Sugar and Railroads: A Cuban History, 1837-1959 / Edition 1

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Though Cuba was among the first countries in the world to utilize rail transport, the history of its railroads has been little studied. This English translation of the prize-winning Caminos para el azucar traces the story of railroads in Cuba from their introduction in the nineteenth century through the 1959 Revolution.
More broadly, the book uses the development of the Cuban rail transport system to provide a fascinating perspective on Cuban history, particularly the story of its predominant agro-industry, sugar. While railroads facilitated the sugar industry's rapid growth after 1837, the authors argue, sugar interests determined where railroads would be built and who would benefit
from them. Zanetti and Garcia explore the implications of this symbiotic relationship for the technological development of the railroads, the economic evolution of Cuba, and the lives of the railroad workers.
As this work shows, the economic benefits that accompanied the rise of railroads in Europe and the United States were not repeated in Cuba. Sugar and Railroads provides a poignant demonstration of the fact that technological progress alone is far from sufficient for development.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
A brilliantly researched and well-argued book.

Journal of American History

A very important study, opening our eyes to the complexity of Cuban economic history.

Latin American Studies

[This book] will provide the English reading public with a taste of Cuban historical writing at its best.

Latin American Research Review

Breathes new life into a topic that has been relatively difficult to study outside of Cuba.

Colonial Latin American Historical Review

An example of work to which the North American scholarly community has had too little access.

The Historian

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807846926
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
  • Publication date: 8/31/1998
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 528
  • Product dimensions: 6.19 (w) x 9.31 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Oscar Zanetti is a professor of history at the University of Havana.

Alejandro Garcia is a professor of history at the University of Havana.

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Table of Contents


Foreword by Bridget Brereton
Introduction by Franklin W. Knight
Chapter 1. The Problems of Transportation
Chapter 2. The Güines RailroadChapter 3. The Initial Expansion, 1838-1852
Chapter 4. The Years of the Railroad Boom
Chapter 5. The Island Railroad Network
Chapter 6. Human Dimensions of Cuban Railroads
Chapter 7. Relative Stagnation
Chapter 8. The Impact of Structural Changes
Chapter 9. Denationalization
Chapter 10. U.S. Intervention
Chapter 11. The Ferrocarril Central and Imperial Interest
Chapter 12. British Monopoly in the West
Chapter 13. War, Sugar, and Railroads
Chapter 14. U.S. Monopolies and the Tarafa Bill
Chapter 15. Organization of the Railroad Proletariat
Chapter 16. The Crisis
Chapter 17. Temporary Recovery
Chapter 18. In the Shadow of the Bourgeois State


