Blazing Cane: Sugar Communities, Class, and State Formation in Cuba, 1868-1959

Paperback (Print)
Buy New
Buy New from BN.com
$19.02
Buy Used
Buy Used from BN.com
$15.85
(Save 41%)
Item is in good condition but packaging may have signs of shelf wear/aging or torn packaging.
Condition: Used – Good details
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $11.25
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 58%)
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (13) from $11.25   
  • New (7) from $20.63   
  • Used (6) from $11.25   

Overview

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.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Lucidly written, sophisticated, marvelously nuanced, and meticulously researched. . . . This is simply superb history. Summing Up: Essential. All levels/libraries.” - F. W. Knight, Choice

“McGillivray’s research has been terrific. . . . She has wisely combined archival documents, a considerable number of newspaper articles, and interviews, broadening her analysis and cementing her conclusions. Overall, Blazing Cane constitutes a courageous take on this aspect of the history of twentieth-century Cuba. . .” - Manuel Barcia, A Contracorriente

“McGillivray’s insistence on embedding the history of the two sugar communities within the broad sweep of Cuba’s historical development makes this book especially attractive to teachers as well as researchers. Indeed, Blazing Cane could profitably be used as the core text for courses dealing with Cuban history in the one hundred years preceding the 1959 Revolution, and as a model for how to study the interactions between local, regional, national, and transnational forces.” - Barry Carr, Hispanic American Historical Review

Blazing Cane is in the finest tradition of Cuban rural history, while at the same time clearing a new interpretative path. . . . Blazing Cane is well suited for a general audience. The section on the Chaparra sugar mill includes 14 photographs from the mill archives, which are of such high quality that one can almost taste the sugar being processed.”
- Frank Argote-Freyre, European Review of Latin American and Caribbean Studies

“With Blazing Cane, McGillivray has given Cubanists — and Latin Americanists in general — a treat: a book both accessible to undergraduates and meaty enough for a graduate class, one that offers convincing answers to many questions and at the same time suggests new avenues of research. In so doing, Blazing Cane provides a fresh vision of Cuba in the twentieth century, tying the nation into larger regional trends rather than separating
it from them. In the end, like the cane fires that flare up throughout the book to signal moments of change, Blazing Cane may itself be a marker, lighting a new path in the study of Cuban history.” - Joshua H. Nadel, Labor

“This book offers a new understanding of Cuba’s sugar politics. It will prove essential to anyone interested in pre-1959 Cuban history or in the relationship of the middle class to state formation in Latin America.” - Aline Helg, American Historical Review

“Gillian McGillivray offers a new and original understanding of the history of Cuba from the mid-nineteenth century to the Cuban revolution by reading it from the perspective of two sugar communities. She stresses the agency of workers in sugar communities, who asserted demands and engaged with, as they helped shape, the rhetoric of the state and state formation. Blazing Cane is an important contribution to modern Cuban history, and a compelling case for the impossibility of separating the local from the national and transnational in any study.”—William French, author of A Peaceful and Working People: Manners, Morals, and Class Formation in Northern Mexico

“We know very little about the lives of sugar workers and their interactions with the managerial personnel of the mills in which they worked. McGillivray goes deep into documentary archives to address this vital shortcoming of the historiography of Cuba, to look at Cuban society and politics through two sugar communities. Blazing Cane gives an insightful look at how ordinary people coped with the complex and uncertain circumstances that surrounded them in the Cuban republic.”—Alejandro de la Fuente, author of A Nation for All: Race, Inequality, and Politics in Twentieth-Century Cuba

Frank Argote-Freyre

Blazing Cane is in the finest tradition of Cuban rural history, while at the same time clearing a new interpretative path. . . . Blazing Cane is well suited for a general audience. The section on the Chaparra sugar mill includes 14 photographs from the mill archives, which are of such high quality that one can almost taste the sugar being processed.”
F. W. Knight

“Lucidly written, sophisticated, marvelously nuanced, and meticulously researched. . . . This is simply superb history. Summing Up: Essential. All levels/libraries.”
Barry Carr

