Empire's Guestworkers: Haitian Migrants in Cuba During the Age of US Occupation 1107127696, 9781107127692

Haitian seasonal migration to Cuba is central to narratives about race, national development, and US imperialism in the

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Empire's Guestworkers: Haitian Migrants in Cuba During the Age of US Occupation
 1107127696, 9781107127692

Table of contents :
Cover
Half-title page
Series page
Title page
Copyright page
Contents
List of Figures, Maps, and Tables
Acknowledgments
Introduction
Prologue: Experiencing the Unevenness of Empire
1 Making the Haitian Cuban Border and Creating Temporary Migrants
2 Leaving US-Occupied Haiti
3 Living and Working on Cuban Sugar Plantations
4 Picking Coffee and Building Families in Eastern Cuba
5 Creating Religious Communities, Serving Spirits, and Decrying Sorcery
6 Mobilizing Politically and Debating Race and Empire in Cuban Cities
7 Returning to Haiti and the Aftermath of US Occupation
Epilogue: Enduring Legacies and Post-Colonial Divergences
Bibliography
Index

Citation preview

and the Democrats “In this book, Mark Neely outlines what he considers to be the five big questions of the Civil War. And he gets them spot-on. We can pursue many other aspects and interests of the Civil War era, but these are the nuclear-core questions. Not only does he pose the right questions, he goes one better. He gives the right answers. This is the Civil War book we have been waiting for – and for a long time.” Dr. Allen C. Guelzo, Henry R. Luce Professor of the Civil War Era, Gettysburg College “Neely offers a presentation of Lincoln that is clear, coherent, and concise. He is authoritative and convincing, yet also refreshingly new.” Daniel Walker Howe, Professor Emeritus of History, University of California MARK E. NEELY, JR is Emeritus Professor of History at Pennsylvania State University, specialising in political and constitutional history. His book, The Fate of Liberty: Abraham Lincoln and Civil Liberty won the

LINCOLN and the Democrats

LINCOLN

N E E LY

CAMBRIDGE ESSENTIAL HISTORIES

EMPIRE’S GUESTWORKERS

Pulitzer Prize for History.

Haitian Migrants in Cuba during the Age of US Occupation matthew casey COV E R DE SIGN E D BY H A R T McL EOD LT D

Empire’s Guestworkers

Haitian seasonal migration to Cuba is central to narratives about race, national development, and US imperialism in the early twentieth-century Caribbean. Filling a major gap in the literature, this innovative study reconstructs Haitian guestworkers’ lived experiences as they moved among the rural and urban areas of Haiti and the sugar plantations, coffee farms, and cities of eastern Cuba. It offers an unprecedented glimpse into the daily workings of empire, labor, and political economy in Haiti and Cuba. Migrants’ efforts to improve their living and working conditions and practice their religions shaped migration policies, economic realities, ideas of race, and Caribbean spirituality in Haiti and Cuba as each experienced US imperialism. Matthew Casey is Nina Bell Suggs Professor of History at the University of Southern Mississippi.

Afro-Latin America

This series reflects the coming of age of the new, multidisciplinary field of Afro-Latin American Studies, which centers on the histories, cultures, and experiences of people of African descent in Latin America. The series aims to showcase scholarship produced by different disciplines, including history, political science, sociology, ethnomusicology, anthropology, religious studies, art, law, and cultural studies. It covers the full temporal span of the African Diaspora in Latin America, from the early colonial period to the present and includes continental Latin America, the Caribbean, and other key areas in the region where Africans and their descendants have made a significant impact. Series editors George Reid Andrews, University of Pittsburgh Alejandro de la Fuente, Harvard University

Empire’s Guestworkers Haitian Migrants in Cuba during the Age of US Occupation

MATTHEW CASEY University of Southern Mississippi

University Printing House, Cambridge cb2 8bs, United Kingdom One Liberty Plaza, 20th Floor, New York, ny 10006, USA 477 Williamstown Road, Port Melbourne, vic 3207, Australia 4843/24, 2nd Floor, Ansari Road, Daryaganj, Delhi – 110002, India 79 Anson Road, #06–04/06, Singapore 079906 Cambridge University Press is part of the University of Cambridge. It furthers the University’s mission by disseminating knowledge in the pursuit of education, learning, and research at the highest international levels of excellence. www.cambridge.org Information on this title: www.cambridge.org/9781107127692 doi: 10.1017/9781316412428 © Matthew Casey 2017 This publication is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements, no reproduction of any part may take place without the written permission of Cambridge University Press. First published 2017 Printed in the United States of America by Sheridan Books, Inc. A catalogue record for this publication is available from the British Library isbn 978-1-107-12769-2 Hardback Cambridge University Press has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of URLs for external or third-party Internet websites referred to in this publication and does not guarantee that any content on such websites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate.

Contents

List of Figures, Maps, and Tables Acknowledgments

page vi vii

Introduction

1

Prologue: Experiencing the Unevenness of Empire

25

1

Making the Haitian Cuban Border and Creating Temporary Migrants

31

2

Leaving US-Occupied Haiti

61

3 4

Living and Working on Cuban Sugar Plantations Picking Coffee and Building Families in Eastern Cuba

5

Creating Religious Communities, Serving Spirits, and Decrying Sorcery Mobilizing Politically and Debating Race and Empire in Cuban Cities

6 7

Returning to Haiti and the Aftermath of US Occupation Epilogue: Enduring Legacies and Post-Colonial Divergences

103 154 180 205 235 267

Bibliography

283

Index

309

v

Figures, Maps, and Tables

figures I.1 Cuban prison record for Aurelio Castillo 2.1 Image of damaged roads in southern Haiti 2.2 Image of flooded road between Aux Cayes and Port-au-Prince 2.3 A household in rural Haiti 3.1 A Cuban sugar central 3.2 A barracón on a property owned by The Cuba Company 3.3 A load of cane on a Cuban sugar plantation 4.1 View of a coffee farm in Oriente, Cuba 7.1 Pottery merchants in Port-au-Prince 7.2 Market in Port-au-Prince E.1 Statue of Muerto

page 22 85 86 88 106 109 112 162 259 261 277

maps 2.1 Regional and temporal patterns of Haitian migration to Cuba 2.2 Areas of rural violence, mass land expulsion, and migration to Cuba

72 78

tables 1.1 Haitian immigrant arrivals in Cuba according to official statistics 1.2 Haitian passengers in Cuba, 1902–13 1.3 Haitian immigrants, net gain of passengers, and unspecified Antilleans, 1902–13 2.1 Haitian agricultural workers’ birthplaces and migration dates vi

45 47 48 71

Acknowledgments

It is impossible to account for all of the time, resources, and intellectual energy that people have invested in me and this project for the past decade and a half. These acknowledgments must stand as my necessarily imperfect attempt to systematize the unquantifiable and express a gratitude that is ineffable. The bulk of research for this project was funded by an Andrew W. Mellon fellowship and a Carolyn Chambers Memorial fellowship from the University of Pittsburgh. Before then, I received a Hays Summer Research Grant from the Department of History, a Tinker Grant from the Center for Latin American Studies, and a summer grant from the Center for Arts and Sciences, all from the University of Pittsburgh. My research at the University of Florida was funded by a Library Travel Research Grant from their Center for Latin American Studies. I would also like to thank the Vice President for Research and the College of Arts and Letters at the University of Southern Mississippi for funding the final stage of research. In many ways, this book was inspired by questions that Aline Helg posed in an undergraduate seminar at the University of Texas in 2003: How can we overcome the linguistic fragmentation of the Caribbean? How have people experienced and responded to injustice and oppression in the region? The project itself began as a doctoral dissertation at the University of Pittsburgh under the supervision of Alejandro de la Fuente, Lara Putnam, Reid Andrews, and Jerome Branche. All four asked the hard questions, demanded scholarly rigor and mentored me as I carried out the research and writing. Alejandro believed in the project from the start, which was especially important in the early stages when some (including vii

viii

Acknowledgments

myself) questioned its feasibility; I owe my scholarly development to him and the others in this stellar group. All of my colleagues at the University of Southern Mississippi have provided those concrete and intangible things that early career scholars need to thrive. Allison Abra, Kevin Greene, Andrew Haley, and Heather Stur read drafts of chapters and served as sounding boards for the ideas that follow. Douglas Chambers, Max Grivno, Bridget Hayden, and Andrew Wiest shared their experiences about the world of academic publishing and listened to specific questions and concerns on multiple occasions. As Department Chair, Kyle Zelner understood the importance of getting the book out and helped me juggle academic obligations accordingly. Andrew Ross and Rebecca Tuuri provided much-needed encouragement as I entered the final phase of revisions. I am thankful to these and all my colleagues for their collective mix of intelligence and good humor. Over the years, a number of scholars have shared their time, expertise, and encouragement. Early on, Alejandra Bronfman, Marc McLeod, and Robert Whitney gave advice about Cuban archival sources. Thorald Burnham, Ada Ferrer, Leon Pamphile, and Matthew Smith did the same for Haiti. I have also benefited from conversations and correspondence with Alexis Alarcón, Barry Carr, Aviva Chomsky, Julio Corbea, Rafe Dalleo, J. Michael Dash, Luis Duno-Gottberg, Mercedes García Rodríguez, Yanique Hume, Mariana Past, Olga Portuondo, Kate Ramsey, Alyssa Sepinwall, Bernarda Sevillano Andrés, and Roberto Zurbano. I had the great fortune of researching in Cuba at the same time as Jorge Giovannetti, who shared his extensive knowledge about the archives of eastern Cuba. Jorge is a model of scholarly generosity, who I seek to emulate in my interactions with other academics. On various research trips, I was grateful for the opportunity to exchange ideas about Cuban history and its street food with Takkara Brunson, Camillia Cowling, Anne Eller, Bayete Henderson, Benjamin Narvaez, Dan Rood, and Elena Schneider. My conversations in Santiago with Franny Sullivan about labor in the Cuban sugar industry and sources in provincial archives were especially fruitful. I also lucked out that Grete Viddal studies the descendants of Haitian migrants in Cuba. She seems to know everyone, has introduced me to a number of scholars in Cuba and the United States, and has read various versions of many pieces of this project. Her feedback and friendship have made this a better book. Finally,

Acknowledgments

ix

Orlando Rivero-Valdés has answered multiple questions about law and slang in the Cuban republic. Oscar de la Torre, Dan Rood, and Michael J. Schmidt have been superlative exemplars of close friendship and academic support. With each of them I have enjoyed an alchemy of serious conversations and silly jokes over too much coffee or not enough beer. Their unconditional support and commitment to constructive criticism were crucial during the writing and publishing process. Michael read the manuscript right before first submission and identified areas that required clarification. I had the opportunity to present parts of this work at a number of academic settings; a few stand out for the productive conversations they engendered. I received helpful comments on the future Chapter 6 at the Haiti and the Americas Conference at Florida Atlantic University in 2010. In 2012, Kate Ramsey, Tim Watson, and the participants at the Atlantic Geographies Institute at the University of Miami discussed what later became Chapter 5. In 2014, graduate students in Lara Putnam’s Transnational Labor History seminar at the University of Pittsburgh read and discussed the entire manuscript with me. Thank you to all! I owe a debt of gratitude to all the librarians and archivists in Haiti, Cuba, and the United States who shared their knowledge of source materials and often went out of their way to further my research. Ernest Even made my research at the Bibliothèque Haitienne on the St. Louis de Gonzague campus in Port-au-Prince both efficient and enjoyable. He allowed me to come in on some Sundays, when the library was technically closed. On my second day in Haiti, he facilitated my research at the Bibliothèque Nationale by introducing me to the director, Françoise Beaulieu Thibylle. There, I was fortunate to meet Pierre Moïse Celestin, who worked tirelessly to identify and track down Haitian newspapers on my behalf. In Cuba, my research was supported by the Instituto de Historia de Cuba. There, Belkys Quesada helped me change visas and arranged for me to receive letters of access to libraries and archives throughout the island. In the Cuban National Archives, Julio López Valdés and Rafaela Curbelo shared their knowledge of the archives and patiently tracked down more than one document that could not initially be located. Thanks are also due to Berta Yaque, Isabel Oviedo Brita, and Lisset Guardia Parlá. Ileana Vicente Gómez, María Antonia Reinosa Morales, Miriam Benitez Silega, Roberto Ramos Sánchez, Abdel Masid, and Otto Sandoval Casals worked together to make the Archives in Santiago de Cuba the most unique place I have ever researched. Thank you to Reicel Hernández

x

Acknowledgments

Guevara, Anielys Velozo González, and Lidia H. Díaz Barranco in the Provincial Archive of Camagüey, María Belén and Ana Leonor in the Provincial Archive of Holguín, and Yerenia Arias Mulet, Vicente Alvarez Morell, Olga Dovalés, Nélsida Santana, and Maritza Mendoza in the Provincial Archive of Las Tunas. Yadira Muñoz González helped me track down all of the Haitians in the marriage record of the Provincial Archive in Guantánamo, while José Sánchez Guerra loaned me some hard to find Cuban history books to read on nights and weekends. I also benefited from the newspaper indexing and great conversations of Margarita Canseco Aparicio and Iris Alvarez Martinez in the Provincial Library of Guantánamo. Archivists at the United States National Archives in Washington DC and College Park, Maryland, helped me navigate the various collections concerning US activities in Haiti and Cuba. At the University of Maryland, Elizabeth A. McAlister facilitated my research in the Archives of the Cuba Company. My final research trip was to the University of Miami, where I was aided in Special Collections by Béatrice Colastin Skokan and in the Cuban Heritage Collection by María Estorino Dooling, Natalie M. Baur, Mei Mendez, and Rosa Monzón-Alvarez. Special thanks to University Press of Mississippi for granting permission to republish portions of my essay “Between Anti-Haitianism and AntiImperialism: Haitian and Cuban Political Collaborations in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries,” which originally appeared in Haiti and the Americas (2013), edited by Carla Calargé, Raphael Dalleo, Luis DunoGottberg and Clevis Headley. Likewise, an earlier version of Chapter 3 was first published as “Haitians’ Labor and Leisure on Cuban Sugar Plantations: The Limits of Company Control” New West Indian Guide 82, no. 1 and 2 (2011):5–30. A number of people opened their homes to me as I conducted research. The late Dr. Gerard Frédérique welcomed me into his Port-au-Prince home during a 2009 research trip. Lazaro Morales Menendez and Caridad Duarte provided a comfortable place for me in Havana, while María de la Caridad Botifort did the same in Santiago. In Santiago, José Manuel Sánchez Oliva and his family provided a loving environment where I could spend time when the archives were closed. José shared the details of his life and childhood as we walked the city on numerous evenings. In Washington DC, I was lucky to receive the hospitality of Gabriel and Kristin Assad as well as John Feather and Steve Parsons. Jay and Anna Marie Pousson and the late Hazel Casey opened their doors to Stephanie and me during a year we spent in Houston.

Acknowledgments

xi

A number of individuals helped me secure the images that appear in this book. Laurie N. Taylor at the University of Florida communicated with the National Archives of Haiti on my behalf and helped obtain permission to publish the images of damaged roads that appear in Chapter 2. Jennifer G. Eidson from the Hornbake Library at the University of Maryland retrieved and scanned the image of the barracón that appears in Chapter 3. I would like to thank Martha M. Ferriol Marchena from the National Archives of Cuba for her help securing permissions to use the images that appear in the Introduction and in Chapter 4. Finally, Stephanie Casey drew the maps in Chapter 2. In Cuba, I had the opportunity to meet a number of Haitian descendants. Olivia Labady Chery opened her door to this stranger and talked at length with me about her family history, her work in Guantánamo, and her opinions about contemporary Haiti. She welcomed me into her Haitian Creole classroom as well. Likewise, Vida Lina Urgelles and the community of family and friends who gather in her home in Centro Habana always welcomed me with open arms. Vida Lina spoke with me on numerous occasions about her dance group, her religious beliefs, and her life story. I hope this book does justice to their histories and the work they are doing. I am eternally grateful to Debbie Gershenowitz at Cambridge University Press for her willingness to take on this project and to Andrew Wiest for making initial introductions. It has been a pleasure to work with Debbie at every turn. Likewise, two anonymous readers pushed this manuscript in all the right directions. I am confident that the book is better as a result of their input. This would also be a good time to affirm that any and all mistakes or weaknesses in this text are my sole responsibility. I owe a special heap of gratitude to my family. My parents, Shawn and Suggie Casey, had an unconditional faith in my ability to do this – a well of support from which I drew on numerous occasions of frustration and discouragement. Over the years, both have read drafts of chapters and page proofs of articles. My mom also read and copyedited the final version of the entire manuscript. I think it is safe to say that her red pen is the only mean thing about her. My siblings are awesome; Clifford Casey, Carolyn Figueroa, and Gina Casey have been exceptionally supportive in this endeavor and in everything else. My children, Hazel and James, have brought me immense happiness and I thank them for putting up with a dad who had a tendency to daydream about writing when I should have been paying more attention to the games we were playing.

xii

Acknowledgments

There are a few hours every evening after the kids go to sleep when I can talk to my wife, Stephanie, without any interruption or distraction. These moments of quiet allow us to go over the big and small parts of the day and gear up for what lies ahead. Here we are in a similar quiet place in the acknowledgments, where I can reflect on our experiences together and express my gratitude for your love and support. Side-byside we have endured Iliads and Odysseys – both big and small. Of course, we have shared even more moments of joy and contented peace together. Thank you for supporting me while I wrote this book – and all the before and after too. I love being your partner as we navigate this strange planet and raise our children together. They will someday be old enough to read this and make fun of me for sounding corny. I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Introduction

By the time he was thirty-five, Aurelio Castillo bore the telltale signs of a life spent cutting sugar cane on the plantations of eastern Cuba. His face, hands, and body were covered in scars from the machete wounds that were all too common in a world of dangerous work and periodic fighting. On his right arm was the distinct pockmark of a vaccination, a physical reminder that Castillo, a native of Haiti, had been recruited by a sugar company representative and injected by a company doctor in accordance with Cuban and Haitian law. Vaccination and work injury scars were not the only indelible marks on Castillo’s body. There were others of his own making. On his right forearm was a tattoo of Cuba’s patron saint with the year 1922 and a caption, in Spanish, that read “Remember the Virgin of Charity.” His left arm depicted a “bouquet of flowers, a nude woman and the initials A.C.Z.”1 The vaccination and machete scars evoke a world of harsh work conditions and strict state regulations. The tattoos tell of social relationships, religious beliefs, and personal meanings that managed to flourish amid this difficult and monotonous world. This book is about the hundreds of thousands of Haitians like Castillo who migrated between Haiti and Cuba during the first four decades of the twentieth century. The marks on Castillo’s body provide a parallel to one of the book’s overarching arguments. Although sugar companies and state institutions exerted immense control over the movements and labor of their workforce, they never had the kind of absolute power they claimed. 1

Prison record for Aurelio Castillo, March 9, 1936, National Archives of Cuba: Presidios y Carceles (hereafter ANCPC) legajo 319, expediente 22.

1

2

Introduction

In exploring the areas where institutional power broke down, I show the ways that ordinary individuals influenced larger processes of statebuilding, plantation agriculture, and race-making in the early twentiethcentury Caribbean. Throughout eastern Cuba, Haitians and individuals of other nationalities created networks of petty commerce, worship, and community embedded within sugar plantations, though ultimately extending beyond them – sometimes back to Haiti. For Haitians and other workers, these worlds of labor, leisure, and spirituality were not easily separable, a fact that Aurelio Castillo literally embodies. Furthermore, Haitians’ efforts to achieve a semblance of autonomy, often by collaborating with Cubans and individuals of other nationalities, shaped state policies, economic realities, religious beliefs, and ideas of race in both Haiti and Cuba at a foundational moment in their respective histories. Haitians migrated as the first foreign-led development projects were instituted in Cuba and Haiti. In the early twentieth century, these were implemented under the auspices of the US imperial state. Between 1898 and the 1930s, the United States sought to remake the economy, government, and society of Haiti and Cuba – always in the name of progress but often through military violence and policies that enriched US corporations at the expense of local populations. As the labor force that sustained the export economies of both Haiti and Cuba, this mobile contingent of ruralborn Haitians was crucial to these projects. As a result, their actions had impacts out of proportion with their material poverty and political disfranchisement. But they did more than just formal wage labor. In fact, analyzing migrants’ sugar work alongside their efforts to sustain informal economies, subsistence activities, religious communities, and leisure reveals the local and transnational dynamics of imperialism, statebuilding, and economic expansion in Haiti and Cuba. Seasonal migrants demonstrate the impossibility of understanding the history of Haiti, Cuba, or US foreign relations in isolation from each other. Seasonal migrants like Castillo were representative of a new category of immigrant laborer that was emerging throughout the globe: the guestworker. Although that word did not yet exist in the 1910s, national and imperial governments throughout the planet experimented with statebrokered, temporary contract migration to solve the labor needs of industries and appease anti-immigrant voices.2 Many of the Haitians who 2

Hahamovitch, “Creating Perfect Immigrants,” 72; Surak, “Guestworkers: A Taxonomy,” 89.

The Uses of Haitian Migrants

3

migrated to Cuba signed contracts that required them to work for a fixed period of time before returning home, placing them within the first global generation of guestworkers. Haitian migrants shaped the conception and creation of temporary contract legislation in both Haiti and Cuba through their actions and petitions. The migration policies that emerged carried rigid prescriptions for who could migrate, how, and for how long. However, their full application was always subverted by migrants’ actions, illustrating the “small-scale dynamics of large-scale processes.”3 If Aurelio Castillo’s physical marks illustrate the book’s major themes, the way those marks are knowable to people today highlights one of the main challenges of uncovering Haitian immigrants’ stories. Castillo’s details are available to historians only because he was arrested for a crime. A prison official inscribed his physical attributes in his penal record for the purpose of identifying him. The jailer had no interest in the tattoos’ meanings or the scars’ provenance; that knowledge will remain unknown. Yet such official documents, written for different purposes than our own, are the principal sources available to historians. The vast majority of the Haitians who traveled to Cuba in the early twentieth century were illiterate. They left very few letters, memoirs, or other written records of the sort that normally form the basis of migration histories. In response, this book uses judicial records, censuses, newspapers, company and consular correspondence, military intelligence, travel literature, and novels in order to reconstruct the worlds that Haitian migrants helped create before they left Haiti, during their sojourns in Cuba, and upon their return. The result is a story, not only of a significant but understudied group of Caribbean migrants but also the way that the consolidation of centralized states, national identities, and export economies were shaped transnationally and from below.

the uses of haitian migrants During the first four decades of the twentieth century, approximately 200,000 Haitians migrated seasonally and permanently to eastern Cuba. They traveled on small sloops and large steamships. Some disembarked in major ports like Santiago and Guantánamo with Haitian passports and labor contracts in hand, where they were greeted by medical examiners and customs officials. Others arrived at remote areas of the Cuban coast without identification or pre-arranged work. Those with contracts were 3

Rebecca J. Scott, “Small-Scale Dynamics of Large-Scale Processes.”

4

Introduction

recruited to work on Cuban sugar plantations for a single year and expected to return to Haiti thereafter. An untold number remained in Cuba for multiple years or even permanently, often in disregard of the stipulations of their contracts. Though most Haitians were contracted to work on Cuban sugar plantations, many eventually moved to the island’s much smaller coffee industry. Indeed, Haitians provided the labor that fueled increases in both crops. In early twentieth-century Cuba, sugar rose to new heights of productivity and profitability. Coffee production reached its highest levels in almost a century. Despite many Cubans’ opposition to Haitian immigration, most recognized these workers as “the best arms” for producing both commodities.4 Migration had noticeable effects on Haiti as well. For a country with a population between two and a half and three million, a few hundred thousand people was significant. In national terms, somewhere between 6 and 8 percent of Haiti’s population traveled to Cuba in the period. Considering that most were young men hailing from a few specific regions, the effect on local areas was striking. “Never before has there been anything like the present exodus,” mused one state official in the migrant-sending area of Aux Cayes.5 As the official’s statement indicates, Haitian migration to Cuba represents one of the first major migratory movements out of Haiti – a country now synonymous with refugees, emigration, and boat people. Haitian laborers’ movements to Cuba and the Dominican Republic in the first decades of the twentieth century were the first large-scale out-migrations since planters and slaves fled Saint Domingue during the events of the Haitian Revolution (1791–1804). But Haitians were not the only foreigners arriving in Cuba. They were the second-largest national group, behind Spaniards, in a wave of immigrants that reached over a million people – among them individuals from other parts of the Caribbean, Latin America, Asia, and the United States.6 The fact that Haitian laborers moved between Haiti and Cuba – where they distributed money, goods, and ideas – illustrates that these two countries 4 5

6

“La inmensa riqueza cafetalera de Yateras,” Diario de Cuba, August 4, 1928. Memorandum from Division Commander, Southern Division to Department Commander, Department of the South, “Report on Labor Conditions in the Southern Division,” February 12, 1920, United States National Archives, Record Group (hereafter USNA RG) 127, Entry 176 Box 1, Folder: [Monthly Reports] January 1919–September 1921. Cervantes-Rodríguez, International Migration in Cuba; Vega-Suñol, Norteamericanos en Cuba; Whitney and Chailloux Laffita, Subjects or Citizens; López, Chinese Cubans; Giovannetti, “The Elusive Organization of ‘Identity.’”

The Uses of Haitian Migrants

5

were closely bound beyond their common position under US imperial control. In many parts of Haiti, crossing the water to Cuba was logistically easier than heading only a few miles farther inland. These people experienced, and ultimately shaped, the social, cultural, political, and economic landscapes of both Haiti and Cuba at the very moment that local leaders and imperial officials exerted immense energy to transform them. Though migrants were incorporated into these top-down visions, it has not previously been clear exactly how their actions shaped these processes. Part of the problem is that migrants’ experiences in either country are largely unknown.7 Migrants themselves left almost no written documents. Certain aspects of their lives, however, were written about extensively. Individuals within Haiti, Cuba, and the United States reduced migrants to their perceived economic value, governability, and putative racial traits. James Scott’s characterization of the documents produced by modern state institutions is especially apt. “They did not successfully represent the actual activity of the society they depicted, nor were they intended to; they represented only that slice of it that interested the official observer.”8 There was little consensus in either Haiti or Cuba about the economic advantages or disadvantages of migration. The issue divided US officials as well. Perhaps the most obvious supporters were those tied to the Cuban sugar industry that had lobbied for permission to contract Caribbean workers in the first place. Haitians’ importance to the sugar industry, which constituted the lifeblood of Cuba’s economy, became clear during a brief immigration ban that occurred in 1928. As planters attested: “Sustaining Haitian immigration is necessary on all levels and more than necessary, urgent, not only for the proper development of the sugar industry, but for the economic stability of the nation itself.”9 Individuals in Haiti proclaimed the economic benefits as well. Some praised the revenue that migration brought to the perennially underfunded state in the form of passport and other fees.10 Others believed that the high wages earned in Cuba brought much-needed cash into rural Haiti.11

7

8 9

10 11

On the major gaps in our knowledge of Haitians’ experiences, see Sklodowska, Espectros y espejismos, 11, 104–5. Scott, Seeing Like a State, 3. Letter from the Asociacion Nacional de Colonos to the Governors and Mayors of the Provinces of Oriente and Camagüey. July 5, 1928. Archivo Provincial de Santiago de Cuba: Gobierno Provincial (hereafter APSGP), Legajo 2416 Exp 4 p. 24. Millspaugh, Haiti under American Control, 143. “MID Reports: Estimate of the Economic Situation,” June 14, 1921, USNA RG 127 E38 Box 13, Folder H-127 General Correspondence.

6

Introduction

Not all were convinced that Haitians’ journeys to Cuba would benefit either country economically. Accusations that migrants drove down wages in Cuba were common. Journalists and state officials referred to Haitians and other immigrant laborers as “cheap arms” because they apparently “content themselves with ridiculous wages.”12 For some within Haiti, the large-scale exit of productive laborers would be the country’s ruin. “If the immigration to Cuba continues at its present rate,” one US official warned in 1920, “there will be a famine.”13 Writings about Haitian migrants were also obsessed with questions of governability. For state officials and company administrators, the existence of a mobile, heterogeneous workforce raised concerns about regulating migrants’ movements across national borders and managing their labor. The movement of people between Haiti and Cuba occurred as both countries exerted more control over who and what could enter and leave their territories and how. In 1902, the Cuban government banned the entrance of all contract laborers into the country, seeking to end a period of relatively free flows of goods and people between Haiti and Cuba. Over the course of the next decade, Cuban officials bemoaned the continued entrance of people, now considered illegal, into Cuba. Their complaints continued until 1913, when the Cuban president first authorized sugar companies to import contract laborers for their annual harvests. That which had been illegal but largely unenforceable had become an object of regulation. Over the next decades, Haitian and Cuban state policies variously required migrants to obtain passports, register with consular officials, undergo medical examinations, and spend time in Cuban quarantine stations – all for a fee. With the exception of two brief migration bans in 1918 and 1928, Haitians circulated between the two countries under the auspices of company and state until 1931. That year, the Cuban government permitted the final contingent of migrants to enter Cuba. Over the course of the next decade, some 38,500 Haitians were forcefully deported from Cuban soil, provoking new debates in Haiti about how returning migrants should integrate into

12

13

“Importación de braceros,” La Prensa, January 12, 1913 quoted in Carlos de Velasco, “El problema negro,” Cuba Contemporánea, February 1913, 75. Memorandum from Division Commander, Southern Division to Department Commander, Department of the South, “Report on Labor Conditions in the Southern Division,” February 12, 1920, USNA RG 127 E176 Box 1, Folder: [Monthly Reports] January 1919–September 1921.

The Uses of Haitian Migrants

7

society. The Cuban government resumed its previous role of restricting migration.14 While state officials sought to regulate migrants’ cross-border movements, sugar company administrators were concerned with controlling their labor. This meant limiting workers’ mobility laterally between plantations and vertically within company labor hierarchies. To this end, companies regularly posted armed guards to prevent workers from leaving one sugar plantation for the potentially higher wages or better conditions of another.15 Administrators also sought to limit workers’ mobility between sectors of the plantation through race management. Haitians were part of a diverse labor force that included individuals from Latin America and the Caribbean, the United States, Europe, and China. Most notable were the Jamaicans and other British Caribbean people, who were concentrated in the sugar zones with Haitians. As in other parts of the Americas, Cuban sugar planters sought to divide their workforces along racial lines to promote productivity and prevent labor organizing.16 Within this world of divided workers, the moniker “Haitian” held such strong associations with sugar cane cutter that it was often applied to any group of black fieldworkers regardless of their actual national origins. Journalists and state officials interpreted migration through the reductive lens of race. Proponents of migration in Haiti believed that migrants’ “sojourn in Cuba does them a world of good beyond the money they receive.”17 Such statements thinly veil a racial assumption that was common throughout the Americas and the wider world: wage labor and property accumulation would “improve,” “modernize,” or “civilize” rural populations that had previously engaged in subsistence activities because it would force them to change their habits.18 A Haitian consul 14

15

16

17

18

As before, this did not stop Haitians from arriving on Cuban soil. For example, in 1940, a group of Haitians and one Martinican left Port-au-Prince for eastern Cuba where they were eventually arrested by Cuban authorities. See Dr. Alejandro Rodríguez Cremé, Medico de Puerto to Juez de Instrucción, Baracoa, May 27, 1940, Archivo Provincial de Santiago de Cuba: Audiencia Territorial de Oriente (herafter APSATO) 23/251/1. Carr, “Omnipotent and Omnipresent?” 260–91; McLeod, “Undesirable Aliens: Haitian and British West Indian Immigrant Workers,” 99. Esch and Roediger, “One Symptom of Originality”; Giovannetti, “Grounds of Race”; Bourgois, Ethnicity at Work; López, Chinese Cubans, 32; Poblete, Islanders in the Empire, 17, 94. Memorandum from Department Commander, Department of Cayes to Chief of Gendarmerie, “Monthly Report of Conditions – Department of Cayes.” August 2, 1920, USNA RG 127 E176 Box 1, Folder: [Monthly Reports] January 1919–September 1921. Cohen, Braceros, 4, 6; Drinot, The Allure of Labor, 3; Esch and Roediger, “One Symptom of Originality,” 12; Scott, The Art of Not Being Governed, 99.

8

Introduction

was less subtle: “Our country dwellers, barefoot from their birth, illiterate, accustomed to sleeping on the ground, eating on the ground or squatting, upon arriving in Cuba are continually shoed, they sleep at least in a hammock, eat at a table, and learn, if not to read, at least to sign their names, often in Spanish and they go to the theatre.”19 It is no wonder that some Haitian state officials in the 1930s anticipated migrants’ return with excitement – what better group to carry out their ambitious attempts to modernize Haitian export agriculture? If some Haitians hoped that migrants’ experiences abroad would turn Haiti into a thriving agricultural country along the lines of Cuba, many Cubans expressed racial fears that migration would turn Cuba into “another Haiti.” For many, the neighboring country represented a cautionary tale about the poverty and instability brought on by black self-government. In fact, understandings of blackness in Cuba had been fundamentally shaped by the neighbor across the Windward Passage since armed people of African descent destroyed slavery and plantation agriculture during the Haitian Revolution (1791–1804).20 Later, during Cuba’s own nineteenth-century independence wars, the multi-racial separatist movement forged the idea of a raceless Cuban nationalism, partially in response to Spanish propaganda warning of a repeat of a Haitian-style race war.21 When Haitian and British Caribbean immigrants arrived in growing numbers in the decades after independence, the black foreigners complicated ongoing debates about the meanings of black citizenship in the new republic and challenged claims that Cuba was a nation of racial harmony.22 At the crux of racial debates was the question of whether immigrants were distinct from black Cubans because of national differences or connected by a common African ancestry. In the realm of politics and citizenship, Afro-Cubans could distinguish themselves from Haitians and other Caribbean immigrants to push for their own inclusion within the Cuban nation.23 Other Cubans, in contrast, lumped black Cubans with

19

20

21 22

23

Edmond Craig, Ancien Consul à Cuba, “A propos de la Brochure de M. Lélio Laville,” L’Autre Cloche, May 19, 1933. Ferrer, Insurgent Cuba, 134; Ferrer, Freedom’s Mirror; Sklodowska, Espectros y espejismos; Scott, Degrees of Freedom, 131. Ferrer, Insurgent Cuba, 112–13; Scott, Degrees of Freedom, 131. De la Fuente, A Nation for All, 45–53; Helg, “Race in Argentina and Cuba,” 56; Chomsky, “Barbados or Canada?”424–7; Chomsky, “The Afermath of Repression,”4; McLeod, “Undesirable Aliens: Haitian and British West Indian Immigrant Workers,” 18–43. Chomsky, “The Aftermath of Repression,” 2.

The Uses of Haitian Migrants

9

Haitians and British Caribbean peoples, fearing that immigrants would upset demographic balances on the island and swing political power into the hands of blacks. More galling was the notion that primitive immigrants would decrease overall levels of black culture in Cuba through inevitable mixture and reduce black competence in general. In the minds of many Cubans, Haitians were distinct from black Cubans. Nevertheless, Haiti served as a warning of what could easily come to pass in Cuba.24 Haiti was not just a place; it was also a stage of black backwardness into which Cubans could lapse. In discussions of race and immigration in Cuba, scale mattered. In national-level immigration debates, it was common for officials to refer to Haitian and British Caribbean immigrant populations in the same breath or to use one group’s name to refer to all black immigrants. In 1928, Spanish traveler Luis Araquistain feared that Cuba “would soon be a black and yellow land, land of Haitians, Jamaicans, and Chinese, the only ones that will be able to inhabit it.” Elsewhere, he quoted a Cuban newspaper describing this same process as “the Haitianization of Oriente.”25 At the local level, forms of specific racial knowledge developed among plantation administrators, provincial officials, and journalists, who distinguished between Haitians and British West Indians, especially when it came to issues of labor. Here, the assumption that Haitians were particularly suited to cutting cane was most salient. At the ground level of rural communities, I argue, these divisions blurred as Haitians, Cubans, and British Caribbean people interacted in ways that defied the racial and national prescriptions of journalists, politicians, and company administrators. In many cases, the entrance of Haitians into Cuba accentuated and inflamed racist discourses that had previously been applied to Cubans of African descent. One of these equated Haitians’ and Cubans’ African religious practices with savagery and cannibalism. Journalists and social scientists proclaimed the incompatibility of African religious practices with civilized society. They were also concerned that these religious rites required practitioners to sacrifice small children. In early republican Cuba there were a number of highly publicized, sensational cases in which people of African descent – both Cubans and Haitians – were falsely accused of attempting to kidnap and kill children for ritual purposes. 24

25

Carlos de Velasco, “El problema negro,” Cuba Contemporánea, February 1913; Chomsky, “Barbados or Canada?” 424–7. Araquistain, La agonía antillana, 183, 193.

