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The Minorcan Yoke by Nancy Pellicer Dyer

A Book Review

· book review,The Minorcan Yoke,Minorcan History

The Minorcan Yoke by Nancy Pellicer Dyer is a novel based on the history of the Minorcans, Italians, and Greeks (collectively called “Minorcans”) brought as indentured servants to New Smyrna Beach, Florida in 1768 to work on Dr. Andrew Turnbull’s Indigo Plantation. At the time, Florida was under British rule and the Scotsman with important British connections was eager to make a profit and a name for himself. The story begins in the Mediteranean region as Turnbull recruits people to take part in his venture. The Spanish island of Minorca was experiencing drought, so many people were eager to sign on for a chance to work and earn land for themselves and their families. One of those young men was Don Francisco Pellicer. The story primarily follows Pellicer as he leaves his family in Minorca and ventures, with few possessions, across the Atlantic to a new life and destiny. Once in the colony, Francisco proves himself valuable as a skilled carpenter. Throughout the novel we see him grow as a man and as a leader of the Minorcans. Dyer excels at breathing life into Pellicer and the other Minorcans she describes. These people that were once just names on family trees, seem to come to life, as we learn their hopes, fears, dreams and the harsh reality of what they had to face on the 18th Century Florida frontier. A reality that included mosquitoes, hurricanes, cruel overseers, and the death of loved ones from starvation and abuse. In contrast to these horrors they endured, we see love flourish, Catholic spirituality and tradition continue, and the birth of children, the hope for the future. Hope is also born through struggle when the colonists, denied the freedom they have earned, determine to take fate into their own hands. Dyer describes meetings between the Minorcan men and their eventual plan to escape to freedom in St. Augustine. This book ends with that flight and the hope of what will come next. Her second book, The Minorcan Quarter, deals with their life in St. Augustine.

In the Afterword, Dyer, who is a descendant of Don Francisco Pellicer, states, “I often wondered about the man long gone before I was born, a man whose memory and ways have vanished with time. This is how I imagine he was.” As someone of Minorcan descent, I, too, have wondered about my ancestors, the Andreus, the Triays, and others. To have an author create such a beautiful story that is historically accurate, but breathes life into our past, our people, is a gift. The Minorcans left us a legacy of strength, tenacity, and fortitude, and thanks to books like The Minorcan Yoke, that legacy lives on.

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