Urban Society - the Middle Sector
The middle sector in the late 1980s represented roughly 30 to 35 percent of the population, concentrated in the ranks of salaried professionals in government and the private sector. They had virtually no independent sources of wealth, and so they were responsive to changes in the buying power of wages and to contractions in employment that accompanied economic cycles. The middle level followed the racial stratification of the society as a whole: generally lighter-skinned as one proceeded up the social scale. As a group, the middle sector differed in lifestyle, in marital stability, and in occupations from the poor urban masses. They firmly adhered to the Hispanic ideals of leisure and lifestyle espoused by the elite, and they considered themselves, at least in spirit, a part of la gente buena. As with the elite, economic expansion, based on the growth of sugar production in the late nineteenth century, broadened the middle reaches of the social ladder as well. Those of this new middle segment, however, were limited in their upward mobility by dark skin and/or limited finances. They were a diverse group, including small shopowners, teachers, clerical employees, and professionals. They lacked a class identity based on any sense of common social or economic interests; moreover, any sense of mutual interest was undermined by the pervasiveness of the patron-client system. Individuals improved their status by linking up with a more privileged protector, not by joint political action for a shared goal.
The life strategy of middle-class families was similar to that of the elite. Their goals were to diversify their economic assets and to extend their network of political and social influence. As with the elite, the middle-level family solidified its position through patronage. An influential family could offer jobs to loyal followers and supporters. People expected that those with power would use it for their own ends and for the advancement of their own and their family's interests. Ties to government were particularly important, because the government was the source of many coveted jobs.
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