10

Introduction

The Cuban national press provided readers with grotesque tales of African savagery while religious practitioners were subjected to both judicial persecution and popular violence.26 Some journalists believed that Haitians and other immigrants would start a race war. One Havana newspaper recommended that “the country put itself on guard against the grave conflict not so remote in possibility, that comes upon us with the arrival of these ‘Antillean’ workers.”27 Even the peaceable arrival of a boatload of Haitian agricultural workers was referred to by a Cuban journalist as “The Haitian Invasion.”28 Throughout the Atlantic world, associations between Haitians and race war date back to the Haitian Revolution (1791–1804), when slaves successfully revolted against their masters and overthrew French colonialism. For twentieth-century Cubans, however, these were not just dormant legacies of a previous century’s conflict but a specter that continued to haunt Cuban politics.29 The most notorious example was the Partido Independiente de Color (PIC), a Cuban political party founded by Evaristo Estenoz and Pedro Ivonnet. It comprised Afro-Cuban veterans of the Cuban independence wars and was declared illegal because it included individuals of only one race and challenged the idea that Cuba was a raceless nation. In 1912, a demonstration by the PIC sparked massive state-led and popular repression in eastern Cuba. Thousands of Afro-Cubans, including many without affiliation to the party, were murdered in Oriente province. What historians consider an act of cold-blooded violence, Cubans at the time considered a race war perpetrated by blacks. That Cuban journalists linked the race war to Haitians is beyond doubt. La Prensa, a Havana newspaper, noted: “From Jamaica and Haiti came no small part of the contingent that followed Estenoz and Ivonet in the racist rebellion.”30 By the time Haitian migration was legalized in 1913, the Cubans who feared race war drew upon both Haiti’s revolution and Cuba’s Partido

26

27

28 29

30

Helg, Our Rightful Share, 109–14; Bronfman, Measures of Equality, 99–104; Román, Governing Spirits; Palmié, Wizards and Scientists, 194. “Importación de braceros,” La Prensa, January 12, 1913, quoted in Carlos de Velasco, “El problema negro,” Cuba Contemporánea, February 1913, 75. “La invasión haitiana,” El Cubano Libre, August 5, 1915. Chomsky, “The Aftermath of Repression,” 10–13; McLeod, “Undesirable Aliens: Haitian and British West Indian Immigrant Workers,”46–7. “Importación de braceros,” La Prensa, January 12, 1913, quoted in Carlos de Velasco, “El problema negro,” Cuba Contemporánea, February 1913, 75.

The Uses of Haitian Migrants

11

Independiente de Color. Each of these events was nationally rooted but also connected by real and imagined Haitian protagonism in Cuba.31 The portrayal of Haitians as race warriors was not the only image that combined past history with recent memory. The abstraction of human beings into units of production, subjects of state and company control, and blunt racial categories reached its zenith in the label that has been placed on these migrants by their contemporary observers and presentday historians alike: slaves. One Cuban journalist specifically conceptualized Haitian migrants as a source of inexpensive labor that had eluded Cuban planters since the abolition of slavery.32 Even Haitians referred to the process of migration as the “slave trade,” and some scholars continue to refer to migrants in these terms.33 On the one hand, it is ironic that Haitians, whose ancestors had been the first to abolish slavery in the Americas in 1794, were labeled as slaves. On the other hand, slavery in Cuba was not so distant; showing another area where Haitian immigrants and black Cubans were understood using overlapping, racialized analytical categories. Emancipation was not complete until 1886. In 1913, the year sugar companies received formal permission to recruit Haitian laborers, the memory of slavery was still fresh for Cubans. Many were old enough to remember the final years of slavery and to witness the early arrivals of Haitians as they stepped off boats and had their bodies and baggage examined by officials. The image of helpless migrant workers in Cuba, particularly Haitians, has persisted in popular memory and Caribbean historiography. Vista del amanecer en el trópico (View of Dawn in the Tropics), Cuban writer Guillermo Cabrera Infante’s 1974 series of fictional vignettes of Cuban history, details a moment when “Haitian and Jamaican workers” struck over wages. At the moment when “all seemed to be going well” and a solution between labor and management had been reached, “the landowner proposed to take a picture of the group to commemorate the agreement.” What initially appeared to be a camera was in fact a machine gun. The striking workers were “tranquilly shot.” “There were no more complaints from the cane cutters in that zafra [harvest] and in many more to come.” The account ends with a brief editorial

31 32

33

Giovannetti, “Black British Subjects in Cuba,” 27; Ferrer, Freedom’s Mirror. “¡El haitiano es el único inmigrante necessario en Cuba!: Notas del momento,” La Voz del Pueblo, August 23, 1928. “Significance of Haitian Emigration to Cuba,” September 10, 1925, USNA RG 59, 838.5637/6; Gómez-Navia, “Lo haitiano en lo cubano,” 8; Howard, Black Labor, 64.

12

Introduction

remark from Cabrera Infante. “The story could be real or false. But the times made it credible.”34 In a striking irony, the avant-garde Cuban author, unhindered by limitations on form, has approached the experiences of Haitian laborers in Cuba in similar ways to historians rooted in a discipline demanding documentary proof and empirical research. Both have made deductive claims about Haitian migrants based on “the times” rather than Haitians’ experiences. Needless to say, contemporary scholars have been much more sympathetic to Haitian migrants than those who originally described them. However, they rarely question the power of racial ideologies or company and state policies to determine life in rural Cuba. In the estimation of previous scholars, Haitians were segregated by company administrators on the lowest rung of the labor hierarchy cutting sugar cane. They remained culturally isolated from other groups in Cuba – hated for depressing wages, feared for practicing Vodou, unable to call upon corrupt consular officials, and prevented from mobilizing because of Cuban fears of race war.35 Haitians’ cultural isolation, lack of upward mobility in the Cuban sugar industry, and minimal protection from state officials are compared unfavorably to the relative advantages of other immigrant groups in Cuba, especially British West Indians. Scholars argue that the latter group’s Protestantism, ability to speak English, and legal capacity to make claims as British subjects allowed them more opportunities for economic and social mobility in Cuba.36 Haitian historiography displays the same problem. Interpretations about the migratory movement tend to reflect pre-conceived notions about rural Haiti or the nature of the US military occupation of the country more than analyses of migrant experiences. For scholars who portray rural Haiti as an overcrowded, eroded, and desolate place, 34

35

36

Cabrera Infante, Vista del amanecer en el trópico, 85. This story is not unique to Cabrera Infante; Efrain Morciego details rural workers talking about the murder of seven Haitians in this way in 1917. See Morciego, El Crimen de Cortaderas, 156. Chomsky, “The Aftermath of Repression,” 10–13; McLeod, “Undesirable Aliens: Race, Ethnicity, and Nationalism,” 605, 608, 611–12; Gómez-Navia, “Lo haitiano en lo cubano,” 17, 20; Howard, Black Labor, 5–6, 86, 150. Whitney and Chailloux Laffita, Subjects or Citizens, 6; McLeod, “Undesirable Aliens: Haitian and British West Indian Immigrant Workers in Cuba,” ch. 4; Chailloux Laffita and Whitney, “British subjects y pichones en Cuba,” 57–9; Sánchez Guerra, Los anglocaribeños en Guantánamo; Zanetti, Notas sobre la república, 44; Howard, Black Labor, 45. Studies of Haitian immigrants in other areas similarly describe Haitians in terms of their alienation and the racism they experience. Ferly, “The Mirror that We Don’t Want”; Stepick, “The Refugees Nobody Wants”; Tavernier, “The Stigma of Blackness”; Zacaire, “The Trial of Ibo Simon.” For an exception, see Mooney, Faith Makes Us Live.

The Uses of Haitian Migrants

13

migration itself requires little explanation – just its timing. Such logic invests undue power in state institutions and sugar companies to determine migratory movements since they were responsible for opening and closing international borders.37 Others pay less attention to the people who left Haiti before the US occupation and interpret migration as a product of foreign rule. During the occupation, Jean Price-Mars, a wellknown Haitian intellectual, blamed US policies for creating “discouragement” among “the mass of farmers,” which made “the desertion of the land and the flight . . . so tempting.”38 Although land records for rural Haiti are scarce, some have assumed that the United States seized land in Haiti, as they did in other parts of the Caribbean, thus producing a landless proletariat that was forced to flee the country.39 There is no consensus about the exact nature of land tenure in Haiti or even the relationship between migration and US policies. Some envision migration as a US-led policy designed to provide labor to plantations in other parts of their Caribbean empire. At the opposite end of the spectrum are those who describe migration as a form of resistance to the cruelty and racism of US rule in Haiti.40 Without knowing migrants’ experiences or even the conditions of many parts of rural Haiti under the US occupation, it is impossible to resolve these debates. Clearly, in Haiti and Cuba, “a state-centered view . . . represents a gross distortion,” not just of migrants but even the state itself.41 The challenges that Haitians faced and the debates that migrants engendered have not disappeared. On the eve of the CARICOM (Caribbean Community) summit in 2006, a journalist identified “agriculture, trade, migration, [and] Haiti” as some of the regional organization’s most pressing concerns.42 This is quite understandable. Two years before, UN troops had entered Haiti in the aftermath of a coup against the democratically elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide. At the time of writing, they are still there – attempting to promote democracy and economic stability 37

38 39 40 41

42

Lundahl, The Haitian Economy, 94; Gerlus, “The Political Economy of Haitian Migration,” 56, 79–82; Perusek, “Haitian Emigration in the Early Twentieth Century.” Price Mars, “Le problème du travail en Haiti,” 16–17. Castor, L’Occupation américaine d’Haiti, 114–15. Plummer, “Haitian Migrants and Backyard Imperialism,” 36–7. Scott, The Art of Not Being Governed, 32; Nail, The Figure of the Migrant, 4. On the importance of non-state institutions on Haitian life, see Dubois, Haiti: The Aftershocks of History, 12. Ken Richards, “Caricom Summit Opening,” BBCCaribbean.com, July 4, 2006, www.bbc .co.uk/caribbean/news/story/2006/07/060704_caricomdaytwo.shtml. Accessed November 7, 2013.

14

Introduction

through another contested foreign occupation.43 Migration remains a way of life in Haiti and a fundamental part of virtually every Caribbean society. One of a number of tragic cases from the past decade illustrates the continued linkages among Caribbean islands and the difficulties of life in the region. In 2011, the Cuban Coast Guard encountered a sinking boat off their eastern coast; it contained over one hundred Haitians. Many of them drowned before rescuers arrived.44 In this context of continued migration and questions about the political and economic future of the Caribbean, it is not surprising that public figures from across the political spectrum in Cuba, Haiti, and the United States continue to invoke this early twentieth-century migratory movement to make larger claims about past history and future expectations. Despite their distinct interpretations, the exploitation and powerlessness of the migrants remains a constant trope. In a recent autobiography, Fidel Castro declared that Haitians in twentieth-century Cuba fared worse than “the slaves in the nineteenth century.” He also claimed that witnessing the deportation of Haitians from Cuban soil was “valuable” because it “help[ed] me understand the world.”45 He is not alone in his invocation of the migratory movement. Paul Farmer, the Chair of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard University and “a founding director of Partners in Health (PIH),” draws a parallel between Haitian migration to Cuba and the Dominican Republic and latter-day business owners’ attempts to take advantage of Haiti’s “cheap labor” in light manufacturing and garment production. For Farmer, the similarity represents a sad continuity of “the right of investors to determine the living conditions of the poor.” “Yes, the Haitians who flocked to these plants wanted jobs. No, they had no choice.”46 For other contemporaries, in contrast, both migration and Haiti’s economic problems result from inadequate foreign investments. One Haitian-American writer views the fact that Haitians traveled to Cuba and the Dominican Republic in the early twentieth century as 43

44

45 46

For one perspective on this moment, see Chomsky, Farmer, and Goodman, Getting Haiti Right This Time; Pamphile, Contrary Destinies. “Cuba military searches for survivors after 38 Haitian migrants die on boat,” The Telegraph, December 25, 2011. www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/centralamer icaandthecaribbean/cuba/8977306/Cuba-military-searches-for-survivors-after-38-Haiti an-migrants-die-on-boat.html. Accessed November 7, 2013. See also Hintzen, “Historical Forgetting.” Ramonet, My Life, 60. Farmer’s biography is available on the Harvard University website. Accessed July 25, 2013. http://ghsm.hms.harvard.edu/people/faculty/farmer/;Farmer, The Uses of Haiti, 192.

Haitian Migration in Regional and Global Perspective

15

proof that foreign companies considered them a viable labor force and raises questions as to why US companies did not invest more in Haiti.47 Recalling the memory of Haitian migration to Cuba is part of a larger trend in which people invoke the contemporary “Haitian Diaspora” or “Cuban Diaspora” in their bids to develop either country. In these first decades of the twenty-first century, as in the previous one, observers have made explicit connections between Haitian migrants and their visions for Haiti. The titles of developmentalist articles and books spell it out clearly: “The Role of the Haitian Diaspora in Building Haiti Back Better” or Roadmap to Haiti’s Next Revolution: A Plan for Diaspora Haitians to Contribute to a Peaceful Turnaround.48 Then, as now, migrants’ importance to state-building, economic development, and the creation of racial and national identities is undeniable. But what do we actually know about the migrants themselves? If we do not even know migrants’ actions, it is impossible to understand how they shaped state policies and economic realities, which itself points to major gaps in our knowledge of sending and receiving societies more generally. In the summer of 2009, former US president Bill Clinton became UN Special Envoy to Haiti. In a Miami speech, Clinton exhorted HaitianAmericans to take an active role in Haitian development. His speech is revealing in its opacity: “If you are doing something now,” he told the group of Haitian-Americans, “try to do more of it.”49 What is the “it” that migrants are doing? What was the “something” they did as they moved between Haiti and Cuba in the early twentieth century? This book seeks to answer the second question in the hope that it will encourage readers to think seriously and critically about the first.

haitian migration in regional and global perspective The Haitians who migrated to Cuba in the first decades of the twentieth century were not the only humans on the move. They were part of

47 48

49

Titus, Roadmap to Haiti’s Next Revolution, 71. See also Farmer, The Uses of Haiti, 192. Titus, Roadmap to Haiti’s Next Revolution, 44; Johanna Mendelson Forman, Harding Lang, Ashley Chandler, “The Role of the Haitian Diaspora in Building Haiti Back Better,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, June 14, 2011. http://csis.org/pub lication/role-haitian-diaspora-building-haiti-back-better – accessed November 7, 2013. Bryan Schaaf, “Bill Clinton Speaks at Second Annual Haitian Diaspora Unity Congress,” August 9, 2009, http://haitiinnovation.org/en/2009/08/10/bill-clinton-speaks-second -annual-haitian-diaspora-unity-congress - accessed August 24, 2012.

16

Introduction

a population movement that reached over a million in the Caribbean and upwards of one hundred million on a global scale between 1840 and 1940. Haitians’ sojourns in Cuba were a significant part of a much larger Caribbean circuit in which people traveled to large-scale construction projects, sites of commercial agriculture, cities, and borderlands throughout Central and South America, the Caribbean, and even the United States – greatly transforming both sending and receiving societies.50 This was not unique to the Caribbean. As Haitians boarded ships for Cuba, African Americans in the US South entered trains headed for the industrial North, where they encountered millions of Europeans who had recently crossed the Atlantic. Individuals moved throughout the Pacific, including Puerto Ricans and Filipinos in the US colony of Hawai’i. Throughout Asia, individuals moved east and south within and outside of the continent. Both Asians and Europeans headed to the Caribbean and Latin America as well.51 More specifically, the Haitians who traveled to Cuba represent a significant chapter in global migration history. The majority signed temporary work contracts, making them part of the first generation of guestworkers – a system that was emerging in Europe, Asia, and the Pacific at the same time. Before that, indenture programs brought millions of Asians to the Americas until the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, including to Cuba.52 As imperial governments phased out these programs in the name of Liberalism and freedom, temporary, more highly regulated, contract labor programs like the one that brought Haitians to Cuba were adopted throughout the world. Later, in the 1940s, the United States government created the Bracero and other programs to ferry individuals from Mexico, Jamaica, the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, and other parts of the Americas to US commercial agricultural projects on a temporary basis. In the present, we are again living in a time of flourishing temporary migration programs. Scholarly comparisons between presentday movements and their predecessors from the last century are common. 50

51

52

Putnam, “Borderlands and Border Crossers,” 9–10; Putnam, Radical Moves; Hahamovitch, No Man’s Land; Chambers, Race, Nation, and West Indian Immigration; Chomsky, West Indian Workers; Opie, Black Labor Migration; Hoerder and Faires, Migrants and Migration; Conniff, Black Labor on a White Canal; Crawford, “A Transnational World Fractured but not Forgotten.” Moya, “A Continent of Immigrants”; Manning (with Tiffany Trimmer), Migration in World History, 1; McKeown, “Global Migration, 1846–1940”; Kawashima, The Proletarian Gamble; Poblete, Islanders in the Empire; Cushman, Guano and the Opening of the Pacific World, 78. López, Chinese Cubans; Mahase, “Plenty a Dem Run Away.”

Haitian Migration in Regional and Global Perspective

17

Not surprisingly, many have emphasized the role that imperial governments and other state actors have played in designing, implementing, and ultimately causing the movement of Haitians and other seasonal migrants in order to satisfy labor demands.53 In contrast, this book adds to recent bodies of scholarship on migration, labor, and race in Latin America and the Caribbean that write the actions of individuals into analyses, not only for what they reveal about larger social, economic, and political processes, but also how they influenced those processes. The emphasis on the role that individual migrants played in Haiti and Cuba places this firmly within what Lara Putnam has described as “a collective effort to explore transnational history from ‘the bottom up.’”54 Not only did Haitians’ movements precede the temporary contract scheme that emerged in Cuba, they also influenced its implementation. When Haitians first began migrating to Cuba, there were no local or international legal precedents for temporary migration. Well before Cuban sugar companies were permitted to recruit Caribbean laborers, Haitians routinely traveled and worked in eastern Cuba, even when it was illegal to do so. The Cuban state’s attempt to arrest Haitians for immigration infractions created administrative problems as state officials and migrants debated how to pay for the incarceration and repatriation of these migrants. Their arguments directly influenced the 1913 legislation that eventually allowed companies to contract laborers on a seasonal basis. The earliest Haitian migrants influenced Cuban and Haitian contract legislation in concrete ways, revealing the micro-level dynamics of a bourgeoning global process. This book recognizes the importance of Haitians’ day-to-day efforts to assert their autonomy without ignoring the very real power that sugar companies, US imperial policies, state officials, and ideologies of race played in Cuba and Haiti. Instead, Haitians’ autonomous actions illustrate the inner workings and outer edges of these rural and urban institutions by viewing them from the ground, especially in the understudied regions of eastern Cuba and rural Haiti. Detailing Haitians’ formal wage labor alongside a host of other activities within plantations speaks to 53

54

Ayala, American Sugar Kingdom, 21, 171; López Segrera, “Slavery and Society in the Caribbean (1900–1930),” 148. For other recent arguments about the origins of temporary labor migration, see for example, Maurer, “The Thin Red Line,” 868–71; Hahamovitch, No Man’s Land, 3–5; Surak, “Guestworkers: A Taxonomy.” Putnam, Radical Moves, 232. See also Scott and Hébrard, Freedom Papers; Smith, Liberty, Fraternity, Exile; Ferrer, Freedom’s Mirror; Block, Ordinary Lives in the Early Caribbean.

18

Introduction

labor historians’ efforts to broaden definitions of both labor and workers’ coping strategies beyond male wage earners and formal labor unions.55 As Thomas Nail observes: “Often, the most dispossessed migrants have created some of the most interesting non-state social organizations.”56 Within Cuban sugar plantations, most Haitian men engaged in wage labor and a much smaller number had ties to labor unions. But this is not the full story. Haitian men and women engaged in other individual and collective actions that included informal economic activities, different acts of protest, religious rituals, and subsistence strategies to strengthen their autonomy, increase their wages, serve their spirits, or take advantage of their leisure hours. Though ostensibly distinct from the world of work, such activities influenced labor regimes within the plantation and cemented relationships with workers of different nationalities – thus subverting company efforts to create a segregated workforce. These actions also reveal the tensions and fault lines that existed between companies and states in early twentieth-century Cuba. For instance, though representatives from sugar companies and the Cuban government generally agreed on the imperative of a healthy sugar industry and the state’s role in contributing to it, consensus broke down when it came to questions of laborers’ actions at the local level. In a world where companies competed for labor, most were forced to permit illegal activities such as gambling and prostitution in order to retain their labor force. The state was less obliging, illustrating that the two institutions whose accord was the anchor of republican Cuba, were at odds when it came to day-to-day questions of production and governance – their very raisons d’être. Analyzing migrants illustrates entire categories of rural behavior that occurred beyond the gazes of companies and states. In addition to the petty commerce, gambling, prostitution, and socializing that flourished within plantations, entire industries emerged outside of them. The clearest example was Haitians’ participation in Cuban coffee production, an industry that received little attention from journalists and state officials, and even less from contemporary scholars, because it did not hold a strategic importance for Cuba’s national budget or political stability in

55

56

I discuss this trend in more detail in Casey, “Heterogeneity, Work, and Mobilisation,” 169–70. See also French, “The Laboring and Middle-Class Peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean,” 323, 326; Linden, Workers of the World, 10, 12; Kawashima, The Proletarian Gamble, 9; Rediker, “The Revenge of Crispus Attucks,” 39–40. Nail, The Figure of the Migrant, 4.

Haitian Migration in Regional and Global Perspective

19

the twentieth century the way sugar did. It did, however, provide a source of income and autonomy for Haitians during sugar’s off-season. In early twentieth-century Cuba, Haitians combined the coffee-growing skills from their homeland with the wages they earned in the Cuban sugar industry to invest in coffee farms in Cuba. In the Cuban locales where coffee grew, Cuban constructions of race and nation as well as the implementation of migration policies were distinct from national trends. This book dovetails with other recent works on the Caribbean that have challenged monolithic views of the plantation, race, nation, or the state by analyzing micro-level realities within larger national and supranational scales.57 By identifying the actions of Haitians and individuals of other nationalities, it is possible to move beyond the claims of lettered populations in each country. This is especially significant for scholarship on Caribbean societies, which rely on the print culture produced by often small but vocal lettered groups to understand constructions of race or national realities.58 Indeed, a community of lettered Haitians existed in the urban centers of eastern Cuba. Their ideas of politics and race occasionally overlapped with their rural counterparts. However, lettered Haitians had distinct aspirations from agricultural workers, and conflict emerged between these groups at different moments, demonstrating the pitfalls of depending on their writings for understanding rural dynamics. This speaks to one of the larger central arguments of this book: The ideas of race and nation projected by lettered Haitians and Cubans were less salient in the rural areas where individuals of diverse nationalities actually interacted. In fact, these tidy ideologies may have been created in response to the complex social relationships that cut across national lines in rural areas.59 In Cuba, Haitians formed a variety of social, economic, and religious networks with individuals of other nationalities despite repeated claims by the Cuban press and company administrators that rural society was organized along the lines of race and nation. This included religious communities composed of Haitians and Afro-Cubans who banded together to practice African-derived religions 57 58

59

Scott and Hébrard, Freedom Papers, 5; Putnam, Radical Moves, 1–7. For discussions of the limitations of written sources in the Caribbean, see Alleyne, “Linguistics and the Oral Tradition,” 20–3; Duno-Gottberg, Solventando las diferencias, 16. I am not the first to suggest that Cuban nationalist ideas emerged in an effort to downplay the island’s racial heterogeneity. See Duno-Gottberg, Solventando las diferecias, 15–16; Whitney and Chailloux Laffita, Subjects or Citizens, 37–8.

20

Introduction

despite emerging anthropological disciplines that proclaimed distinct national cults. A similar disjuncture is apparent in Haiti. In the late 1920s, a cultural nationalist movement known as Indigénisme trumpeted the merits of the Haitian peasantry and called for a more inclusive vision of the Haitian nation. However, migrants who returned with commercial goods, a new assertiveness, and a desire to move to cities caused anxiety for Haitian intellectuals, who touted an idyllic, authentic, and static vision of the peasantry as the bedrock of the nation. Return migrants also experienced state violence in the countryside and discrimination in Haitian cities, illustrating the limitations of this rhetorical inclusivity. Although migration scholarship has recently challenged assumptions that women are sedentary and recognized the gendering of the term “migrant” as male, the Haitians who traveled to Cuba were overwhelmingly men. Of the 165,567 Haitians recorded in Cuban statistics between 1912 and 1927, slightly over 6 percent (10,495) were women.60 As a result, when I use the term migrant in this book, I am referring to men. However, thousands of women migrated, and ideas of gender shaped individual decisions about labor and migration. Throughout the book, I include, where salient, the role that ideas of gender played as well as the experiences of women – both those who crossed a national border and those who did not. Tracing Haitians’ experiences in multiple sites in both countries shows the blurred boundaries, extensive interactions, and periodic tensions between people and spaces that are normally analyzed separately. Haitian migrants and the populations with whom they interacted illustrate the relationships between the illiterate and the lettered who claimed to speak for them, growing urban areas and the rural spaces that sustained them, sites of subsistence farming and large-scale agriculture, sugar and coffee, labor and leisure, the material and the supernatural, Haiti and Cuba. The chapter structure of the book coincides roughly with the trajectory of a seasonal migrant and the rise and fall of the migration system itself. Like this introduction, every chapter begins with the story of one or more migrants as conveyed in a different type of archival, journalistic, or literary source. The first two chapters trace Haitians’ experiences traveling to Cuba before 1913 as well as their specific experiences under US military 60

Hoerder and Faires, “Preface,” xvi; McLeod, “Undesirable Aliens: Race, Ethnicity, and Nationalism,” 607.

The Problem of Sources

21

occupation in Haiti – all within a larger context of increasing migration controls and shifting recruitment regimes. Chapters 3 through 6 explore Haitians’ experiences within different types of spaces in Cuba: sugar plantations, coffee farms, religious communities, and urban areas. Chapter 7 analyzes return migrants’ efforts to establish themselves in the rural and urban spaces of Haiti, especially in the 1930s when many were deported in large numbers from Cuba and US troops were leaving Haiti. The book ends with an Epilogue that explores Haitian descendants’ experiences in contemporary Cuba.

the problem of sources In December 1931, Haitian-born Aurelio Castillo, whose tattoos and scars were highlighted to open this introduction, managed to write a letter to a prison official where he was incarcerated. The brief correspondence perfunctorily wished the jailer and his family a happy holiday season and formally requested the opportunity to continue working in the jail’s cafeteria. Early the next year, the jailer granted Castillo’s request with the following reassurance: “I am satisfied with your behavior and I could always tell that you are a loyal, obedient, and hardworking subaltern.”61 The jailer referred to Castillo as a “subaltern” because of the word’s traditional meaning as any type of institutional subordinate. For social historians, the label strikes a specific chord because it is presently used to describe a constellation of scholarly efforts to tell the history of poor and marginalized people without obscuring their experiences into larger narratives of triumphal nationalism, economic modernization, or state-building.62 At the core of this project lies the problem that the only sources available may have been authored within the very institutions that subsume migrants into their own logics (Figure I.1).63 This tension provides a relevant concern for this book. Although I do not employ all of the theoretical tools of the subaltern studies school, I share the goal of writing a history of the experiences of Haitian migrants on their own terms with full awareness of the problems of available sources and the limitations on the project itself. Castillo’s letter speaks

61

62 63

Emphasis added. Letter from Pedro A. Castells. M.M. Capitan de Infanteria, Jefe del Presidio Modelo to Aurelio Castillo, January 7, 1932. ANCPC 319/22. Rodríguez, “Reading Subalterns Across Texts, Disciplines, and Theories,” 3. Spivak, “Can the Subaltern Speak?”; Mallon, “The Promise and Dilemma of Subaltern Studies,” 1494.

22

Introduction

figure i.1 Cuban prison record for Aurelio Castillo. “Presidio de la Republica de Cuba num. de orden 11587.” Source: Presidio de la Republica de Cuba. Courtesy of Archivo Nacional de Cuba, Presidios y Carceles, March 25, 1925, legajo 319, expediente 22.

more to his ability to master the dominant language of the prison system than his true feelings and provides only minimal insight into the migratory experience. Sadly, it is one of only a few such texts containing the words of Haitian agricultural workers themselves. In a paradoxical way, the jailer’s characterization of Castillo as “a loyal . . . subaltern” rings true in the word’s contemporary usage as much as in its original intentions. Unlike many other migrant histories, this study cannot depend solely on first-person sources like letters, memoirs, or diaries. First-person accounts by migrants or even individuals who shared their experiences are quite rare.64 Therefore, this study employs documents written 64

Among published first-person accounts by migrants or individuals who momentarily shared their experiences are: Hughes, I Wonder as I Wander, 32–7; Laville, La traite des nègres; Bervin, Mission à La Havane; Timitoc Borrero, Montecafé. A number of Cuban and US-based ethnographers have done fieldwork among Haitian migrants and their descendants since the 1960s. See for instance, Guanche and Moreno, Caidije; Viddal, “Vodú Chic”; Cunha, “Unmapping Knowledge”; Gómez-Navia, “Lo haitiano

The Problem of Sources

23

principally by non-migrants. These include judicial sources, consular correspondence, military intelligence, company records, censuses, memoirs, travelers’ accounts, and novels. The limits of what can be known from these sources are immense. But they are not infinite. It is possible to uncover significant details about migrants’ lived experiences even in texts generated by individuals who cared little about such information. Despite the often narrow intentions of their authors, a close reading of these sources may reveal glimpses into the experiences and even the voices, however mediated, of migrants themselves. For instance, individual court records, which include criminal investigations as well as work accident reports, record the moments when certain aspects of daily life were disrupted. In detailing the anomalous, they provide valuable information about the quotidian. A single case containing a hundred or more pages of paper in the archive may yield tiny but invaluable insights into a worker’s daily life, material possessions, economic activities, interpersonal relationships, or religious beliefs. This study combines these small pieces from records housed in eighteen archives and libraries in Cuba, Haiti, and the United States to produce something of a mosaic depicting Haitians’ lives. Through this method, it is possible to reconstruct an incredibly rich account of Haitians’ actions and their effects on larger historical processes in both Haiti and Cuba under US control. Despite these achievements, like all works of academic history, it is both subjective and incomplete. These sources may provide new insights into the actions of subaltern groups, and by extension, the functioning of urban and rural institutions, as this book claims to do. However, migrants’ actions are not the same as migrants’ voices, consciousness, or even identities, which appear with less frequency in this book. In other words, some aspects of migrants’ lives may be reconstructed while other questions must necessarily remain unanswered. Ultimately, the fate of so many Haitians is like that of the nameless protagonist in Edwidge Danticat’s 1991 short story, “Children of the Sea,” who kept a journal of his inner thoughts as he traveled on a rickety boat from Haiti but was forced to throw it overboard during the trip. Like the journal, many of Haitians’

en lo cubano”; Pedro Díaz, “Guanamaca”; Sevillano Andrés, Trascendencia de una cultural marginada; Espronceda Amor, Parentesco, inmigración y comunidad; Corbea, “Historia de una familia haitiano-cubana”; Berenguer Cala, El gagá de Barrancas; Fahoome, “The Transition from Slave Labor to Wage Labor.”

Introduction

24

experiences and inner thoughts have been lost in the waters of the Caribbean Sea or the soils of Cuba and Haiti. “I know you will probably never see this,” he writes before jettisoning the diary, “but it was nice imagining that I had you here to talk to . . . I must throw my book out now.”65

65

Danticat, Krik? Krak!, 27.

Prologue Experiencing the Unevenness of Empire

Haitians’ seasonal migration to Cuba must be understood in both transnational and intra-imperial terms. The back and forth movements of agricultural laborers were a central feature of transformations in rural areas and national politics in Haiti and Cuba, making it impossible to compartmentalize the changes into separate national narratives. Although legal contract migration to Cuba spanned from 1913 to 1931, Haitians had arrived in large numbers in the decades before. Later, during the 1930s, the Cuban government forcefully repatriated Haitians. While many thousands remained in Cuba after the last deportations, the seasonal migratory movement was effectively over in 1940. The bulk of migration, then, occurred amid the backdrop of US imperial expansion in the Caribbean and spilled into the early post-colonial years of the 1930s. US control was both flexible and uneven; it changed over the decades within each country and functioned distinctly between territories. There were, however, broad commonalities. This prologue will sketch the political and economic outlines of the early twentieth-century processes that transformed Haiti and Cuba – albeit with very different outcomes. The chapters that follow will explain exactly how migrants experienced and influenced these processes. Haitians and other Caribbean migrants moved within a region whose political economy was shaped by the military, economic, and political presence of the United States. But the organization and effects of US imperial domination were hardly monolithic in the Caribbean – an unevenness that migrants uniquely experienced. The high point of US imperialism in the region began in 1898, when the United States intervened militarily in Cuba’s longstanding wars for independence 25

26

Prologue: Experiencing the Unevenness of Empire

from Spain. In the aftermath of the war, the United States wrested formal jurisdiction over the remaining Spanish colonies of Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and Guam; US troops remained in Cuba until 1902. They left on the condition that Cubans include the Platt Amendment in their constitution, which limited the government’s power to conduct foreign policy and granted the United States “the right to intervene for the preservation of Cuban independence [and] the maintenance of a government adequate for the protection of life, property, and individual liberty.”1 The Platt Amendment gave the United States significant control over the Cuban state and created a relationship that scholars have ambiguously described as “neocolonial.”2 Although it was ostensibly designed to prevent political instability, the amendment actually institutionalized political violence in the early republic. During Cuban elections, losing parties knew that fomenting a revolt could bring US warships and limit the political gains of their opponents. Four years after leaving in 1902, US troops re-occupied Cuba on the heels of a Liberal electoral revolt and remained until 1909. After the 1906–09 occupation, US control was less direct but just as real. “Never again did it become necessary to resort to full-scale military occupation,” Louis Pérez notes, “for the threat alone was sufficient to induce Cuban compliance to U.S. demands.” Indeed, during the elections of 1912 and 1917, warships returned again in the wake of electoral revolts. Cuban incumbents responded with mass violence, and the interventions did not become occupations. US troops did remain in Cuba’s eastern provinces of Camagüey and Oriente, however, between 1917 and 1922. It was not a coincidence that these were also the regions that witnessed heavy political violence, increases in sugar production, and Caribbean immigration.3 The United States’ political and military control was coupled with economic penetration. Investors flocked to Cuba and increased sugar output in the eastern portion of the island through land acquisition; these were the companies that recruited Haitian laborers. In 1898, Cuba produced 350,000 short tons of sugar. When troops left in 1902, the island’s output had already reached 973,000 short tons. That year, US and Cuban officials signed a reciprocity treaty that reduced

1 2 3

Reproduced in Holden and Zolov, Latin America and the United States, 82. For a reflection on the term and its analytical limits, see Zanetti, La república, 2. Pérez, Jr., Cuba under the Platt Amendment, xvii; Pérez, Cuba: Between Reform and Revolution, 223; Hernández, Cuba and the United States, 175.

Prologue: Experiencing the Unevenness of Empire

27

US import duties on Cuban sugar, creating conditions to increase sugar production at the expense of a more diversified economy. By 1910, sugar output had more than doubled again.4 Before the onset of the worldwide depression in 1929, Cuban sugar provided immense wealth for company owners and stockholders, who were increasingly from the United States. Prices peaked during World War I when the European sugar economy faltered and Caribbean producers fulfilled the rising demand. The period known variously as the Danza de los millones (Dance of the millions) or Vacas Gordas (Fat Cows) was a time of high prices for sugar and relatively high wages, even for field workers. As sugar headed north from Cuba, manufactured goods, industrial materials, foodstuffs, and other US products flowed South. Cuba and other colonial markets were crucial to the economic and cultural success of the US imperial project.5 In the twentieth century, Cuban imports increased overall, and the United States supplied an ever-larger share. Between 1908 and 1919, the value of goods entering Cuba more than quadrupled and reached over 359 million dollars. In the same period, the United States’ share of this trade increased from 48 to 76 percent.6 In the decades after the first intervention in Cuba, US presidents transformed the Platt Amendment’s logic of military and fiscal intervention in Cuba into broader policies geared toward the Caribbean and Central America. The Roosevelt Corollary, which proclaimed the United States military as the region’s safeguard of democracy and civilization, was used to justify direct military actions in places like the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, and Panama. None of these, however, was governed identically. The Dominican Republic was ruled by a US military government (1916–24), Nicaragua by a US-backed puppet government (1912–33), while Panama was a protectorate that experienced multiple military interventions.7 At the same time, US banks jockeyed to buy these governments’ foreign loans, which ensured a lucrative source of interest. This also prevented European banks, and the warships that backed them, from obtaining a foothold in the region. As the case of Cuba suggests, these interventions failed to protect democratic structures. Capital investments and commercial banking interests, in contrast, remained secure. 4 5 6 7

Ayala, American Sugar Kingdom, 70; McGillivray, Blazing Cane, 75. Domosh, “Selling Civilization,” 453. Cuba, Census of the Republic of Cuba 1919, 232, 234. This list could easily be expanded to Hawai’i, the Philippines, and other US Pacific colonies. Calder, The Impact of Intervention, xii–xiii; McPherson, Yankee No!, 81; McPherson, The Invaded, 1, 21; Poblete, Islanders in the Empire, 5, 15.