5.1. Shares in Cuban National Railroad Companies Purchased by the Junta de Fomento, 1840-1854
5.2. Annual Income per Kilometer for the Fourteen Largest Railroad Companies in Cuba, 1861-1868
5.3. Annual Expenditures per Kilometer for Eleven Cuban Railroads, 1865-1868
5.4. Operating Ratio for Thirteen Cuban Railway Companies, 1865-1868
5.5. Loans Contracted by Cuban Railroads, 1860-1865
5.6. Principal Products of the Jurisdiction of Güines
6.1. Status of Asian Day Laborers for the Caminos de Hierro de La Habana
7.1. Cuban Railway Expansion, 1861-1900
7.2. Investment by Two Railroad Companies, 1868-1878
8.1. Volume of Cane Transported by Rail during the Harvest of 1895
8.2. Construction of Private Branch Lines along the Route of the Ferrocarriles Unidos de La Habana, 1880-1890
8.3. Ferrocarril de Sagua La Grande Company Expenses, 1865-1880
8.4. Wage Rates of Ferrocarriles Urbanos de La Habana and Ferrocarril de Sancti Spíritus to Tunas
8.5. Comparative Data of the "Economies" Obtained by the Ferrocarril de Matanzas a Sabanillas through Wage and Daily Rates, 1895-1896
9.1. Increase in Number of Freight Cars of Four Railroad Companies, 1881-1897
9.2. Cuban Sugar Production and the Price and Value of Harvests, 1894-1898
9.3. Troops Lodged in the Regla Warehouses, 1896
10.1. Kilometer Distribution and Capital Sources of Cuban Public Service Railroads, 1900
10.2. Yield per Kilometer of the Main Public Service Railroad Companies, 1900
12.1. Foreign Capital in Cuba, 1913-1914
12.2. Western Railroad Companies' Capitalization and Length of Lines
12.3. Capitalization of Ferrocarriles Unidos de La Habana y Almacenes de Regla Ltda. (United Railways), 1900-1914
13.1. Freight Cars Owned by Four Railroad Companies
13.2. Value of Stock and Cash J. M. Tarafa Received from the Cuba Northern Railroad Company
13.3. Passengers and Freight Carried by the Main Railroad Companies in Cuba, 1913-1918
13.4. Income That the Main Railroad Companies in Cuba Obtained from Passenger Fares and Freight Charges for Carrying Sugar, Sugarcane, and Molasses, 1920
15.1. Comparative Data on Daily Wage Rates of the Principle Railroad Companies, 1905-1906
16.1. Comparative Analysis of Railroad Income, Value of Sugarcane Harvests, and Value of Trade, 1929-1939
16.2. Income and Tonnage per Kilometer for Railroad Freight in Several Countries, 1936-1938
17.1. Comparative Data for Passengers Carried by Ferrocarriles Unidos and Ferrocarriles Consolidados, 1940 and 1944
17.2. Volume and Distance of Freight Carried on Ferrocarriles Unidos
17.3. Minimum Wage Increases and General Wage Increases in the Railroad Sector, 1943-1946
18.1. Comparison of Railroad Income in Pesos, 1957-1958

Figures and Maps

5.1. Sugar Production and Total Income for Cargo and Passengers on Cuban Public Railroads, 1861-1881
9.1. Income per Kilometer of the Four Main Railroad Companies, 1871-1898
9.2. Expenses per Kilometer of the Four Main Railroad Companies, 1871-1898
14.1. Income and Expenditures of the Three Main Railroad Companies, 1920-1921 to 1924-1925
16.1. Sugar Harvest Value and Railroad Income, 1929-1939

3.1. Expansion of the Western Rail Network
3.2. Expansion of Railroads in the Eastern Zone
4.1. Competitive Position of the Western Railroads, 1860-1870
9.1. Cuban Railroads by Company Lines, 1989
11.1. The Central Railroad
11.2. Expansion of the Eastern Network and the Development of Central Factories, 1900-1930
14.1. Distribution of public and Private networks in Camagüey
14.2. Railroad Company Networks, 1929
16.1. Public Railroads and the Development of the Highway System

Güines Valley
Mule train
Carts at the Havana wharves
Vento tunnel
Bridge over the Almendares River
The first locomotives used in Cuba
Villanueva Station
"La Junta"
Matanzas to Sabanilla railroad station
Sagua La Grande Railroad Station
Regla Warehouses
Interior of Matanzas Railroad lounge coach
Publicity for the first express service in Cuba
Credit letter for construction of first railroad
Claudio Martínez de Pinillos, count of Villanueva
Temporary railroad
Sugarcane train of Central Soledad
Spanish volunteers depart from Villanueva Station
Caibarién Railroad train derailed and burned
Fort constructed to protect Tunas to Sancti Spíritus railroad
Cárdenas y Júcaro train wrecked at the Flora Bridge
Forests cleared for construction of the Central Railroad
Announcement of the beginning of Central Railroad passenger service
Villanueva Station at the beginning of the twentieth century
Cartoon on the Villanueva-Arsenal land transfer
Construction of the National Capitol on the Villanueva property
Locomotives used in Cuba at the beginning of the twentieth century
Train derailed in Las Villas during strike of 1924
Coach constructed in Cuba on an imported chassis
Railroad workers' protest in Camagüey
German diesel engine used in the modernization of Cuban railroads
An armored train, symbol of the last Batista military effort
Morón railroad workers support nationalization efforts

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