“McGillivray’s insistence on embedding the history of the two sugar communities within the broad sweep of Cuba’s historical development makes this book especially attractive to teachers as well as researchers. Indeed, Blazing Cane could profitably be used as the core text for courses dealing with Cuban history in the one hundred years preceding the 1959 Revolution, and as a model for how to study the interactions between local, regional, national, and transnational forces.”
Manuel Barcia

“McGillivray’s research has been terrific. . . . She has wisely combined archival documents, a considerable number of newspaper articles, and interviews, broadening her analysis and cementing her conclusions. Overall, Blazing Cane constitutes a courageous take on this aspect of the history of twentieth-century Cuba. . .”
Aline Helg

“This book offers a new understanding of Cuba’s sugar politics. It will prove essential to anyone interested in pre-1959 Cuban history or in the relationship of the middle class to state formation in Latin America.”
Joshua H. Nadel

“With Blazing Cane, McGillivray has given Cubanists — and Latin Americanists in general — a treat: a book both accessible to undergraduates and meaty enough for a graduate class, one that offers convincing answers to many questions and at the same time suggests new avenues of research. In so doing, Blazing Cane provides a fresh vision of Cuba in the twentieth century, tying the nation into larger regional trends rather than separating it from them. In the end, like the cane fires that flare up throughout the book to signal moments of change, Blazing Cane may itself be a marker, lighting a new path in the study of Cuban history.”
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780822345428
  • Publisher: Duke University Press Books
  • Publication date: 11/23/2009
  • Series: American Encounters/Global Interactions Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 416
  • Sales rank: 979,018
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Gillian McGillivray is Associate Professor of History at Glendon College, York University.

Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

Blazing Cane

Sugar Communities, Class, & State Formation in Cuba, 1868-1959
By Gillian McGillivray

Duke University Press

Copyright © 2009 Duke University Press
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8223-4542-8


Chapter One

The Colonial Compact, 1500-1895

Let the flames that destroy the fortunes and furrow the sugar regions with their fire and ruins be our beacon of liberty! ... If the destruction of the cane fields does not suffice, we will carry the torch to the towns, villages, and cities.... It is better for the cause of human liberty ... better for the children of our children that Cuba be free, even if we have to burn all vestiges of civilization.... Spanish authority will not be tolerated.

CARLOS MANUEL DE CÉSPEDES, cited in Ibarra Cuesta, Ideología mambisa, 90

The Cuban revolutionary Carlos Manuel de Céspedes made this historic statement embracing the burning-torch policy in October 1869, one year after his call to arms in eastern Cuba that opened the island's first war for independence. By gathering his slaves together in 1868, telling them they were all free, and inviting them to fight alongside him as citizens for a new Cuban nation, Céspedes and his revolutionary allies brought an unprecedented fervor of nationalist politics to the sugarmill communities. Revolutionaries burned cane fields before towns, villages, and cities because they saw sugar and slavery as the chains that linked Cuba to the Spanish Crown. Focusing on the uneven development that sugar brought to the island, this chapter explains why Cubans did not declare such a war until some forty years after the bulk of Spanish America had won its independence, and why most residents of western Cuba rejected independence. The wealth that sugar and slavery generated for sugarmill owners and merchants in western Cuba led them to try to keep politics and the French Revolution's rhetoric of "liberty, equality, and fraternity" out of their communities to maintain a secure and racially segregated labor force. These western merchants and mill owners had plenty of loyalist reinforcements from the 1820s onward: Spanish troops and civilians flocked to western Cuba after mainland Spanish Americans became independent.

Western planters benefited most from a sort of "colonial compact" with Spain whereby the planters agreed to colonial rule in exchange for Spain's military and legal protection of slavery and sugar production. The farther one moved from the merchants and capital in the West (primarily the provinces of Havana and Matanzas), the less one could benefit from colonialism; thus, central and eastern planters were the first mill owners willing to contest the compact. The refusal of most western mill owners to join the revolution, combined with class and ethnic differences within Cuban revolutionary ranks, undermined Cubans' first attempts to gain freedom from Spain-the Ten Years' War (1868-78) and the Little War (1879).

