed Europeans who were not of Spanish origin to immigrate to the island that contributed the most to the immigration of hundreds of German families to Puerto Rico in search of a better life.

Puerto Rico was ceded by Spain to the United States under the terms of the 1898 Treaty of Paris, which ended the Spanish–American War, and the U.S. established military bases there.

Many soldiers of German-American background stationed in the island upon encountering Puerto Ricans of German ancestry quickly made social contact with them. Not surprisingly, many of them stayed on the island and married into local families that had been established for decades since their own arrival from Germany.

With the passage of the Jones Act of 1917 Puerto Ricans could be conscripted to serve in the Armed Forces of the United States. As a result, Puerto Ricans fought in Germany during World War II and have served in U.S. military installations in said country since then.

Many of these soldiers married German women who eventually moved to the island with their husbands. Puerto Ricans of German descent have distinguished themselves in different fields, among them the fields of science, business and the military.

History of Puerto Rico

The history of Puerto Rico began with the settlement of the archipelago of Puerto Rico by the Ortoiroid people between 3,000 and 2,000 BC. Other tribes, such as the Saladoid and Arawak Native Puerto Ricans, populated the island between 430 BC and 1000 AD. At the time of Christopher Columbus's arrival in the New World in 1493, the dominant indigenous culture was that of the Taínos. The Taíno people's numbers went dangerously low during the later half of the 16th century because of new infectious diseases carried by Europeans, exploitation by Spanish settlers, and warfare.Located in the northeastern Caribbean, Puerto Rico formed a key part of the Spanish Empire from the early years of the exploration, conquest and colonization of the New World. The island was a major military post during many wars between Spain and other European powers for control of the region in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. The smallest of the Greater Antilles, Puerto Rico was a stepping-stone in the passage from Europe to Cuba, Mexico, Central America, and the northern territories of South America. Throughout most of the 19th century until the conclusion of the Spanish–American War, Puerto Rico and Cuba were the last two Spanish colonies in the New World; they served as Spain's final outposts in a strategy to regain control of the American continents. Realizing that it was in danger of losing its two remaining Caribbean territories, the Spanish Crown revived the Royal Decree of Graces of 1815. The decree was printed in Spanish, English and French in order to attract Europeans, with the hope that the independence movements would lose their popularity and strength with the arrival of new settlers. Free land was offered to those who wanted to populate the islands on the condition that they swear their loyalty to the Spanish Crown and allegiance to the Roman Catholic Church.In 1898, during the Spanish–American War, Puerto Rico was invaded and subsequently became a possession of the United States. The first years of the 20th century were marked by the struggle to obtain greater democratic rights from the United States. The Foraker Act of 1900, which established a civil government, and the Jones Act of 1917, which made Puerto Ricans U.S. citizens, paved the way for the drafting of Puerto Rico's Constitution and its approval by Congress and Puerto Rican voters in 1952. However, the political status of Puerto Rico, a Commonwealth controlled by the United States remains an anomaly.

Index of Puerto Rico-related articles

The following is an alphabetical list of articles related to the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

Irish immigration to Puerto Rico

From the 16th to the 19th centuries, there was considerable Irish immigration to Puerto Rico for a number of reasons.

During the 16th century, many Irishmen, who were known as "Wild Geese", escaped from forced service in the English Army and joined the Spanish Army. They did so either in Europe or when they could "jump ship" off the coast of Puerto Rico (whenever English ships came to trade or when the English Navy was engaged in attacks against the Spanish colonial forces on the island), at which time they joined the Spanish colonial army, mainly in San Juan.

Many of these men who served in the Spanish colonial army in Puerto Rico remained in the service of Spain after their military service was completed and decided to stay on the island, most often sending for extended family members from Ireland or Spain. Some married local women.

Field Marshal Alejandro O'Reilly and Colonel Tomás O'Daly, among other Irish military figures, were sent to Puerto Rico from Spain during the 18th century in order to improve the capital's fortifications. This led to an increase in Irish immigration as family members were brought to the island by these Irish serving in the Spanish colonial army.

