Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
American Sugar Kingdom

American Sugar Kingdom: The Plantation Economy of the Spanish Caribbean, 1898-1934

César J. Ayala
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    American Sugar Kingdom
    Book Description:

    Engaging conventional arguments that the persistence of plantations is the cause of economic underdevelopment in the Caribbean, this book focuses on the discontinuities in the development of plantation economies in Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic in the early twentieth century. Cesar Ayala analyzes and compares the explosive growth of sugar production in the three nations following the War of 1898--when the U.S. acquired Cuba and Puerto Rico--to show how closely the development of the Spanish Caribbean's modern economic and social class systems is linked to the history of the U.S. sugar industry during its greatest period of expansion and consolidation.Ayala examines patterns of investment and principal groups of investors, interactions between U.S. capitalists and native planters, contrasts between new and old regions of sugar monoculture, the historical formation of the working class on sugar plantations, and patterns of labor migration. In contrast to most studies of the Spanish Caribbean, which focus on only one country, his account places the history of U.S. colonialism in the region, and the history of plantation agriculture across the region, in comparative perspective.

    eISBN: 978-1-4696-0505-0
    Subjects: History, Business

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-4)

    In the Spanish-American War of 1898 the United States seized Cuba and Puerto Rico. In 1905 it seized the customs of the Dominican Republic, and it occupied that country from 1916 to 1924. Cuba became an independent state in 1902, under the tutelage of the United States and under the shadow of the Platt Amendment. Puerto Rico became a formal colony. The Dominican Republic saw its independence progressively curtailed, and U.S. influence remained paramount even after the withdrawal of U.S. troops in 1924. Thus the United States became an imperial power controlling the economic life of the three nations, and...

  5. 1 A Caribbean Plantation System
    (pp. 5-22)

    Sugar plantations have been central institutions in the economic development of the Caribbean for the last five hundred years. All the islands of the Antilles experienced the growth of plantation agriculture. The comparative study of plantation societies has provided important insights into the development of economy and society in this region. This book is a study of the plantation economy of the Spanish Caribbean between the Spanish-American War of 1898 and the crisis that shook the foundations of the sugar industry of Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic in 1933–34. The colonial transfer of the islands of Cuba...

  6. 2 The Horizontal Consolidation of the U.S. Sugar Refining Industry
    (pp. 23-47)

    The invasion of Cuba and Puerto Rico in 1898 took place at a time when capitalist enterprise in the United States was undergoing a momentous transformation into its modern, corporate structure. The wave of mergers and consolidations of 1898–1904 firmly established the limited liability, joint stock corporation with ability to hold the stock of other corporations (holding company) as the essential unit of capitalist industrial enterprise in the United States. While the corporate form and a market for securities had existed in railroads since the 1870s, the transformation of industry and the development of a market for industrial securities...

  7. 3 The Sugar Tariff and Vertical Integration
    (pp. 48-73)

    The price war of 1890 pitted sugar refiners from the East Coast of the United States against those of the West Coast. The process of horizontal consolidation was a struggle for control of the market for refined sugar in the United States. The refiners’ attempt to monopolize sugar refining spilled over into a contest for the sources of raw sugar outside the United States. These attempts to control foreign sources, in turn, brought refiners face to face with the tariff, which regulated competition between domestic and foreign sugar producers selling in the U.S. market. The tariff was crucial to the...

  8. 4 Vertical Integration in the Colonies
    (pp. 74-120)

    It is commonly recognized that the sugar economies of Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico in the period 1898–1934 were dominated by large foreign corporations. The corporations were absentee owned. The structure of ownership of these corporations, however, has not been studied. How was United States capital organized in these semicolonial and colonial territories? Were the firms small and independent, or were they interlocked with each other and linked to oligopolistic structures in the United States? Were they controlled by managers, as managerial theory would have us believe? Or were they under proprietary control, and if so, how...

  9. 5 The Colonos
    (pp. 121-147)

    The penetration of U.S. capital into the economies of Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico transformed the technological base of sugar production. The new mills featured increased grinding capacities, internal railroad networks, the introduction of internal combustion engines, and electrification in the plantation zones. But in contrast to the technological revolution of cane grinding, the planting and harvesting of cane continued to use the same immemorial technologies and displayed resistance both to transformation and to the penetration of metropolitan capital. Cane farmers known as colonos produced most of the cane ground in the mills of Cuba, the Dominican Republic,...

  10. 6 Labor and Migration
    (pp. 148-182)

    The expansion of the sugar industry in the Spanish Caribbean in the twentieth century was so dramatic that it changed the economic balance between regions in each island, established new demographic patterns of settlement, and resulted in the settlement of lands that had hitherto remained largely depopulated. As new regions were opened up to the cultivation of sugar, the demand for labor, particularly in the agricultural phase of the process, which was labor intensive and required dedicated labor during the zafra, propelled workers into the new plantation zones. While the sugar industry experienced expansion everywhere, the supply of labor power...

  11. 7 The Twentieth-Century Plantation
    (pp. 183-230)

    The occupation of Cuba and Puerto Rico by the United States in 1898 and the gradual expansion of imperial influence over the Dominican Republic culminating in the occupation of that island by U.S. Marines in 1916–24 led to an impressive expansion of sugar production across the Spanish Caribbean. Sugar production for export was not new to the islands. Was the extension of monocultural sugar production across the Spanish Caribbean an entirely new phenomenon attributable to U.S. colonialism, or was it a continuation of trends already in place before 1898? How did the internal class structure of the U.S.-owned plantations...

  12. 8 Economic Collapse and Revolution
    (pp. 231-247)

    World War I increased the demand for Caribbean sugar in Europe and drove up its international price. Before the war, the European allies of the United States were either self-sufficient in sugar or had drawn their supplies from continental Europe. The outbreak of war with Germany cut off the United Kingdom’s sources of sugar in central Europe. The beet-growing areas of France were overrun by the invading German army. The principal alternative sources of sugar were Java and Cuba. The scarcity of shipping during the war impeded the importation of Javanese sugar, forcing the allies to turn for their supply...

  13. Epilogue
    (pp. 248-250)

    Sugar production is practically nonexistent today in Puerto Rico. Between 1950 and 1960 the Constancia mill in Ponce, Central San José, Pasto Viejo in Humacao, and Centrales Rochelaise and Victoria closed. In the first half of the 1960s El Ejemplo, Guamaní, Juanita, and Plazuela shut down. Centrales Canóvanas, Cayey, Machete, Río Llano, Rufina, San Vicente, Santa Juana, and Soller all closed between 1965 and 1970. Cortada, Juncos, Lafayette, Los Caños, and Monserrate closed between 1970 and 1975. The giants of the industry, which were established in the first decade after the U.S. occupation of the island and controlled much of...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 251-286)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 287-308)
  16. Index
    (pp. 309-322)