Nevertheless, the wars did prompt Spaniards and Cubans to renegotiate the compact, allowing some fifteen more years of colonial rule during which important social transformations took place on the island. Slaves finally gained full emancipation in 1886, some sixty years after their counterparts elsewhere in Latin America. Cuban sugarmill owners were financially devastated by the years of revolution and feared labor shortages, so they rented or sold their land to cane farmers. Some fell to the status of cane farmers themselves. These colonos would become one of Cuba's most influential (but least analyzed) social classes, assuming national prominence from the 1920s onward. The colonos were sandwiched between the mill owners and the wage workers and constituted a varied lot from sharecroppers who rented land-to small landowners-to large absentee landowners. Despite the creation of the colono system, sugarmill owners faced repeated challenges to their livelihood under Spain's incoherent rule: The tug-of-war between liberals and conservatives in Madrid drastically affected political and economic realities in Cuba. When combined with the great upheavals in the world sugar market that climaxed with the economic crisis of 1894, this rule pushed more Cubans to support a renewed struggle for independence in 1895.

The Tuinucú estate in the jurisdiction of Sancti Spiritus within the colonial province of Las Villas serves as an ideal lens through which to view Cuba's colonial origins, transitions, and regional differences. Tuinucú was founded early in the colonial era; it went through many of the transitions that other parts of the island experienced; and it lies near the geographic center of the island, thereby offering a perspective on change in both East and West. Moreover, Cuba's central region became the strategic focus in the independence struggles because the Spaniards understood that only by conquering Las Villas could the insurgents move on to Havana. Tuinucú stood in the eye of the storm during the nineteenth-century wars for independence.

LANDHOLDING, THE SUGAR REVOLUTION, AND THE MAKING OF THE COLONIAL COMPACT

The Tuinucú estate is adjacent to the town of Sancti Spiritus, one of the earliest Spanish settlements in Cuba. In 1514, Diego Velázquez founded that town on an indigenous village located on the banks of the river Tuinucú. The native population declined rapidly due to a combination of Spanish aggression, enslavement, and disease that dislocated and undermined indigenous systems of production. As the indigenous population dwindled and the search for gold in the area proved fruitless, many Spaniards left for Mexico. The remaining residents focused primarily on providing beasts of burden and food for larger towns in the Center and West of the island.

To motivate Spaniards to settle and farm the land, town councils across the island decided to grant local residents circular estates defined as a specific number of leagues emanating from a central marker, usually a tree or a rock, in exchange for a small fee. The land between the circles remained crown land, and the Spanish king also remained the official owner of the estates. The estates were eventually subdivided among offspring, sharecroppers, squatters, and outsiders apt at bribing local authorities.

Trees fall, rocks move, and circles are hard to trace in nature; therefore, the original land grants over time led to great confusion. By 1577, the town council of Sancti Spiritus had allocated land to twenty estates. Many of these original estates became towns and cities after the mid-eighteenth century, but prior to that, the jurisdiction of Sancti Spiritus remained predominantly rural, and its inhabitants engaged in only rustic production. Most of the region's plots, including the estate that would later become the Tuinucú sugarmill, began as pig farms and only later expanded into other produce.

Sugarcane began to dominate western Cuba when the English occupied Havana in 1763. The market for slaves in the English sugar islands was saturated, and English slave traders needed new buyers. During the mere ten months of occupation, merchant vessels brought some four thousand slaves to Cuba, contributing a tremendous stimulus to a process already under way. Influenced by the 1763 boom and the growth of the international sugar market, Charles III (reigned 1759-88) instituted a series of reforms that eventually contributed to the consolidation of land and power on the reconquered Spanish island. One of the most important changes was the 1776 Regulation of Free Trade between Spain and the Indies that authorized minor ports to conduct free trade directly with Spain and with neutral and allied countries. In the late eighteenth century and early nineteenth, colonial residents also gained a certain degree of freedom to legislate and trade as they wished, because the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars diverted Spain's attention away from the colonies. Residents pushed through changes in land tenure that permitted outright ownership of vast areas of former crown land. By 1815 residents had gained the right to parcel, sell, sublet, and use their estates without legal intervention. They also won permission to cut down the expansive hardwood forests previously reserved for constructing Spanish ships. Investors felled the magnificent trees to make way for sugarcane.