In 1797, the Spanish governor of Puerto Rico, Ramón de Castro, ordered the expulsion of the Irish from the island. This immediately led to protests from the Puerto Rican people since they had grown to respect the Irish immigrant community for their steadfast support of the island's residents. Almost all of those who temporarily fled during this time survived the witch hunt created by Governor de Castro and returned to live in Puerto Rico discreetly.

The Spanish government enacted the Royal Decree of Graces (Real Cédula de Gracias) in 1815 to encourage European Catholics of non-Spanish origin to immigrate to the last two remaining Spanish possessions in the New World, Puerto Rico and Cuba. Spain hoped to blunt the nascent independence movements in both colonies by way of this measure.

Many Irish who fled their homeland because of the Potato Famine of the 1840s (over one million people died as a result of this famine) immigrated to the United States. A significant number of them went to Puerto Rico after being turned away at American ports because of epidemic outbreaks on board the ships on which they sailed. Many of these Irish settlers were instrumental in the development of the island's hugely successful sugar industry. Said industry was vital to the growing local economy.

After Puerto Rico was ceded to the United States by Spain as a consequence of the Spanish–American War in 1898, many US soldiers of Irish-American ancestry were stationed in the island. They met members of the population who were island-born and Irish-descended. These soldiers stayed in Puerto Rico where they were quickly incorporated into the Irish, non-Irish, and native communities throughout the island.

The Irish influence in Puerto Rico is not limited to their contributions to the island's agricultural industry; they have also influenced the fields of education, the arts and sciences, and politics.

José Luis González (writer)

José Luis González (March 8, 1926 – December 8, 1996) was a Puerto Rican essayist, novelist, short story writer, university professor, and journalist who lived most of his life in exile in Mexico due to his pro-independence political views. He is considered to be one of the most important Puerto Rican authors of the 20th century, particularly for his book Puerto Rico: The Four-Storeyed Country and Other Essays, which was first published in Spanish in 1980.

Outline of Puerto Rico

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to Puerto Rico:

The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico is a self-governing unincorporated territory of the United States of America located in the northeastern Caribbean, east of the Dominican Republic and west of the Virgin Islands. The commonwealth comprises an archipelago that includes the main island of Puerto Rico and a number of smaller islands and keys, the largest of which are Vieques, Culebra, and Mona. The main island of Puerto Rico is the least extensive but the third most populous of the four Greater Antilles: Cuba, Hispaniola, Jamaica, and Puerto Rico.

Puerto Ricans often call the island Borinquen, from Borikén, its indigenous Taíno name. The terms boricua and borincano derive from Borikén and Borinquen respectively, and are commonly used to identify someone of Puerto Rican heritage. The island is also popularly known as "La Isla del Encanto", which translated means "The Island of Enchantment."


Pitre is a surname found amongst the original Acadian settlers in Canada. The progenitor of this Acadian family was one Jean Pitre, b: Abt. 1636; d: Abt. 1689 Port Royal, Acadia. Jean Pitre arrived in Port Royal, Acadia, around 1659 during the English occupation of Acadia from 1654-1667. Around 1664, he married Marie Pesselet, the daughter of Isaac Pesselet and Barbe Bajolet. They had nine children: Marie (1666), Catherine (1668), Claude (1670), Marc (1674), Pierre (1677), Jean (1680), Francois (1682), Marguerite (1684), Jeanne (1686). The first Jean Pitre was a "taillandier" (maker of tools and implements). His widow remarried François Robin.In the Declarations of Belle-Ile-en-Mer, his grandson claimed Jean Pitre's origin as being Flemish. However, this evaluation has not currently been investigated by professional Acadian genealogists; and the name is still recognized as being of French colonist origin. The surname's pronunciation is not clear. It can vary from the official French-accent with (peter). To the English version of (pye-ter) and (peetree), other common pronunciations are (pit) and (pete).

The Pitre surname now extends through the Canadian provinces of Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island, as well as many American border states; and an overwhelmingly-large colossal Cajun French presence in the U.S. state of Louisiana.

