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.
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"Gillian McGillivray offers a new and original understanding of the history of Cuba from the mid-nineteenth century to Castro's Cuban revolution by reading that history 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 E. 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. Gillian McGillivray goes deep into documentary archives to address this gap in the historiography of Cuba. By examining Cuban society and politics through two sugar communities, she gives us 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 CubaFrom the Back Cover:
"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"
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