28

Prologue: Experiencing the Unevenness of Empire

Seventeen years and three US presidential administrations after the first intervention in Cuba, Woodrow Wilson ordered Marines to invade Haiti in 1915. The United States had long had their eyes on Haiti and had already taken control of the country’s National Bank. Episodes of Haitian political violence provided the necessary justification for an intervention that would consolidate US control over the Haitian government and economy. As in Cuba, the US occupation of Haiti was rationalized in the name of promoting democracy and providing a safe place for US capital. These concerns were buttressed by racist ideas about the inferiority of people of African descent. A 1920 National Geographic article provided readers in the United States with a highly racist, but not uncommon, interpretation of Haiti’s previous century of self-rule: The natives rapidly forgot their thin veneer of Christian civilization and reverted to utter, unthinking animalism . . . And while the peasants thus took to the bush, the middle and upper class Haitians gravitated to the seacoast towns, where they learned the art of living by the expert exploitation, political and commercial, of the unthinking black animals of the interior.8

Such racism was matched only by ambition. US soldiers in Haiti held strong paternalistic beliefs that their presence would cause Haiti’s “regeneration” through military reforms, vocational education, economic development, road-building, and improvements in sanitation. Free elections were apparently not part of the recipe. Forced labor and state violence were.9 Though Cuba and Haiti were now both within the US sphere of influence, their experiences were distinct in many ways. For Cubans, the United States’ 1898 intervention was a switch from one foreign ruler to the indirect domination of another. Between 1902 and 1925, Cuba conducted nominally free elections in which all adult males could vote. However, the process was heavily shaped by the threat of military intervention, not to mention three years of direct control by the United States (1906–09). Haiti, on the other hand, had been independent for over a century before the US invasion as a result of the Haitian Revolution (1791–1804). Unlike the periodic presence of foreign troops in twentiethcentury Cuba, the US military occupied Haiti for nineteen uninterrupted years beginning in 1915. During the occupation, presidents were appointed by US officials and approved through sham elections until 8

9

“Haiti and its Regeneration by the United States,” National Geographic, December 1920, 497; See also Dash, Haiti and the United States. Renda, Taking Haiti; McPherson, The Invaded; Schmidt, The United States Occupation of Haiti.

Prologue: Experiencing the Unevenness of Empire

29

1930, when Haitian protests forced an open election. The Haitian press was censored and opposition journalists were jailed. Haitian courts remained the only site of institutional autonomy.10 Perhaps the most significant difference between Cuba and Haiti under US rule was the degree of economic penetration in each country. US investments in sugar and railroads made the Cuban sugar industry one of the most modernized and profitable agricultural industries in the hemisphere. Sugar companies and individual growers purchased large tracts of land in eastern Cuba and converted it to cane. Fewer US companies invested in Haiti despite similar efforts to attract foreign capital. Companies like the Haitian American Sugar Company began operations in the rural areas outside of Port-au-Prince, though Haitian sugar production never reached the levels of profitability or strategic importance of its Caribbean neighbors.11 Despite companies’ legal claims to land and the ability of some speculators to accumulate it, small and mid-size holdings appear to have remained the norm in Haiti. Coffee, a crop that may be grown on a small scale with little capital, was Haiti’s primary export in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Efforts to diversify Haitian agriculture through the production of rubber, fruit, cotton, and other crops achieved some success, especially in the immediate aftermath of the occupation. Nevertheless, in terms of capital investments and scales of production, rural Haiti was on the opposite end of the spectrum from rural Cuba. In contrast to the modernized sugar mills where cut cane came and went on oxcarts and newly constructed railroads, Haitian coffee was produced on a small scale with minimal capital investments. It was carried to rural markets and port towns over poor roads on the backs of mules or carried by human beings. Migrating Haitians were the only ones to experience both of these realities firsthand. In the 1930s, many of the defining characteristics of Caribbean political economies transformed amid a shift toward populist leaders in the region.12 The onset of the worldwide depression in 1929 caused sugar prices and wages to plummet, bringing poverty and starvation to rural Cuba. In US foreign policy circles, the Good Neighbor Policy promoted

10 11

12

McPherson, “The Irony of Legal Pluralism in U.S. Occupations,” 1149–72. Schmidt, The United States Occupation of Haiti, 168–9; Ayala, American Sugar Kingdom; Dye, Cuban Sugar in the Age of Mass Production; McGillivray, Blazing Cane; Funes Monzote, De bosque a sabana. Putnam, Radical Moves, 9–10; McGillivray, Blazing Cane, chapter 6.

30

Prologue: Experiencing the Unevenness of Empire

the goal of goodwill and non-intervention in Latin American affairs. Around the same time, nationalism heightened throughout the Caribbean. Paradoxically, the populist leaders that emerged out of this moment made strong nationalist claims and maintained comfortable relationships with the United States. The latter continued to influence the region without having to provide a steady supply of soldiers and officials. In Cuba, a popular revolution of students and workers successfully sent President Gerardo Machado from power in 1933. A short-lived revolutionary government successfully abrogated the Platt Amendment but could not secure its own longevity. After a brief interim government, Fulgencio Batista took control over the Cuban army and exerted immense direct and indirect control over the government for the next two and a half decades. In 1934, US troops left Haiti under the control of nationalist president Sténio Vincent, who had been elected in 1930 in the occupation’s only free election. Both Batista and Vincent ruled with the potent combination of strong nationalism and the support of the United States government.13 The 1930s were also marked by attempts to increase each government’s role in its economy. In Cuba, this meant extending the reach of the state into the sugar industry and regulating the much smaller coffee industry. In Haiti, it entailed promoting urban planning and economic diversification in the countryside. Such attempts at state-building included prescriptions for the Haitians who circulated between the countries. In 1931, the Cuban government banned the further entrance of all immigrants. Throughout the 1930s, thousands of Haitians were forcibly deported from Cuban soil in an effort to “nationalize” the country’s workforce. Numerous Haitian officials greeted the return of a skilled labor force with high expectations. In short, Cubans believed that Haitian migrants exacerbated their economic woes; Haitian officials believed that returning migrants could deliver them from theirs. The following chapters will show how migrants experienced the unevenness of empire and the contradictions of post-colonial rule in the Caribbean, beginning with the first wave of migrants to arrive in eastern Cuba in the early twentieth century.

13

Whitney, State and Revolution in Cuba, 122–3, 135; Smith, Red & Black in Haiti, 13.

1 Making the Haitian Cuban Border and Creating Temporary Migrants

In 1913, Cuban president José Miguel Gómez bowed to pressure from sugar companies and their US backers and promulgated an executive degree permitting Caribbean immigrant laborers to enter Cuba on seasonal contracts. Three years earlier, a Haitian named Occiano Guincio had entered a very different type of legally binding agreement on Cuban soil. On August 18, 1910, the Haitian agricultural laborer married Cornelia Videau, an Afro-Cuban native of Guantánamo, in the bride’s hometown. At first glance, the marriage between the Haitian and Cuban seems anomalous. It took place before companies were allowed to recruit migrants in a period when statistics show negligible entries for Haitians. In actuality, the union of Guincio and Videau highlights the connections between Haiti and Cuba that predated the migration decree. One of the central arguments of this chapter is that such longstanding flows of goods, people, and ideas – of which Occiano Guincio is a perfect representative – shaped the processes of building the Cuban state, strengthening its border, and legislating the bourgeoning temporary contract migration system. The family histories of Guincio and Videau accentuate the very different experiences of abolition that occurred in Haiti and Cuba; their marriage also illustrates the inseparability of these processes. Occiano Guincio had been born free in Port Salut, Haiti, in 1882. He could trace his legal status as a free black man to the events of the Haitian Revolution, the uprising that successfully ended slavery on the French colony of Saint Domingue almost ninety years before his birth. In contrast, slavery still existed in Cuba in 1885 when Cornelia Videau was born free into an enslaved family. Her legal status resulted from the 1870 Ley Moret, or free-womb law, which attempted to abolish slavery gradually by giving 31

32

Haitian Cuban Border & Creating Temporary Migrants

freedom to children born of Cuban slaves. In contrast to the early, rapid, and violent process of emancipation that occurred in Haiti, Cuban slavery was abolished gradually in the late nineteenth century to avoid a repeat of the Haitian Revolution. At the time of Cornelia’s birth, her mother, Rosa Videaux, was identified in documents as a “patrocinada of Vidaud.” Like other Cuban slaves in the late nineteenth century, Rosa was undergoing an experience called patronato, a legal mechanism of gradual emancipation, in which her master maintained control over her labor and mobility.1 If the national histories of Haiti and Cuba represent two extreme cases of emancipation in the Americas, the Guincio–Videau marriage suggests some possible connections between the two. A rural worker, Occiano Guincio settled in Cuba at some point between his birth in 1882 and his marriage in 1910, well before the 1913 presidential decree that allowed Haitian immigrant workers into Cuba. In fact, the connection between Guincio and Videau may have gone back even further. During and immediately after the Haitian Revolution, approximately 27,000 masters and slaves fled Saint Domingue and settled in eastern Cuba.2 Cornelia Videau’s French surname raises the possibility that she or her master descended from this initial wave of refugees. Details about her husband’s life lend support to this likelihood. At his baptism in Haiti, Occiano Guincio’s godfather was Nicefort Vidaud, an individual with the same surname as the woman he would marry a few decades later. The fact that Cornelia Videau married someone whose Haitian godfather shared her own last name raises the possibility of transnational family connections that reached deep into the nineteenth century. Whether the ties that bound Guincio to Videau were fresh in 1910 or had existed a generation before, their marriage highlights the human connections that linked Haiti to Cuba between the two major migratory waves of the early nineteenth century and the twentieth. A close analysis of the Haitians who traveled to Cuba before 1913 challenges the common idea that Cuba’s border was opened and closed according to the will of the Cuban state and the foreign-owned sugar

1

2

Marriage Record of Occiano Guincio and Cornelia Videau. August 18, 1910. Archivo Provincial de Guantánamo: Registro del Estado Civil (hereafter APGREC), 423/11869/ 1–7. The surname is spelled variously as Videau, Videaux, and Vidaud throughout the marriage record. Scott, Slave Emancipation in Cuba, 46–7, 64–6; Cowling, Conceiving Freedom, 55. Cruz Ríos, Flujos Inmigratorios, 40; Pichardo Viñals, Temas históricos, 97–9, 108–9; Pérez de la Riva, “Cuba y la migración antillana, 1900–1931,” 17; Ferrer, Freedom’s Mirror, 173–83.

Haitian Cuban Border & Creating Temporary Migrants

33

companies operating within it. According to conventional narratives, the Cuban government passed racially charged restrictive migration legislation in 1902 and 1906 before US-owned sugar companies successfully pressured for Caribbean contract migration in 1913. However, I demonstrate that the Cuban state did not have the capacity to enforce its border for most of the first decade of the twentieth century. The 1902 and 1906 pieces of legislation could not always stop the ongoing immigration of Haitians. But they did represent attempts to make migrants “legible” to the state, meaning that they could be defined, quantified, rendered in state documents, and ultimately governed. In this context, statistical increases in migration reveal as much about the Cuban state’s ability to “see” the people who crossed its border as it does a numerical increase in migration.3 The Haitians who arrived in Cuba before 1913 also shaped the terms of the migration legislation that was eventually enacted – again challenging top-down narratives that focus on company and state power. By 1910, the Cuban government had strengthened its capacity to enforce its borders. As a result, Haitians were increasingly arrested as they disembarked on Cuban soil. Incarcerated Haitians, their consuls, and Cuban local officials argued about whether Haitians should be permitted to work in Cuba, how they should be repatriated, and who should pay for it all. These local debates were tied to a national one between the largely US-owned sugar companies that sought to overturn the ban on Caribbean migration and many Cubans who wanted to maintain the ban in order to whiten the Cuban nation. The local, national, and international voices that weighed in on migration ultimately shaped the Cuban state’s decision to allow Caribbean laborers into their country as well as the policies that regulated this immigration. The eventual result was a temporary, contract labor program that was similar to others that emerged elsewhere in the world in the same period. In early 1913, thousands of Haitians and individuals from throughout the Caribbean entered Cuba with legal permission to work on the sugar harvest. The era of large-scale, state-regulated contract migration within the United States’ Caribbean empire had begun, but its content originated from within the cells of Cuban jails as much as the offices of sugar companies or the presidential palace. Rather than legalizing migration in 1913, the Cuban state made it fully legible to their own 3

My use of legibility and the idea that a state can “see” both come from James Scott, Seeing Like a State.

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Haitian Cuban Border & Creating Temporary Migrants

control. Instead of causing migration to happen, sugar companies expanded and helped institutionalize an ongoing movement of people.

haiti and cuba in the nineteenth-century atlantic world The Haitian Revolution raged between 1791 and 1804 as the slaves and free people of color in the French colony of Saint Domingue variously fought and allied with the armies of France, England, and Spain over the right to individual freedom and territorial sovereignty. Thirteen years of violent and highly destructive warfare destroyed the plantations of France’s most valuable colony as well as the system of coerced labor upon which it depended. The former slaves who led the Revolution created the independent Republic of Haiti, the first country in the Atlantic to permanently abolish African slavery and inscribe racial equality into its constitution.4 The Haitian Revolution’s radical message of anticolonialism and anti-slavery engendered fear among the world’s slaveholders and colonial officials who sought to “silence” its message within their own domain. In the decades immediately following the revolution, many world powers refused to recognize the new country diplomatically. France did not extend recognition until 1825, after Haitian president Jean-Pierre Boyer agreed to indemnify former planters for the loss of their plantations. Proponents of slavery in the United States successfully blocked recognition for almost six decades.5 Independent Haiti’s diplomatic isolation did not prevent complex and multi-faceted interactions with other countries in the hemisphere and across the Atlantic Ocean. On the one hand, recent scholarship has identified the revolution’s influence outside of Haiti in new and subtle ways. Rather than looking for the event’s “causal impact on surrounding areas and its direct effect on slave insurgency in other places,” many have conceptualized the Haitian Revolution as “phantasma and nightmare” in order to understand how it affected independence struggles, meanings of modernity, literary production, and a host of other social, political, and cultural processes throughout the Atlantic.6 4

5 6

Trouillot, Silencing the Past, 87; Dubois, Avengers of the New World; James, The Black Jacobins; Fick, The Making of Haiti. Stinchcombe, “Class Conflict and Diplomacy,” 18, 21. Fischer, Modernity Disavowed, 5; Langley, The Americas in the Age of Revolution, 139–44; Munro and Walcott-Hackshaw, Echoes of the Haitian Revolution; Munro and WalcottHackshaw, Reinterpreting the Haitian Revolution; Geggus, The Impact of the Haitian

Haiti and Cuba in the Nineteenth-Century Atlantic World

35

This focus on Haiti’s “spectral” connections should not blind us to the fact that the country’s transnational links were also material: People traveled to and from Haiti, they traded goods, exchanged ideas, had sex, and sometimes brought guns. In the first decades after the revolution, Haitian officials formed political alliances with abolitionists and revolutionaries in the Americas and Europe.7 Lettered journalists, common sailors, and other Haitians appeared throughout the Americas, where they influenced politics in both home and host countries.8 Trade linked Haiti to other countries as well. During the 1825 PanAmerican conference in Panama, an event from which Haiti was excluded, a Colombian official declared that his government “would not . . . make any objection to continuing to admit the Haitian flag in Colombian ports for purely mercantile purposes” despite the lack of formal diplomatic relations between the countries.9 This position was not unique to the Colombian representative. As early as 1812, merchants from the United States traveled to Haiti to sell agricultural foodstuffs and purchase coffee. Haitians also exported coffee to France and other parts of Europe in large quantities.10 The political and commercial ties between Haiti and other parts of the Atlantic occurred alongside steady flows of people. In the aftermath of the Haitian Revolution, planters and their slaves fled Saint Domingue and settled in the United States and neighboring countries in the Caribbean.11 Once established, such flows did not stop. There was a “constant movement of individuals and small groups” to and from Haiti in the nineteenth

7

8

9

10 11

Revolution in the Atlantic World; Geggus and Fiering, The World of the Haitian Revolution; Hoffman, Gewecke, and Fleischmann, Haïti 1804; Buck-Morss, Hegel, Haiti, and Universal History; García Moreno and Eduardo Vázquez, La revolución de Haití. For instance, Haitian emperor Henry Christophe corresponded with British abolitionists despite a lack of recognition from England. In 1816, Haitian president Alexander Pétion offered weapons and asylum to Simón Bolivar, the South American independence leader. Political linkages continued throughout the nineteenth century. See Plummer, Haiti and the United States, 23; Guerra Vilaboy, “La revolución haitiana,” 50–1; Fischer, “Bolívar in Haiti”; Dubois, Aftershocks; Chaar-Pérez, “A Revolution of Love”; Smith, Liberty, Fraternity, Exile; Ferrer, Freedom’s Mirror. For examples from Colombia and Jamaica, see Sheller, Democracy after Slavery, 79; Lasso, Myths of Harmony, 135–6; Smith, Liberty, Fraternity, Exile; Eller, “All would be equal,” 127–8. José Rafael Revenga, letter of September 24, 1825, quoted in Stinchcombe, “Class Conflict and Diplomacy,” 12. Plummer, Haiti and the United States, 23–4; Trouillot, Haiti: State against Nation, 55, 61. Davies, “Saint-Dominguan Refugees”; Brereton, “Haiti and the Haitian Revolution”; Smith, Liberty, Fraternity, Exile.

36

Haitian Cuban Border & Creating Temporary Migrants

century. Some went to France, the favorite site of education for wellheeled Haitians. Individuals also moved between Haiti and the early communities of Haitian-Americans in US cities like Philadelphia, Baltimore, New York, New Orleans, Charleston, Savannah, and others.12 These may have entailed the return of second- and thirdgeneration Haitian-Americans to the land of their parents and grandparents. For instance, in 1840, Alexander Battiste was born in Savannah, Georgia. His “father was the son of Haitian parents but born in the United States.” At the age of four, Battiste moved to Philadelphia to live with his uncle and aunt, two other second-generation Haitians. In 1861, this trio of second- and third-generation migrants returned to Haiti permanently, perhaps to seek refuge during the looming instability promised by the US Civil War.13 In the latter part of the century, rural laborers began moving between Haiti and the Dominican Republic.14 Contrary to popular stereotypes, Haiti was also a migration destination from Europe and the Americas. In the early decades of Haitian independence, presidents Henry Christophe and Jean-Pierre Boyer supported attempts to bring African Americans from the United States to Haiti. Despite many failed colonization projects, approximately 13,000 African Americans settled in Haiti; most eventually returned.15 Movements also occurred independently of these well-known colonization schemes. Before slavery was abolished in Puerto Rico, runaway slaves sought to reach Haiti by “stealing small boats or fishing vessels or hiring themselves out as sailors.”16 Individuals from Europe, the Middle East, and other parts of the Americas arrived in Haiti in their hundreds, and sometimes thousands, until the eve of the 1915 US occupation. The most well-known were individuals from Germany and Syria-Lebanon. The latter community comprised approximately 6000 in 1903.17

12

13

14

15 16 17

Nicholls, Haiti in Caribbean Context, 186; Burnham, “Immigration and Marriage,” 2–9; Plummer, Haiti and the Great Powers, 5–6; Farmer, The Uses of Haiti, 49–50; Laguerre, Diasporic Citizenship, 1–2, chapter 2; White, Encountering Revolution. Alexander Battiste to John S. Durham, Minister Resident and Consul General of the United States, Port-au-Prince, January 25, 1892. Despatches from United States Consuls in Port-au-Prince, 1835–1906, microcopy T. 364, (hereafter DUSCPP) Reel 9. Turits, “A World Destroyed, a Nation Imposed,” 594; Martínez, Peripheral Migrants, 1–2. Pamphile, Haitians and African Americans, chapter 2, quote on p. 44. Andrews, Afro-Latin America, 74. Plummer, “The Metropolitan Connection,” 124–5. See also Trouillot, Haiti: State against Nation, 55–6; Schmidt, The United States Occupation, 95–6; Smith, Liberty, Fraternity, Exile, 216–7, 274; Casey, “Haitian Habits,” 125–7.

Haiti and Cuba in the Nineteenth-Century Atlantic World

37

On the surface, nineteenth-century Cuba was an unlikely place to have strong networks of migration and trade with Haiti. Cubans themselves had been quite aware of the events of the Haitian Revolution. Cuban soldiers fought in the Haitian Revolution under the Spanish flag and witnessed the revolution firsthand; returning veterans spread news of black revolutionaries who destroyed the institutions of colonial control, African slavery, and plantation agriculture in the neighboring French colony. However, Cuban fears of racial revolution were coupled with new economic opportunities. After the Haitian Revolution, sugar and coffee production exploded in Cuba, the number of enslaved human beings quadrupled, and Spanish control was firmly embraced. In short, “Eastern Cuba became a space of economic counterrevolution.”18 The Haitian Revolution influenced master–slave relationships in Cuba as well as the export economy. Ada Ferrer argues that for Cuban slaves and their masters, ideas about Haiti and the Haitian Revolution “loomed large,” creating a situation in which “local slave rebellion became part of the daily fabric of possibility.”19 In 1812 a slave rebellion in Cuba associated with José Antonio Aponte drew direct influence from the Haitian Revolution and the independent country it produced.20 Reprisals against real and imagined Haitian-style slave revolts increased in Cuba. Information about the Haitian Revolution was also brought to Cuba by the more than 27,000 free and enslaved people who fled Saint Domingue and settled in the eastern part of Cuba, where they were responsible for the growth of coffee production.21 Although many of the Saint Domingue exiles were expelled from Cuba in 1809, a large number returned only a few decades later. Besides bringing the knowledge of coffee-production, refugees were responsible for the prevalence of Franco-Haitian culture in Cuba’s eastern province of Oriente.22 By the middle of the nineteenth century, according to one French traveler, Santiago de Cuba had become “almost as much a French town as it is a Spanish one. Our language is understood by everyone, except a few new Spanish colonists, determined to not learn it.”23

18 20 21

22

23

19 Ferrer, Freedom’s Mirror, 9–11, 183. Ferrer, “Speaking of Haiti,” 233. Childs, The 1812 Aponte Rebellion, chapter 5; Ferrer, Freedom’s Mirror, 276–89. Cruz Ríos, Flujos inmigratorios, 40; Pichardo Viñals, Temas históricos, 97–9, 108–9; Pérez de la Riva, “Cuba y la migración antillana, 1900–1931,” 17; Ferrer, Freedom’s Mirror, 135, 175. Portuondo Zuñiga, Cuba: Constitución y liberalismo, 52–5; Scott, “Public Rights and Private Commerce,” 239–40; Cruz Ríos, Flujos inmigratorios, 78. Duvergier de Hauranne, “Cuba et les Antilles,” 861 translated and quoted in Joseph, Four French Travelers, 21–2.

38

Haitian Cuban Border & Creating Temporary Migrants

At the time of Cuba’s independence wars in the late nineteenth century, Franco-Haitian culture was still highly visible in eastern Cuba. In the 1890s, almost a century after the initial wave of refugees, Cuban independence leaders José Martí and Máximo Gómez noted the presence of Frenchspeaking individuals on the coffee plantations of Oriente.24 Emerging Cuban musical styles such as the contradanza and dances like the Tumba Francesa had their origins in Haiti and were transformed to create meaning in the new context, especially during Cuba’s independence wars. For instance, danzon was associated with Haitians, Afro-Cubans, and independence from Spain.25 In 1874, independence leader Carlos Manuel de Céspedes described a dance in which freed slaves sang many “songs, in French Creole, that refer to our revolution.”26 The Haitian influence on eastern Cuba was maintained not just by the cultural practices of post-revolutionary refugees but also the sustained communications between both countries. Their participation within larger Atlantic flows created commercial, maritime, military, and human linkages between the two countries, especially in the second half of the nineteenth century. For instance, in the spring of 1866, a ship called the Sacramento sailed out of New York before landing in Port-au-Prince on May 14. From the capital of the first republic in the Americas to abolish slavery, the Sacramento traveled directly to Cuba, a place where slavery still thrived.27 It was one of thirty-six vessels that entered Port-au-Prince from April to June 1866. Two of them traveled directly to Cuba.28 These commercial and shipping links continued and probably expanded after 1900, when multiple parts of Haiti and Cuba were linked by trading networks. On May 5, 1900, the Tres Hermanas, a ship registered in Key West, Florida, arrived in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, from Baracoa, Cuba. Four days later, the boat traversed the Haitian coast for 27 miles before landing in Archahaie “to take on a cargo of bananas and starch.” It then left Archahaie on May 16, “destined for Santiago de Cuba.” Bad weather prevented that particular ship from reaching Santiago and it was

24 25

26

27

28

Pichardo Viñals, Temas históricos, 98. Moore, Nationalizing Blackness, 23,25; Viddal, “Cuba’s Tumba Francesa,” 49; Hume, “On the Margins,” 76. Céspedes, El diario perdido, 268–70 cited in Ibarra Cuesta, Encrucijadas de la guerra prolongada, 32. Henry Conrad, “Arrivals and Departures of American Vessels at the United States Consulate in Port-au-Prince.” June 30, 1866. DUSCPP, Roll 4. Henry Conrad, “Navigation and Commerce of the United States at the Port of Port-auPrince,” June 30, 1866. DUSCPP, Roll 4.

Haiti and Cuba in the Nineteenth-Century Atlantic World

39

grounded in Port-au-Prince. However, the Cuban crew waited only nine days for the next ship heading to Santiago de Cuba.29 One can only imagine the news and information that Haitians and Cubans exchanged as they conducted business and, in this case, waited for a seaworthy vessel. The back and forth movements of these ships connected merchants in both countries. In 1903, two Cubans in Santiago, Francisco Bassas y Columbié and Juan Arango y Villasana, had business dealings with the commercial house of Sres. C. Lyon Hall y Ca, based in Port-au-Prince.30 Not all such commerce was carried out by legally sanctioned trading companies. In 1911, one Cuban observer complained of “the existence of a certain number of Haitian and Jamaican ships that dedicate themselves to piracy in the coast of the eastern region.”31 It is no wonder that Haitian newspapers regularly reported on Cuban news.32 Haitians and Cubans used each other’s territories in military struggles for state power as well. In the first half of the nineteenth century, Spanish authorities in Cuba feared attacks from an alliance between the Haitian government and continental independence leaders like Simón Bolivar, who had already received aid from Haitian President Alexander Pétion (1806–18).33 Decades later, after Cuba’s wars for independence began, leaders used Haiti as a point of organization. During the Ten Years War in Cuba (1868–78), Manuel R. Fernandez served as “confidential agent of Cuba in [Port-au-Prince] Haiti,” where he accumulated arms and supplies with the surreptitious aid of Haitian president Jean-Nicolas Nissage Saget. Other Cubans organized from within Cap-Haitien, Haiti.34 These Cuban

29

30

31

32 33

34

Alexander Battiste, Consulate General of the United States in Port-au-Prince to David J. Hill, Assistant Secretary of State, Washington DC, May 26, 1900. DUSCPP, Reel 10. Copy of letter to Secretario de Estado, Habana from Juzgado Municipal y Registro Civil, Santiago de Cuba. March 11, 1903 [Original March 4, 1903]. Archivo Nacional de Cuba: Secretaria de Estado y Justicia (hereafter ANCSEJ) 38/2020/2. Report to Consejo de Secretarios From Secretario de Sanidad y Beneficio. August 23, 1911. Archivo Nacional de Cuba: Secretaria de la Presidencia (hereafter ANCSP) 121/12. See for instance “À Cuba: Message présidentiel,” Le Nouvelliste, August 20, 1906. José L. Franco draws from the extensive documentation related to Haiti in the National Archives of Cuba: Asuntos Políticos to argue that Jean-Pierre Boyer was actually planning to overthrow Cuba, with the aid of Mexico, but was thwarted by European powers. Franco, “Un esfuerzo de Haiti.” José Morales Lemus, “Borrador Manuscrito del Nombramiento de Manuel B. Fernandez como Agente Confidencial de Cuba en Haiti,” February 2, 1870. Archivo Nacional de Cuba: Donativos y Remisiones (hereafter ANCDR) 629/10. Letter from Manuel R. Fernandez to Miguel de Aldama, Presidente de la Junta Central Republicana de Cuba y Puerto Rico, August 23, 1870. ANCDR 156/40–19. This episode is described in greater detail in Casey, “Between Anti-Haitianism and Anti-Imperialism,” 58–62; Luis

40

Haitian Cuban Border & Creating Temporary Migrants

exile communities in Haiti were large and strategically important enough to host Cuba’s most high-profile independence leaders such as Antonio Maceo and José Martí.35 Haitian political figures also used Cuban territory for their own strategic ends. The years between Cuba’s formal independence (1902) and the United States’ occupation of Haiti (1915) coincided with a period of acute political instability in Haiti. During conflicts, Haitian political and military leaders traveled to Cuba and other countries for organizational purposes and to escape repression. For instance, in January 1908, Haitian political leader Antenor Firmin, himself a previous acquaintance of José Martí, sought to seize power from Haitian president Nord Alexis by using foreign territories for logistical purposes.36 During the conflict, twenty-six of Firmin’s followers left “the island of Saint Thomas” and headed “in the direction of a Cuban port” to continue organizing.37 In 1914, Cuban officials awaited the arrival “from Curazao, of the Haitian general Defly, [an] agitator who has been expelled by all the governments of the neighboring Republics.”38 Finally, in 1915, Dr. Rosalvo Bobo (whose experiences in Cuba are detailed in Chapter 6) fled Haiti after being thwarted from seizing executive power by the occupying forces of the United States.39 These military, political, and economic linkages were built by people who moved between Haiti and Cuba outside of the major migratory movements of the early nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Despite the lack of systematic or reliable immigration statistics in either Haiti or Cuba (to be discussed later), these movements appear in scattered places in other types of archival sources. In Santiago de Cuba in 1883, someone unsuccessfully requested a passport so that Cristina Duharte, the daughter of a patrocinada slave, could travel to Haiti.40 Although it is impossible to know the identity or motive of the person who made the request, had they

35 36 37

38

39 40

Lamarque, “Claudio Brindis de Salas no era un mal patriota,” Diario de Cuba February 13, 1930. Zacaïre, “Haiti on His Mind,” 58–61, 70. Plummer, Haiti and the Great Powers, 120; Plummer, “Firmin and Martí.” Secretario Interno to Gobernador de la Provincia de Oriente, January 22, 1908. APSGP 785/30/1. Gobernador de Oriente to Alcalde Municipal, Santiago, October 14, 1914. APSGP 2837/ 9. Gaillard, Les Blancs Débarquent II, 214, 17, 25. Untitled Expedient relative to Cristina Duharte’s petition for a passport. March 14, 1883. Archivo Provincial de Santiago de Cuba: Juzgado de Primera Instancia (hereafter APSJPI) 788/6/4. It is unknown who requested the passport. Duharte denied making the request.

Haiti and Cuba in the Nineteenth-Century Atlantic World

41

been successful they would have joined a well-established community of Cubans in Haiti. In addition to the immigrants from Europe and the Americas that settled in nineteenth-century Haiti there was a significant number of Cubans. By the 1890s, the number of Cuban immigrants in Port-au-Prince trailed only the Germans and the French.41 The community of Cubans in Haiti established strong social and economic ties with Haitians. Between 1850 and 1871, ten marriages were conducted between Haitians and Cubans in Port-au-Prince.42 Others did not formalize their unions through church or state. For instance, José Cristobal Polanco y Ferrer was born in Santiago de Cuba in the 1840s and moved to Port-au-Prince in 1876. He had three children outside of marriage with Delcamise Cebeca, a Haitian woman.43 When Polanco registered the birth of his third child with Haitian authorities in 1905, two resident Cubans served as witnesses.44 One of them, Simon Hierrezuelo, had requested a passport in Santiago a few years before to travel to Port-au-Prince.45 Polanco’s case was not unique. After Cuban independence, the Cuban consul in Haiti inquired about the citizenship rights of “illegitimate children” born in Haiti, “some of a Cuban father and Haitian mother, others of a Haitian father and a Cuban mother, and some whose parents are both Cuban.”46 Cubans had a strong economic presence in Haiti as well, where they had a reputation for being tailors and shoemakers. Cuban musicians and bullfighters regularly passed through Port-au-Prince in the 1890s.47 In 1885, a hair salon called “La Cubana” was opened in Port-au-Prince. In 1930, its proprietor was Jean Rodriguez,

41 42 43

44

45

46

47

Corvington, Port-Au-Prince, 1888–1915, 26, 29, 38, 93. Burnham, “Immigration and Marriage,” 278. Letter to Secretario de Estado, Habana from Celestino Bencomo, Consulado de la Republica de Cuba, Port-au-Prince, Haiti. August 19, 1909. “Copia y Traduccion Literal” [de acta de nacimiento de Jose Cristobal Polanco], August 27, 1893. “Copia y Traduccion Literal” [de Extracto de los Registros del Estado Civil de Port-au-Prince, Seccion Sud], July 9, 1901. “Copia y Traduccion Literal.” [de Extracto de los Registros del Estado Civil de Port-au-Prince] June 12, 1905. ANCSEJ 23/711/7–11. “Copia y Traduccion Literal” [de Extracto de los Registros del Estado Civil de Port-auPrince], June 4, 1905, ANCSEJ 23/711/11. Letter to Gobernador de la Provincia de Oriente, From: Simón Hierrezuelo, December 02, 1902, APSGP 1800/5. Letter to Jefe del Despacho del Departamento de Estado en Habana from Jorge A. Campuzano, Consul de la Republica de Cuba en Port-au-Prince, Haiti. November 06, 1906. Letter to Cuban Consul in Port-au-Prince from Pedro C. Salcedo, Jefe interino del Departamento de Estado. August 20, 1908. ANCSEJ 23/711/2–5. Corvington, Port-Au-Prince, 1888–1915, 26, 29, 38, 93.

42

Haitian Cuban Border & Creating Temporary Migrants

a Cuban.48 Of course, these are only the scattered interactions for which we have records. The regular movement of Cubans to Haiti continued into the first decade of the twentieth century. In 1901, Cubans Vicenta Rodriguez and José R. Pérez separately asked the Governor of Oriente for passports to travel to Haiti.49 Numerous other Cubans made similar requests over the next years as well.50 In this period, the number of Cubans migrating to Haiti was significantly lower than the number of Haitians heading in the opposite direction. By 1906, Haitian newspapers were already remarking on “the number of our compatriots that [Cuba] attracts.”51 In 1913, Cuban port officials recorded the entry of 1422 Haitians into Cuba, representing the beginning of the twentieth-century migration of seasonal cane cutters. These immigrants, however, were hardly blazing a new trail. Not only were their movements mirrored on a global scale by the migration of millions of people, they were also reinforcing a long tradition of migrant flows going to and from Haiti. Haiti’s integration into the global migratory movements of the nineteenth century shaped the population flows heading to Cuba. The large-scale, long-distance movements that occurred around the globe during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries were “closely linked” to shorter-distanced, often seasonal, movements that characterized regions like the Caribbean, creating what Adam McKeown calls “a spectrum of overlapping migrations.”52 Life stories of individuals who traveled between Haiti and Cuba in the twentieth century clearly illustrate

48

49

50

51 52

“Salons de coiffure,” Haiti Journal, June 22, 1931; “Salon de coiffure: La cubana,” Haiti Journal, January 27, 1930. Thank you to Andy Hernandez for helping me confirm Rodriguez’ nationality. Vicenta Rodriguez to Gobernador Civil de la Provincia de Oriente, October 24, 1901; José R. Pérez to Gobernador Civil de la Provincia de Oriente, September 25, 1901. Both in APSGP 1800/3. In 1903, Manuel Salazar, Julian Padilla, Mariano Clavijo y Riviera, Marcelino Hechavarria, Mariano Tur, and Manuel Raventos requested passports to travel to Haiti. In 1906, Alfred Uoldis, Matilde Rodriguez, and Adel Rodriguez made similar requests. Manuel Salazar to Gobernador Civil, Santiago, June 11, 1903; Manuel Raventos to Gobernador Civil, Santiago [re: Julian Padilla]. June 11, 1903; Mariano Clavijo y Riviera to Gobernador Civil, June 11, 1903; Manuel Raventos to Gobernador Civil [re: Marcelino Hechavarria]. Mariano Tur to Gobernador Civil, June 11, 1903. All in APSGP1800/6. Alfred Uoldis to Gobernador Provincial de Oriente, March 09, 1906, Matilde Rodriguez and Adel Rodriguez to Gobernador Provincial de Oriente, November 12, 1906. All in APSGP 1800/8. “À Cuba,” Le Nouvelliste, August 29, 1906. McKeown, “Global Migration, 1846–1940,” 156–7, 160.

