life on a cuban sugar plantation
If I left a track, they could follow my path and catch me. Esteban Montejo began life enslaved in 1860 on a Cuban sugar plantation. Ground floor of the St. Regis From the 1840s until 1855, however, they plotted rather than debated it. Montejo made a life in the woods as a cimarron or maroon (people who escaped to live independently in remote areas) and when enslavement was abolished he returned to the plantations as a paid laborer. Life on sugarcane plantations was most certainly less than sweet during the 1600s. In 1963 at the age of 103 his story was recorded by writer Miguel Barnet. And I began to like them. But being a cimarron in the woods you had to be on the lookout. European nations would race to scoop up land and set up colonies, all in a rush to dominate the sugar market. The Massachusetts Historical Society also holds the Atkins Family Papers, an extensive collection of records and papers that detail the activities of the Atkins family and the E. Atkins & Co. sugar interest in Cuba from 1854-1950. As a spirited young man, Estaben Montejo Mariano Pereira attempted to escape from enslavement several times, and finally succeeded. Click here to access the finding aid to the Atkins Family Photographs. I never ran into any of them. And I knew that working in the fields was like living in hell. I traveled many days without any clear direction. Since the cimarron was a slave who had escaped, the masters sent a posse of rancheadores after them. That idea went around in my head more than any other. Amassing more African slave labor helped drive down the costs, in a not-so-sweet economic recipe for success at the cost of human lives. The thing is, one day I was riled up, and I don’t know what got into me, but I was mad, and just seeing him set me off. He also speaks on the various African traditions enslaved people brought with them, using herbs and potions for healing. The demand for sugar surged between the years 1600 and 1650, causing the African slave population to explode from 200,000 slaves to 800,000. “Working in the fields was like living in hell. Even after Spain ended its slave trade in 1820, Cuban planters smuggled in slaves until the American Civil War cut short the supply in the 1860s. The sugar industry developed as the driving force of Cuba’s economy, and its increasingly wealthy and powerful planters reshaped rural society to enhance the production and export of what had become Big Sugar. The collapse of Haiti`s sugar industry and the subsequent shortfall in world sugar markets created opportunities for other sugar producers, notably Louisiana and Cuba, where so many Haitian planters and sugar experts took refuge from the war. The sugar plantations and mills of Brazil and later the West Indies devoured Africans. Cuban plantation owners were among those who insisted on continuing the slave trade, despite the controversies raised between the Spanish and British governments. Planters expanded the railroads, established in the 1830s to service individual plantations. Lifestyles were more varied in urban areas, which were characterized by substantial free nonwhite populations and considerable occupational and economic diversification. Get directions », Monday – Tuesday This collection, the Atkins Family Photographs, is a unique visual record of life and work on sugar plantations in Cuba during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Cuban plantation owners were among those who insisted on continuing the slave trade, despite the controversies raised between the Spanish and British governments. During the 18th century Cuba depended increasingly on the sugarcane crop and on the expansive, slave-based plantations that produced it. Cuban sugar brokers networked with New England refiners. He ran away only to be caught and put in shackles. Unfortunately, today’s modern sugarcane plantations and production still enjoy a less than savory reputation, compliments of persistent labor practices. Families tended to be large, augmented by extended kin and fictive kin relations. The more powerful the mills, the more they consolidated and became so efficient that productivity skyrocketed and fewer workers produced more sugar. Click here to access the finding aid to the Atkins Family Photographs. Like Carpentier, Cuban journalists, sugar company administrators, and even contemporary historians describe Haitians as a homogenous group of sugar cane cutters. Between 1763 and 1860 the island’s population increased from less than 150,000 to more than 1,300,000. They shouted, “We’re free now.” But I wasn’t affected. All the blacks had respect for him because one of the whippings he gave could strip the skin off of just about anybody. American control over Cuba’s sugar industry (and on Cuba generally) was strong and overt. Despite his effort to break with intellectual currents of early twentieth-century Cuba and to criticize US imperialism, Carpentier's assertions about laborers are consistent with the logics of both the Cuban nationalist press and sugar company administrators. I walked up hill and downhill, all around. Click here for information about the Massachusetts Historical Review. In 1795 in Louisiana, American-born Jean Étienne Boré sparked an agricultural revolution (and earned the title “savior of Louisiana”) by employing Haitian sugar manufacturer Antoine Morin’s processing techniques. Use of modern refining techniques was especially important because the British abolished the slave trade in 1807 and, after 1815, began forcing other countries to follow suit. Haitians' Labor and Leisure on Cuban Sugar Plantations: The Limits of Company Control It was a powerful and friendly neighbor, even if many Southern planters had designs on Cuba’s fertile and abundant land. Expanding sugar mills dominated the landscape from Havana … I have never forgotten the first time I tried to run away. In Louisiana, as in Cuba, the sugar industry evolved as a system of industrial agriculture that grew cane processed by heavily capitalized and centralized mills. Most visitors to Havana found it unclean and a dangerous place to walk about. Everything depended on the master’s orders. He “felt strange among so many blacks with other customs and languages. By 1934 two-thirds of Cuban sugar was produced by North American interests controlled by Big Sugar. Planters believed that annexation would guarantee the preservation of Cuban slavery. . After enduring the horrors of enslavement -living in the cramped suffocating barracoons, the living quarters, witnessing the breeding of the strongest and tallest, and suffering the extraordinarily cruel punishments, like being flogged until the skin was lacerated and being locked in the stocks for months at a time. The company was unsuccessful, selling fewer slaves in 21 years than the British sold during a 10-month occupation of Havana in 1762. Close this message to accept cookies or find out how to manage your cookie settings. On large plantations the sugar mill and boiling house worked round the clock, 24 hours a day six days a week. Even before last January’s devastating earthquake, Haiti was routinely disparaged as a “basket-case” or “failed state” unable to feed, police or govern itself.
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