Rich Europeans' demand for sweets was seemingly insatiable, and sugar and slavery crossed the Atlantic Ocean together. Residents of Cuba thus convinced the Spanish Crown to pass legislation in 1789 allowing foreigners and Spaniards to sell as many slaves as they wished. Eighteenth-century mill owners perceived slavery as the best labor regime to produce sugar for three main reasons. First, it was the regime used across the Americas that had started with Portuguese islands in the Atlantic and then moved to Brazil and the Caribbean basin. Second, Cuba's large tracts of uncultivated land gave workers many options besides the thankless work of cutting and hauling cane and processing it in the hot, dangerous mills. Finally, planters believed that only slavery guaranteed the stability and harsh discipline necessary to produce sugar profitably. The harsh discipline was necessary because time was of the essence: Large amounts of cane needed to be cut and hauled when the proportion of sucrose in the juice was highest. The juice, in turn, had to be extracted within twenty-four to seventy-two hours to prevent spoilage.

Thanks to the changes in land tenure and free trade in slaves, residents of Cuba created vast plantations based on an expensive, but stable, enslaved labor force. Shortly after the British occupation of Havana, revolutions in the Americas expanded the market for Cuban sugar. The American Revolution transferred British North America's demand for sugar and molasses from the British sugar islands to Cuba. The Haitian Revolution (1791-1804) removed Cuba's main competitor and brought a number of expert French producers to the country. Immigration and travel contributed to the dissemination of advanced technology. From the 1830s onward, particularly in the western region of the island, plantation owners built railroads to provide access to larger numbers of cane fields, and they replaced ox-driven mills with steam-powered ones to grind more cane, faster. These technological advances combined to make Cuba the world leader in cane sugar production-and the first Latin American country to build railroads. Production expanded rapidly. In 1760, Cuba had about 120 sugarmills, and by 1827, the number was up to 1,000. By 1855, the island produced almost one third of the world's sugar.

Much of this sugar expansion took place in Havana and the adjacent jurisdiction of Matanzas; however, a Las Villas region just south of Tuinucú called Trinidad experienced its own unique sugar and slave boom between 1790 and 1860. Trinidad planters continuously expanded their holdings of slaves and land. They also purchased machinery to make their mills more efficient. The problem was that these more efficient mills demanded more cane, and the valley's land, already planted and replanted in cane, became increasingly depleted. The mill owners knew that they needed to invest capital to keep up with new developments in the European beet-sugar industry, but investments made little sense on plantations facing dwindling cane supplies. Whereas earlier in the sugar-and-slavery cycle, the search for more profitable (virgin) sugar lands had moved the center of sugar production from one colony to another, in Cuba's case, the colony was large enough to allow a simple shift to other regions of the island.

Planters migrated from Trinidad northward to Sancti Spiritus and westward to Cienfuegos armed with their capital, slaves, and expertise. This migration of planters, slaves, and capital accelerated in 1857, when European beet sugar flooded the world market, provoking a crash in world sugar prices. That same year, Don Francisco del Valle of Trinidad petitioned for permission to build a railroad linking Tuinucú to the municipal capital of Sancti Spiritus and to the nearest port, Tunas del Zaza. When Valle inaugurated the railroad in 1863, new towns, sugar plantations, and cane fields accelerated the destruction of the forests of Sancti Spiritus. Tuinucú was one of many properties modernized by Trinidad-based capital. On 10 April 1861, Justo German Cantero put up the plantation (including livestock and 155 slaves) as a guarantee to Trinidad's Lleonci and Company in exchange for a loan to develop the sugarmill.