Migrants Legible & Creating Temporary Contract Laborers

43

these overlaps. Octavio Pérez migrated to Cuba from Haiti in 1916. He had been born in Port-au-Prince in 1900 to a Haitian woman named Maria Despaigne and Julio Pérez, an immigrant from Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic.53 Jorge Hansen and his wife were born in Jamaica before moving to Haiti. While there, they gave birth to a daughter, Gertrudis, before all three migrated to Santiago de Cuba. In Cuba, Gertrudis married José Puzo Ronchon, a Haitian-born individual, in 1917.54 Other connections extended outside of the Caribbean entirely. Santiago Chade and Cecilia Esmeja were born in Ottoman Syria in 1877 and 1882, respectively. The two were married, and migrated to Haiti before having two sons in Port-au-Prince in 1897 and 1899. In 1903, parents and children permanently relocated to Santiago de Cuba.55 In another example, Julian Caluff y Abraham was born in Tripoli, Syria, in 1905. By the 1920s he was living in Cuba though his Syrian-born mother was in Haiti.56 Over the course of the first decade of the twentieth century, the Cuban state began to exert more control over who and what crossed its borders. For the first time, border crossers became something for the state to document systematically as migrants. The era of official statistics and migration regulations was beginning.

making migrants legible and creating temporary contract laborers In 1898, Spanish colonial control formally ended in Cuba, only to be replaced by the political, economic, and military dominance of the United States. As in other Caribbean areas under United States control, and following larger global trends, the movement of people and goods between Haiti and Cuba became further subject to state control as borders strengthened in the twentieth century.57 Naturally, attempts to govern 53

54

55 56

57

Citizenship Petitions for Octavio Pérez. July 22, 1938 and May 14, 1942, Archivo Provincial de Santiago: Registro del Estado Civil: Tomo de Ciudadanías (hereafter APSRECTC) 365/114, 175. Citizenship Petition for José Puzo Ronchon, September 16, 1940, APSRECTC 341/15/ 203. For the larger context about Jamaicans in turn of the century Haiti, see Smith, Liberty, Fraternity, Exile, 274, chapter 14. Citizenship Petition for Cecilia Esmeja y Chade, May 20, 1941, APSRECTC 358/6/65. Citizenship Petition for Julian Caluff y Abraham, November 19, 1940, APSRECTC 342/ 16/46. Turits, “A World Destroyed, a Nation Imposed,” 600–1; Derby, “Haitians, Magic, and Money,” 499–501; Engerman, “Changing Laws,” 76; Hahamovitch, No Man’s Land, 12–14.

44

Haitian Cuban Border & Creating Temporary Migrants

borders entailed controlling people’s movements. The flows of people to and from Cuba, which had occurred outside the systematic gaze of the state, would now be quantified, and at times, restricted. Two Cuban immigration laws, based on legislation from the United States, were passed in 1902 and 1906. Both restricted the entrance of migrant contract laborers, effectively banning Haitians and British West Indians from entering the country. While Cuban law described the ban in terms of a desire to forbid contract laborers, state officials and other sectors of society opposed Caribbean immigrants on racial grounds. Journalists and government officials voiced their fears that allowing Haitians and other immigrants into Cuba would put an end to white Cubans’ numerical majority. They also complained that these immigrants carried diseases, could potentially cause a race war, and had primitive habits that would cause the Cuban nation to regress. Instead, Cuban officials, influenced by scientific racism, sought to attract European immigrants to “whiten” the population and provide labor for the growing sugar industry.58 In short, the goal was to effect US-style racial improvement and to provide labor for the growth and modernization of the US-owned sugar industry. In the period between 1902 and 1912, the Cuban government sought to restrict the movement of people that had taken place during the previous century. On the surface, Cuban government statistics verify their success (Table 1.1). They suggest that Haitian migration to Cuba was negligible or non-existent until 1913, the year sugar companies were permitted to recruit them. Migration spiked again in 1915, the year the United States military invaded Haiti. The result is that compiled statistics produce a picture of effective state control over borders and the imperial creation of a migratory movement. However, what appear to be instantaneous acts of closing and opening the border actually represent a gradual process by which the Cuban state developed the capacity to observe and record who and what was crossing that border. To borrow from James Scott, migration had to become “legible” to state institutions; it had to be defined so that officials could observe and record it.59 In other words, the low numbers of recorded 58

59

Carlos de Velasco, “El problema negro,” Cuba Contempránea, February 1913; Corbitt, “Immigration in Cuba,” 304; de la Fuente, A Nation for All, 52, 101–2; Naranjo Orovio and García Gonzalez, Racismo e inmigración; McLeod, “Undesirable Aliens: Haitian and British West Indian Immigrant Workers in Cuba,” 39–44; Helg, “Race in Argentina and Cuba,” 53, 56. Scott, Seeing Like a State, 2.

Migrants Legible & Creating Temporary Contract Laborers

45

table 1.1 Haitian immigrant arrivals in Cuba according to official statistics Year

Haitian Migrants

1902 1903 1904 1905 1906 1907 1908 1909 1910 1911 1912 1913 1914 1915

10 0 0 0 – – 0 0 0 221 172 1,422 120 2,416

Source: Compiled from Cuba, Censo de la República de Cuba, 1907, 60; Cuba, Census of the Republic of Cuba 1919, 176; Secretaria de Hacienda: Sección de Estadistica General, “Estado Comparativo de inmigrantes llegados a los Puertos de la Republica, en los años civiles 1902, 1903, 1904, y 1905” November 2, 1906. ANCSP 115/99.

migrants between 1902 and 1912 reflect the state’s incapacity to count migrants, not a lack of border crossings. The migration laws of 1902 and 1906 were some of the first attempts to bring Cuba’s borders into the state’s purview. Despite their passage, the government was hard-pressed to stop migrants, much less quantify those who entered outside of official channels. Over time, the Cuban state militarized the border further and restricted migration with more success. Perhaps it is not a coincidence that sugar companies were granted permission to bring contract workers into Cuba at the very moment that the capacity to control the border was consolidated. The illegibility of humans’ border crossing during the first decade of the twentieth century is illustrated by the life stories of migrants themselves. Some Haitians’ journeys to Cuba occurred before 1902, when entries were not recorded at all. For instance, Haitian native Julian Pol y Pié arrived in Baracoa, Cuba, on May 5, 1896.60 Even after the state began counting 60

“Julian Pol y Pié,” March 1, 1937, APSRECTC 371/3/13. Haitians Pablo Gil and Amorés Pools arrived in 1896 and 1898, respectively. “Amorés Pools soa, #23” and “Pablo Gil

46

Haitian Cuban Border & Creating Temporary Migrants

migrants, Haitians arrived in years when immigration statistics flatly declare that nobody entered the country. The case of Bautista Nustelier y Fortunés is a perfect reflection of the longstanding connections between Haiti and Cuba and the problem with immigration statistics. Nustelier was born to a Haitian mother and Cuban father in Miragoâne, Haiti, in 1901. Two years later he traveled to Cuba, presumably accompanied by one or both parents. Yet immigration statistics declare that not a single Haitian entered Cuba in 1903.61 The discrepancy between official migration statistics and individual life stories is not unique to Nustelier. Data about individual migrants show that many entered Cuba in various eastern ports between 1903 and 1910 when published statistics do not show the entrance of any Haitians. Edelman A. Fis, José Pols, and Rafael Julian, among many others, were born in Haiti, migrated to Cuba during the eleven years of restriction, and entered Cuba in years in which no Haitians were recorded.62 The discrepancy between official migration statistics and individual life stories is partially a result of the way migrants were defined and counted by the Cuban government. First, statistics labeled entering individuals as “passengers” or “immigrants” depending on the class of steamship in which they traveled. Many migrant workers were probably counted as

61

62

soa, #22” Censo 1918 de Holguín. Archivo Provincial de Holguín: Gobierno Municipal de Holguín (hereafter APHGM), 23/4972/103. It is hard to believe that he would have entered the country as a Cuban, seeing that he formally applied for Cuban citizenship in 1931. “Bautista Nustelier y Fortunés” #182, July 27, 1931. APSRECTC 353/1/182. Different types of archival evidence show Haitians entering between 1903 and 1910. José Rafael Castellano and Edelman A. Fis both arrived in 1904. Filomena Lené and José Pols entered Cuba in 1905. Eladio Fichs and Rafael Julian came in 1906. Pablo Lebore y Rios, Oscar Siguel, José Manuel, Manuel Fones, and Alfredo Thomas arrived in 1908. In 1909, Benito Leucé y Siril, Sijano Amedon, Juan Rafael Fis, Daniel Allas, and Nestor Cade arrived in Cuba. Felip Fiss, José Fidua and Epifanio Ducal also arrived in 1910. “Jose Rafael Castellano,” APRECTC 370/2/126; “Edelman A. Fis, soa, #24” Censo 1918 de Holguín APHGM 23/4972/114; “Filomena Lené,” #167, March 26, 1937, APSRECTC 342/16/167. “José Pols soa, #1” Censo 1918 de Holguín. APHGM 23/4972/115; “Eladio Fichs soa, # 10” and “Rafael Julian soa, #18” Censo 1918 de Holguín. APHGM 23/4972/ 103; “Oscar Siguel soa, #16,” “José Manuel soa, #25,” “Manuel Fones soa, #9,” and “Alfredo Thomas soa, #20,” Censo 1918 de Holguín. APHGM 23/4972/96, 102, 103; “Pablo Lebore y Rios,” February 27, 1934, APSRECTC 364/na/130; “Nestor Cade (Miguel Hechevarria), May 31, 1937, APSRECTC 371/3/68; “Benito Leucé y Siril,” June 30, 1934. APSRECTC 370/2/137; “Sijano Amedon, soa #104,” “Juan Rafael Fis, #136” and “Daniel Allas soa, #136” Censo 1918 de Holguín. APHGM 23/4972/104, 136; “Felipe Fiss,” December 3, 1934, APSRECTC 370/2/212; “Epifanio Ducal soa, #8” and “Juan Hayb soa, #1” Censo 1918 de Holguín. APHGM 23/4972/96, 103; “José Fidua, #18” Censo 1918 de Holguín. APHGM 23/4973/27.

Migrants Legible & Creating Temporary Contract Laborers

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table 1.2 Haitian passengers in Cuba, 1902–13 Year

Arrivals

Departures

Net Gain/Loss

1902 1903 1904 1905 1906 1907 1908 1909 1910 1911 1912 1913 Total

81 151 174 282 395 1,031 705 648 854 914 209 1,512 6,956

47 97 62 194 328 334 393 462 508 425 328 498 3,676

+34 +54 +112 +88 +67 +697 +312 +186 +346 +489 −119 +1,014 +3,280

Source: “Movimiento de Pasajeros,” Cuban Gaceta Oficial, April 20, 1910, in United States National Archives, Record Group 59, Records Relating to Internal Affairs in Cuba, 1910–29 (hereafter USNA RG 59), roll 84; Ferrer, Anuario estadístico, 24–5.

passengers and vice versa. Arriving passengers were required to show $30 in landing money to authorities.63 Between 1902 and 1913, 6956 Haitian passengers arrived in Cuba and only 3676 departed, leaving 3280 unaccounted (see Table 1.2). Second, published statistics are unable to give any sense of the number of migrants who entered the country entirely outside of the state’s gaze.64 Finally, some Caribbean migrants were counted in categories like “Unspecified West Indians,” a contingent boasting 3359 arrivals between 1903 and 1907. It is clear that many more people from Haiti and other parts of the Caribbean entered Cuba in the first decade of the twentieth century than previously thought (Table 1.3).65 Many of the Haitians who arrived in Cuba between 1902 and 1912 did so by taking advantage of the existing commercial and personal networks between the two countries, legal loopholes, and lax law enforcement. One way Haitians entered Cuba during the period of restriction was to hitch

63 65

64 Pérez de la Riva, “Cuba y la migración antillana, 1900–1931,” 33. Ibid., 32–5. Cernichao is one of the few scholars to analyze the wave of Caribbean immigrants that arrived in Cuba before 1913. Cernichao, “Oriente: Fuerza de trabajo nativa.”

48

Haitian Cuban Border & Creating Temporary Migrants table 1.3 Haitian immigrants, net gain of passengers, and unspecified Antilleans, 1902–13 Year

Haitian Immigrants

Net Gain of Haitian Passengers

“Unspecified West Indians”

1902 1903 1904 1905 1906 1907 1908 1909 1910 1911 1912 Total

10 0 0 0 – – 0 0 0 221 172 403

+34 +54 +112 +88 +67 +697 +312 +186 +346 +489 −119 +2,266

144 233 479 1,550 953 – – – – – 3,359

Source: “Movimiento de Pasajeros,” Cuban Gaceta Oficial, April 20, 1910, in USNA RG 59, roll 84. Olmsted and Gannett, Cuba, 106. Ferrer, Anuario estadístico, 24–5.

a ride on one of the numerous commercial ships that moved between Haiti, Cuba, and other parts of the Caribbean. In September 1911, for instance, the Sirena arrived in Cuba “to establish a storehouse to deposit salt.” Among the crew were many Haitians “who stayed on land” after the boat left.66 Later that year, the Mayor of Baracoa admitted that migrants entered Cuba “with the aid of the large traffic in coastal trade that is carried out along the coasts of Haiti.”67 Migrants were often dropped off away from major ports in desolate areas of the Cuban coast. In 1911, a group of nine Haitians “disembarked clandestinely” in Yateritas, outside of Guantánamo.68 Such journeys were fraught with risk and hardship. A group of six Haitians who arrived in 1911 displayed “evident signs of prostration due, without a doubt, to fatigue and the insufficient nourishment they have suffered since the time of their disembarkation.”69 At other moments, ship captains favored the 66

67 68

69

Jefe de la Policía Gubernativa to el Gobernador Provincial de Oriente, June 9, 1911, APSGP 2837/9. Consul d’Haiti, Santiago to Governeur [Oriente], September 14, 1911, APSGP 785/37/62. Telegram to Gobernador Civil, Santiago de Cuba from Herrera, Admor. Aduana, Caimanera, March 21, 1911. APSGP 785/37/1. Letter to Gobernador Provincial de Oriente from Jefe Local de Sanidad, April 18, 1911. APSGP 785/37/21.

Migrants Legible & Creating Temporary Contract Laborers

49

ports where law enforcement was haphazard. “Certain steamship companies,” complained a Cuban sanitation official in 1911, “inverted the order of their stops, discharging in ports like Santiago de Cuba all of the personnel they feared would be rejected in Havana.”70 As Haitians continued traveling to Cuba between 1902 and 1912, Cuban sugar companies and labor recruiters began working to bring in migrants without government permission. Their techniques mimicked the strategies established by migrants and ship captains. Sometimes, companies brought workers into Cuba through minor or private ports that were not heavily policed. Cuban officials reported that in 1911, in the private port of Nipe, the firm that would later become the United Fruit Company was “importing black workers from Haiti and the other Antilles . . . without there being measures to apply the law of immigration prohibiting such importation.”71 Some Haitians who entered the country as passengers were aided by labor contractors. Joseph Vital, a sailor on the Abdel-Kader “dedicates himself to introducing immigrants in Santiago de Cuba without previous authorization from the Cuban government.” Vital “operates . . . in accordance with a contractor in Santiago de Cuba and the immigrants he brings.” When they disembark, he “collects the thirty pesos that each immigrant brings along” eventually “returning to Haiti with the same money to return.”72 Sugar companies’ efforts to bring Haitians into Cuba during the period of restriction was only one strategy to maintain a steady labor supply. In addition to taking advantage of Cuba’s fluid eastern border, companies used legal channels to recruit the kind of European immigrants that many Cubans – influenced by ideas of scientific racism – considered acceptable. Organizations like the Asociación Fomento de Inmigración sought to bring single immigrants and families from Spain, the Canary Islands, various parts of Europe, and other places that were officially sanctioned by the Cuban government. In one project from 1913, the organization offered to bring “Portuguese and Spanish laborers” who had “been employed on the Isthmus of Panama” to interested companies. The cost of steamship fare would be split between workers and the Cuban

70

71

72

Report to Consejo de Secretarios From Secretario de Sanidad y Beneficencia. August 23, 1911, ANCSP 121/12. Report to Consejo de Secretarios From Secretario de Sanidad y Beneficencia. August 23, 1911, ANCSP 121/12. Cuban Consul in Port-au-Prince to Jefe del Departamento de Inmigración May 10, 1911, APSGP 785/33/7.

50

Haitian Cuban Border & Creating Temporary Migrants

government; companies would pay for railroad passage from port to plantation.73 Although successive US military governments had been responsible for restrictive immigration laws, US investors were largely responsible for their abrogation. US imperial control over Cuba had created a ripe situation for sugar expansion. As officials and business owners debated migration, sugar production increased in Cuba as a result of US investments and the 1902 reciprocity treaty. Sugar’s profitability was increasing and companies’ active recruitment of migrants of various nationalities, both legally and illegally, was coupled with attempts to overturn the Cuban government’s ban on contract immigration. Between 1900 and 1912, Cuban organizations like the Circulo de Hacendados, Asociacion Fomento de Inmigración, the Sociedad de Inmigración Puerto-Riqueña, and the Liga Agraria pressured the Cuban government to allow the entry of contract laborers. Their initial proposals were to contract individuals and families from Europe and specific parts of the Americas for agriculture labor, though none explicitly requested to bring Asian or AfroCaribbean laborers.74 Eventually, sugar company pressure convinced some officials in the Cuban government to soften their position against contract labor. The Guantánamo Sugar Company successfully requested permission to bring 293 individuals from the United States’ new colony of Puerto Rico in 1906 – around the time that sugar growers did the same in Hawai’i.75 In 1911, the Cuban Secretary of Agriculture, Commerce, and Labor was considering allowing “coolie” contract laborers to enter Cuba for the upcoming sugar harvest.76 The next year, the restrictions on contract immigration were lifted. In 1912, the Ponupo Manganese Company, a US mining firm, was permitted to contract 500 Spanish laborers for work in their mines in eastern Cuba.77 The same year, the Nipe Bay 73

74

75

76 77

Unsigned letter to Wm. W Craib, Executive Agent, The Cuba Company, Ingenio Jatibonico, September 26, 1913, CCA box 9, folder 4a, Leo-142. McLeod, “Undesirable Aliens: Haitian and British West Indian Immigrant Workers in Cuba,” 29–40. McLeod, “Undesirable Aliens: Haitian and British West Indian Immigrant Workers in Cuba,” 40–2; Helg, “Race in Argentina and Cuba,” 54–6; Pérez, Cuba under the Platt Amendment, 78–83; Guantánamo Sugar Company, “Second Annual Report for the Fiscal Year ending September 30, 1907,” Guantánamo Sugar Company Records, Cuban Heritage Collection, University of Miami Libraries, Coral Gables, Florida, box 4, unmarked box with annual reports. Poblete, Islanders in the Empire. Jackson to U.S. Secretary of State, June 27, 1911, USNA RG 59, 837.55/18. Hugh Gibson to U.S. Secretary of State, September 16, 1912, USNA RG 59, 837.55/19.

Migrants Legible & Creating Temporary Contract Laborers

51

Company specifically requested to bring contract laborers from the Caribbean, which effectively paved the way for Haitians and British West Indians to enter Cuba with passports and contracts in hand. Companies’ pushes for contract labor from the Caribbean, like earlier calls for its prohibition, were intertwined with the logic of race. As Philip A. Howard and others have noted, bringing in Caribbean migrants was more than just a question of numbers. Before 1913, company and state officials felt a growing concern that European immigrants and black Cubans would move to cities or avoid cutting sugar cane. As Howard argues, they may have also feared radicalism; labor strikes among railroad and agricultural workers rocked various regions of Cuba in the first decade of the twentieth century. Their mobilizations occurred as the Partido Independiente de Color sought to expand political citizenship and economic opportunities for Afro-Cubans before its violent repression in 1912; such conditions may have encouraged planters to find a source of demobilized, foreign workers.78 After years of political pressure, sugar companies’ requests for access to more labor were granted. The Cuban government, through executive decrees, laid the groundwork for what would be a temporary contract labor program. In 1913, Cuban president José Miguel Gómez approved a measure that would allow the Nipe Bay Company to import 1400 workers from Haiti and Jamaica. It was renewed by another decree when sugar prices spiked during World War I. These permitted immigrants to work in the Cuban sugar industry during the war. Throughout the 1920s, the immigration of Haitian and British West Indian laborers was maintained piecemeal by specific presidential authorizations and company requests for migrants.79 This apparent victory of sugar companies and their imperial backers to secure cheap and compliant labor had limits. As a top official from The Cuba Company explained in 1913, contract migration was not the same as the indenture programs that brought Asians to the Caribbean in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.80 “The laws of Cuba do not permit of endenture [sic], and without that, the laborer is free 78

79

80

On the question of companies’ motivations going beyond strict demography, see Cernichao, “Oriente: Fuerza de trabajo nativa,” 93; Howard, Black Labor, 32–43. Corbitt, “Immigration in Cuba,” 306–7; McLeod, “Undesirable Aliens: Haitian and British West Indian Immigrant Workers in Cuba,” 39–44; Helg, “Race in Argentina and Cuba,” 56. López, Chinese Cubans; Narvaez, “Chinese Coolies in Cuba and Peru”; Mahase, “Plenty a Dem Run Away.”

52

Haitian Cuban Border & Creating Temporary Migrants

to go or come as he chooses.” The only way to prevent “loss and disappointment” was for recruitment and immigration to “be controlled by a Government Department” rather than fall upon individual companies to petition the state and pay labor recruiters.81 The sugar administrator presciently described the conflicts over mobility between immigrant laborers and Cuban companies that will be addressed in Chapter 3. His lament also highlights the fact that Cuban immigration policies were not created according to a totally unbridled logic of empire and production; some companies felt that there was still something to be desired from the Cuban state. Though still inchoate, this migration program had much in common with emerging temporary contract programs throughout the world. Provisions for migrants’ return became more explicit and stringent with every migration decree. To provide some perspective, policies regulating other migrant flows within the United States’ imperial sphere were also only beginning to address repatriation in the 1910s. The Puerto Ricans who migrated to the US colony of Hawai’i as early as 1899 were not afforded return passage after sugar harvests; legal guarantees to repatriate Filipino workers from the future US state were not established until 1915.82 But rather than emerging solely from the conflicts and compromises among economic interests, state officials, and anti-immigrant voices, as these programs are described, the content of Cuban immigration policies was shaped by the longstanding flows of people between Haiti and Cuba and by the actions of migrants themselves.83 Sugar interests and their allies in the United States were not the only ones petitioning for the legalization of contract migration. Their wellknown actions occurred alongside requests of a different sort coming from local authorities in Oriente, Cuba. While top-down pressure emerged from corporate offices and sites of political power in the United States, other requests emanated from rural Cuba and its coastlines as a result of exchanges between Cuban officials, Haitian consuls, and the agricultural workers who continually traveled to Cuba despite legal prohibitions. If imperial pressures were responsible for the legalization of migration,

81

82 83

William W. Craib, Executive Agent to George H. Whigham, Esq. Vice President, The Cuba Company, New York, October 3, 1913, CCA box 9, folder 4a, Leo-142. Poblete, Islanders in the Empire, 40, 62–5. Hahamovitch, No Man’s Land, 19–20; Maurer, “The Thin Red Line,” 869–70; Surak, “Guestworkers: A Taxonomy,” 90.

Migrants Legible & Creating Temporary Contract Laborers

53

the encounters and exchanges between local actors were responsible for its content and implementation.84 By 1910, Haitians’ illegal entrances into Oriente had reached such levels that they were customarily reported and discussed by local authorities. In 1911, one official complained that immigrants in Cuba “harm our working class and constitute a serious danger to our institutions.”85 Another declared that immigration from the Caribbean created “dangers . . . for public health” because Haitian migrants represented “the lowest on the social scale” and would bring bubonic plague and other diseases to Cuba.86 These official complaints were part of a larger effort to militarize the Cuban border and stop the immigration of Haitians to Cuba. In 1911, the Cuban Undersecretary of the Interior told the Governor of Oriente to use the “means within your reach so that the Agents at your orders pursue without break or rest the [immigration] infractions that are being denounced.”87 In addition to “augmenting the Coast Guard service,” the Secretary of Sanitación y Beneficiencia suggested using rural informants. He proposed “appointing a certain number of seamen (fishermen or sailors) to the ranks of the Coast Guard” to increase surveillance on the border. Although they would be “without salary,” the Secretary suggested that “they could be remunerated for each service they offer.”88 Others wanted to increase the personnel on land. The Governor of Oriente believed that “it has not been possible to establish a complete vigilance, due to the scarcity of force at hand.” He therefore spoke of the need to “increase as necessary the rural force in the coasts of that district to better guarantee the public order and avoid the repeated infractions of immigration law.”89 Similarly, the Mayor of Baracoa identified “the imperious necessity that the number of individuals upon whom the Rural Guard

84

85

86

87

88

89

JoAnna Poblete’s analysis of the sanitary regulations on Filipino immigrants in Hawai’i in the same time period makes a similar argument about the influences of various groups on policy creation and implementation. Poblete, “The S.S. Mongolia Incident,” 248–9. Subsecretario de Gobernacion, Habana to Gobernador de la Provincia de Oriente, June 07, 1911, APSGP 785/33/6. Secretario de Sanidad y Beneficiencia, quoted in Subsecretario, Havana to Gobernador de la Provincia de Oriente, May 31, 1911, APSGP 785/33/1–2. Subsecretario de Gobernacion, Habana to Gobernador de la Provincia de Oriente, June 07, 1911, APSGP 785/33/6. Secretario de Sanidad y Beneficiencia, quoted in letter to Gobernador de la Provincia de Oriente, From: Subsecretario, Habana. May 31, 1911, APSGP 785/33/1–2. Gobernador de Oriente to Secretario de Gobernacion, Havana, April 20, 1911, APSGP 785/35/2–3.

54

Haitian Cuban Border & Creating Temporary Migrants

depends be larger in this district,” so that they could monitor both land and coastline.90 Haitian officials responded with their own plans to strengthen the border. In 1910, the Haitian Chargé du Consulat told the Governor of Oriente that he had written the Haitian government “with the goal of redoubling the surveillance of [Haitian] coasts.”91 In 1911, government expenditures increased for “Immigration and Quarantine Services in the ports of Santiago de Cuba, Nipe, and Cienfuegos.”92 The militarization of the border had direct effects on incoming migrants, who were arrested in increasing numbers upon arrival in Cuba. In 1910, the governor of Oriente was informed of four clandestine voyages with fifty-one Haitian migrants on board. The following year, seven ships were stopped with seventy-eight migrants (seventy-five Haitians and three Jamaicans).93 Despite the increase in arrests, there was no sign that the flow of Haitians would stop. In fact, Haitians drew on their long tradition of movement and labor in Cuba to justify their presence there. From their jail cell in Guantánamo, Haitians Jean Felix and Raphael Maurice were aided in writing a letter to their consul in Santiago de Cuba to protest their arrest. In one of the few texts we have directly authored by Haitian agricultural workers, Felix and Maurice argued that their labor and long-term residency in Cuba entitled them to stay. “We have been here a good number of years,” and “we are accustomed to working in the countryside.” Their claim on the consul was unequivocal: “We believe that you are the sole person responsible for the Haitians seized here.”94 Haitian consuls, in fact, were held legally responsible for detained Haitian migrants. Cuban officials repeatedly claimed that jailed Haitians would be “at the disposition of the Haitian consul who ought to reembark them.”95 In January 1911, Cuban officials complained that 90

91 92

93

94

95

Alcalde Municipal de Baracoa to Gobernador Civil de la Provincia de Santiago de Cuba, April 15, 1911, APSGP 785/35/1. Chargé du Consulat to Gouverneur de Santiago. September 27, 1910, APSGP 785/31/5. Jefe de Despacho, Direccion de Sanidad to Honorable Sr. Presidente de la República, September 30, 1911 ANCSP 106/20. Compiled from APSGP 785/31, 35 and 37 and J. A. Ulysse A.T. Simon, Cayes to Secretaire d’Etat au Departemente des Relations Exterieures, April 18, 1911, UFGHC, Box 1 (MS23A). Letter from Jean Felix and Raphael Maurice, Guantánamo to Consulat-Haitien, Santiago, April 20, 1911, APSGP 785/37/27. In rural Haiti, it was common for illiterate people to have letters and documents written on their behalf by area scribes on important occasions such as marriages. See Jean Price-Mars, Ainsi parla l’oncle, 209–16. Letter to Gobernador Civil, Santiago from Manuel Leon, Administrador de Aduana, Guantánamo, September 28, 1910, APSGP 785/31/6.

Migrants Legible & Creating Temporary Contract Laborers

55

Haitians stayed in Cuban jails for too long, causing expenditures. They stressed that it was the responsibility of Haitian consuls “to return them” to Haiti.96 At times, the Cuban government requested payment from the consul for the food migrants consumed. Consuls, however, had difficulties obtaining money from the Haitian government to either repatriate the migrants or pay for their board in jail. “If I don’t receive satisfaction from my government or our Chargé d’Affaires in Havana,” the Haitian consul told the Governor of Oriente regarding a group of jailed migrants, “I regret to inform you that it will be pecuniarily impossible to repatriate them.”97 As migrants kept coming, the Haitian Consul’s budget came under attack. In June of 1911, the Haitian consulate owed $63.00 to the Cuban government. By August it was $110.88.98 In response, Haitian consuls in Cuba put pressure on officials in Havana, Santiago, and Port-au-Prince to resolve the administrative and financial problems that detained migrants were causing. The consul’s first recourse was to contact the Haitian government in Port-au-Prince to arrange for the repatriation of incarcerated migrants. In one case in April 1911, after waiting almost two weeks for a response from the Haitian government, the consul began communicating with officials on Cuban soil. To the Haitian consul in Cuba, the only viable solution was for detained migrants to pay for their own repatriation, which would require them to work for a wage. He pleaded with the governor of Oriente that “Cuban authorities be so complacent as to let [a group of detained Haitians] work, without surveillance so that they may pay the fees of their detentions and those of their repatriation.” These requests were sent to government officials outside of Oriente as well. The consul also asked the Haitian Chargé d’Affaires in Havana to negotiate with the Cuban central government on behalf of the jailed migrants. He asked the latter to set them free while assuring that “more severe measures will be taken in the future.” His goal was to have the migrants “work [in Cuba] to pay what they owe.”99

96

97

98

99

Letter to Gobernador Civil, Santiago de Cuba from Manuel Leon, Admor. Aduana, January 17, 1911, APSGP 785/ 31/ 23. Letter to the Governor of Oriente from le Consulat de Haiti, Santiago. April 27, 1911, APSGP 785/37/42. “El Consul de la Republica de Haiti en Santiago de Cuba al Ayuntamiento de Baracoa Debe”: June, 23, 1911, APSGP 785/37/42; Gobernador de Oriente to Sr. Alcalde Municipal de Baracoa from, August 25, 1911, APSGP 785/37/59. Consulat de Haiti, Santiago to Monsieur le Gouverneur [of Oriente], April 27, 1911, APSGP 785/37/28–9.

56

Haitian Cuban Border & Creating Temporary Migrants

Cuban officials in Oriente responded in a variety of ways to the problems caused by the increased detention of migrants. Officials at different administrative levels often gave conflicting orders. For instance, in April 1911, there were twenty-one Haitians imprisoned in Baracoa for entering Cuba illegally. After spending fifteen days in jail without being officially charged, they were released by a municipal judge in Baracoa who invoked the principle of Habeas Corpus. Two days later, customs officials in Santiago asked the police to arrest the Haitians again because of a letter they received from the Cuban Secretaria de Hacienda in Havana. After the migrants were taken to Santiago, two Haitian officials who were acquaintances of the governor asked that they be released. In response, the governor of Oriente brought the details of the case directly to the President of Cuba seeking a judgment.100 Despite the anti-immigrant sentiments harbored by many Cuban officials, the Governor of Oriente took the requests by Haitian officials very seriously. As Haitian consuls asked that migrants be allowed to pay for their room, board, and repatriation through work in Cuba, the governor assured them that he “wanted to find a legal means to satisfy your requests.” However, he realized that doing so went against the spirit of immigration laws. He told the Haitian consul that if Haitian migrants were allowed “to enjoy their liberty so they can see to the payment of their room and board and the cost of their return to Haiti with the fruits of their labor, it would leave the immigration laws circumvented and without effect and establish a fatal precedent for successive identical cases.”101 And yet, that is precisely what eventually happened. The presidential order to permit Afro-Caribbean contract immigration to Cuba was influenced by these encounters between migrants and local officials in Oriente. The text of the decrees reflected the pleas that migrants and consuls had made during the previous decade as well as the concerns of Cuban officials. Haitian consuls’ previously unsuccessful requests that migrant laborers work in Cuba to pay for the cost of their room, board, and return passage were translated into new migration decrees. Henceforth, sugar companies, and not consuls, would be responsible for the costs associated with transporting migrants to and from Cuba. The first presidential decree was promulgated on January 14, 1913, and declared that the Nipe Bay Company was obligated to assume “the costs and risks of the expedition of these braceros” from their “landing to their 100 101

Gobernador de Oriente to Presidente de la República, May 03, 1911, APSGP 785/ 37/34–7. Gobernador de Oriente to Consul de Haiti, September 19, 1911, APSGP 785/37/64.

Migrants Legible & Creating Temporary Contract Laborers

57

place of work.” A 1917 decree by President Mario Menocal was even more explicit; any individual or company that contracted migrants was required “to properly guarantee that [migrant laborers] not become a public charge.” The state had the legal right to exact money from any person or entity who contracted laborers and failed to satisfy these demands.102 In Cuba (and later Haiti), migration laws required recruiters and companies to make cash deposits for each contracted migrant worker to ensure that they could be returned home without cost to either government. Migrants paid these fees directly to recruiters and ship captains or indirectly to companies through wage deductions (see Chapter 2). Although Haitians’ actions influenced state regulations, such laws were ultimately crafted around the goals of state officials more than migrating workers; the latter were often subject to abuse as a result. The executive decrees permitting contract migration reflected the anti-immigrant racism that Cuban officials in Oriente had articulated between 1902 and 1912 as well. In 1916, only three years after migration was permitted, the Cuban government added sanitary regulations to its migration policies, taking its cue from the racially charged characterizations of migrants as disease carriers. Incoming laborers were required to receive a vaccination upon arrival in Cuba. Sanitary officials in Santiago were told “to examine, microscopically, the blood of all immigrants coming from Jamaica, Porto Rico and Haiti in order to discover the probable existence of germs of malaria or falaria . . . [and] prevent the introduction into Cuba of contagious diseases.”103 The 1917 presidential decree specifically required companies to ensure that “immigrants will not be a threat to public health.” They were required to “attend to the treating and curing of immigrants in case of sickness, in accordance with sanitary dispositions.”104 Migrants were also required to pay $2.00 (directly or through wage deductions) for a vaccination.105 Over a decade later, the United Fruit Company was paying Cuban officials a “vaccination charge” that was passed on to the migrants. However, “few, if any . . . were vaccinated.”106

102

103

104 105 106

José M. Gómez, Decreto Presidencial No. 23, “Autorización para introducir braceros antillanos,” January 14, 1913, and Ley de Inmigración, August 4, 1917, both reproduced in Pichardo Viñals, Documentos, 370, 421. Merrill Griffith, American Consul to Secretary of State, Washington, May 31, 1916, USNA RG 59 837.55/33. Ley de Inmigración, August 4, 1917, reproduced in Pichardo Viñals, Documentos, 421. Laville, La traite des nègres, 6. John H. Russell, Port-au-Prince to the U.S. Secretary of State, Washington, DC, October 28, 1927, USNA RG59 837.5538/3.

58

Haitian Cuban Border & Creating Temporary Migrants

Like other areas of public health in the early twentieth century, these sanitary laws were heavily influenced by racial, political, and economic concerns.107 For instance, the US consul in Santiago declared that Cuban officials did not “entertain any serious apprehension with regard to the introduction of malaria, falaria or miasmatic germs of whatever character through immigrants.” Instead, blood examinations were “a voluntary deception . . . for the express purpose of preventing . . . or at least curtailing the constantly increasing influx of these neighboring Islanders.”108 Another sanitary measure required Afro-Caribbean migrants, and sometimes passengers, to pass through quarantine stations.109 Stations like Cayo Duan in Santiago de Cuba were uncomfortable, unsanitary, and economically disadvantageous for incoming migrants. Over a decade after legal migration began, after tens of thousands of migrants had already passed through the Cayo Duan station, newspapers discussed ongoing projects to improve its sanitary conditions.110 Even later, observers noted the pervasiveness of bugs and vermin at the station.111 The physical discomfort of quarantine was matched by the economic disadvantages it produced for migrants. In 1916, there was “a fee of eighty cents ($0.80) per day imposed upon each [migrant].”112 Migration regulations brought other economic obligations for migrants that probably emerged from the requests made by Haitian consuls prior to 1913. In 1919, a Haitian law required migrants to pay the consulate a $2.00 registration fee upon entrance into Cuba, which represented more than a day’s wages in most years. Legislation also required migrants to pay for their return passage. The process of obtaining a ticket was fraught with fraud and needless expense. One Haitian observer described the “Haitian parasites, known as courtiers, connected to some Cubans, tolerated by the Police and the companies; [who] form a dangerous bloc on the Santiago pier.” When migrants arrived from the

107

108

109

110

111 112

Poblete, “The S.S. Mongolia Incident,” 258–9; Espinosa, “A Fever for Empire,” 288; de la Fuente, A Nation for All, 48; McLeod, “We Cubans,” 59; Stepan, “The Hour of Eugenics,” 42–4. Merril Griffith, American Consul, Santiago to U.S. Secretary of State, Washington, DC, June 01, 1916, USNA RG 59 837.55/34. McLeod, “We Cubans,” 61; “Protesta de unos pasajeros,” La Independencia, January 11, 1923. “Se piensa edificar un hotel en Cayo Duan para alojar los inmigrantes,” Diario de Cuba, March 01, 1928. Hughes, I Wonder as I Wander, 34. E. Nazon to Gobernador de la Provincia de Oriente, June 02, 1916, APSGP 374/30/1.

