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Blazing Cane: Sugar Communities, Class, and State Formation in Cuba, 1868-1959 (American Encounters/Global Interactions)by Gillian Mcgillivray
Synopses & Reviews
Sugar was Cuba's principal export from the late eighteenth century throughout much of the twentieth, and the majority of the population depended on sugar production for its livelihood. By analyzing the experiences of participants in Cuban sugar communities, from cane farmers to wealthy sugar mill managers, Gillian McGillivray illuminates how sugar communities were instrumental in the formation and transformation of the Cuban republic during a crucial ninety-year period between 1868 and 1959, as Cuba shifted from colonialism to patronage, and from populist rule to the revolutions of 1933 and 1959. Gillian McGillivray's accessible study also shows that Cuban history fits larger twentieth-century patterns of the western hemisphere, from modernity to popular nationalism to Cold War repression.
Drawing on provincial and company archives in Cuba and the United States, McGillivray charts the course of Cuba on both a local and a national level, revealing in the process how the two intersect and reinforce one another. She focuses on two sugar communities--Chaparra, located in eastern Cuba, and Tuinucu, located in the central province of Sancti Spiritus--to examine how individuals built and sustained sugar communities, and how their actions altered the political, social, and economic structures of Cuba over time. Cane burning, at the hands of cane farmers, workers, and revolutionaries at various points in Cuban history, became a powerful way 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 access to political and economic power on the island. Layering local Cuban experiences within global phenomena and international political trends, Blazing Cane reveals that much can be learned about Cuba's revolutionary and republican periods through a look at worker and farmer mobilization.
Offers a new understanding of the history of Cuba from the mid-nineteenth century to the Cuban revolution by showing the national and transnational implications of local developments in two sugar mill communities.
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.
About the Author
Gillian McGillivray is Associate Professor of History at Glendon College, York University.
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