Sugar was Cuba’s principal export from the late eighteenth century throughout much of the twentieth, and during that time, the majority of the island’s population depended on sugar production for its livelihood. In Blazing Cane, Gillian McGillivray examines the development of social classes linked to sugar production, and their contribution to the formation and transformation of the state, from the first Cuban Revolution for Independence in 1868 through the Cuban Revolution of 1959. She describes how cane burning became a powerful way for farmers, workers, and revolutionaries to commit sabotage, take control of the harvest season, improve working conditions, protest political repression, attack colonialism and imperialism, nationalize sugarmills, and, ultimately, acquire greater political and economic power.
Focusing on sugar communities in eastern and central Cuba, McGillivray recounts how farmers and workers pushed the Cuban government to move from exclusive to inclusive politics and back again. The revolutionary caudillo networks that formed between 1895 and 1898, the farmer alliances that coalesced in the 1920s, and the working-class groups of the 1930s affected both day-to-day local politics and larger state-building efforts. Not limiting her analysis to the island, McGillivray shows that twentieth-century Cuban history reflected broader trends in the Western Hemisphere, from modernity to popular nationalism to Cold War repression.
The Economics of Cuban Sugar
Jorge Perez-Lopez University of Pittsburgh Press, 1991 Library of Congress HD9114.C89P39 1991 | Dewey Decimal 338.17361097291
Sugar, the backbone of the Cuban economic life for centuries, continues to dominate the economy of socialist Cuba. After initial attempts at diversification following the Revolution, the Cuban regime rehabilitated the sugar industry in 1965, making the country again vulnerable to swings in world market prices and the dangers of overdependence on a single agricultural product.
Pérez-López examines the various efforts at economic planning in the years following the Revolution and provides in-depth analysis of aspects particular to the sugar industry: cultivation, mechanization, energy and transportation, refining and the manufacture of sugar derivatives, production costs, and foreign trade.
Lords of the Mountain is a colorful narrative that views how Cuba's violent history in the late nineteenth and early twentieth-century was also a history of economic violence. From the 1870s, the expanding sugar industry began to swallow up rural communities and destroy the traditional land tenure system, as the great sugar estates-the “latifundia” dominated the economy. Perez chronicles the popular resistance to these powerful landholders, and the violent uprisings and banditry propagated against them.
A look at the antebellum history and architecture of the little-known sugar industry ofEast Florida.
From the late eighteenth century to early 1836, the heart of the Florida sugar industry was concentrated in East Florida, between the St. Johns River and the Atlantic Ocean. Producing the sweetest sugar, molasses, and rum, at least 22 sugar plantations dotted the coastline by the 1830s. This industry brought prosperity to the region—employing farm hands, slaves, architects, stone masons, riverboats and their crews, shop keepers, and merchant traders. But by January 1836, Native American attacks of the Second Seminole War, intending to rid the Florida frontier of settlers, devastated the whole sugar industry.
Although sugar works again sprang up in other Florida regions just prior to the Civil War, the competition from Louisiana and the Caribbean blocked a resurgence of sugar production for the area. The sugar industry would never regain its importance in East Florida—only two of the original sugar works were ever rebuilt. Today, remains of this once thriving industry are visible in a few parks. Some are accessible but others lie hidden, slowly disintegrating and almost forgotten. Archaeological, historical, and architectural research in the last decade has returned these works to their once prominent place in Florida’s history, revealing the beauty, efficiency of design, as well as early industrial engineering. Equally important is what can be learned of the lives of those associated with the sugar works and the early plantation days along the East Florida frontier.
In This Land Is Ours Now, Wendy Wolford presents an original framework for understanding social mobilization. She argues that social movements are not the politically coherent, bounded entities often portrayed by scholars, the press, and movement leaders. Instead, they are constantly changing mediations between localized moral economies and official movement ideologies. Wolford develops her argument by analyzing how a particular social movement works: Brazil’s Rural Landless Workers’ Movement, known as the Movimento Sem Terra (MST). Founded in the southernmost states of Brazil in the mid-1980s, this extraordinary grassroots agrarian movement grew dramatically in the ensuing years. By the late 1990s it was the most dynamic, well-organized social movement in Brazilian history.
Drawing on extensive ethnographic research, Wolford compares the development of the movement in Brazil’s southern state of Santa Catarina and its northeastern state of Pernambuco. As she explains, in the south, most of the movement’s members were sons and daughters of small peasant farmers; in the northeast, they were almost all former plantation workers, who related awkwardly to the movement’s agenda of accessing “land for those who work it.” The MST became an effective presence in Pernambuco only after the local sugarcane economy had collapsed. Worldwide sugarcane prices dropped throughout the 1990s, and by 1999 the MST was a prominent political organizer in the northeastern plantation region. Yet fewer than four years later, most of the region’s workers had dropped out of the movement. By delving into the northeastern workers’ motivations for joining and then leaving the MST, Wolford adds nuance and depth to accounts of a celebrated grassroots social movement, and she highlights the contingent nature of social movements and political identities more broadly.
Yali's Question is the story of a remarkable physical and social creation—Ramu Sugar Limited (RSL), a sugar plantation created in a remote part of Papua New Guinea. As an embodiment of imported industrial production, RSL's smoke-belching, steam-shrieking factory and vast fields of carefully tended sugar cane contrast sharply with the surrounding grassland. RSL not only dominates the landscape, but also shapes those culturally diverse thousands who left their homes to work there.
To understand the creation of such a startling place, Frederick Errington and Deborah Gewertz explore the perspectives of the diverse participants that had a hand in its creation. In examining these views, they also consider those of Yali, a local Papua New Guinean political leader. Significantly, Yali features not only in the story of RSL, but also in Jared Diamond's Pulitzer Prize winning world history Guns, Germs, and Steel—a history probed through its contrast with RSL's. The authors' disagreement with Diamond stems, not from the generality of his focus and the specificity of theirs, but from a difference in view about how history is made—and from an insistence that those with power be held accountable for affecting history.