Conclusion

59

fields, courtiers often sold them tickets for steamships that were not functioning or had not yet arrived in port.113 Migrants were also vulnerable to abuse from corrupt Cuban officials, especially in the ports. In 1915, twenty-five Haitian migrants deposited the required money to enter Cuba. Later, when they sought to retrieve the amount, they received only a small percentage.114 In September 1917, “some police officers” in the port of Santiago were “taking advantage of their authority to deceive Haitians and take money from them.” The officers “threatened [Haitians] with searching their trunks, [and] looking for letters directed towards Haiti without stamps” even though it was not a crime to carry unstamped letters in Cuba.115 The new difficulties of entering and leaving Cuba explain why some Haitians continued to travel to Cuba outside of official channels and others chose to stay in Cuba after the end of the sugar harvest. For instance, in July 1915, Josegenio Domec and nine other Haitians landed in Punto Caleta, Cuba, clandestinely. The group was immediately arrested and taken to Cayo Duan.116

conclusion Cuba and Haiti were intimately linked by transnational flows of goods, people, and ideas even though they appeared to have polar opposite experiences of colonialism and abolition during the nineteenth century. These flows may be partially explained by Cuba’s porous border and the state’s inability to see, much less regulate, who and what crossed it. When the Cuban government began to exert more control over its borders, these immigrants, who were engaging in a longstanding tradition, shaped the process of state-building and border control, especially when it came to the content of migration legislation. The 1913 presidential decree initiated a state-brokered, temporary contract migration program at the moment that other countries around the world were just beginning to experiment with such systems. The following year, World War I broke out, which created unprecedented 113 114 115

116

Laville, La traite des nègres, 6–7. “Haitianos quejosos,” El Cubano Libre, October 08, 1915. Comandante de Caballería, Delegado de la Secretaria de Gobernación to Gobernador Provincial de Oriente, September 26, 1917, APSGP 375/1/1. “Los inmigrantes haitianos,” El Cubano Libre, July 24, 1915. For other instances see “Multa rebajada,” El Cubano Libre, August 01, 1915; “Lo de la goleta ‘San José,’” El Cubano Libre, October 17, 1915.

60

Haitian Cuban Border & Creating Temporary Migrants

global demand for Cuban sugar and Cuban demand for Haitian migrants. In 1915, the United States government occupied Haiti militarily, causing massive transformation in the rural and urban areas of the country. Thousands of Haitians responded to these changes by heading to Cuba, a process that was then regulated further on the Haitian end. It is to this story that I now turn.

2 Leaving US-Occupied Haiti

In 1931, African American writer Langston Hughes and a companion named Zell Ingram boarded a ship headed from Haiti to Cuba. The two men had run short on money during their travels and could only afford deck passage. As a result, they rode to Cuba among Haitian agricultural workers. Hughes’ recorded experiences remain the only written account of the journey that so many Haitians had undertaken during the previous three decades. Passage on the uncovered upper deck of a steamship was cheap but it was not comfortable. During the day, the Caribbean heat made its metal surface hot “like a griddle” and painful to the touch. 1 Sunset brought new challenges: Crossing the Windward Passage, in the middle of the night while we were asleep on deck, the ship ran headlong into a sudden September squall . . . With dozens of other deck passengers, we were rain-soaked, wind-tossed, and in danger of being washed off the open deck into the sea by the mounting waves. Finally the chief mate allowed us all a crowded shelter between decks where the ship’s supplies, ropes and chains, were stored. There, with some fifty seasick peasants squatting in the dark waiting for day, the heat and stench were almost unbearable. 2

Hughes and Ingram emerged from below deck to meet Cuban officials in the port of Santiago de Cuba. As foreigners without funds or work contracts, they faced the brunt of Cuban immigration laws. The immigration authorities did not know what to make of two American Negroes traveling on the open deck, unable to display between us as much as

1

Hughes, I Wonder as I Wander, 30.

2

Ibid., 34.

61

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Leaving US-Occupied Haiti

fifty dollars. They argued that only sugar cane workers traveled in that fashion. Therefore, since we had no working permits, they refused to allow us on Cuban soil until we posted bonds. We were consigned to Santiago’s “Ellis Island,” a jaillike fortress in the harbor, zooming with mosquitoes, crawling with bedbugs, and alive with fleas . . . We were released only on the condition that we cross the island immediately, embark at once for Florida, and not stop anywhere to work in Cuba.3

Langston Hughes experienced the state’s efficient administration of a highly regulated system of border controls. But he arrived during the last year of legal migration to Cuba in a political and legal context that was distinct from previous years. An earlier immigrant’s story paints a different picture. On August 28, 1917, 25-year-old Joseph Redon Rosen left his family in Aux Cayes, Haiti, and traveled to Cuba without pre-arranged work. He may have been required to sign a one-year work contract upon arrival; if so, he was not bound by its stipulations to leave after a single season. Rosen stayed in Cuba for seven years before returning to Haiti. The homecoming lasted only long enough for him to marry Eudocia Lafortun, and the couple was back in Cuba a few months later. They probably spent time in the quarantine station Hughes described and were likely required to enter a one-year contract obligating their return. However, any document that either signed was disregarded. The couple settled permanently in Holguín and eventually adopted Cuban citizenship.4 Hughes’ experience suggests a world where borders were tightly regulated and work contracts mattered. For Rosen and Lafortun, state power was less clear and contracts were not enforced, if they existed at all. During the 1913–31 period of legally sanctioned migration, most migrants fell somewhere along this continuum. Such disparate experiences were due to shifting migration policies, regional differences in Haiti, and the existence of informal migration networks; understanding these dynamics requires new approaches to rural Haiti during the US occupation. The issue of migration to Cuba represents a point where rural life, statebuilding projects, and global trends converged. During the US occupation of Haiti, efforts to build the state caused massive rural transformations. Migrating to Cuba was but one response to these transformations, and it

3 4

Ibid. Joseph Redon Rosen to Juzgado Municipal de Holguín, May 25, 1938, Archivo Provincial de Holguín: Juzgado Municipal de Holguín (1889–1965) (hereafter APHJMH) 25/748/2.

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was a strategy that Haitians had used before US troops ever arrived. Eventually, regulating the migratory movement became a significant part of the state-building project itself. These migration regulations were local manifestations of larger global shifts. In Haiti, as in other parts of the world, state institutions created the category of the free migrant and crafted temporary contract migration regimes that differed from older systems of indenture. This chapter explores these interconnected processes. Analyzing migration to Cuba raises previously unexplored questions about rural life and peasant agency during the occupation. All too often, treatments of rural Haiti under US control are limited to the peasant uprising that raged for two years in central Haiti in response to forced corvée labor for road-building projects. Although crucial to the history of the occupation, the so-called Caco rebellion has become the synecdoche for the entire experience of violence and resistance in the countryside. As a result, peasants are hard to envision unless they were holding weapons. Though important, these processes do not help explain migration, and they obscure the textured experience of foreign occupation. The regions of Haiti that sent migrants to Cuba were not the sites of the occupation’s notorious road building projects, land grabs, or the areas of rural rebellion and counter-repression. Instead, they witnessed more subtle forms of rural disruption in agriculture, labor, and commerce brought on by the presence of foreign troops and the state’s expanding reach. Many Haitians experienced state formation in the form of eroding customary rights, disrupted subsistence activities, threatened rural markets, and rapidly fluctuating food prices. In response, many left for Cuba. While thousands took advantage of Cuba’s proximity and the longstanding tradition of migration to move to the neighboring island, not all responded this way. Migration was but one strategy that members of rural Haitian households utilized as the world changed around them. Some moved to Haiti’s growing urban spaces, some enrolled in rural schools, and others joined the newly formed Haitian military instead of, or in addition to, migrating. Still others used wages from a migrating relative to maintain rural subsistence amid this transformation. All of these decisions were mediated by social and kinship networks and shaped by an individual’s gender, age, and position within their household. For rural-dwellers, in short, migration to Cuba was inseparable from larger processes of state-building, urbanization, rural militarization, and subsistence in Haiti.

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The state-building projects that disrupted rural life and helped cause migration also regulated the population movement. As the stories of Hughes, Rosen, and Lafortun illustrate, Haiti’s recruitment and migration regulations expanded over the course of the US occupation. Their enforcement differed in each region of Haiti as well. What began as a region-specific, grassroots, and unregulated process of leaving Haiti was transformed through layers of legislation between 1918 and 1923. It soon became a nationwide, top-down, and highly regulated movement. In this regard, Haiti was not so unique. Migration regulations were part of a larger global process of bringing state oversight and passport technologies into previously unregulated population movements in the name of creating the “free migrant,” a category whose definition was fraught with debate. Would free migration be defined by an individual’s ability to contract their labor privately and move without state restriction? Or would it entail the intervention of the state to protect rights in the face of private abuses? The state eventually settled on the second definition, though policies never successfully curtailed the abuses. In Haiti, this transition to free migration was carried out simultaneously with Haitians’ circular migrations to Cuba, which were already partially regulated in the receiving society. This means that Haitian migration laws had to work within parameters set by Cuban migration legislation, over a decade of established custom, and dense transnational networks. Furthermore, the creation of free migrants was tied to another global process discussed in the previous chapter: crafting a temporary contract migration system. Haiti, unlike other territories, created free migrants and a temporary contract system simultaneously. The legislation, however, was implemented piecemeal as policymakers scrambled to catch up with the activities of migrants, companies, and local officials in both countries. The resulting system never functioned as smoothly as laws implied. On paper, Haiti’s temporary migration system was on the global cutting edge – emerging as it did at the same time as other early post-indenture contract systems. In reality, it produced a system for many migrants, in which contracts were not enforced, migration was not temporary, and interaction with state officials engendered abuse, not protection.

rural haiti and the us occupation The nineteen-year US occupation of Haiti disrupted the lives of Haitians through political and economic centralization, violence, and heavy-

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65

handed rule. From the vantage point of the Haitian countryside, however, it was merely the rapid culmination of longstanding efforts to extend the state’s reach beyond urban spaces and ports.5 The weakness of the Haitian state before the occupation did not mean that peasants were “effectively isolated” before or after foreign rule, as some assert.6 After independence, rural Haiti exemplified what scholars call a “shatter zone,” a place inhabited by people whose lives are marked by efforts to assert autonomy from state attempts to coerce their labor, tax their productivity, or otherwise govern them. Despite their existence in “non-state spaces,” inhabitants of shatter zones may have extensive economic and political interactions with the state and are usually described using discourses of barbarism or ethnic alterity.7 Official efforts to control rural Haitians’ labor and productivity began immediately after slavery was abolished. Revolutionary leaders like Toussaint L’Ouverture sought to maintain the economic productivity of former slaves on plantations through coercive measures - even in the throes of the conflict.8 These remained during the first decades of independence as leaders sought to rebuild plantations without slave labor. Such projects slowly gave way to a system of smallholdings and the creation of a class of what Sidney Mintz calls “reconstituted” peasants.9 These individuals did not have title to the lands they inhabited, which were technically owned by the state. Nor did land access guarantee autonomy. In 1825, President Jean-Pierre Boyer established the Code Rural to revive the plantation system and keep peasants tied to the land. Although it could not be fully enforced, the Code and its subsequent modifications had important legacies. Rural Codes placed the tax burden heavily on small producers and gave the government the legal right to coerce peasant labor through a system of corvée.10 As a result, peasants were never economically insulated; their autonomy from the state was always tenuous. Like other “shatter peoples,” Haitian peasants had strong economic interactions with urban dwellers after independence. Throughout the nineteenth century, Haiti’s national economy and state revenues were based on exports of agricultural goods that were produced on a small 5 7

8

9

6 Trouillot, Haiti: State against Nation, 85. Leyburn, The Haitian People, 11. My use of the term draws heavily from Scott, The Art of Not Being Governed, ix, 4–5, 13, 105. Dubois, Haiti: The Aftershocks of History, 30; Mintz, Three Ancient Colonies, 90–1; Blancpain, La condition des paysans haitiens, 13–15. 10 Mintz, Three Ancient Colonies, 74. Trouillot, State against Nation, 59–63.

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scale with little capital. Coffee was the primary export; logwood, cocoa, cotton, and other crops left Haitian ports as well.11 Spéculateurs purchased peasants’ products in the countryside and marketed them to urban buyers and international merchants. Taxes on these goods were collected from the merchants but ultimately paid by the peasants; they represented the state’s primary source of revenues before, during and since the US. occupation.12 In the Haitian countryside, like other “shatter zones,” formal state structures and trade networks always co-existed with “a set of complex and resilient social institutions that . . . emerged from a historic commitment to self-sufficiency and self-reliance.” Most notable are the overlapping institutions of the rural marketplace, the family, and religious communities.13 Rural Haitians also played a role in national politics through political alliances and military participation. Throughout the nineteenth century, and especially in the first decade of the twentieth, rural soldiers, in some regions called cacos, mobilized in support of various aspirants to presidential power.14 Haitian peasants have been conceptualized by their urban dwelling counterparts (and later US Marines) in terms of racial difference and primitivism, another characteristic typical of “shatter peoples.”15 Haitians and foreigners alike have viewed Haiti through a dichotomous division between the French-speaking, literate, urban-dwelling, lightskinned bourgeoisie, on the one hand, and Creole-speaking, illiterate, rural-dwellers who farm small plots or serve in the military, on the other. While countless researchers have decried the oversimplified nature of these characterizations, such shorthand persists among scholars, state officials, and Haitians themselves. Before US officials ever applied the logic of scientific racism to Haitian peasants, numerous better-off Haitians “considered them to be subhuman, slaves or savages.”16 The US occupation of Haiti represented a major watershed in efforts to build the state, expand the export economy, and centralize administration. Much of this was carried out by passing new laws and building new institutions. In 1918, US officials forced the Haitian government to ratify 11 12 13

14 15 16

Holly, Agriculture in Haiti, 57, 63, 75. Trouillot, State against Nation, chapter 3; Renda, Taking Haiti, 48–9. Dubois, Haiti: The Aftershocks of History, 12 [quote]; Mintz, Three Ancient Colonies, 115, 119–22; Ramsey, The Spirits and the Law, 3, 17–18. Plummer, Haiti and the Great Powers, 20, 36. Scott, The Art of Not Being Governed, 99. Dayan, Haiti, History, and the Gods, 79.

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a new constitution that allowed foreign ownership of land. Over the course of the occupation, US companies received concessions for thousands of acres, though much was never claimed. The occupation government also disbanded the Haitian military and created a new Gendarmerie d’Haiti (later Garde d’Haiti) staffed with US officers and Haitian enlisted soldiers. Rural schools were established in an effort to disseminate agricultural techniques and to increase and diversify Haitian exports.17 Electric lights were installed in Port-au-Prince and telegraph lines allowed information to flow among distant, regionally isolated parts of the country. The occupation also used the state’s new coercive capabilities to enforce certain pre-existing laws with streamlined efficiency, regardless of custom. For the first time, the Haitian state had the capacity to collect previously unenforceable taxes on goods bought and sold among peasants in rural markets, such as locally produced alcohol. The poorest and most heavily taxed sector of Haitian society was now being squeezed harder.18 Peasants were also conscripted for labor through the resurrection of halfcentury-old laws. For the first five years of the occupation, corvée laws requiring peasants to work for state projects with little or no pay were revived to build roads, a critical piece of centralization. Even after the corvée was abolished, steady labor supplies were maintained through vagrancy laws and convict workers. The US occupation’s centralization of the political, military, and administrative capabilities of the Haitian government “swept away the feeble restraints” that had limited the state’s ability to dominate its rural inhabitants.19 In response to corvée labor, foreign occupation and unpopular road building projects, peasant soldiers called cacos fought a rebellion between 1918 and 1920. It was defeated only through the use of US military planes and counter-insurgency tactics that caused somewhere between 1800 and 3000 deaths and destroyed numerous rural villages.20 Scholars have debated whether the migratory movement to Cuba was a deliberate creation of the US occupation or a response to those policies. In some ways, the answer is both. US officials themselves debated the

17

18 19 20

Schmidt, The United States Occupation of Haiti, 86, 180–1; Renda, Taking Haiti, 102; McCrocklin, Garde d’Haiti; Greenburg, “The One Who Bears the Scars.” Millet, Les paysans haïtiens, 68; Ramsey, The Spirits and the Law, 118–20. Trouillot, State against Nation, 102. Renda, Taking Haiti, 151; McPherson, The Invaded, 59.

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merits of migration.21 Since migration predated state regulations on movement and even the occupation itself, one cannot claim that it was merely the result of state efforts to provide labor to other US colonial spaces. Haitian legislation did, however, transform the mechanics of migration and expand the geographic areas where it occurred. As the following sections indicate, the social and political story of migration to Cuba requires a more nuanced interpretation of the local and transnational dynamics of the US occupation of Haiti, especially in those areas unaffected by the Caco Rebellion.

regional patterns of haitian migration to cuba Migration to Cuba originated in the coastal areas of Haiti’s southern peninsula and the rural areas outside of Port-au-Prince before the occupation started. It spread to the Northern peninsula through active sugar company recruitment in the early 1920s. Even within southern Haiti, migrant-sending areas differed in the availability of food and water and their relative economic importance. However, they displayed a few remarkable similarities. First, they were distant from the areas of rural rebellion and notorious land grabs of the occupation years, though some land did change hands in these regions. Second, they had easy access to Cuba on passing ships and difficulty traversing the poor roads and mountainous terrain to other parts of Haiti. Third, all of these regions experienced disruptions in food supply, wild price fluctuations, and eroding customary rights as a result of the occupation’s state-building projects. Between 1902 and 1931, Cuban statistics reported the arrival of 189,362 Haitians in eastern Cuba.22 However, quantitative data about their regions of origin is scarce. Cuban entry statistics note migrants’ nationality but do not offer specific information about their places of birth. In Haiti, no emigration statistics were collected until November 1915 – almost four months after the beginning of the US occupation and

21

22

Plumber, “Haitian Migrants and Backyard Imperialism,” 36–7; Kaussen, Migrant Revolutions, xi; López Segrera, “Slavery and Society in the Caribbean,” 148. Compiled from Cuba, Censo de la república de Cuba 1907, 60; Cuba, Census of the Republic of Cuba 1919, 176; Secretaria de Hacienda: Sección de Estadistica General, “Estado Comparativo de inmigrantes llegados a los Puertos de la Republica, en los años civiles 1902, 1903, 1904, y 1905,” November 2, 1906, ANCSP 115/99; Pérez de la Riva, “Cuba y la migración antillana, 1900–1931,” Table vii; Republica de Cuba. Secretaria de Hacienda. Sección de Estadística. Inmigración y Movimiento de Pasajeros (Havana: Tipos Molina y Ca, 1932).

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69

many years after the first Haitian agricultural laborers traveled to Cuba.23 Even after 1915, regional emigration data and port statistics are only available for certain months and years. Despite the lack of systematic statistics, Haitian port records, steamship routes, information about individual migrants, and state officials’ qualitative observations may be combined to adumbrate the regional patterns of migration to Cuba. Haitian migration to Cuba originated in the coastal areas of the southern peninsula and the areas around Port-au-Prince. Santiago de Cuba and Guantánamo, the ports of call for many thousands of migrants, were directly linked by non-stop steamship routes to Haiti’s southern port city of Aux Cayes and the capital, Port-au-Prince. A direct steamship trip from Aux Cayes to Santiago de Cuba took approximately 20 hours.24 The arrival of a ship from Aux Cayes or Port-au-Prince into Santiago or Guantánamo was a common occurrence in the early years of the twentieth century.25 For instance, on July 25, 1917, the Emerson Faye arrived in Santiago de Cuba from Port-au-Prince. The same day, the ship left Santiago for Aux Cayes, Haiti.26 Migrants from these areas also landed in Antilla and Puerto Padre, the Cuban ports favored by the private steamships of the United Fruit and Chaparra sugar companies, respectively. Initially, Haiti’s northern cities like Cap-Haitien and Port-de-Paix did not have direct routes to Cuba, requiring additional stops for anyone heading there.27 Later, however, these northern areas would be served almost exclusively by company-owned ships running between Port-de-Paix and the Cuban ports of Antilla and Puerto Padre (to be discussed below). A steamship ride from Port-de-Paix to Cuba lasted about 14 hours.28 The steamship connections between southern Haiti and eastern Cuba explain why so many migrants traveled through those ports. According to statistics collected by the Haitian government, of the 10,640 Haitians who 23

24

25

26

27

28

Division Commander, southern Division, “Report on Labor Conditions in the Southern Division,” February 12, 1920, USNARA RG 127 E 176 Box 1, Folder: [Monthly Reports] January 1918–September 1921. Maurice P. Dunlap, American Consul, Port-au-Prince, “Significance of Haitian Emigration to Cuba,” September 10, 1925, USNA RG 59 838.5637/6. Since the early twentieth century, the city of Aux Cayes has been renamed to Les Cayes. The city is also referred to simply as Cayes. In this chapter, I refer to it as Aux Cayes unless it appears differently in a direct quotation. “Ecos del puerto: Mas pasajeros,” El Cubano Libre, July 25, 1917; “Ecos del puerto: Goletas que salieron,” El Cubano Libre, July 26, 1917. Steamship arrivals and departures were published regularly in major newspapers like Santiago’s Diario de Cuba and Guantánamo’s La Voz del Pueblo. Winthrop R. Scott, “Immigration in Northern Haiti,” March 22, 1924, USNA RG 59 838.56/1.

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traveled to Cuba in 1918, approximately 78 percent (8392) left through the port at Aux Cayes.29 Between October 1919 and September 1920, 29,181 Haitians left for Cuba with the vast majority (22,604) doing so through the southern ports of Cayes and Petit Goâve and an additional 3365 leaving from Port-au-Prince.30 These regional trends changed as the North became a more significant site of migration during the 1920s. In October 1927, the Port-au-Prince newspaper Le Temps declared that the South was no longer the primary sender of migrants: “Today, it is the turn of the North West and of the Artibonite, of Port-de-Paix, of Gros Morne, of Jean Rabel, of St. Louis-duNord.”31 Indeed, during the 1920s, flows from Haiti’s northern ports were on the increase. Between October 1919 and September 1920, 3212 Haitians traveled to Cuba via the northern port of Port-de-Paix, representing 12 percent of the movement.32 Exactly one year later, in the same months (October 1920 to September 1921), the number increased by over 2000 to 5421 migrants, which represented almost 22 percent of total migration to Cuba in the period.33 In 1926, the United Fruit Company recruited 8000 Haitians to migrate to Cuba via Port-de-Paix, representing approximately 64 percent of the annual migration total (12,346). The following year, they requested permission to recruit 12,000.34 Data for individual migrants confirms that Haitians traveled through the ports that were relatively close to their homes. In other words, Haitians who left through ports in the South were probably from that region. Cuban citizenship records for the region of Oriente contain biographical information for 154 Haitian agricultural laborers who traveled to Cuba between 1896 and 1934 (Table 2.1).35 These individuals represent a small portion 29

30 31

32 33 34

35

Division Commander, southern Division, “Report on Labor Conditions in the Southern Division,” February 12, 1920, USNARA RG 127 E 176 Box 1, Folder: [Monthly Reports] January 1918–September 1921. Pérez de la Riva, “Cuba y la migración antillana, 1900–1931,” Table vii. United States Senate, Inquiry 2, 1361. “It urges the stopping of Emigration,” Le Temps, October 21, 1927. Translated and enclosed in USNA RG59 837.5538/3 John Russell, Port-au-Prince to Secretary of State, Washington, DC, October 28, 1927. United States Senate, Inquiry 2, 1361. “Le scandale de l’émigration,” Le Matin, January 26, 1922. USNA RG 59 837.5538/3 John Russell, Port-au-Prince to Secretary of State, Washington, DC, October 28, 1927; Pérez de la Riva, “Cuba y la migración antillana, 1900–1931,” Table vii. The fifty-eight volumes of citizenship changes are housed in APSRECTC, legajos 327–83. This number does not include the numerous Haitian-born individuals in the record who did not work in agriculture. Special thanks to Robert Whitney for bringing this collection to my attention.

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table 2.1 Haitian agricultural workers’ birthplaces and migration dates Date range

Port-au-Prince

Southern Peninsula

Northern Peninsula

1890s–1915 1915–1919 1920–1934

5 4 12

20 38 64

0 0 11

Source: Compiled from APSRECTC 327–83.

of the Haitians who traveled to Cuba but their life stories offer an unprecedented look at the regional patterns of Haitian migration to Cuba.36 The vast majority (122) were born in coastal towns in Haiti’s southern peninsula and traveled to Cuba between 1896 and 1934 – encompassing the full years of the migratory movement. The primary sending areas in the southern peninsula were coastal towns like Aux Cayes, Cavaillon, Aquin, Jérémie, Coteaux, Dame Marie, Saint Louis de Sud, Saint Jean, Tiburon, Port-à-Piment, Port Salut, Anse-à-Veau, Miragoâne, and others. Twentyone of the sampled agricultural workers came from Port-au-Prince between 1904 and 1928. Finally, the eleven agricultural workers from Haiti’s northern peninsula arrived between 1920 and 1927, though port data suggests some movement in the North both before and after those dates. In the North, migrants left towns like Cap-Haitien, Gonaïves, Port-de-Paix, and Môle-Saint-Nicolas and traveled to Cuba via Port-de-Paix 37 (Map 2.1). Although the migrant-sending areas of southern Haiti were situated along the coast, they had numerous differences. While food was “scarce and hard to obtain” in Port-à-Piment, Port Salut, and Aquin, Dame Marie was known to be a “very fertile” place where a variety of fruits and vegetables were “in abundance.” The areas also diverged greatly in terms of their water supplies. Miragoâne, Port-à-Piment, and Port Salut were situated in dry areas where clean water was available through streams and wells. In Aquin, the only water available came from “stagnant wells” and “small streams,” which one official described as “polluted and dangerous.” Dame Marie and Aux Cayes were known for being marshy areas with rivers full of non-potable water. One US observer 36

37

For a discussion of the importance of micro-level data for understanding large-scale processes, see Putnam, “To Study the Fragments/ Whole,” 616, 18; Scott, “Small-Scale Dynamics,” 475. Compiled from APSRECTC 327–83.

Puerto Padre

Atlantic Ocean Antilla

CUBA Santiago de Cuba

1920s–1931

Guantánamo

Monte Cristi

Port-de-Paix Cap Haitien

HAITI Maïssade

Hinche

1890s–1931 Caribbean Sea

Jeremie Dame Marie

Anse-à-Veau Port-au-Prince

Cavaillon Aquin Miragoane Petit Goave Tiburon Port-à-Piment Coteaux Aux Cayes Saint-Louis-du-Sud Port Salut Saint Jean

by Stephanie Casey

map 2.1 Regional and temporal patterns of Haitian migration to Cuba. Initially, most Haitians that migrated to Cuba came from the coastal areas of the southern peninsula and the rural areas around Port-au-Prince. Later, migrants were successfully recruited from the northern peninsula. Map by Stephanie Casey, used by permission.

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called Aux Cayes a “bog” because water from the surrounding areas drained into the town and stagnated. Finally, although most of these areas produced coffee, their relative economic importance for this and other crops differed. Aquin was the site of a small trade “in dye-wood and coffee but the revenue derived from this in the course of a year is not great.” Dame Marie, on the other hand, possessed three major cocoa and coffee processing mills, which annually exported between 15,000 and 20,000 bags of cocoa from a privately owned, closed port. Aux Cayes was a thriving commercial port on direct steamship routes with the Panama Canal Zone, Martinique, France, and Cuba. Other cities like Port-à-Piment and Port Salut, though situated on the coast, did not export directly, but sent their merchandise to Aux Cayes.38 Despite the variations in resources, port facilities, and economic importance, these southern zones shared certain commonalities, some of which predated the occupation. First, the sending areas of Haiti’s southern peninsula were distant from the areas of rebellion and the reports of largescale land expulsions during the occupation. However, they were not immune to more subtle and highly disruptive actions by US troops that have not received as much scholarly attention. Finally, these areas were marked by a poor system of internal roads and a thriving network of small ships that connected them to Aux Cayes, Port-au-Prince, and ultimately, Santiago de Cuba. The regional and temporal patterns of Haitians’ movements to Cuba question the causal link between the land expulsions and rural violence of the US occupation of Haiti and migration to Cuba. In 1918, the United States imposed a new constitution to govern Haiti. In a break with the radical, century-old policies that came out of the Haitian Revolution, the new document permitted foreigners to own land, opening the countryside to US capitalists. During the occupation, foreign companies were granted land concessions totaling at least 266,600 acres, though historians disagree on whether any of it was physically claimed.39

38

39

R.L. Shepherd, “Intelligence Report: Aquin,” May 10, 1921, USNA RG 127 E38 Box 11, Folder H-14 (Hereafter IRH); IRH-16: Aux Cayes, May 9, 1921; IRH-38: Dame Marie, May 7, 1921; IRH-75:Miragoane, May 20, 1921; IRH-91: Port-à-Piment; IRH-92: Port Salut, June 15, 1921. The figure is calculated by Suzy Castor who argues that these concessions played a significant role in dispossessing peasants and causing emigration. Castor, L’occupation américaine d’Haiti, 109. David Nicholls and Brenda Gayle Plummer argue that it is impossible to know how much land was claimed or ignored by companies. Plummer, Haiti and the United States, 112; Nicholls, Haiti in Caribbean Context, 186–7.

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A full appraisal of Haiti’s land situation under the occupation has yet to be carried out. However, a number of instances from different periods of the occupation reveal that some land did change hands in occupied Haiti but not always in migrant-sending areas. These processes were met with public opprobrium, legal opposition, and even violence, suggesting that Haitian resistance may have put a brake on more systematic land grabs. If anything, it was the commodification of available land, not its seizure, that spurred migration. The most vocal allegations of government-led land expulsions came from Georges Séjourné of the Union Nationaliste, an organization ardently opposed to the foreign military occupation. In 1938, Séjourné wrote that in the Department of the North, the occupation government had “expelled all the farmers of lands of national domain en masse . . . under the specious pretext that they did not have regular titles.”40 The document is certainly referring to a series of events that occurred in 1930 in an area near Hinche called Maïssade. In September of that year, the Haitian government threatened to expel families who had subsisted on land in Maïssade since the nineteenth century if they refused to pay rent to the state. The rightful ownership of the land was being decided in the Haitian courts. Nevertheless, the occupation government refused to wait and demanded that residents pay. The ultimatum caused a scandal throughout Haiti and met with stiff resistance from urban and rural residents alike.41 The fact that it occurred in 1930 at a great distance from the southern peninsula – one year before migration to Cuba legally ended, suggests that systematic land grabs cannot be tied in any simplistic way to migration. There were, however, instances when individuals and companies managed to secure control of some land in migrant-sending regions by taking advantage of policy changes. Rather than being seized through state-brokered concessions, land was being commodified and subject to private sale. The Haitian American Sugar Company (HASCO) operated in the rural areas outside of Port-au-Prince and the southern peninsula. Like other plantations in the Americas, the company ground cane grown both on company land and by smallholders. HASCO entered contracts to lease land in the southern peninsula. Often, those working the land were not the same as the individuals who held title; sharecroppers and squatters were 40 41

Séjourné, “Petite propriété,” 7. See also Séjourné and Thoby, Depossessions. “Un scandale inoui: La dépossession en masse de toute une population,” Haiti Journal, September 23, 1930.

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forced to work for HASCO or find a livelihood elsewhere, which probably accounts for some migration to Cuba.42 Like the systematic expulsions in Maïssade, such practices did not go unchallenged. In 1932, at least one Haitian successfully reclaimed control of land from HASCO by demonstrating that the individual who had originally entered a lease contract with the company was perpetrating fraud.43 Land also changed hands in Haiti as private individuals took advantage of ambiguities in new laws and sought to manipulate the courts. Harris Lifschitz, a Russian-born American citizen, acquired numerous tracts of land in southern Haiti through an aggressive use of the Haitian court system. Haitians in Aux Cayes “would remark that he was always having processes in the courts trying to steal the land from the inhabitants of St. Louis and Cavillon and from Aquin.”44 Although the individual successfully acquired land, he was hated in the southern peninsula and murdered in June 1921 by a machete blow to the neck. Area residents refused to share any information about the crime.45 While systematic land expulsions occurred late in the occupation in the North of Haiti, the migratory movement to Cuba originated in the South before the occupation began. Although the above cases point to the possibility that some Haitians may have migrated to Cuba in response to land expropriations, numerous other sources illustrate that land lay fallow in parts of the South from whence migrants left, even during the occupation.46 For instance, in Petit Goâve, in the southern peninsula, there was “a large percentage of the good land practically untouched” in 1921.47 In fact, the availability of land for rent may have influenced some to migrate to Cuba. Return migrants often leased or purchased land with funds from Cuba.48 42 43 44

45

46 47

48

“La migration haitienne: Ses causes et ses avantages,” Bleu et Rouge, December 20, 1917. “Une important décision du Juge Lelio Vilgrain,” Haiti Journal, January 19, 1932. Testimony of Harry Freedman in “Record of Proceedings of an Investigation conducted in the Republic of Haiti by order of the Brigade Commander to Inquire into the robbery and murder of Harris Lifschitz, alleged American citizen, near Aux Cayes, Republic of Haiti, on or about June 7, 1921.” June 17, 1921, USNA RG127 E180, Box 1, Folder: Harris Lifschitz. A.A. Vandergrift, “Memorandum for the Department Commander, relative to death of Harris Lifschitz,” June 13, 1921, USNA RG127 E180, Box 1, Folder: Harris Lifschitz. For more on this case, see Casey, “Haitian Habits.” Martínez, Peripheral Migrants, 61. District Commander, Petit Goave to Chief of the Gendarmerie d’Haiti, November 4, 1921, USNA RG127 E165 Box 6, Folder: Petit Goave. District Commander, Petit Goave to Chief of the Gendarmerie d’Haiti, November 10, 1920, USNA RG127 E165, Box 6, Folder: Reports, Conditions, Petit-Goave.

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The violence of rebellion and counter-insurgency in rural Haiti, both before and during the occupation, was mostly distant from the South as well. Between 1902 and 1915, Haiti had nine different presidents and countless failed aspirants to executive control. Often military leaders formed peasant armies in the North before marching into Port-auPrince and seizing control over the government. At other moments, the Haitian congress would appoint a president in the case of a power vacuum. Throughout this period, only two individuals from southern Haiti attempted to seize executive power. In 1902, Calisthène Fouchard unsuccessfully marshaled troops against Augustin Simon Sam. In 1908, Antoine Simon successfully employed a southern army in his presidential bid. The vast majority, however, fought in the North and Artibonite.49 This regional trend continued during the US occupation. During the first months of the occupation, Haitians’ armed resistance to the Marine presence was non-existent in the South.50 Later, the Caco rebellion radiated from the North and West around Hinche, which was a great distance from the southern Peninsula. The rebellion had been quashed by 1920, years earlier than the heyday of migration from northern Haiti.51 Thus, scholars must be very cautious to assume that the Caco rebellion or land expulsion were linked in any simplistic and singular way to the migratory movement to Cuba. Although southern Haiti did not experience the brunt of US military violence or land expropriation, the presence of foreign soldiers and the enactment of occupation policies drastically altered the contours of life in the region. These transformations created some economic opportunities for Haitians, though hardships and disruption were more typical. In many ways, even seemingly innocuous state-building projects could tip the balance of state power over local autonomy within a “shatter zone.”52 Thomas Nail’s broad definition of “expulsion” is especially applicable to those parts of rural Haiti that did not experience land grabs or rural rebellion. Reconfigurations or expansions of economic, political, or

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Plummer, Haiti and the Great Powers, 20, 97, 128. There were, however, numerous peasant uprisings in the South during the nineteenth century. See Smith, Liberty, Fraternity, Exile, 66–8. “Vérité historique pour le Sud,” Le Nouvelliste, September 20, 1915. Bellegarde-Smith, Haiti: The Breached Citadel, 105–12. For a description of Marines’ violence against the Caco Rebellion see Renda, Taking Haiti, 150–64. Scott calls these “distance demolishing technologies.” Scott, The Art of Not Being Governed, xii.