However, Pitres of French ancestry also migrated to Puerto Rico. The first documented Pitres were two brothers (Marcellino Pitre = Martin Pitre, Saturnino Pitre = Francisco Pitre) who settled and according to the Royal Decree of Graces of 1815, "Those who immigrated to Puerto Rico were given free land and a "Letter of Domicile" with the condition that they swore loyalty to the Spanish Crown and allegiance to the Roman Catholic Church. After residing in the island for five years the settlers were granted a "Letter of Naturalization" which made them Spanish subjects."Approximately nine thousand people share this surname. Famous Pitres include actress Louise Pitre, who is best known for her role as Donna Sheridan in the ABBA-themed musical Mamma Mia!, earning her a 2002 Tony Award nomination; Cajun music pioneer Austin Pitre; heavy metal musician Audie Pitre, Hall of Fame ice hockey player Didier Pitre; filmmaker Glen Pitre and his younger brother, former Louisiana State Representative Loulan Pitre, Jr., who represented a district in Lafourche Parish, where both were born.

Pitre is one of the many common surnames among the Cajun French ethnicity of Louisiana, along with Guidry and Trahan, with the most common being Fontenot.

Port of Mayagüez

The Port of Mayagüez, located northwest of downtown Mayagüez, is the third busiest port on Puerto Rico. The port is situated along Puerto Rico routes 64, 341, and 3341, and stretches for 3.8 miles along the coast. Its main canal is .4 miles wide and its depth ranges from 47 to 120 feet; the water's depth along the piers ranges between 28 and 29 feet. Until April 2010, the port's main tenant was Ferries del Caribe which provided daily ferry service to the Dominican Republic. Its sole vessel, Caribbean Express (1976/ 18,888 gt,) was scrapped at Alang in late 2010. Since March 2011, ferry service to the Dominican Republic has been offered by America Cruise Ferries.During the Winter 2010/2011 cruise season, the port was visited periodically by ships of the Holland America Line, including the MS Prinsendam.

The port is protected from rough seas by reefs which run along its northern and western sections. The port is located in Mayagüez Bay.

Puerto Ricans

Puerto Ricans (Spanish: Puertorriqueños; or boricuas) are people of ethnic origins in Puerto Rico, the inhabitants, and citizens of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico (a United States territory), and their descendants. Puerto Rico is home to people of many different national origins as well.

Racism in Puerto Rico

Racism in Puerto Rico can be traced as far back as the arrival from the Spanish in 1493 Historically, the island which is a U.S. territory, has been dominated by a settler society of religiously and ethnically diverse Europeans, primarily Spanish, and Sub-Saharan Africans. The majority of Puerto Ricans are multiracial, ranging from anyone of European, African, Asian, Native American, or of Mixed-race descent.

Spanish settlement of Puerto Rico

Spanish settlement of Puerto Rico began in the early 1500s shortly after the formation of the Spanish state in 1493 (continuing until 1898 as a colony of Spain) and continues to the present day. On 25 September 1493, Christopher Columbus set sail on his second voyage with 17 ships and 1,200–1,500 men from Cádiz, Spain. On 19 November 1493 he landed on the island, naming it San Juan Bautista in honor of Saint John the Baptist.

There are two recognized Spanish immigration waves to Puerto Rico: the first arrived during the colonial period, and the second after the Spanish Civil War. There is a continuing but small number of Spanish-born residents on the island.

The Spanish heritage in Puerto Rico is palpable today in its customs and many traditions, language, and in the old and new architectural designs.

White Puerto Ricans

White Puerto Ricans are Puerto Ricans who self-identify as white. As of the 2010 US census, people who self-identified as white constituted the majority in Puerto Rico, making up 75.8% of the population. People who identified themselves as being of mixed race origin, predominantly of West African and European ancestry, constitute an additional 3.3% of the population. Many families from France, the United Kingdom, Italy, Portugal, Germany, and Ireland immigrated to Puerto Rico during Spain’s five-hundred year-long occupation of the island. People from the mainland United States and the Netherlands have settled on the island during the last 120 years.


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