Sugar and slavery transformed Cuba from Spain's gateway to the Americas into an important source of wealth, but this wealth came at a price. Competition for resources on the island intensified as the population increased from approximately 174,000 inhabitants in 1770 to 1.4 million in 1860. More African slaves entered Cuba in one hundred years (roughly 750,000 between 1763 and 1862) than the total number of slaves brought to North America during its two hundred and fifty year slave regime (approximately 560,000). The boom in sugar and slavery fostered more rigid class and racial divisions on the island.

Planters feared the type of social revolution developing in the Americas and other parts of the world during the same era. The Spanish Crown shared these fears: After the wars for independence triumphed in mainland Spanish America (1808-24), Spain wanted desperately to keep Cuba, one of its most lucrative remaining colonies. An implicit colonial compact thus developed whereby planters agreed to remain a colony of Spain in exchange for the king's promise to protect the institution of slavery. On the ground, this meant allowing planters to rule their sugar and coffee plantations largely as they wished and providing Spanish soldiers and jails to help control the slaves who escaped or committed crimes. On paper, it meant keeping the slave trade legal despite growing European and American opposition. Plantation owners in Cuba chose colonialism and slavery over independence to protect racial hierarchies and their sugar fortunes.

CONSPIRACIES, FLIGHT, AND "FREE" LABOR: UNDERMINING THE COMPACT FROM BELOW

Spanish soldiers and legislation aimed to protect slavery, but many other forces attacked the institution from without and within. British naval blockades closed off access to Africa after Britain abolished the slave trade in 1807, driving up the price of slaves. Abolitionists, free Afro-Cubans, mulattos, and white liberal Cubans enlisted slaves directly in their struggles against the Cuban elite and their Spanish allies, as in the 1843-44 Escalera conspiracy allegedly initiated by the English abolitionist David Turnbull.

Slaves found inspiration to rebel without outside assistance through the examples of Haiti and the Spanish-American revolutions that abolished slavery. While Cuban planters rarely had to face large-scale rebellions, they did have to deal with smaller ones. For example, in 1838 a group of slaves from the Sancti Spiritus region escaped to the dense mountains in the Zaza plantation, where they built forts and created a large runaway community. The Spanish authorities captured the leader of the slave runaways in June, then stripped him and his followers of their machetes before jailing some and killing others. Trinidad also witnessed a slave rebellion in 1838, about which a local historian noted: "Such rebellions occurred frequently given the large groups of slaves in the important region."

On 24 March 1863, the foreman Luciano Bravo reported that fifteen blacks had run away from the Tuinucú sugarmill, then the property of Don José Font y Surís, in three or four groups. Bravo gathered a group of employees to find and detain them. Running away was a common form of resistance against slaveowners. On a small scale, it functioned as a sort of steam valve to relieve conflict between slave and master or overseer without seriously challenging the institution of slavery. When slave flight reached larger proportions, though, the effect on slaveholding was significant.

The number of runaway slaves in Sancti Spiritus increased along with the sugarmills' expanding production between 1850 and 1870. This was most likely due to the fact that fewer slaves were having to handle a larger workload. Steam-powered mills had a much higher production capacity than those driven by oxen; therefore, slaves had to work longer than the already brutal sixteen hours a day to cut, haul, and process cane. Slaves surely resented these voracious new mills.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Blazing Cane by Gillian McGillivray Copyright © 2009 by Duke University Press. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgment xi

Chronology of Major Political Events xxv

Introduction 1

Chapter 1 The Colonial Compact, 1500-1895 13

Chapter 2 Revolutionary Destruction of the Colonial Compact, 1895-98 37

Chapter 3 U.S. Power and Cuban Middlemen, 1898-1917 63

Chapter 4 The Patrons' Compact: "Peace," "Progress," and General Menocal, 1899-1919 86

Chapter 5 Patrons, Matrons, and Resistance, 1899-1959 118

Chapter 6 From Patronage to Populism and Back Again, 1919-26 145

Chapter 7 Revolutionary Rejection of the Patrons' Compact, 1926-33 188

Chapter 8 The Populist Compact, 1934-59 226

Conclusion 272

Appendix: Selections from the 1946 Chaparra and Delicias Collective Contract 279

Notes 287

Glossary 345

Select Bibliography 349

Index 367

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(0)

4 Star

(0)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)