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juridical power (and not just territorial evictions) may bring dislocation or a loss of status that requires some kind of movement in response – even if it is not across a national border. Recognizing these dislocations and the shorter movements they engendered brings the effects of the occupation, the experiences of the Haitian peasantry, and the migratory movement to Cuba into sharper relief 53 (Map 2.2). The presence of US soldiers who received high wages and were accustomed to eating significantly more than Haitian subsistence farmers tested an area’s capacity to produce food, even when soldiers’ rations were being shipped into an area. In Aux Cayes, an officer noted that “import[ed] flour can be found in very large quantities tho[ugh] of poor quality; beef cattle are poor in quality and about sufficient in number to meet the demands of the native population, and this is not much.” The officer concluded that “an American force occupying Cayes could not . . . live on the country but must bring its supplies” since “this is not a country where people figure on supplying an occupying force.” Despite this, he recognized that US soldiers would purchase food from local markets. “There is just sufficient native produce to fill out the soldiers fare and to add a little something to his field supplies.”54 In theory, the presence of well-paid troops would have raised competition and prices for food, creating an economic opportunity for merchants in rural Haiti. It could also cause scarcity for poorer Haitians. If increased demands could raise the prices of food, so could the strategic policies of the US government. During World War I, the thriving German community that had played an active role in Haiti’s economy and politics during the previous half-century was placed into internment camps in Haiti and later expelled from the country, leaving an economic vacuum in provincial towns.55 In Aux Cayes in 1918, “the sequestration of German business firms” caused commerce to be “sluggish” since the German community had previously conducted “a large part of the commercial activities” and “no firms . . . have as yet filled the vacancies caused by the closing of German business houses.”56 The next

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Nail, The Figure of the Migrant, 23. R.L. Shephard, “Officers report: Haiti, Aux Cayes,” May 9, 1921, USNA RG127 E38 Box 11, Folder: H-16. McCrocklin, Garde d’Haiti, 125–6; Schmidt, The United States Occupation, 91–2. District Commander, Aux Cayes to Chief of the Gendarmerie d’Haiti, “Monthly Reports on Conditions, Aux Cayes, for August 1918,” USNA RG127 E176 Folder: [Monthly Reports] January 1918–September 1921.

HAITI Monte Cristi

Port-de-Paix

Migrant Sending Areas 1890s–1920 Areas Affected by Caco Rebellion 1918–1920

Cap Haitien

Areas of Mass Land Expulsion 1930

Maïssade

Hinche

Port-au-Prince

Aux Cayes

Caribbean Sea by Stephanie Casey

map 2.2 Areas of rural violence, mass land expulsion, and migration to Cuba. Paradoxically, the areas of Haiti that experienced rural rebellion and systematic land expulsion were distant from the regions that sent migrants to Cuba. Migration requires analysis of other, more subtle ways that the presence of US troops disrupted Haitians’ lives. The areas of rural violence appear in a map in BellegardeSmith, Haiti: The Breached Citadel, 109. Map by Stephanie Casey, used by permission.

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month, prices of imports were “exorbitant, due to the fact that there isn’t much competition as the Germans were formerly the principal merchants.”57 Increased demand on food led to scarcity, and the elimination of merchants caused prices to increase. For rural Haitians who purchased food and imported goods, the need for cash, available in Cuba, is self-explanatory.58 Price increases probably also influenced Haitians to head to Cuba so that they could rent land upon their return and take advantage of the market, as many did. However, migrating at a moment of high food prices did not guarantee one’s ability to take advantage of the economic situation. First, Haitian rural markets were disrupted by the actions of US troops as well as the taxation accompanied by the state’s expanded reach. In 1920, near Grand Goâve in southern Haiti, a group of US soldiers was accused of “firing a resounding series of gunshots” in “the heart of an established market.” In response, “the alarmed market women abandoned their merchandise which became prone to pillage.”59 Other disruptions were more systematic. In the migrant sending area of Aquin in 1918, the city’s market was “rapidly disappearing due to the enforcement of market taxes. The marketers are going to Miragoâne where the taxes are not enforced” thus increasing the already high transportation costs of commercial farming in the South.60 Haitians’ ability to sell their produce was also hampered by local and international price fluctuations. During World War I, when demand for sugar climbed, markets for coffee closed. In effect, the war brought depressed conditions to rural Haiti and an economic boom to rural Cuba. In December 1917, the newspaper Haiti: Commerciale, Industrielle et Agricole explained that the war had prevented European countries from importing coffee and “opened for Haiti the era of a crisis

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District Commander, Aux Cayes to Chief of the Gendarmerie d’Haiti, “Monthly Reports on Conditions, September 1918,” September 30, 1918, USNA RG127 E176 Folder: [Monthly Reports] January 1918–September 1921. For a discussion of peasants purchasing imported goods, especially cloth, see Plummer, Haiti and the Great Powers, 23. Lorcy Volcy, Conseiller de la 4eme Section to Magistrat Communal de Grande Goave, December 1920. USNA RG 127 E179 Box 1 Folder Claims and Complaints 1 of 5. District Commander, Aux Cayes to Chief of the Gendarmerie d’Haiti, “Monthly Reports on Conditions, September 1918,” September 30, 1918, USNA RG127 E176 Folder: [Monthly Reports] January 1918–September. 1921. See also Millet, Les paysans haitiens, 39.

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without precedent.”61 In 1914 Haiti exported 39.57 thousand metric tons of coffee. By 1918 coffee exports were down to 19 thousand metric tons.62 At the very moment that Cuban sugar companies offered historically high wages, Haitian coffee growers were forced to sell their product for a low price or hold out for better rates. Either way, cash was scarce for Haiti’s coffee producers. At the local level, food prices also faced sharp, sudden decreases as a result of the economic centralization associated with the occupation of Haiti.63 In 1920, merchant companies and spéculateurs in Port-au-Prince dumped their excess goods in Aux Cayes and “flooded the local market.” As a result, stores were “filled to capacity” and there was “resentment on the part of the regular local merchants on this account” because “their calculations have been upset and . . . prices may drop.”64 Within a two-year period, food had gone from scarce and expensive to abundant and cheap. Such fluctuations wreaked havoc on the livelihoods of landowners, merchants, and producers. Rural Haitians’ livelihoods and customary rights were also disrupted by seemingly benign occupation policies. Occupation state-building increased the reach of the law, which created clashes between strict liberal notions of property and local customary rights. In the rural outskirts of Port-au-Prince, Marines constructed a golf course in 1922 on “public land.” For the previous two decades, this land had been used for cattle grazing by Haitians “whose only resource” was “a small commerce in milk.” US authorities revoked the customary right because “the animals destroyed the ‘greens’ every night.” Nevertheless, the owners “flatly refused to keep them off the field, saying the field was free and that they would continue to drive them.” Eventually, the animals were captured, the owners were charged 40 gourdes (8 USD) for their return, and the milk business suffered.65 In another example, a group of Marines built a topographical survey station near Jacmel in 1920 on top of a tree-lined hill. After construction “they proceeded to cut down” a number of “cocoanut trees and ‘pitite mil’ [corn]” because the crops “obstructed 61

62 63

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“La baisse du café et la situation économique,” Haiti: Commerciale, Industrielle et Agricole, December 1, 1917. Samper and Fernando, “Appendix,” 430. On the economic centralization of Haiti under the US occupation see Trouillot, Haiti: State against Nation, 104; McPherson, The Invaded, 146–53. J.A. Rossell, Department Commander, Aux Cayes to Chief of the Gendarmerie, “Monthly Report of Conditions (October 1920),” November 03, 1920, USNA RG127 E176, Box 1, Folder: [Monthly Reports] January 1918–September 1921. Statement of First Sergeant Bert R. Berry. June 28, 1922. P. Calicott to Major Coney. June 23, 1922, USNA RG127 E165 Box 3, Folder: Claims and Complaints of Natives 2 of 3.

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the use of [the] surveying instrument.”66 When a crowd of peasants approached the station in an effort to stop the destruction of their food supply, soldiers drew their guns and fired upon them.67 Conflicts over resources and customary rights were also tied to struggles between Haitians and occupation officials over labor, even after the corvée was officially abolished.68 In Anse-à-Veau, during a 1922 drought, Haitians accused Lieutenant Kenney, a US Marine, of “terroris[ing] the population by sending every day some prisoners and armed gendarmes to penetrate the fields by force and chop grass according to their needs.”69 Essentially, the US official was appropriating Haitian labor to expropriate a Haitian natural resource. Lt. Kenney’s use of prison labor was a common occupation tactic with origins deep in nineteenth-century Haiti.70 Although the corvée ended by 1920, Haitians arrested for vagrancy were often forced into unpaid labor. In 1921, officials in Aux Cayes described prisons as “rather crowded for the most part as many vagabonds and petty thieves are picked up now.”71 The figure of the vagabond, Thomas Nail argues, is created when juridical power expands; first to expel someone from a physical, legal, or social space, then to criminalize them and attempt to secure their labor.72 Indeed, the officials responsible for the disruptive increases in the reach of state power in Haiti frequently used words like “vagabonds” and “vagabondage” to describe rural Haitians. Like other instances when US officials labeled Haitians, the moniker was imbued with the stereotypes of larger Atlantic racist ideologies – namely that black men were lazy, thieving, and prone to violence.73 Able-bodied Haitians who were

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District Commander, Jacmel to Chief of the Gendarmerie d’Haiti, “Complaint of the Prefet of Jacmel, Haiti,” December 03, 1920. RG 127 E179 Box 1 Folder Claims and Complaints 1 of 5. R.B. Steele, Asst. Topogr. Engr., Haitian Topogr. Survey, December 18, 1920, RG 127 E179 Box 1 Folder Claims and Complaints 1 of 5. The link between struggles over labor and Haitian emigration was first identified in Chomsky, “Migration and Resistance,” 1, 5. A.N. Torchon, Cssre Gvt Nippes [Comissaire Gouvernement de Nippes] to Ministre de l’Interieur, Port au Prince, n.d. [1922]. D.C. McDougal, Chef de la Gendarmerie d’Haiti to President of Haiti, June 9, 1922. USNA RG127 E174, Box 1, Folder: Complaints, Dept. South 1 of 2. Bellegarde-Smith, Haiti: The Breached Citadel, 68. District Commander, Aux Cayes to Chief of Gendarmerie, “Monthly Report of Conditions for April 1919,” May 15, 1919, USNA RG127 E176, Box 1, Folder: [Monthly Reports] January 1918–September 1921. Nail, The Figure of the Migrant, 65; Scott, The Art of Not Being Governed, 101. See for instance Mosse, Toward the Final Solution, 10.

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perceived as idle or potential thieves were always targets. In 1924 L’Opinion Nationale reported that, “in order to repress vagabondage the Police are picking up all journeymen they meet along the road.”74 Haitians whose actions were construed as disrespectful to US officials were similarly subject to arrest and forced labor on charges of vagabondage. “Several arrests have been made during the month for insulting remarks made to gendarmes and against officers.” The label was applied so frequently that one US official referred to the existence of a “vagabond class.”75 In contemporary Haiti, the term is still used to signify “someone with no respect for anything or anyone, a brigand, a person capable of any transgression.”76 In 1926, there were 419 trials for vagabondage in the Department of the South and over 1600 arrests for “disorderly conduct.” Collectively, these represented about 45 percent of arrests that year.77 Like other facets of occupation policy in Haiti, racial ideologies and concerns with stability were heavily tied to economic interests and the needs of production. L’Opinion Nationale hinted that the motivation for charging all traveling laborers with vagabondage involved “more than the exercise of crime.”78 In fact, officials did not hide the fact that the labor of “vagabonds” was crucial for carrying out underfunded occupation projects. In 1923, a US official lamented that a “general raid . . . on the vagabonds” in Hinche was “not as good as expected” because of a “lack of vagabonds . . . due to the fact that all of the men are able to obtain work.”79 For Marines, convict labor was seen as a source of food for both

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Summary and translation of “Les sans-aveu,” L’Opinion Nationale, April 26, 1924 by Thomas A. Tighe, “Memorandum for the Chief of the Gendarmerie,” April 30, 1924, USNA RG127 E165, Box 1, Folder: Morning Reports of Intelligence to AHC 1924 2 of 2. District Commander, Jacmel to Chief of the Gendarmerie d’Haiti, September 30, 1923, USNA RG127 E165, Box 1, Folder: “Summary of GD’H 1921 Folder 1 of 2.” Wilentz, The Rainy Season, 154. Valerie Kaussen traces Haitian indigeniste poets’ attempts to fashion the image of the urban vagabond from this negatively charged meaning into one more akin to French poet Arthur Rimbaud’s characterizations. Kaussen, Migrant Revolutions, 37–8. “Report of activities of Civil Courts of the Republic of Haiti during the year of 1926 (to December 1),” USNA RG 127 E165 Box 5, Folder: Civil Court Activities 1927. Summary and translation of “Les sans-aveu,” L’Opinion Nationale, April 26, 1924 by Thomas A. Tighe, “Memorandum for the Chief of the Gendarmerie,” April 30, 1924, USNA RG127 E165, Box 1, Folder: Morning Reports of Intelligence to AHC 1924 2 of 2. District Commander, Hinche to Dept. Commander, Central Department, “Report Rural Police – Month of September 1923,” October 1, 1923, USNA RG127 E165, Box 1, Folder: “Summary of GD’H 1921 Folder 1 of 2.”

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humans and animals. In 1918, officials complained of the “noticeable shortage of American vegetables . . . in Cayes.” Their proposed solution was to construct “a prison farm . . . which will supply forage for Gendarmerie horses and vegetables for the Gendarmerie and prison messes. A saving from two to three hundred dollars will be realized on the forage alone.”80 As a result, US officials evaluated the conditions of imprisoned Haitians in terms of the potential value of their labor. In Aux Cayes, an official complained that a “lack of prison clothing works a hardship” on individuals arrested for vagabondage. It also “decrease[s] the value of” prisoners “who are not decently enough clothed to be sent out to work.”81 As the previous chapter demonstrated, migration between Haiti and Cuba pre-dated the US occupation and increased during it. Indeed, some of the factors encouraging migration to Cuba existed before 1915. In southern Haiti, the lack of good roads made it very difficult for peasants to sell their agricultural products or travel to other places. In 1909, one US traveler described the roads surrounding Jacmel as “almost inaccessible,” making it “painful for man and beast” to use them.82 Before and during the occupation, road conditions were so bad that cities like “Jérémie” were considered to be “partially isolated from all other large towns in Haiti.”83 The lack of passable roads made it impossible for farmers to market crops beyond the local level, even when they flourished. In Aux Cayes, a US official noted that “daily rains” were “beneficial . . . to the crops, althou[gh] extremely bad for the roads and trails.”84 In Jérémie, the Haitians who “attempted to engage in agriculture,” were “forced to quit due to the primitive mode of transport, which eats up more than the profits. The small peasant frequently selling his crop in town for less than the actual cost of the transportation.” Road improvement, one official

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District Commander, Aux Cayes to Chief of the Gendarmerie d’Haiti, “Monthly Reports on Conditions, September 1918,” September 30, 1918. USNA RG127 E176 Folder: [Monthly Reports] January 1918–September 1921. District Commander, Aux Cayes to Chief of Gendarmerie, “Monthly Report of Conditions for April 1919,” May 15, 1919, USNA RG127 E176, Box 1, Folder: [Monthly Reports] January 1918–September 1921. Wilcox, Sailing Sunny Seas, 154. R.L. Shephard, “Officers report: Haiti, Jeremie,” May 9, 1921, USNA RG127 E38 Box 11, Folder: H-56. Harold H. Utley, District Commander, Gendarmerie d’Haiti, Department of the South, Aux Cayes to Chief of the Gendarmerie, “Monthly Report of Conditions, District of Aux Cayes, July 1921,” July 31, 1921, USNA RG 127 E176, Folder: [Monthly Reports] January 1918–September 1921.

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argued would be “the greatest incentive that could be given to agriculture.”85 Apologists for the occupation constantly claim that the United States oversaw the construction of many miles of road in rural Haiti. However, these roads were built for the strategic purpose of transporting US troops to quell rural rebellions – not economic development per se.86 As a result, the vast majority of roads were built in the north and west of Haiti instead of the south. In 1923, Le Temps declared that US occupation forces “spend large amounts of money to build good roads in the northern part of the country where the cacos used to make their depredations.”87 Ironically, such road building projects involved corvée labor, thus contributing to the rural rebellions that roads were supposed to help eliminate.88 As Le Temps noted, US officials were not interested in building roads in areas of calm. The “regions of the south” had “not attracted any interest from our Government” because they had “been always peaceful.” The article ended with a macabre quip. “[W]e hope that some cacotism [sic] starts at Jacmel [on the Southern coast], which would cost some 500 Haitiens lives and a dozen Americans; then the road surely would be made”89 (Figures 2.1 and 2.2). While inland trade and transportation were difficult, coastal movements were relatively easy. “The country people,” an official in Jérémie explained, “find it very difficult to bring their products to market, as nearly all the roads are in a pitiable condition.” However, “between seacoast towns small boats are found to be a great advantage.”90 As the previous chapter demonstrated, these coastwise vessels linked Haiti and Cuba and permitted flows of goods, ideas, and people before the United States occupied either country militarily. These lines of communication continued into the period of the occupation of Haiti as well. In Aux Cayes 85

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District Commander, Jeremie to Chief of the Gendarmerie d’Haiti, June 21, 1921, USNA RG 127 E165 Box 6, Folder Report Jeremie Conditions. Renda, Taking Haiti, 32–3. Summary, by U.S. officials of “Au fil de l’heure,” Le Temps, August 31, 1923 in “Memorandum for the Brigade Commander” September 1, 1923, RG 127 E 165 Box 1 Folder: “Summary of GDH 2 of 2.” Renda, Taking Haiti, 32–3. Summary, by U.S. officials of “Au fil de l’heure,” Le Temps, August 31, 1923 in “Memorandum for the Brigade Commander” September 1, 1923, RG 127 E 165 Box 1 Folder: “Summary of GDH 2 of 2.” District Commander, Jeremie to Chief of the Gendarmerie d’Haiti, March 8, 1920, USNA RG 127 E165 Box 6 Folder Jeremie, Reports of Conditions No. 134. Michel Rolph Trouillot makes a similar argument about coastwise transportation in Haiti. Trouillot, Haiti: State against Nation, 97.

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figure 2.1 Image of damaged roads in southern Haiti. Although state officials prided themselves on the many miles of roads constructed during the US occupation of Haiti, little of these improvements occurred in the migrant-sending area of the southern peninsula. Even late in the occupation, roads near Aux Cayes could be impassable or prone to flooding. “Dégats à la route Aquin-Cayes près Morisseau.” Source: Direction Générale des Travaux Publics. August 17, 1928. Courtesy of Archives Nationales d’Haïti and hosted online by the Digital Library of the Caribbean. URL: http://dloc.com/AA00010972/00001.

in 1918, Cuban merchants were “buying up chickens and other food products for exportation to Cuba.”91 A US official in 1920 declared “that the greater part of all the coffee from the Port-à-Piment section goes out of Haiti . . . and presumably into Cuba.”92 For Haitians in the rural and coastal areas of Haiti’s southern peninsula, maritime travel to Cuba was as much or more within the realm of the possible than a journey only a few miles inland. A US official’s 1921 remark about Aux Cayes said it all: “Except to Santiago de Cuba communications are poor.”93 91

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District Commander, Aux Cayes to Chief of the Gendarmerie d’Haiti, “Monthly Reports on Conditions, September 1918,” September 30, 1918, USNA RG127 E176 Folder: [Monthly Reports] January 1918–September 1921. Department Commander, “Report (Monthly) of Conditions,” November 6, 1920, USNA RG 127 E176 Box 1 Folder: [Monthly Reports] January 1918–September 1921. R.L. Shephard, “Officers report: Haiti, Aux Cayes,” May 9, 1921, USNA RG127 E38 Box 11, Folder: H-16.

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figure 2.2 Image of flooded road between Aux Cayes and Port-au-Prince. These are part of a much larger collection of occupation-era photographs of Haiti that are hosted by the Digital Library of the Caribbean (dloc.com). “Section inondée à Pont de l’Islet, près cayes.” Source: Direction Générale des Travaux Publics. June 4, 1933. Courtesy of Archives Nationales d’Haïti and hosted online by the Digital Library of the Caribbean. URL: http://dloc.com/AA00015407/00001.

haitian rural households and the alternatives to migration to cuba Although rural disruption affected entire populations, those who migrated to Cuba were overwhelmingly young men. And for every person who migrated, numerous others remained in Haiti, though many of them also moved to different spaces. In other words, not all Haitians living in the coastal towns of the Southern peninsula responded to the disruptions of the occupation in identical ways. Exploring these actions provides an unprecedented look at life in rural Haiti under foreign occupation. While some traveled to Cuba, others remained on agricultural land, migrated elsewhere, joined the military, or sought education in a rural school. These options were not mutually exclusive, especially at the level of the household. They were combined with migration to Cuba and one another. Nor was every strategy open to every person. A Haitian’s age, gender, and role

Haitian Rural Households & Alternatives to Migration to Cuba 87 in the household shaped their decisions to leave, stay behind, or pursue a different strategy. For many Haitians, like other Caribbean migrants, leaving one’s rural home for Cuba was not an abandonment of their country but a strategy to improve their social and economic position there.94 As will be explained in Chapter 7, many migrants used the cash earned in Cuba to rent land or maintain a farm for subsistence or commercial agriculture. “The Haitian returning from Cuba invests in land which is leased to him, and thereafter departs again for Cuba to obtain the necessary funds which will permit him to build a good home.”95 Although the Haitians who migrated to Cuba were overwhelmingly men, the agricultural labor and commercial activities of remaining family members were crucial for the success of the enterprise (Figure 2.3). In Aux Cayes, observers commonly noted that “agricultural work is performed by women and children,” since men were “in the habit of going to Cuba to work.” Some men traveled seasonally, investing in their Haitian homestead and returning to Cuba when the “money is gone.”96 Women certainly migrated, however. In the late 1920s, one writer observed that Haitian “men, women and children,” disembarked in Cuba in their “best” garments – the latter detail a reflections of Haitians’ aspirations for upward mobility.97 Others remained in Cuba after harvests ended, using a mixture of formal and informal networks to maintain financial and even emotional contact with family. In 1915, Jacobo Julio traveled within Cuba from Jobabo to Alto Cedro to “look for 50 pesos he had saved there, to send to his family in Haiti.”98 Envelopes with money were regularly “sent from Cuba with friends and later mailed [from with]in Haiti” to relatives.99 Even when it was impossible to send money or establish material connections, migrants maintained emotional ties with loved ones back home. 94 95

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Fog-Olwig, Caribbean Journeys, 30, 194; Martínez, Peripheral Migrants, xiii, 19–21. District Commander, Petit Goave to Chief of the Gendarmerie d’Haiti, November 10, 1920, USNA RG127 E165, Box 6, Folder: Reports, Conditions, Petit-Goave. District Commander, Gendarmerie d’Haiti, Department of the South, Aux Cayes to Chief of the Gendarmerie, “Monthly Report of Conditions, AUX CAYES, for the month of June, 1921,” July 10, 1921, USNA RG127 E176, Box 1, Folder: [Monthly Reports] January 1918–September 1921. Araquistain, La agonía antillana, 173. “El billete del premio mayor del último sorteo, ha sido falsificado,” El Cubano Libre, October 12, 1915. District Commander, Aux Cayes “Monthly Report on Conditions,” March 12, 1918, USNA RG127 E176 Box 1 Folder: [Monthly Reports] January 1918–September 1921.

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figure 2.3 A household in rural Haiti.“Peasants’ huts, Haiti.” Source: Sir Harry Hamilton Johnston, 1910. Courtesy of Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Jean Blackwell Hutson Research and Reference Division, The New York Public Library. “Peasants’ huts, Haiti.” New York Public Library Digital Collections. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d4 7df-8d28-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99.

Migrants’ tattoos tell tales of transnational affection commemorated with the help of Spanish-speaking tattooists. Rafael Lugar’s right forearm contained the Spanish phrase: “My thoughts are with my mother”; Antonio Francisco’s left arm had “a heart and in the center the letters M.B., a cross and a banner that said [in Spanish] ‘I remember Paulina,’ [and] the date ‘1923.’”100 Thus, through Spanish-language tattoos applied in Cuba and referring back to Haiti, it is possible to glimpse illiterate migrants’ connections to both places. Military service represented another alternative to both migration and agricultural labor for Haitian men. One of the lasting effects of the military occupation of Haiti was the creation of a US-trained constabulary called the Garde d’Haiti (originally the Gendarmerie d’Haiti). Enlisted men were Haitian peasants who were promised ten dollars a month.

100

Penal record for Rafael Lugar (a) Piti, February 25, 1935, ANCPC 459/54; Penal Record for Antonio Francisco o Antonio Gil, July 21, 1923, ANCPC 228/2.

Haitian Rural Households & Alternatives to Migration to Cuba 89 In 1916, there were 1500 Haitian enlisted men in the organization. By 1931, there were 2153.101 However, newly enlisted soldiers were not immune to the economic problems that other Haitians faced. In Jérémie in 1919, high food prices made it impossible “to give the Gendarmes a well balanced ration.”102 Nor did military service, which paid approximately 30 cents a day, close off the option of migration to Cuba, which offered migrants between one and three dollars a day. These higher wages may explain why, after joining, many men deserted for Cuba. In February 1918 in Aux Cayes, “there were eight desertions . . . and it is believed all have gone to Cuba.” In fact, US boasts of creating disciplined troops out of rural Haitians were undermined by the fact that a “Gendarme will make no efforts to apprehend another, but rather they will give him assistance” in deserting the force and leaving the country.103 Haitians who did not want to enlist in the Gendarmerie or remain on a family plot of land could attend a rural school, such as the Service Technique at Damien. Yet as in other areas marked by rural poverty, a tradition of migration, and the availability of wage labor abroad, the draw of Cuba was too strong even for those who attended these US-led vocational schools.104 In the south of Haiti, unidentified “school teachers” reported that “the older boys . . . go to Cuba in preference to serving an apprenticeship,” hinting at the well-documented unpopularity of US schools in Haiti.105 Cuba was not the only migratory destination for Haitians to consider. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, peasants from many regions traveled to the Dominican Republic to engage in commerce and agricultural labor.106 The porous border between the two countries 101

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104 105

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The 1915 treaty establishing the Gendarmerie allocated funds for 2533 enlisted men. McCrocklin, Garde D’haiti, 68, 214, 46; Schmidt, The United States Occupation, 86. District Commander, Jeremie to Chief of the Gendarmerie d’Haiti, December 10, 1919, USNA RG127 E165, Box 6, Folder: Jeremie, Reports of Conditions No. 134. District Commander, Aux Cayes “Monthly Report on Conditions,” March 12, 1918, USNA RG127 E176 Box 1 Folder: [Monthly Reports] January 1918–September 1921. Fitting, The Struggle for Maize, 213. Division Commander, southern Division, “Report on Labor Conditions in the Southern Division,” February 12, 1920, USNA RG 127 E 176 Box 1, Folder: [Monthly Reports] January 1918–September 1921. For a description of education under the occupation, see Baber and Balch, “Problems of Education,” 103–4; Pamphile, Clash of Cultures; Polyné, From Douglass to Duvalier, chapter 2; Greenburg, “The one who bears the scars remembers.” See, among others Turits, “A World Destroyed, a Nation Imposed”; Derby, “Haitians, Magic, and Money”; Martínez, Peripheral Migrants; Supplice, Zafra; Hintzen, “Cultivating Resistance.”

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makes specific numbers impossible to obtain, though one official estimated that it was “much larger than to Cuba.”107 Like other migratory movements in the period, Haitians’ movements to the Dominican Republic and Cuba were not discrete, but “overlapping.”108 To mention one example, on June 15, 1926, a group of 270 Haitians and 74 Dominicans boarded the Belle Sauvage, an English steamer, in Puerto Padre, Cuba. Two days later, they stopped in Port-de-Paix, Haiti, and 194 of the 270 Haitians left the ship. The following day, 76 Haitians and 74 Dominicans disembarked in the Dominican port of Monte Cristi, a region that boasted over 10,000 Haitian residents in 1920.109 Dislocated rural Haitians also moved to urban spaces. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Haitian cities grew as a result of rural–urban migration.110 During the first decade of the occupation, observers estimated Port-au-Prince’s population to be 101,133. By 1950, it had grown by about 40 percent to 143,534.111 This growth occurred despite the existence of both legal and unofficial restrictions on rural–urban migration at many moments in Haitian history. In the nineteenth century, rural-born Haitians were often expelled from cities except on specific market days. Later, as in other parts of the world, formal restrictions on internal movement were abolished in favor of more subtle legal obstacles based on hygiene and sanitation, though the goals were similar.112 As Chapter 7 will show, during and after the US occupation, anyone who entered a city without shoes could legally be expelled or arrested. The law was rationalized on sanitary grounds, though the effect was to restrict the movement of the peasantry, a group often unable to purchase shoes.

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Winthrop R. Scott, “Immigration in Northern Haiti,” March 22, 1924, USNA RG 59 838.56/1. McKeown, “Global Migration, 1846–1940,” 160. Customs certification that migrants were dispatched from Puerto Padre signed by Enrique A. Planos y Ochoa, “Administrador de la Aduana de Puerto Padre,” June 15, 1926. Certification of Migrant Disembarkation signed by J.L. Villanueva, Vice-Consul de la Republica Dominicana, José Aybar, Interventor de Aduana y Comandante del Puerto, Monte Cristi, June 18, 1926, “Relación de los Inmigrantes que por cuenta de The Chaparra Sugar Company conduce el vapor La Belle Sauvage con destino al puerto de Monte Cristo,” June 15, 1926, Archivo Nacional de Cuba: Secretaría de Agricultura, Industria y Comercio, Agricultura, Comercio y Trabajo y Agricultura y Comercio, (hereafter ANCSAIC) 4/45/81, 91, 95. Matibag, Haitian-Dominican Counterpoint, 132. Trouillot, Haiti: State against Nation, 142; Dupuy, Haiti in the World Economy, 110. n.a., Haïti 1919–1920: Livre bleu d’hait, 62; Locher, “The Fate of Migrants in Urban Haiti,” 50, 52. McKeown, Melancholy Order, 41.

Haitian Rural Households & Alternatives to Migration to Cuba 91 Although Cuba was a more popular migratory destination for Haitian men, the restricted world of urban Haiti may have been easier for women and children to enter, though often at a very high cost. Young Haitian women from the countryside could obtain access to urban spaces by entering sexual relationships with wealthy men in cities. In Cap Haitien in 1931, a hotel manager defended the logic of Haiti’s urban–rural segregation to Langston Hughes. When pressed, the manager declared “Ah, but women—that is different . . . They are young, vigorous, sweet as mangoes, these little peasant girls!” Indeed, the manager had a “shoeless mistress,” a “teen-ager from the hills” who “had not been in the city long.”113 Such practices have been variously interpreted as a severe form of exploitation and an opportunity for women to “determine what they want or need in exchange for sexual services.”114 Many women also moved between cities and countryside selling agricultural goods.115 Other longstanding practices provided channels to bring rural-born children into Haitian cities. Since Haitian independence, the ti-moun or restavek system has been an exploitative mechanism of internal migration in Haiti as impoverished rural families send their children into the homes of wealthy, urban-based families. In contemporary Haiti, restaveks are mostly young girls, though it is impossible to know if this was the case during the decades under consideration. Regardless, both girls and boys have lived as restaveks in Haiti then and now.116 The informal arrangement required host families to feed, clothe, and educate the child in exchange for his or her domestic labor. However, the system was often rife with neglect as well as physical, psychological, and sexual abuse.117 In the 1930s, restavek children often ended up “in the hospital, victims of bad treatment.”118 Although they resisted their treatment then and now, the system enjoyed widespread, though not unlimited, popular and judicial support.119

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Hughes, I Wonder as I Wander, 25–6. Dayan, Haiti, History, and the Gods, 135. For a critique of the exploitative nature of labor and sexual relationships for Caribbean women see Hurston, Tell My Horse, 61–2. N’Zengou-Tayo, “Fanm Se Poto Mitan,” 122–4, 126; Nicholls, Haiti in Caribbean Context, 121. Kovats-Bernat, Sleeping Rough in Port-Au-Prince, 12. References to the restavek or ti moun system appear with regularity in twentieth-century travelers’ accounts of Haiti. See Dunham, Island Possessed, 42. Jean-Robert Cadet offers a brief history of the system and a moving description of his experiences as a “slave child.” Cadet, Restavec. Kovats-Bernat, Sleeping Rough in PortAu-Prince, 60. Madeleine G. Sylvain, “Ti moun,” La Phalange, April 15, 1939. Kovats-Bernat, Sleeping Rough in Port-Au-Prince, 1,2–60.

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In 1933, Livie, a six-year-old girl from Aux Cayes was sent by her parents to live with a wealthy family in Port-au-Prince. At the age of twelve, she ran away from the house because “if she had complained to her mistress, she would perhaps have been dumped in prison for insubordination.”120 In Cap Haitien in 1927, Cyrus Severe and Luc Pierre, were “accused of having stolen . . . 201 gourdes” from the head of the household for whom they worked as ti moun. The two boys admitted to the theft and “gave back 170 gourdes.” Nevertheless, the Assistant Government Prosecutor declared “that the jury must punish the guilty parties to set an example and assure peace of mind to the numerous persons who have ‘ptits mounes.’” The jury, however, acquitted them.121 The comparatively wider spaces for women and children in Haiti’s restricted cities may explain why some members of a household headed to urban spaces while others ventured to Cuba or remained on rural land. In 1937, Elda Barjon returned to Haiti from Cuba with savings he had amassed. Rather than returning to the countryside, Barjon went to Port-auPrince “to stay with one of his relatives” who had already moved there.122

creating free contract migrants: from private networks to state regulations In the late summer of 1920, people in the migrant-sending area of Aux Cayes were “becoming anxious about their friends and relatives in Cuba.” There were “rumors” in Haiti about “unrest and threatened uprisings in Cuba” as a result of the hotly contested Cuban election of 1920.123 The concern was so strong that Haitian migration to Cuba reportedly “stopped for a few weeks during the elections” – only resuming when the threats of political violence had subsided.124 The elections in Cuba 120 121

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Sylvain, “Ti Moun,” La Phalange, April 15, 1939. AG McCune, 1st Lieutenant Gdh, “Intelligence Report: Department du Nord,” July 25, 1927, USNA RG127 E169 Box 1, Folder: Intelligence Reports, Nord 2 of 2. “Comment le rapatrié de Cuba fut dépouillé de son avoir par son amie et le mari de celle-ci,” Le Matin, April 23, 1937. Department Commander, Aux Cayes, “Monthly Report of conditions Department of Cayes,” August 2, 1920, USNA RG 127 E 176. District Commander, Jeremie to Chief of the Gendarmerie d’Haiti, December 1, 1920, USNA RG127 E165, Box 6, Folder: Jeremie, Reports of Conditions No. 134. Haitians’ decisions to avoid the potential political violence of early Republican Cuba is understandable, given the latter country’s experience of rural violence in the aftermath of previous elections that was geared at different times toward people of African-descent and even immigrant laborers. For an analysis of the local and national effects of post-election violence in early twentieth-century Cuba, see McGillivray, Blazing Cane, 65–6, 80–1.

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coincided with a drop in world sugar prices, a temporary decrease in labor demands from Cuban sugar companies, and worker suffering throughout Cuba. One of the effects was that the individuals “in Cuba who ordinarily send money . . . to finance the immigration trade cannot obtain” it. “Therefor[e] the return of Haitian laborers from Cuba to Haiti has practically come to a standstill, and the flocking of laborers to Cuba has decreased perceptibly.”125 The situation in 1920 illustrates the significance of the grassroots, private networks that channeled migrants, money, and information between Haiti and Cuba, especially before 1923.126 Like so many other daily processes that occur outside the gaze of the state, they appear in the archive only at moments of rupture. In this period, “small sloops which carry immigrants to Cuba” plied along the Haitian coast picking up passengers.127 Even Cuban sugar mills depended on these local and transnational networks to recruit a labor force. Instead of hiring specific labor contractors, companies inserted themselves into pre-existing, informal systems. They paid return migrants for every individual they convinced to work in Cuba. Upon returning to Haiti, many migrants “attempt to secure several more laborers and if he can get them to Cuba the company gives him a certain percentage on them. By this system nearly every man who returns is a sort of labor agent.”128 This explains why family members were often in Cuba together, even when sugar companies were involved in recruitment and transportation. For instance, two brothers, Dionisio and Calderon Despaigne were “residents of Preston, [Cuba]” site of the United Fruit Company in 1918.129 Although the vast majority of the Haitians whose journeys were recorded by the Cuban government were men between the ages of 14 and 45, over 10,000 women and 1000 children entered Cuba officially as

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Department Commander, “Report (Monthly) of Conditions,” November 6, 1920, USNA RG 127 E176 Box 1 Folder: [Monthly Reports] January 1918–September 1921. For a discussion of the importance of networks to migratory processes, see, among many others, McKeown, Chinese Migrant Networks, 7–20; García, “Central American Migration and the Shaping of Refugee Policy,” 347–52; Fog-Olwig, Caribbean Journeys, 8–11; Moya, Cousins and Strangers, 4–6. K.E. Rockey, “Monthly Report-District of Cayes,” November 30, 1919, USNA RG127 E176, Box 1, Folder: [Monthly Reports] January 1918–September 1921. Division Commander, southern Division, “Report on Labor Conditions in the Southern Division,” February 12, 1920, USNA RG 127 E 176 Box 1, Folder: [Monthly Reports] January 1918–September 1921. “Un haitiano fallece en la estación de la policia: Una victima del paludismo,” La Independencia, August 24, 1918.

