Cárdenas' Sugar Mills "Centrales"

Esta pagina en espanol

Sugar production has been Cuba's major industry for centuries. The island's climate and rich soil are uniquely suited to the growth of sugar cane. Once, when commenting on the importance of the industry to the country, a former president of the Cuban Landholders' Association, Jose Manuel Casanova, said what later became a household phrase throughout Cuba: "Without sugar there is no country!"

Over the past 37 years Fidel Castro's regime has been able to succesfully misrepresent many things about Cuba to the world. One of the most blatant of these has been the claim that the United States owned the vast majority of Cuba's "pre-Revolutionary" industry, to the detriment of the Cubans.

In fact, U.S. business interests did own some industry in Cuba, including some very important sugar production facilities. This was not unlike today's world of international business where foreign firms hold interests in companies throughout the U.S. and vice-versa. American involvement in the Cuban economy had exploded after the United States helped the Cuban patriots defeat the Spanish in 1898 to help gain Cuban independence, and their military occupation of the island for 4 years thereafter. For the most part, the American involvement was very positive for the Cubans.

Prior to independence, Spain had reserved the benefits of the lucrative Cuban economy unto itself. This was one of the reasons why the Cubans had twice fought Spain for their freedom. Having failed in their fist attempt between 1868 and 1878 (The Ten Years War), in 1895 the Cubans began a second struggle for independence, a brutal war that had been going on for 3 years when the United States entered it on the side of the Cuban Patriots in April of 1898. Nevertheless, Spain surrendered to the U.S. after three months of war, and the succesful U.S. involvement in the second Cuban War of Independence came to be known in the United States as "The Spanish-American War". Many people believe that the war would have ended in Cuban independence, even without U.S. involvement, but nobody really knows that for sure. After the war, the U.S. administrated Cuba as its territory for three-and-a-half years, until May 20, 1902.

For 40-50 years after the war, American interests in the Cuban sugar industry flourished and co-existed with Cuban and substantial Spanish interests. But by 1959, however, Cubans had come to own approximately 68% of the island's sugar production facilities as a result of inheritance from their Spanish ancestors and also due to aggressive buying of foreign interests by the locals, fostered by the Cuban legislature's passage of laws favoring purchases by Cuban nationals.

Cubans are very entrepreneurial people. Given the freedom to do so, they have proven their ability to work hard and build successful businesses as well as anyone in the world. -- The most recent example is in Miami, Florida. Since 1960, most Cuban exiles have arrived there with nothing but the shirts on their backs and they have built an impressive economy there.

Thanks to Leito Suarez Areny we have been able to obtain a copy of the 1947-1948 CUBA SUGAR MANUAL, "The Gilmore", in order to bring you many details of the Sugar Industry in and around Cárdenas during those years. In 1947-48 there were 5 Centrales (large-scale sugar mills) in the area immediately surrounding Cárdenas. Funny, but only 1 was owned by Americans. There were 19 more in the rest of Matanzas Province, the birthplace of the Cuban Sugar Industry, and only 5 of those were owned by Americans. (Only 25% in 1947-48)

The Gilmore reveals many interesting details about each Central including ownership, executive staff, communications, sources of cane, equipment, warehouses, production capacities, production histories, and much more. We hope you find the data interesting and informative. It is, however, written in Spanish so you are on your own in translating it.

All of this data was collected and printed long before anyone "had an axe to grind" regarding the accomplishments of "the Castro Revolution," or lack thereof. It is interesting to note the high production figures of these mills, without significant fertilization and sophisticated irrigation systems. Today, the lack of these amenities, along with the old stand-bys: chronic "bad weather" and, of course, the U.S. embargo that he calls a "Blockade", are among Castro's favorite excuses for achieving consistently poor production levels. Never does he blame his ridiculous totalitarian system.

Sadly, never before have Jose Manuel Casanova's words ever rung so true: "Without sugar there is no country".

Click on the name of the Central below
to view its pages in The Gilmore for 1947-1948

Central Carolina
2 Pages: 128 Kbytes and 63 Kbytes

Central Dos Rosas
2 Pages: 94 Kbytes and 195 Kbytes

Central Guipúzcoa
2 Pages: 99 Kbytes and 143 Kbytes

Central Progreso
2 Pages: 156 Kbytes and 98 Kbytes

Central Santa Amalia
2 Pages: 133 Kbytes and 182 Kbytes