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migrants between 1912 and 1929.130 The story of Joseph Redon Rosen and Eudocia Lafortun, whose marriage and migration were highlighted at the beginning of this chapter, indicates that women were also influenced to migrate by kinship.131 Sometimes, numerous members of a household moved from Haiti to Cuba. In Camagüey, Cuba, in 1936, Alberto Fiz lived on a sugar plantation with his mother and younger sister.132 This grassroots recruitment occurred alongside more formal, largerscale arrangements. In 1919, recruitment offices existed in Aux Cayes, Port-au-Prince, and St. Marc; “some of them printed their own business cards.”133 One of these was the Bonnefil Frères firm. In 1912, it established commercial branches in Aux Cayes, Haiti, and Santiago de Cuba. They served as recruiting “agents for the Sugar Companies of ‘Preston’ and ‘Alto Cedro’, Cuba,” and owned their own ships. Shuttling migrants was only one piece of a diversified business. By 1920, the firm operated a printing press, as well as “ice plants, moving picture shows, automobile trucks, lighters,” and “agricultural exploitations” in Haiti.134 In Haiti, the private networks of company, kith, and kin were eventually replaced by state-run migration controls and recruitment regulations. This was merely a local manifestation of a global shift in the construction of free labor and free migration. Paradoxically, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the creation of concepts of both free labor and free migration actually resulted from restrictions imposed by states. In other words, liberal ideas of freedom prevented individuals from entering coercive contracts of indenture or otherwise signing their rights away. States constructed categories of “free” workers and migrants through minimum wage laws, labor regulations, and limitations on some types of mobility.135 Private networks would be eliminated or regulated by the state. In the realm of migration, such regulations were motivated by the desire to halt the abuses that occurred in the “unfree,” privately operated systems of Indian and Chinese indenture. Although such liberal policies originated in countries that sought to exclude Asian immigrants, they were instituted via gunboats in colonies throughout the world.136

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133 135 136

Pérez de la Riva, “Cuba y la migración antillana, 1900–1931,” Table vii; McLeod, “Undesirable Aliens: Race, Ethnicity, and Nationalism,” 670. Joseph Redon Rosen to Juzgado Municipal de Holguín, May 25, 1938, APHMH 25/748/2. Gregorio Rivera Gonzalez, Guardia Rural, Report and Witness Testimony, February 5, 1936, Archivo Provincial de Camagüey: Tribunal de Urgencía (hereafter APCTU) 4/8/2. 134 Laville, La traite des nègres, 5. n.a., Haïti 1919–1920: Livre bleu d’Haiti, 205. Steinfeld, Coercion, Contract, and Free Labor, 10; McKeown, Melancholy Order, 7. McKeown, Melancholy Order, 3, 11–12.

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Globally, state projects that placed migrants “into new matrices of bureaucratic power” were coupled with a system of enforced international borders and the development of passports for identifying mobile individuals.137 These technologies necessitated the creation of new legal identities that could be standardized for the medium of the passport. Adam McKeown notes: “Identity became less a function of who one knew or could claim as a relative than of the ability to fulfill carefully defined categories of family, status, occupation, nationality, and race.”138 In Haiti, this transformation is especially apparent when one considers the surname Fis (or Fiss), which was common among Haitian migrants in Cuba but not found in Haiti. The name almost certainly derives from the French fils, meaning “son of” or “junior” when appended at the end of an individual’s name. In Cuba, such references to family and lineage were ossified into capitalized surnames and codified into official documents. Others adopted entirely new names in Cuba. One Spanish traveler actually witnessed the process firsthand as Cuban port officials “gargle their r’s and, with a loose lip, call [the migrants] one by one . . . Ilustrious names abound, the Tancredes, the Augusts, the Orestes, the Gautier.”139 As the creation of surnames suggests, Haiti’s migration policies were established while temporary contract migration to Cuba was already in full swing. The occupied Haitian state was forced to regulate a migratory movement that had started without state impetus and had been the object of some Cuban regulations since 1913 – the subject of Chapter 1. Haitian laws, then, were forced to mesh with legislation in the receiving society, years of established custom, and dense transnational networks. At the same time, the Haitian government’s first efforts to create free migrants were targeted toward a guestworker program whose larger structure had been established in Cuba as a partial result of migrants’ actions. A single set of Haitian migration laws embodied two distinct trends in global migration history: the creation of free migrants through state regulation and the emergence of guestworker programs. The migration policies of early twentieth-century Haiti represented the conflation of results that other areas established separately.140 137 139

140

138 Ibid., 12. Ibid., 11. Araquistain, La agonía antillana, 173. The first names in the series were probably references to Haitian presidents: Tancrede Auguste and Michel Oreste. For instance, the United States banned contract migration of all forms in the early twentieth century but began to play a role helping companies to recruit workers through contract programs in the following decades. Guestworker programs did not emerge

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The seasonal movement of Haitians to Cuba represented a compromise between labor-hungry employers and anti-immigrant nationalists in Cuba, just like other guestworker programs.141 On the sending side of Haiti, however, shoring up legislation for the Haitian guestworker program also resulted from Haitian and American debates about the nature of free migration itself. Three years after the occupation started, the Haitian government made its first major attempt to regulate migration to Cuba. After the 1918 sugar harvest in Cuba, the Haitian government temporarily banned migration to Cuba because it was believed that return migrants were spreading flu in Haiti. During the short-lived ban, the Haitian government took the opportunity to regulate the process of emigration. Migrants would henceforth be required by law to have contracts in hand before receiving a passport.142 Previously, most would obtain a work contract after arriving in Cuba. Some Haitians responded to this legislation by staying put. In early 1919, migration to Cuba was “practically at a stand still as the Haitians of these parts are not anxious to sign contracts which are required by law. The laborers are very reluctant of signing their names to anything as past experiences have made them suspicious.”143 Haitian observers began to distinguish between the migrants who held contracts with Cuban sugar companies, as the law stipulated, and the so-called émigrants libres [free emigrants] who traveled to Cuba on their own.144 The new legislation had different effects in the regions of Haiti. In the north, with its direct connections to the company-controlled Cuban ports of Antilla and Puerto Padre, contracted emigration became the primary form of travel to Cuba. Of the 3212 migrants who left via the northern city of Port-de-Paix in late 1919 and early 1920, about 93 percent (2988) made the journey in January and February, the beginning months of the Cuban sugar harvest – suggesting their close ties to the Cuban sugar industry. In the South, where migration originated and grassroots

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there until the early 1940s. See Hahamovitch, No Man’s Land, 19–20; Hahamovitch, The Fruits of their Labor, 53. See also Poblete, Islanders in the Empire, 7. Hahamovitch, “Creating Perfect Immigrants,” 72–3; Surak, “Guestworkers: A Taxonomy,” 88–9. Gonzales to Secretary of State, November 15, 1918.USNA RG59 838.5637. Department of State to American Legation, Havana, January 3, 1919, USNA RG59 838.5637/3. Blanchard to Secretary of State, January 6, 1919.USNA RG59 838.5637/5. District Commander, Aux Cayes to Chief of the Gendarmerie d’Haiti, “Monthly Report of Conditions, January 1919,” January 31, 1919, USNA RG127 E176, Box 1, Folder: [Monthly Reports] January 1918–September 1921. Haiti, Bulletin Officiel du Departement des Relations Extérieures, 12.

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networks flourished, sugar companies continued to recruit formally but the obligation of migrants to have a contract in hand before leaving was largely a dead letter. Of the 22,394 Haitians who left through the port at Cayes in late 1919 and early 1920, only 22 percent (5057) left in January and February. The rest were spread throughout the other months of the year.145 In the south of Haiti, migrants and state officials subverted these early passport requirements. In 1919, an official complained of the frequency with which a migrant “will receive two or three passports for the same voyage, then sell the ones he does not need.” Buyers “will insert their own pictures and attempt to get away, and frequently succeed for there is absolutely no way of checking up on passports issued.”146 Officials complained that it was too expensive to solve this problem since “the necessity . . . of having a photograph of each emigrant taken and feeding him during the additional time required to obtain the photographs, [and] have properly descriptive passports prepared” would drain state resources. Realizing this, “a quantity of passports is prepared in advance, any photograph at hand is affixed, and any name at all is inserted.”147 Differences in the mechanics of migration actually influenced regional stereotypes. Some officials claimed that the typical Haitian from the north was “more disciplined” because he “demands repatriation when the harvest is finished,” “buys only the strict necessities in Cuba,” and therefore “returns to Haiti with almost all his earnings.” The migrants from the South were considered more prodigal because they “make large purchases before leaving Cuba.” In actuality, such observations probably reflect differences in migrants’ goals, the nature of their contracts, and whether they planned to settle permanently in Cuba or return to Haiti.148 In the years following the passage of the earliest migration regulations, the Haitian government added additional statutes. In November 1920, a law required migrants to register at the port of debarkation and enter 145 146

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United States Senate, “United States Senate Inquiry 2,” 1361. District Commander, Aux Cayes to Chief of Gendarmerie, “Monthly Report of Conditions for February,” March 17, 1919, USNA RG127 E176, Box 1, Folder: [Monthly Reports] January 1918–September 1921. A.J. Maumus, Acting Financial Adviser to General Receiver, “Fraud in connection with passports of emigrants,” June 8, 1921, translated and Reprinted in: Senate, “United States Senate Inquiry 2,” 1369. “Enquête de la Ligue des Droits de l’Homme sur notre émigration à Cuba: Interview de Monsieur L. Callard,” Le Nouvelliste, May 26, 1925. Similar observations about the habits of seasonal vs. permanent migrants have been made in the Dominican Republic. See Martínez, Decency and Excess, 47.

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only those “Cuban ports where there is a Haitian consulate.” This new legislation was intended to protect migrants from abuse, decrease official corruption, and provide revenue for the Haitian government. Unfortunately, it did not achieve these goals. Many migrants did not receive their passports at all. The present method is that the captain or other officer of the vessels carrying emigrants or the agent of the embarker delivers to the Haitian consul the passports of the emigrants and $2 for each passenger, under pretext that it is to pay the Immatriculation tax . . ..the passports are not at any time in the possession of the emigrant nor delivered to him by the consul after control.

This afforded opportunistic consuls the chance to commit fraud by “oblig[ing] the emigrant to obtain a new passport for his return voyage.”149 Despite laws passed to regulate migration, it was still conducted by a mixture of companies, informal recruitment, and small ships. In fact, in 1921, well after the law requiring migrants to hold a contract was passed, there were still “several different methods of carrying on the emigration business from Haiti to Cuba.”150 The Haitian state authorities did not effectively regulate migration to Cuba until 1923. That year, the Haitian government passed a comprehensive emigration law designed to end “the bad treatment inflicted on Haitian workers, particularly those known as ‘émigrants libres’” who traveled to Cuba outside the auspices of Cuban sugar companies.151 The global transition from informal networks to state bureaucracy was playing out in Haiti. The new regulations required all ships to obtain a certificate declaring “seaworthiness and passenger capacity” at an annual cost of 500 gourdes (100 USD). Captains without a certificate would pay a fine of between 100 and 1000 gourdes for every migrant on board.152 While state officials saw the law as a corrective to private abuses, others interpreted it as the ruin of private, small-scale initiative. Le Matin argued that the new law would “be an advantage for the vessels of great tonnage, but will mean at the same time the ruin of the Haitien Maritime Commerce made by some schooners, small unities, which will not be able to compete with the big

149 151 152

150 United States Senate, “United States Senate Inquiry 2,” 1365–6. Ibid., 1355. Haiti, Bulletin Officiel du Departement des Relations Extérieures, 12. American Vice Consul in Charge, Port-au-Prince to U.S. Secretary of State, Washington, DC, “Transmission of voluntary report on the new Law on the Transportation of Laborers from haiti to Work Abroad.” March 22, 1923, USNA RG59 838.56/orig.

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steamers belonging to foreign companies.”153 Indeed, the movement of migrants between Haiti and Cuba would now be carried out by largecapacity, officially registered ships like the Nemesis with a capacity of 262, or the Wanderer III and Haiti, each holding 400 migrants.154 In 1924, the above-mentioned Bonnefil Frères paid 1000 gourdes (200 USD) to register two ships.155 The 1923 law also required labor recruiters to register with the government, eliminating the practice by which all return migrants became informal contracting agents. Labor recruiters were now required to “pay a license of $100.00 a year while foreigners must pay for a similar license, $5,000.00.” In addition, “each emigrant, or the agent in charge must pay a tax to the government of $8.25” to cover “the cost of an emigrant’s passport, good for a return trip from Cuba to Haiti.”156 As a result, small-scale labor recruiters and informal social networks were replaced by new migration agents like Homer Howell, a US Marine stationed in Port-de-Paix, who was hired by the United Fruit Company to supervise labor recruiting in the northern city where he was reportedly very popular.157 Rather than catching a ride on a passing sloop and acquiring a secondhand passport with somebody else’s photograph, Haitian migrants were now compelled to travel with companies with all the regulations that entailed. An observer in the port of Santiago described a scene of regulation and order: migrants pass “before the sanitary doctor . . . [who] calls them one by one. Each one carries the certificate of vaccination, that the doctor on board had extended.”158 Women continued to travel to Cuba and engaged with the contract regulations after 1923 like their male counterparts.159 In fact, Monsieur F. Hibbert, Haitian Chargé d’Affaires

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155 156

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Translation and summary of Le Matin, April 8, 1924 by Thomas A. Tighe, “Memorandum for the Chief of the Gendarmerie,” April 9, 1924, USNA RG127 E165 Box 5, Folder: Morning Reports of Intelligence to AHC, 1924 1 of 2. Surveyeur General des Douanes to Receveur General des Douanes, “Nombre de passagers alloues aux Navires Wanderer III-Nemesis et Haiti,” June 11, 1926, NYPL Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture: Kurt Fisher Haitian Collection (Additions), (hereafter NYKFHCA) Box 3, Folder 7. Haiti, Bulletin Officiel des finances et du commerce, 71. Maurice P. Dunlap, American Consul, Port-au-Prince, “Significance of Haitian Emigration to Cuba,” September 10, 1925, USNA RG59 838.5637/6. Bach, Strange Altars, 99; Belizaire, “Suggestion d’un patriote,” 2; “Question d’émigration,” Le Matin, February 23, 1924; “Falleció en un accidente aereo el agente de inmigración de la en Haiti,” Diario de Cuba, February 24, 1928. 159 Araquistain, La agonía antillana, 172. Ibid., 173.

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in Cuba, explained that “the mills facilitate the arrival of women and children in order to retain workers.”160 Proponents of this highly controlled form of emigration employed the triumphant language of liberty that resounded throughout the globe in the early twentieth century. For them, only a partnership between states and reputable companies could produce free migration. But the new system had its critics. As in other parts of the world, the precise nature of free migration was contested. Migrants who traveled to Cuba without a pre-arranged contract or even a passport were commonly referred to as “émigrants libres,” suggesting that some viewed the 1923 migration law as a threat to freedom, not its guarantor. For Le Nouvelliste, the new law “simply kills the individual liberty and rather favors a few sugar plants in Cuba to the prejudice of numerous Haitians.”161 The occupation government, in contrast, defined freedom in 1923 as the right of migrants to enter legal contracts with companies for a fixed period of time. Supporters echoed arguments from the nineteenth-century systems of indenture, which supported a migrants’ right to sign away their liberty. The one significant difference was the active role of the state.162 For Le Matin, freedom entailed a citizen’s “right to dispose of his liberty . . . but not without guarantees and protections to keep him from becoming an object of traffic, exploited by himself and others.”163 For proponents of the new system, protections would be guaranteed by a partnership forged between sugar companies and the state. Le Matin praised the United Fruit Company for providing “fifty cents a day for [migrants’] nourishment.” In addition, “the company buys them slippers, pants, shirts, etc. to permit them to debark decently in the neighboring island. And so, little by little, all guarantees will be offered to the emigrant, thanks to the always beneficent intervention of the state.”164 Some of Haiti’s highest officials opposed migration because of its exploitative nature and its perceived harmful effects on local agricultural development. Nevertheless, they believed that an individual’s right to sign a contract was part of their freedom; limits on mobility were nothing short 160

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162 163

“Enquête de la Ligue Haitienne pour la Defense des Droits de l’Homme et du Citoyen sur notre émigration, Interview de Monsieur F. Hibbert,” Le Nouvelliste, May 28, 1925. Translation and Summary of Le Nouvelliste, June 2, 1923, by G.H. Scott, “Memorandum for the Chief of the Gendarmerie d’Haiti,” June 4, 1923, USNA RG127 E166 and 170, Box 1, Folder: Reports, Intelligence to AHC 1923. McKeown, Melancholy Order, 67–70. 164 “Question d’émigration,” Le Matin, February 23, 1924. Ibid.

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of slavery. In 1927, John Russell, the US High Commissioner of Haiti, opposed migration to Cuba. However, he believed that an emigration ban would trample Haitians’ rights by restricting their “freedom of movement.” Russell declared that requiring Haitians to stay in Haiti would “be construed as virtually making slaves of them.”165 The migration regulations that were consolidated in 1923 did not put an end to old forms of official corruption and migrant abuse. In 1924, an official lamented that “very frequently” a migrant’s “passport is lost and the returning emigrant is subject to the regular passage tax of $2.00 upon entrance at a Haitian port,” suggesting that officials’ previous methods of fleecing migrants survived the new regulations.166 Despite laws requiring the United Fruit Company to vaccinate workers, whose costs were passed on to migrants, “few, if any . . . were vaccinated.” In addition, the United Fruit Company sent medical personnel to ships, rejecting workers they believed were too weak to be productive and making it difficult for these individuals to leave the country.167 Women’s experiences reveal the fallacy of Le Matin’s claim that regulations would prevent migrants from “becoming an object of traffic.”168 Haitian women faced specific abuses in recruiting and migration that men did not – illustrating that gender shaped not just the decision to migrate but also the process of movement itself. In 1925, the Haitian League of the Rights of Man and Citizen claimed: “There are Haitian women who are sold to Cuba . . . at a price which varies . . . according to their age and other individual conditions.”169 Indeed, though many Haitian women traveled on their own accord alone or with family, numerous others were trafficked both to and within Cuba. This will be addressed in the following chapter alongside other experiences in the Cuban sugar zones.

conclusion The US occupation of Haiti represented a watershed in the growth and centralization of the state. What occupiers praised as bringing civilization

165 166

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John Russell to the Secretary of State, October 28, 1927, USNA RG59 838.504/5. Maurice P. Dunlap, American Consul, Port-au-Prince, “Significance of Haitian Emigration to Cuba,” September 10, 1925, USNA RG59 838.5637/6. John H. Russell, Port-au-Prince to the U.S. Secretary of State, Washington, DC, October 28, 1927, USNA RG59 837.5538/3. “Question d’émigration,” Le Matin, February 23, 1924. “La Ligue Haitienne des Droits de L’homme et du Citoyen s’occupe des travailleurs, des émigrés et de l’enfance pauvre,” Le Nouvelliste, April 30, 1925.

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and stability to Haiti, many peasants experienced as scarcity, uncertainty, and instability in an already difficult rural existence. Ruptures in rural life occurred even in those parts of Haiti that did not experience the violent cycles of rebellion and counter-repression or the full thrust of systematic land expulsions. In response, Haitians migrated to Cuba or engaged in a number of other techniques to maintain their autonomy and survival. Occupation laws increased migrant flows to Cuba; they also transformed the process of migration itself. The basic tenets of the temporary contract migration system that emerged in Cuba in 1913 were easily circumvented in Haiti until regulations were consolidated a decade later. Between 1918 and 1923, a series of migration laws and regulations transformed the population movement to Cuba from a grassroots, private movement into a highly regulated program. Such laws also expanded the geographic scope of migration from Haiti’s south to its north. In terms of global migration history, the legislation that consolidated the temporary contract migration program also created the concept of free migration, as it was then understood around the globe. However, all of this emerged amid criticisms from both US officials and Haitians. The gulf between the letter of the law and experiences of migrants was wide.

3 Living and Working on Cuban Sugar Plantations

In 1927, Alejo Carpentier sat in a Cuban jail cell writing what would become the now-celebrated author’s first novel. His challenge, as he described it later, was to create a text that was politically and aesthetically avant-garde and also highly nationalist. The result was ¡Écue-Yamba-Ó!, set in Cuba’s modernized, mostly foreign-owned, sugar industry during World War I. For Carpentier, rural Cuba was a place where “life is organized according to [sugar’s] will.” One effect of this is the arrival of immigrants of all nationalities, including a “new plague” of “ragged Haitians” or “black mercenaries with straw hats and machetes at their belts.” When not cutting cane, they sequester themselves in their barracones (labor barracks), the “stone constructions, long like a hangar, with iron window panes” that were originally built for slaves to inhabit. Within this newly created world of foreign capital and foreign workers lived Afro-Cuban communities. Elders shared memories of slavery to younger men like Menegildo Cue, Carpentier’s protagonist, who would eventually embrace his Afro-Cuban cultural roots as an antidote to the United States’ political and economic domination. Cue, who drove oxen on the sugar plantation, greeted Haitians and other immigrants with disdain. He “felt strange among so many blacks with other customs and languages. The Jamaicans were ‘snobby’ and animals! The Haitians were animals and savages!” Cue also complained that Cubans “were without work since the braceros from Haiti accepted incredibly low daily wages!”1 The heterogeneous group of workers who migrated to eastern Cuba from territories throughout the Americas, Europe, and Asia would have 1

Carpentier, Écue-Yamba-Ó, 7–9, 18, 21, 52, 65, 66, 91.

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certainly recognized the physical, environmental, and economic transformations of the Cuban countryside that Carpentier described. Ironically, these very individuals, who constituted the demographic face of these metamorphoses, would have been less convinced by Carpentier’s depiction of the interactions among native and immigrant laborers. 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.2 Like Carpentier, Cuban journalists, sugar company administrators, and even contemporary historians describe Haitians as a homogenous group of sugar cane cutters. For these individuals, Haitians were segregated at the lowest level of sugar labor hierarchies by managers who sought to divide their workforce along national lines and to perpetuate racist scorn from Menegildo Cue’s living and breathing counterparts. The reality of day-to-day life and labor for Haitians and other workers on sugar plantations was more complex. To begin with, field workers were not a homogenous mass. Formal company hierarchies, informal distinctions among cane cutters, and different types of cane cutting produced diverging experiences and wage scales, even among field laborers. Though Haitians predominated in cutting cane, many performed other types of wage labor in fields and inhabited skilled positions within the industrialized mills themselves. Whether in field or factory, Haitians regularly worked alongside individuals of other nationalities despite company administrators’ claims to the contrary. In effect, so much of the companies’ efforts to segregate workers represented managerial fantasy more than daily practice. Haitians’ interactions with individuals of other nationalities were even more pronounced in the hours outside of work. In response to the harshness of sugar work, Haitians and other rural laborers engaged in numerous forms of individual and collective protest, informal economic pursuits, and leisure activities. By the 1930s, these included active participation in labor unions, though this was less common and much later than a host of other coping strategies. Together, Haitians, Cubans, British Caribbean migrants, and workers of other nationalities created networks of leisure and petty commerce to navigate the demands of life on sugar 2

On Carpentier’s rejection of early republican intellectual trends, see González Echevarría, Alejo Carpentier, 63–4. For his desire to counter US imperialism with Afro-Cuban culture see Branche, Colonialism and Race, 230.

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plantations. These thrived both before, during, and after the period of mass deportations of the 1930s. Local state officials and sugar company administrators disagreed sharply over whether to tolerate or repress these autonomous acts. A close examination of Haitians’ labor and leisure complicates some of the major assumptions about sugar companies, state institutions, and race in republican Cuba. It reveals the limits of company control over their labor force as well as the disjuncture between workers’ interactions and the ideas of race projected onto them by lettered populations like Carpentier. Furthermore, disagreements between state officials and company administrators over how to respond to workers’ actions on plantations illustrates that the accord between company and state, normally conceptualized as one of the most salient characteristics of early twentieth-century Cuba, broke down over questions of day-to-day governance and production.

cuban rural transformations and haitian stereotypes During the first decades of the twentieth century Cuban society witnessed significant transformations that were part and parcel of a major growth in sugar production and US imperial control. Although some sectors of Cuban society questioned the role that sugar should play after independence, a rush of investors and politicians from both Cuba and the United States sought to increase production. The United States, through political control, investment capital, an intermittent military presence, and trade treaties cemented the future of Cuban sugar. In 1898, the year of the first US intervention, Cuba produced 350,000 short tons of sugar – an amount that more than doubled to 973,000 short tons by the time of the United States’ 1902 withdrawal. Sugar production was destined to increase even more. A 1902 reciprocity treaty decreased US tariffs on Cuban sugar, promoting production, guaranteeing a steady supply to US consumers, and ensuring sugar’s predominance in the Cuban economy. US troops intervened again in 1906 in response to a Cuban electoral rebellion specifically designed to draw foreign troops. The United States threatened to return again in 1912 and 1917 in the wake of subsequent rebellions that were becoming a unique feature of Plattist Cuba. In short, US imperial domination contributed simultaneously to unstable politics and a highly productive

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figure 3.1 A Cuban sugar central. With US investment, technologically advanced sugar mills dotted the rural Cuban landscape after 1898. These produced sugar in massive quantities and spurred an insatiable demand for cut sugar cane. They were responsible for transforming rural Cuba after independence. “A Modern Sugar Mill, Sugar Industry, Cuba.” Source: Detroit Publishing Company (1904). Courtesy of The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Photography Collection, The New York Public Library. “Modern Sugar Mill, Sugar Industry, Cuba” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1898–1931. http://digitalcollec tions.nypl.org/items/510d47d9-a3d6-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99.

sugar sector that increasingly came under foreign control. In 1929, output peaked at 5,775,000 short tons.3 The renewed phase of sugar production was distinct from previous periods. At the end of the nineteenth century, new, modernized mills called centrales began replacing the older ingenios.4 These new mills had an increased capacity to grind cane, which they obtained either from cane fields owned by the company or by contract from farmers called colonos. Centrales were especially prevalent in the eastern provinces of Oriente and Camagüey, the new regions of production (Figure 3.1). Whereas in 1901, 15 percent of Cuba’s sugar was produced in these zones, by the 1920s and 1930s, they were responsible for over half of the Cuban crop.5 Expansion 3

4 5

Ayala, American Sugar Kingdom, 70; McGillivray, Blazing Cane, 36, 75, 86; Pérez, Cuba: Between Reform and Revolution, 198. Iglesias García, Del ingenio al central. Santamaría Garcia, Sin azúcar no hay país, 419; Ayala, American Sugar Kingdom, 220.

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profoundly altered the physical and social landscape as sugar was sowed in land previously devoted to other crops. Forests were cleared to provide wood for new company buildings and space for more cane fields. Water sources were diverted to supply the needs of the sugar economy, and railroads were built to connect distant colonias (cane farms) with centrales.6 Sugar companies also played a role in demographic transformations as plantations attracted immigrants from various parts of the Americas and the wider world. At the regional and local level, the effects of sugar production and migration were especially noticeable. From 1907 to 1919, the populations of Oriente and Camagüey increased by 60.6 percent and 93.6 percent, respectively, making them the fastest growing regions in a country whose overall population increased by 33 percent in the period. By 1919, Oriente’s population had surpassed that of the province of Havana. The influence of migration from other parts of the Caribbean is especially apparent in this process. In 1919, individuals who were not born in Cuba, Spain, the United States, China, or Africa represented 5.9 percent of the population of Oriente province and 4.7 percent in Camagüey. These immigrants were even more heavily concentrated in areas with large sugar mills. For instance, they represented 8.1 percent of the inhabitants of Banes, the site of the United Fruit Company plantation in Oriente and 11 percent in Las Tunas, the site of the Chaparra sugar mill.7 Caribbean immigrant laborers, whom Carpentier depicted as “black mercenaries with straw hats and machetes at their belts,” were often conceptualized as pawns of the sugar companies. Many Cubans accused immigrants of cutting cane for low wages and blocking Cuban workers’ attempts at demanding higher salaries. In 1916, La Política Cómica published a satirical column about the “tourists of color” who were arriving regularly from Haiti and Jamaica. They reportedly came “to Cuba to enjoy themselves cutting cane, accepting for sport a lower daily wage than what is paid” to Cubans.8 Though such references in the national press lumped Haitians and British West Indians together, sources from eastern Cuba were more likely to distinguish between them. There, Haitian immigrants, more than other groups, were associated strongly with the stereotype of impoverished cane cutters who remained distant from other groups. Santiago’s Diario de Cuba used a combination of racial and economic logic to explain why 6 7 8

Funes Monzote, De bosque a sabana, chapters 5–6; Santamarina, “The Cuba Company.” Cuba, Census of the Republic of Cuba 1919, 286, 90, 434. “Turistas de color: El sport de tumbar caña,” La Política Cómica, March 16, 1916.

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Haitians were particularly apt for cane cutting. “The cane needs Haitian arms,” argued the newspaper, since cane cutting “is a work to which races of a superior civilization do not adapt . . . Sugar cannot be produced in Cuba by paying a higher salary than the one for which Haitians work.”9 Among Caribbean immigrants, Haitians were singled out as cane cutters. A recruiter in charge of “contracting and bringing braceros for the labors of the zafra [sugar harvest]” for the Santa Lucía Sugar Company was told to hire “whomever you can . . . as long as they are Haitian or a Jamaican who is purely a laborer.”10 The statement illustrates the common practice in which British West Indians, despite their different islands of origin, were often called “Jamaicans” at the same time that they had a reputation for moving out of cane cutting.11 Haitians, on the other hand, required no contingencies. They were ipso facto cane cutters. Ideas of racial difference among Caribbean immigrants were also manifested in companies’ attempts to segregate workers on plantations, where strong associations between immigrants’ nationalities and specific labor roles held sway. Employing a technique originating in the period of slavery and prevalent elsewhere in the Americas, Cuban plantation managers sought to divide workers along racial, national, or ethnic lines to prevent mobilization across labor sectors. Such divisions played a strong role establishing and reinforcing racial hierarchies based on the putative skills and characteristics of each group.12 Reports by company administrators seem to confirm this phenomenon in twentieth-century Cuba. Frank Garnett, the superintendent of the Cuba Company in Camagüey, described his decision “to house [Chinese laborers] in the batey separate from all other labor. Chinese are particularly suited to [work in the sugar centrifuges], and it should put an end to strikes in 9

10

11

12

“¡El haitiano es el único inmigrante necesario en Cuba!: Notas del momento,” Diario de Cuba, August 23, 1928. In a similar vein, during a brief emigration ban from Haiti, the Cuban commercial press wondered “Who would take the place of the Haitians in the cane fields, since it is well known that Cubans will not cut cane?” “Cuban sugar growers,” they added, “could not afford to pay [the] higher wages” Cubans would inevitably demand. Curtis to the Secretary of State, July 26, 1928, USNA RG59 837.5538/ 11. Labor Recruiter Certificate of Timoteo Dixon, signed by Fernando Cuesta y mora, Secretario de la Administración Provincial de Oriente, March 23, 1928, APSGP 311/1/2. Jefe de la Jurada, Central Santa Lucia to Timoteo Dixón, March 14, 1928, APSGP 311/5/1. McLeod, “Undesirable Aliens: Haitian and British West Indian Immigrant Workers in Cuba,” 82–4; Chailloux Laffita and Whitney, “British subjects y pichones en Cuba,” 57; Wynter, “Jamaican Labor Migration to Cuba,” 240. McGillivray, Blazing Cane, 105–7; Moreno Fraginals, El ingenio II, 8; Bourgois, Ethnicity at Work, xi; Esch and Roediger, “One Symptom of Originality,” 4; Giovannetti, “Grounds of Race,” 16–18; Poblete, Islanders in the Empire, 17, 94.

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figure 3.2 A barracón on a property owned by The Cuba Company. In Cuba, many sugar fieldworkers lived in rectangular wood or concrete barracones. These buildings were as hot and uncomfortable as they were nondescript. In twentiethcentury Cuba, many associated these buildings with the violence and humiliation of slavery. “No. 5 October 1912 Barracón in No. 10.” Source: Photograph, No. 5: Barraco´n in No. 10, sugar cane plantation, Cuba, October 1912. Courtesy of Cuba Company archives, Series 1, Box 20, “1912–1913, 1916–1917” folder. Courtesy of Special Collections, University of Maryland Libraries.

this department of the sugar house.”13 Other officials from the same company describe cartmen who “are mostly Cubans and refuse to sleep in the same quarters with Haytians and Jamaicans.”14 The ideal plantation labor hierarchy, on which Haitians were said to inhabit the lowest rung, holds strong parallels with slavery in Cuban society. Despite the technological and organizational transformations in the Cuban sugar industry in the period after abolition, the task of cane cutting did not change noticeably.15 Furthermore, as Carpentier’s text shows, Haitians were associated with barracones, the barracks that were built to house slaves during the apex of Cuban slave society (Figure 3.2). Manuel 13

14

15

Frank Garnett, Superintendent to George H. Whigham, Vice President, the Cuba Company, New York. October 22, 1913, CCA, Box 9, Folder 4c. Wm. W. Craib, Executive Agent, Jatibonico to George H. Whigham, Esq., President, The Cuba Co., NY. June 02, 1916, CCA box 29, folder 3b, leo-139. García Rodríguez, Entre haciendas y plantaciones; Dye, Cuban Sugar in the Age of Mass Production; Moreno Fraginals, El Ingenio I, 98.

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Living and Working on Cuban Sugar Plantations

Moreno Fraginals called them “the maximum symbol of slavery’s barbarism.”16 This association between Haitians and slavery was so strong that some Cubans continue to believe that it was Haitians who had brought the barracones to Cuba. The national press contributed to consolidating this association, referring to Haitians as the only workers who would perform the labor that former slaves had been forced to do.17

haitian laborers on cuban sugar plantations Although sources from eastern Cuba tended to emphasize the distinctions between Haitians and British West Indians more often than their Havana counterparts, their statements obscured more than they reveal about differences among immigrant sugar workers. In Cuba, the label “Haitian” carried strong connotations of cane cutters for journalists and company officials, though it was not necessarily coterminous with a person born in Haiti or one of their descendants.18 Company administrators often applied the term to denote any poor, black, seasonal cane cutter regardless of actual birthplace or national identity. In 1919, for instance, a United Fruit Company engineer named Everett C. Brown spoke of “Haitian cane cutters” who would “get back from Porto Rico [sic] and South America.”19 Brown’s statement reduces a complex hemispheric circulation of laborers from different parts of the Americas into a misleading category of “Haitian cane cutters.”20 At other moments, company managers referred to specific groups of black cane cutters as Haitians without knowing their national origins.

16

17

18

19

20

Moreno Fraginals, El Ingenio II, 74. For a discussion of the historical legacies of barracones in the Caribbean see Giovannetti, “Grounds of Race,” 23–4. “¡El haitiano es el único inmigrante necesario en Cuba!: Notas del momento,” Diario de Cuba, August 23, 1928. See also Kaussen, Migrant Revolutions, xi; Alvarez Estévez, Azúcar e inmigración, 40; Gómez Navia, “Lo haitiano en lo cubano,” 8, 15; Zanetti and Garcia, United Fruit Company, 216, 248; Sevillano Andrés, Trascendencia de una cultura marginada, 16, 29; Pérez de la Riva, “Cuba y la migración antillana, 1900–1931,” 27; Berenguer Cala, El Gagá de Barrancas, 9. McGillivray, Blazing Cane, 113. Amelia Hintzen makes a similar argument about associations between Haitians and sugar work in the Dominican Republic. Hintzen, “Extranjeros en tránsito,” 214. Everett C. Brown to Ethel and Susie Brown, October 11, 1919, University of Florida: Everett C. Brown Collection (hereafter UFECB), Box 1, Folder 2-Cuba. Petras, Jamaican Labor Migration; Putnam, The Company They Kept; Chomsky, West Indian Workers; Richardson, Panama Money in Barbados; Bulmer-Thomas, The Economic History of Latin America, 87–90; Putnam, Radical Moves; Putnam, “Borderlands and Border Crossers.”

Haitian Laborers on Cuban Sugar Plantations

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During the 1905 sugar harvest, a fire broke out in the cane fields near the San Miguel Sugar Mill in Guantánamo. Salvador G. Rodiles y Vilallonga, the Cuban-born mayoral (manager) told officials that it began “very close to five black Haitians who were cutting cane.”21 A Cuban capataz (foreman) identified them as José Gabriel, Octavio Posiná, José Figueroa, Plácido Belen, and José Louis, though he added that only “the first two and the last one [are] Haitians.”22 For those who did not know laborers personally, all seasonal cane cutters could be described as Haitians, even a number of years before the state recognized the migratory movement. The result is that Haitians’ marginalization was overstated and the composition of the labor force obscured. Although most Haitian-born individuals cut cane, they also performed other types of labor on sugar plantations. Haitians served as labor recruiters for sugar firms seeking to attract labor away from other companies. These individuals gathered at railroad stations when cane cutters were being transported to “try to bring them to other centrales.”23 D. Beauville Ferailler, a Haitian, received a salary from the United Fruit Company to work in this capacity.24 Outside of cutting cane, one of the most common jobs for Haitians on sugar plantations was transporting cane from field to factory (Figure 3.3). As early as 1917, Haitian-born José Miguel drove oxen on the United Fruit Company plantation in Banes.25 21

22

23

24

25

“Declara Salvador G. Rodiles y Vilallonga,” Juzgado de Instrucción de Guantánamo. February 16, 1905, ANCASXX 25/5/4–6. “Declara Enrique Perdomo,” Juzgado de Instrucción de Guantánamo, February 16, 1905, ANCASXX 25/5/7–8. Letter to Sr. Rafael Aguirre, Administrador del “Central Palma,” signed by S.S., March 8, 1919, APSGP 307/21/3. Labor Recruiting Certificate for D. Beauville Ferailler signed by Rafael Barceló y Reyes, Gobernador de la Provincia de Oriente. March 14, 1930, APSGP 311/20/1. There were other examples as well, including Odelon Placido and Prevenio Laine, who recruited cane cutters for the Cuban-Canadian Sugar Company. Sub-Administrador, Cuban-Canadian Sugar Company, SA. To Gobernador de la Provincia de Oriente, November 25, 1927, APSGP 309/12/1; Labor Recruiting Certificate for Prevenio Laine signed by Fernando Cuesta y Mora, Secretario de la Administración Provincial de Oriente, December 3, 1927, APSGP 309/15/2. Eugenio Luis performed the same job there over a decade later. Haitians San Luis, Ramón Alfonso, and Alejandro Sanchez also worked as ox-drivers for firms like the Van Horne Agricultural Company and the Antilla Sugar Company. Work Accident Report for José Miguel, August 27, 1917, Archivo Provincial de Holguín: Juzgado de Primera Instancia de Holguín (hereafter APHJPIH) 290/4962/1; Work Accident Report for Eugenio Luis, March 11, 1932, APHJPIH 302/5577/1,14; Work Accident Report for San Luis, March 7, 1930, APHJPIH 296/5284/1,10. Work Accident Report for Ramon Alfonso, February 18, 1931, APHJPIH 300/5453/1,5. Work Accident Report for Alejandro Sanchez, September 3, 1933, APHJPIH 303/5625/9,13.

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figure 3.3 A load of cane on a Cuban sugar plantation. Source: Detroit Publishing Company, ca. 1904. Courtesy of Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Detroit Publishing Company Collection, LC-D417686.

Haitians also worked inside the centrales where cane stalks were converted into sugar granules, sites previously considered to have been off limits to Haitians, just as they had been to previous generations of slaves.26 After cane was brought into the central of the Fidelity Sugar Company, Haitian-born Marcos Santiago lifted and transported it to begin the process of transformation.27 After the juice was extracted from cane stalks in the central San German, Haitian-born Enrique Simon worked with the bagasse (leftover parts of cane stalks), which could be burned for fuel.28 In the central Tacajó, Haitian-born Estrad Avignon worked in the boiler house where cane juice was heated to eliminate impurities.29 Haitians Maeny

26 27 28 29

Knight, Slave Society in Cuba, 71. Work Accident Report for Marcos Santiago, May 5, 1928, APHJPIH 293/5144/2, 5, 7. Work Accident Report for Enrique Simon, May 13, 1928, APHJPIH 290/ 4987/ 2, 10. Work Accident Report for Estrad Avignon, August 13, 1922, APHJPIH 292/5078/ 1–2, 4–5.

Haitian Laborers on Cuban Sugar Plantations

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Sterling and Andres Domingo worked in the centrifuges in the central San German crystallizing the sugar granules and separating (purging) them from the honey.30 Haitians also worked a number of odd jobs inside sugar centrales. José Luco was a mason in the central Canarias near Holguín.31 Jesus Maria cooked and served drinks as a company employee inside the central San German.32 Throughout mills and fields, Haitian-born laborers worked alongside individuals of other nationalities, disproving the notion that companies were able to divide workers strictly along national lines. José Salas, a mason in the basculador [dumper truck] in the Central Tacajó, worked alongside Félix Dias, from Venezuela.33 In the same central, Haitian-born carpenter Alfredo Ayes worked with Dean François, a Jamaican.34 Antonio Luis worked with horses for the Fidelity Sugar Company with a Canary Islander named Antonio Hernandez.35 The aforementioned Estrad Avignon worked in the boilers in the Central Tacajó with Francisco Weiner, an immigrant from Jamaica.36 It is impossible to reconstruct labor hierarchies with certainty, though a collection of work accident reports for Haitian and Jamaican sugar workers in Holguín allows some comparative insight. These do not provide information for all workers, just those whose injuries were reported to the Cuban state. Data is thickest for the 1920s and 1930s but even these are patchy. Nevertheless, reports from these decades provide the best available approximation about labor hierarchies and distributions. They show a significant Haitian concentration in cane cutting but not a strict racial division of labor. Of 124 Haitians who reported work injuries, 87 percent worked in the field, 6.4 percent had jobs inside sugar mills and another 6.4 percent worked in transportation between mill and field. A smaller number of twenty-five Jamaicans reveals 30

31 32 33

34

35

36

Work Accident Report for Maeny Sterling, February 18, 1929, APHJPIH 294/5170/1. Work Accident Report for Andres Domingo, March 13, 1933, APHJPIH 303/5657/1. For a full description of converting cut cane into sugar granules see Moreno Fraginals, El Ingenio I, 105–25. Work Accident Report for José Luco, October 08, 1919, APHJPIH 292/5058/4. Work Accident Report for Jesus Maria, February 8, 1929, APHJPIH 294/5166/1. “Declaración de José Salas,” and “Declaración de Félix Dias,” August 15, 1922, APHJPIH 292/5077/5–6. “Declaración de Alfredo Ayes,” and “Declaración de Dean François,” July 27, 1922. APHJPIH 292/5076/5–6. “Declaración del Obrero: Antonio Luis,” April 28, 1931 and “Declaración del testigo: Antonio Hernandez,” May 9, 1931, APHJPIH 300/ 5505/8, 12. Work Accident Report for Estrad Avignon, August 13, 1922, APHJPIH 292/5078/ 1–2, 4–5.

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a more even distribution with 40 percent in the field, 28 percent in mills and 32 percent in transportation.37 Although Haitians’ labor in centrales was more significant than previous historians recognize, the vast majority cut cane. Like their counterparts in centrales, Haitian cane cutters worked alongside individuals of other nationalities. In Guantánamo in 1933, Haitian-born Andres Felix cut cane alongside Julio Maturrell and Fructuoso Mendoza, two Cubans whom he knew personally.38 Among cane cutters, factors like age, skill level, status, and wage rates were more salient than national origins, which is why differences existed even among Haitian cane cutters. As nineteen-year-old males born in Haiti, Julian Fis, José Mariano, Mario Luis, and Manuel Martínez fit the classic image of those cutting cane in Cuban fields.39 Indeed, from 1912 to 1929, over 90 percent of the Haitian immigrants who arrived in Cuba were between the ages of 14 and 45.40 Nevertheless, Haitians and individuals of other nationalities worked in the fields into middle and old age. The above-mentioned Andres Felix cut cane on a plantation in Guantánamo at the age of 60.41 In 1941, Haitians Enrique Martinez, Alejandro Luis, Juan Batista, and Miguel Mariano were still working as cane cutters on the colonia Caonao in Esmeralda, Camagüey, at the respective ages of 50, 68, 70, and 71.42 Cane cutters were also divided by their degree of skill, which derived from their previous work in Haitian sugar fields. Although sugar production in early twentieth-century Haiti was less prevalent than growing coffee and other crops, some migrants arrived in Cuba with prior experience cutting cane. H.M. Pilkington, an

37

38

39

40 41

42

Compiled from work accident reports in APHJPIH 289–306. The difference in sample size may be due to the fact that fewer Jamaicans arrived in Cuba after the 1921 economic crisis. See Giovannetti, “Black British Subjects,” 48–9, 55. “Instructiva del Acusado: Andres Felix y no Pie,” April 30, 1932; “Declaración de Julio Maturrell,” May 1, 1933, “Declaración de Fructuoso Mendoza,” April 1, 1933, Juzgado de Instrucción de Guantánamo, APSATO 348/2544/6, 10–1. Work Accident Report for Julian Fis, February 26, 1929, APHJPIH 294/5173/1; Work Accident Report for José Mariano, April 24, 1930, APHJPIH 296/5308/83; Work Accident Report for Mario Luis, April 27, 1930, APHJPIH 297/5325/1, 9; Work Accident Report for Manuel Pol, June 12, 1930, APHJPIH 297/5345/6. Pérez de la Riva, “Cuba y la migración antillana, 1900–1931,” Table VII. Charles Mani, a Jamaican, was cutting cane for the Fidelity Sugar Company near Holguín at the age of fifty in 1933 as well. Work Accident Report for Charles Mani, March 6, 1933, APHJPIH 303/5654/1, 15; Instructiva del Acusado: Andres Felix y no Pie: Juzgado de Instrucción de Guantánamo. April 30, 1932 [Date incorrectly printed. Other files in the case are marked 1933] APSATO 348/2544/6. “Diligencia firmado por Francisco Chirino, Orlando Pérez Perna, José D. Barcelas Díaz, April 3, 1941, APCTU 7/20/P.3.

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employee of the American Development Company in Haiti, noted: “a very large percentage of the vast number of people . . . who migrated from Haiti to Cuba as skilled cane cutters were educated in this line by the HaitianAmerican Sugar Co.”43 There was no single domestic arrangement in rural communities either. For one, household compositions varied and not all Haitians even lived in concrete barracones. On the cane fields surrounding the Central Jaronu in Camagüey in 1936, a group of Haitians lived in small houses of “board and guano” like other rural dwellers in the country. The composition of these households and their furnishings varied. Benito Haiti and Luis Pol each lived alone in adjacent houses containing a single bed and table. Two houses over, Ramon Pol and Enrique Gernardo shared a house containing two beds. Others had family members that included women and children: Alberto Fiz lived with his mother and younger sister in a house containing “two beds, three chairs, [and] three tables.” Juan López lived with an unspecified number of “children” in a house with two beds.44 Widely recognized formal and informal hierarchies divided cane cutters in the colonias as well. Individuals of all nationalities served as capataces (foremen) in the cane fields. In addition to cutting cane themselves, they directed other workers in the field and served as liaisons between laborers and police. On the colonia San Ramon in 1936, a conflict between two Haitian workers resulted in the wounding of one by a gunshot. Antonio Pie, the Haitian-born capataz, arrived at the scene before the police and spoke to both workers. Although Pie did not witness the events, he explained the details to the rural guard, who accepted his narrative and did not take testimony from the actual individuals involved.45 Capataces also received higher wages than other cane cutters. Luis Agosto, a Haitian capataz, received approximately $2.00 a day during the 1930 harvest. In the same month on the same colonia, Ignacio Cuba, another Haitian cane cutter, received only $1.50.46 Workers’ unofficial markers of status existed alongside company hierarchies. Most notably, experienced cane cutters who achieved relative

43

44

45

46

United States Senate, “Inquiry into Occupation and Administration of Haiti and Santo Domingo 1,” 790. Gregorio Rivera Gonzalez, Cabo del Esc. 41 de la Guardia Rural y Jefe del Puesto, untitled document, February 5, 1936. APCTU 4/8/2–5. “Testimonio de Alberto Rios y Diego Rodriguez, Soldados de la Guardia Rural,” February 24, 1936, APCTU 4/4/1. Work Accident Report for Luis Agosto, April 15, 1930, APHJPIH 296/5308/51, 59–60. Work Accident Report for Ignacio Cuba, April 24, 1930, APHJPIH 296/5308/66, 75.

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success in Cuba often called themselves viejos (old men).47 This nickname also appears in Haitian novels and newspapers in the period to describe return migrants who wore nice clothes and carried money.48 Haitian workers who self-identified as viejos demanded better treatment and better labor conditions. For instance, Haitian-born Juan Bautista, although only twenty-four-years-old, declared that “he was already very viejo in Cuba” to justify his refusal to travel to a distant field and work during his leisure hours.49 Officially recognized distinctions between capataces and regular cane cutters were not the only factors determining wages. Wages for field work also differed according to sugar prices in the world market, the time of year, and the company for which one worked. Among these, the international market demand for sugar was perhaps the most important. In 1917, as demand and prices for sugar reached unprecedented heights as a result of World War I, Haitian cane cutters made between $2.00 and $3.00 per day working for the United Fruit Company.50 In 1933, during a period of low prices due to worldwide economic depression and overproduction on Cuban plantations, daily wages stagnated between 30 and 80 cents.51 Wages also reflected the seasonal variations in sugar cane growing and production. During the zafra (harvest season), which began in January and varied in length each year, cane stalks were cut as close to the ground as possible and hauled into the central for grinding. During the tiempo muerto (dead season), when mills did not grind cane, the smaller numbers of field laborers who stayed on plantations cleaned cane stalks to prevent overgrowth or dug to plant new cane. During the 1929 zafra, Haitians Elias Gonzalez and Manuel Agostine each received $1.50 a day cutting cane on lands belonging to the Antilla Sugar Company.52 A few months later during the tiempo muerto, Haitian-born Luis Fis earned $1.20 to clean the cane on the same colonia.53 Fis’ salary during the dead season, 47 48

49

50 51 52

53

Pérez de la Riva, “Cuba y la migración antillana, 1900–1931,” 51. “En deux mots,” La Garde, June 27, 1937; Kaussen, Migrant Revolutions, xi, 114. See Cineas, Le drame de la terre; Casseus, Viejo; Marcelin and Thoby-Marcelin, Canpé-Vert. “Republica de Cuba, Acta” Signed by Aguedo Peña, Jefe Puesto Actuante, Cab Esc 14, G,R, Ier Dto, Militar, Emilio Puche, Guara Jurado, Acusador, SU Juan Batista, Marca, Acusado,” May 25, 1929, “Declaración de José Brown,” May 29, 1929, ANCASXX 29/1/1, 16. Compiled from Work Accident Reports in APHJPIH for 1917. Compiled from Work Accident Reports in APHJPIH for 1933. Work Accident Report for Elias Gonzalez, March 3, 1929, APHJPIH 294/5178/1; Work Accident Report for Manuel Agostine, March 3, 1929, APHJPIH 294/5177/1. Work Accident Report for Luis Fis, November 26, 1929, APHJPIH 295/5217/1, 8.

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although lower than what was earned during the zafra, was still higher than what other companies in the same province were paying. On a field belonging to the Van Horne Agricultural Company, another Haitian, Antonio Luis, earned only $1.00 per day cleaning cane that year.54 Haitians were regularly accused of driving sugar wages down in Cuba. In 1916, William Craib of The Cuba Company claimed that “Cubans attempted by force to prevent the Haytians from cutting at eighty cents” until rural guards broke up the conflict.55 Given the tendency to call all black fieldworkers “Haitians,” it is not clear whether these groups were actually clumped along strict national lines. In fact, most historians argue that Haitians received the same wages as native workers for similar activities. Alejandro Garcia and Oscar Zanetti support this thesis, although they hypothesize that when the sugar industry declined and anti-immigrant sentiments reached their peak, “it’s possible that the [United Fruit] Company took advantage of the situation . . . and paid lower salaries” to immigrant laborers.56 In fact, available individual wage data supports this contention. In periods of stable prices and normal sugar production, Haitians and laborers of other nationalities received the same wages. During the 1919 zafra, both Haitian and Jamaican cane cutters received $3.00 per day on United Fruit Company fields. However, as Cuban xenophobia increased and sugar prices decreased, wage differences emerged. During the harvest of 1933, Jamaican laborer Charles Mani received 40 cents for every 100 arrobas of cane cut from the Cuba Company. Haitians working for the same company, however, received only 20 cents.57 Although cane cutters received the lowest wages on company pay scales, they worked longer hours than other employees on the plantation. Everett Brown, a United Fruit Company engineer from the United States, explained to his wife that he worked eight hours a day “from 7–11 a.m.: 1–5 pm in the office.” Mayorales and other field managers began their day at six and worked for nine hours. “The niggers,” he said “[work] 10 hours a day.”58 In other places, it could be as long as fourteen hours.59 54 55

56 57

58 59

Work Accident Report for Antonio Luis, December 03, 1929, APHJPIH 294/5205/1, 10. W. W. Craib, Executive Agent, The Cuba Company, Jatibonico to George H. Whigham, Esq., President, The Cuba Co., New York, December 20, 1916 CCA Box 20, folder 3a, co-264. Zanetti and Garcia, United Fruit Company, 247. Work Accident Report for Charles Mani, March 06, 1933, APHJPIH 303/5654/1,15; Work Accident Report for Santiago Pérez, February 20, 1933, APHJPIH 303/5643/1, 13; Work Accident Report for José Domingo, February 24, 1933, APHJPIH 303/5645/1; Work Accident Report for Emilio Pol, March 2, 1933, APHJPIH 303/5649/1, 12, 15. Everett C. Brown to Ethel and Susie Brown, August 17, 1919, UFECB 1/2-Cuba. Guanche and Moreno, Caidije, 28.

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Cutting cane is a strenuous and onerous activity even in optimal conditions. As groups of men repeatedly swung their machetes for long hours, accidents were common. While cutting or cleaning cane, shards of cane stalk and pieces of wood flew into the air and hit workers’ faces and bodies. After detaching stalks from the ground, workers grabbed them for further chopping and trimming, sometimes grasping hidden thorns and piercing their hands. At other moments, workers missed their targets, producing painful machete slices on legs, arms, and fingers. Finally, the day’s sweat was often enough to send the machete flying out of a worker’s hands entirely, causing injury to themselves or others.60 The inherent difficulties of cutting cane on a massive scale were compounded for Haitians and workers of other nationalities by company abuse. One of the most notorious examples was the payment of workers with vales (vouchers). In 1923, Cuban officials complained that sugar companies were distributing vales “instead of daily wages” which workers were forced to use “to buy merchandise” in company stores. In some cases, “these documents were being circulated in establishments in the communities close by.” Although payment in vouchers had been outlawed in 1909, there were periodic reports of sugar and other companies issuing them in subsequent decades.61 At other moments, company and state officials showed their utter disregard for Haitian laborers. In 1923, Haitian worker Edgard Zéphyr “was killed by a train loaded with cane.” Rather than the company reporting the accident, Zéphyr was “buried during the night by the Police.”62 The fact that these abuses were investigated, however, suggests that company control was not unlimited. One result of working in harsh conditions and receiving wages according to world sugar prices was the poverty and hunger that rural workers faced. When the Central Almeida announced it would only grind limited amounts of cane in 1928, people in the area “feared the phantasm of hunger would appear as soon as the mill ceased its labors.”63 In the 1930s, 60

61

62 63

All of these injuries appear with frequency among cane cutters of various nationalities in work accident reports in APHJPIH. Gobernador Provincial de Oriente to Alcalde Municipal de Holguín, October 13, 1923, APSGP 308/9/3; Juez de Instrucción, Guantánamo to Presidente de la Audiencia de Oriente, September 22, 1917, ANCASXX 1/5/1; “Declaración de Tirdo Marañon Vivanco [Las Tunas],” October 22, 1934, Archivo Provincial de Las Tunas: Juzgado de Victoria de Las Tunas (hereafter APLTJVLT) 103/103/1408/6; “La verdadera situación del personal del ctral. Almeida,” Diario de Cuba, January 21, 1933. Edmond Laporte to Gobernador Provincial de Oriente, January 12, 1923, APSGP 376/14/ 1. “Los vecinos del central Almeida temen que aparezca el fantasma del hambre cuando cese sus labores el ingenio,” Diario de Cuba, March 22, 1928.

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when conditions in the sugar industry were depressed throughout the country, a newspaper reported that the Central Almeida was not even solvent enough to pay its employees. As a result “many workers have died of hunger.”64 One US observer noted how poverty hit some groups harder than others. When “the valley was filled with hunger. The Americans, we ate well. Those who suffered most were Antilleans and Cubans.”65 Even as early as 1922, there were cases of people like Haitian Julio Pie. He was “without work and hungry,” when he tried to drown himself by jumping off of a dock into water in Santiago de Cuba.66 Rural workers also suffered from diseases that came from poor living conditions and a lack of medical care. In Guantánamo in August 1928 an unknown Haitian worker died of bronchitis because he was “without any of the necessary resources for its treatment.”67

surviving in the sugar zones Traditionally, historians have looked to consular officials and the archival records they produced to understand immigrants’ efforts to achieve official redress. They have long argued that British Caribbean migrants, unlike Haitians, were able to take advantage of their imperial citizenship to petition consular officials.68 More recently, others have demonstrated the severe limitations in the scope and effectiveness of this representation for migrating British West Indians. This created tensions between the British Caribbean populations petitioning in the language of imperial citizenship and the consular representatives of an empire in crisis.69 As Chapter 6 will show, Haitians petitioned to their consuls to a much greater degree than is usually recognized, though representation hinged on 64

65

66

67

68 69

Salvador Rivas, “Si el central ‘Almeida’ no hace zafra este año, no es culpa de ningún empleado ni obrero,”Diario de Cuba, February 10, 1933. Cirules, Conversación, 175–6. See also: “Los vecinos del central Almeida temen que aparezca el fantasma del hambre cuando cese sus labores el ingenio,”Diario de Cuba, March 22, 1928. “La ciudad de Santiago al minuto: Un haitiano quiso ahogarse,” El Cubano Libre, January 23, 1922. “En la finca ‘Chapala’ fallece un haitiano sin asistencia médica,” La Voz del Pueblo, August 15, 1928. Zanetti and Garcia, United Fruit Co., 247. Whitney and Chailloux, Subjects or Citizens, 84–91; Queeley, Rescuing our Roots, 49; Putnam, Radical Moves, 118; Giovannetti, “Black British Subjects,” 3–4, 159, 202–215. For similar arguments about consular representation for Puerto Rican and Filipino immigrants petitioning the US government in Hawai’i, see Poblete, Islanders in the Empire, 80–1, 88.

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individual officials. While some Haitian consuls made dogged efforts on workers’ behalf, others ignored immigrant workers entirely or contributed to their exploitation. Even active Haitian consuls were largely unsuccessful. Perhaps the clearest indication of the limits of Haitian citizenship beyond its borders was the tendency by Cuban officials to vacillate between inscribing “Haitian” and “French” on official documents asking for a migrant’s nationality; both appear with frequency in Cuba.70 Whether labels were generated by Cuban state officials or Haitian migrants, it is clear that no concept of Haitian (not to mention US imperial) citizenship was hegemonic enough to extend beyond Haiti’s borders or to grant meaningful protection. Although Haitians had the weakest state protection in Cuba, the reality is that no sugar workers – whether citizens of Cuba, the British empire, or US-occupied Haiti – received much from their respective states. Although such institutions created the thickest archival records, these modes of official redress were not the most important survival strategies for Haitians, British West Indians, or Cubans in the sugar zones of eastern Cuba. Indeed, recent scholarship on British West Indian migrants suggests that cultural forms and daily practices shaped senses of identity and political ideologies as much as official citizenship or one’s place of residence. This explains why national identities blurred among British Caribbean migrants and their descendants as they settled in eastern Cuba and increasingly formed communities with Cubans.71 Haitians were not excluded from these processes. Like British Caribbean immigrants, their informal strategies of redress and coping, though more difficult to find in the archive, reveal more about their lives than their dialogues with consuls. Furthermore, the national distinctions that seemed so important to journalists, sugar administrators, and other lettered populations in eastern Cuba mattered less on the ground as Haitians and other workers formed diverse communities within and outside of the spaces of work. Haitians engaged in numerous efforts to assert personal autonomy, improve work conditions, and increase their wages. They performed these activities alongside individuals of other nationalities with whom they

70

71

For two of many examples, see Penal records for Armando Gutierrez Salazar, November 7, 1924 ANCPC 336/15 and José Pie, January 3, 1924 ANCPC 459/46. Their nationalities are represented as “Haitian” and “French,” respectively. Giovannetti, “Black British Subjects,” 86, 202–215; Whitney and Chailloux, Subjects or Citizens, 131–2; Queeley, Rescuing our Roots, 4–5, Putnam, Radical Moves, 3.

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created networks and communities outside of work hours. Remarkably, they did so before, during, and after the deportations of the 1930s (to be discussed in the following section), suggesting that, for those Haitians who managed to remain in Cuba, repatriation drives interrupted, but did not destroy, processes of community formation and integration. As numerous scholars have shown, one of the primary ways for sugar laborers to exert control over their labor was to burn cane. This created work since burned cane had to be processed immediately. It also eliminated excess growth and made cutting much easier.72 At times, cane burning was combined with complex negotiations between cane cutters, landowners, and even state officials. In Esmeralda, Camagüey, during the harvest of 1936, Haitian laborer Alberto Pie, whose nickname “Vijuel” was probably a derivation of viejo, approached the colono whose land he was working. “In representation of his fellow workers,” Vijuel “made a demand to burn the cane, since they were dealing with old cane” that “had a lot of straw” on it. Such cane “is cut with difficulty and easier to cut when burned.” The request to lighten the workload was denied. Fifteen days later, the colonia went up in flames. The fire quickly spread to neighboring farms and burned approximately 70,000 arrobas of cane. The rural guard was quick to arrest both Vijuel and Avilio Mila, another Haitian.73 Surprisingly, the landowner and manager defended the Haitian workers. Walfredo Abreu Delgado, the administrator of the land, told the Rural Guard that he thought the fire was “intentional, but he didn’t suspect the detainees” since “they have worked in said colonia for many years.”74 Both Alberto Pie (Vijuel) and Avilio Mila were acquitted.75 Clearly, there were some advantages in maintaining long-term residence on a single farm and forging a relationship with landowners. These goals were so important to a Haitian named Macaco (né Manuel Pol) that he called upon state officials to intervene in a labor dispute and secure his place on the colonia La Sacra in Santa Cruz del Sur. On January 17, 1942, Macaco approached two rural guardsmen about a number of problems he had in his workplace. On the surface, Macaco had a wage dispute with the colonia’s mayoral. The latter, Macaco claimed, “had failed to pay him for some work.” The real issue, however, 72 73 74

75

McGillivray, Blazing Cane, 2–3. “Diligencias por incendio de caña,” February 22, 1936, APCTU 4/5/1. “Declaración de Walfredo Abreu Delgado [en Esmeralda],” February 25, 1936, APCTU 4/5/17. “Acta del Juicio Oral y Sentencia: Tribunal de Urgencia de Camagüey,” March 3, 1936, APCTU 4/5/52.

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had as much to do with interpersonal relationships as it did wages. Macaco complained to the rural guardsman that “everyone in the colonia wanted him to leave.” “He needed to know the reason the mayoral was kicking him off, since he had been a worker on the colonia for many years.” The landowner and manager had no complaints about Macaco’s labor, just his personality. They described the Haitian cane cutter as “a conceited person who is always looking for fights with the residents and stealing everything he sees in his path,” illustrating the extensive interactions between fieldworkers, mayorales, landowners, and even rural guards. Initially, the rural guardsman sought to offer advice to Macaco: “friend, if you are that type of person and they don’t want you here, the best thing is to move to another place and perhaps that way you will live better.” Macaco would have none of it. He angrily accused the guard of siding with his landlord, Francisco Xiques Aredondo, whom he casually called Paquito, the highly informal diminutive of Francisco. “You take these people’s side because you are Paquito’s stooge [tapa de Paquito] and you are a scoundrel just like them.” This final round of insults, coupled with subsequent threats by Macaco to stab the officer, prompted the Haitian’s arrest.76 Not only did Haitian workers like Macaco display a high degree of interaction with landowners, state officials, and other employees, such interpersonal relationships influenced issues of labor and residency, even within Cuba’s sugar industry, the epitome of a large-scale, depersonalized productive site. If some Haitian cane cutters saw benefit to settling on farms for many years and cultivating personal relationships with colonos, others took advantage of their ability to move between farms and argue for higher wages.77 In the cane fields surrounding the Central Cupey in 1918, a rural guard accused Haitian-born Julio Poll of “creating resistance to the cutting of cane for the quantity of one peso and ten cents [$1.10].” He was “demanding an increase to the sum of one peso forty cents [$1.40]” and producing “an alteration of order amongst the cane cutters.”78 Poll denied the charges, claiming that he was singled out because he “set out for another colonia where they paid one peso forty cents [$1.40] for every cart of cane one cut.” Despite marked differences in their narratives of the

76

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78

Clemente Quiñones and José Zayas, “Acta por amenazas de muerte y falta de respeto,” January 17, 1942, APCTU 34/3/1–2. Sugar workers’ tendency to move between plantations in Cuba was first detailed in Carr, “Omnipotent and Omnipresent?” 265. “Declaración de Leonardo Rodriguez y Aguilera,” May 3, 1918, ANCASXX 48/1/33.

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events, it is clear that the conflict between Poll and the guard centered on issues of workers’ freedom of movement and wage rates. In this case, a physical fight broke out between the two. Poll claimed that the company’s private guard “gave him four slaps on the back with a machete” when he tried to leave the cane field.79 Other witnesses declare that Poll “seized a rock, throwing it over Captain Charles.” Meanwhile, they claimed, Poll’s Haitian-born companion Javier Santiago “pulled out a knife and fell upon [the guard] with it.”80 This was one of many cases of Haitians and other immigrant laborers who physically resisted companies’ efforts to keep them from leaving plantations in the middle of zafras.81 In Jatibonico in March 1925, “a group of Haitians and Jamaicans besieged a pair of rural guards in the colonia Victoria,” most likely over the right to move between plantations.82 Political violence in Cuba shaped laborers’ mobility within the island as well. The Liberal revolt that broke out after the Cuban election of 1917 brought fighting to Camagüey and Oriente. A number of British Caribbean migrants were killed during the revolt, which sent other workers fleeing for their lives. A representative of The Cuba Company complained that a group of “1500 Haytians, Jamaicas and Cubans” “got scared about Jobabo after the trouble and destruction wrought . . . during the revolution . . . We have had to make special efforts to entice labor back again.”83 In moments of political instability, fear for one’s personal safety, and not just wage rates and work conditions, could motivate movement. Workers’ movements between plantations were also facilitated by the Haitian migrants who became labor recruiters. Though sugar companies hired them to attract field laborers to their plantations, recruiters generally invited scorn from other sugar companies, state officials, and even laborers themselves.84 An administrator for the Palma Sugar Company complained that when their agents “bring workers for cane cutting from Santiago de Cuba, they are bothered by elements that congregate in the train station, making a dreadful, calumnious and cruel propaganda that, 79 80

81

82 83

84

“Comparacencia del acusado: Julio Poll,” April 4, 1918, ANCASXX 48/1/4. “Declaración de Ricardo Fernandez Valdés,” May 3, 1918, ANCASXX 48/1/32. “Declaración de Leonardo Rodriguez y Aguilera,” May 3, 1918, ANCASXX 48/1/33. “Ramon Cuenca, el guarda jurado agredido en Calabazas, en peligro de muerte,” Diario de Cuba, February 21, 1928; See Carr, “Omnipotent and Omnipresent?” 265. “Grave suceso en Jatibonico,”La Voz Del Pueblo, March 28, 1925. Unsigned letter addressed to Robert Fleming, esq., London December 27, 1917 CCA Box 36, book 2, Co-18. For an in-depth account of the 1917 revolt, see Giovannetti, “Black British Subjects,” chapter 4. “Contra los tratantes de trabajadores,” La Voz del Pueblo, November 26, 1928.

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for example, the workers in this Central are badly treated and hit with machetes.”85 State and company officials believed that such individuals were merely trying to steal laborers and “bring them to other centrales.”86 At other moments labor recruiters “penetrated within the limits of distinct farms, conquering the labors there with promises of higher wages, in order to bring them to other centrales.” The Cuban government even passed a law in 1926 requiring recruiters to register with the state.87 Such mobile recruiters could act as a source of information for migrant laborers about work conditions on distant plantations. However, evidence shows their penchant for fraud and migrants’ disillusionment with their false promises. Haitian-born Coclès Simon was a labor recruiter for the Francisco Sugar Company.88 In addition to attracting Haitians to labor there, Simon falsely claimed to be “a delegate of [the Haitian] consulate,” in order “to exploit” the “Haitians in the countryside.”89 Resentment against labor recruiters becomes obvious during a fight between a Haitian worker and a rural guardsman at the United Fruit Company. In the middle of the altercation, the worker told the guard to “fuck your mother and the mother of the labor contractor.”90 Likewise, when a middle-class Haitian woman who was involved in labor recruiting in Haiti wanted to converse with some migrants in Cuba, one of them responded to her invitation by declaring that he would only meet her “if . . . she came to visit us and were to eat cane with us.”91 Many of Haitians’ strategies for coping with harsh conditions and low wages occurred outside of work hours. Cuban author and political activist Pablo de la Torriente Brau’s 1930 short story, Una aventura de Salgari, describes a diverse group of workers relaxing after a long day of clearing land in Oriente for a sugar company. A Cuban worker remembers “the polyglot and international camp of Dutch people from Aruba, the English from Barbados, Jamaicans, Haitians, Colombians, Gallegos, Venezuelans 85

86

87 88

89

90

91

Rafael Aguirre, Administrador de Palma Soriano Sugar Company to Guillermo F. Mascaro, Gobernador de Oriente, March 5, 1919, APSGP 307/21/1. Letter to Sr. Rafael Aguirre, Administrador del “Central Palma,” signed by S.S., March 8, 1919, APSGP 307/21/3. Untitled Communiqué by the Governor of Oriente, January 05, 1927, APSGP 310/09/01. Segundo Admor. General, The Francisco Sugar Company to Sr. Gobernador Provincial, Santiago de Cuba, February 13, 1927, APSGP 309/13/1. Louis Hibbert, Consul General de Haiti to Gobernador Provincial de Oriente, January 05, 1935, APSGP 377/50/1. [que se cagaba en la madre del dicente y en la del Contratista] “Declaración de Emilio Puche Suarez,” May 29, 1929, ANCASXX 29/1/14. Laville, La traite des nègres, 11.

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and Creoles, in the thick of darkness, waiting for the deep bowl of food, of sad songs from all the countries! And the stories!”92 De la Torriente Brau’s depiction of Haitians sharing food, songs, and stories with laborers of other nationalities is at odds with stereotypes about their isolation in Cuban society. Yet it deals with only one of many of their efforts to relax along with workers of other nationalities. For sugar workers, such activities held significant psychological, social, and economic significance. Samuel Martínez’ study of material culture on a contemporary sugar plantation in the Dominican Republic explains the importance of leisure time and the consumption of non-utilitarian goods, even for impoverished workers. Leisure, he argues, “takes on an importance wholly beyond its utility as a time to recuperate the energy to work again” because it “is the only time the worker fully possesses him/herself, and becomes fleetingly ‘sovereign.’”93 Despite its importance for workers, written documents describing Haitians’ actions outside of the sites and hours of the workday are proportionally few. Instead, historians must rely on company records and judicial archives. Although extensive and often detailed, these documents reflect very specific economic and political concerns. Haitians’ activities appear only when the goals of the company and state were breached, giving a necessarily limited picture of the world migrants created outside of the workday. Notwithstanding their limitations, records of production and repression reveal a world in which Haitian men and women relaxed and socialized after work, engaged in small-scale commerce, sold sex, gambled, and labored in other non-sugar-producing activities on plantations as both providers and consumers. Many also acquired non-utilitarian goods. Like formal labor itself, Haitians engaged in these activities alongside individuals of other nationalities. Sources reveal dense networks that linked Haitian workers of different skill levels to other native and immigrant laborers, rural guardsmen, US colonists, and company administrators. The networks that Haitians and other workers created dispel the notions that the former were isolated or that sugar companies were able to divide their workers effectively. More fundamentally, they show that the ideologies of racial and national difference that lettered populations constructed did not have the same power among the diverse workers who formed communities and networks in rural Cuba. 92 93

De la Torriente Brau, “Una Aventura De Salgari,” 55. Martínez, Decency and Excess, 12.

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Shifting the gaze to leisure and types of informal work brings the experiences of women into relief as well. Although wage labor in Cuba’s twentieth-century sugar industry was gendered male, women and children were prevalent on plantations – a fact that becomes apparent in analyses of leisure spaces and informal economies.94 Some of these women were Haitians. Between 1912 and 1927, statistics recorded the entrance of 10,495 Haitian women into Cuba. They joined larger contingents of women from the British West Indies and, of course, Cuba.95 Haitian workers sought relief from life on sugar plantations through various means. On the evening of March 7, 1919, for instance, Haitianborn Ney Louis Charles was drinking an anisette and playing his violin in a café on the United Fruit Company’s Preston plantation in Cuba. It was payday. During the evening, a Jamaican prostitute “asked him in English” to play a Haitian waltz. This was not a chance encounter; they knew each other very well. In fact, Charles and a Cuban member of the rural guard held a rivalry over her affections.96 Charles’ story is just one example illustrating how workers relaxed outside of the workday with music, drinking, dancing, and other activities. Ney Louis Charles’ relationship with the Jamaican prostitute and the Cuban rural guardsman also highlights the way individuals interacted across national lines and company hierarchies. This is consistent with the findings of other studies of Caribbean migrants, which argue that migrants’ “networks are based on quite another logic than nation-states, with their clearly demarcated borders, exclusive memberships based on birthrights, and strong ideology of shared common identity.”97 In another example of relationships that were not defined by national divisions, Haitians José Leyva and Rapido Luis coordinated with two AfroCubans and a Barbadian to “invest their earnings in dances and bachatas they give in the colonia.”98 Life as a fieldworker on a Cuban sugar plantation created specific needs and opportunities for collaboration that transcended the racial divisions imposed by companies.

94 95 96 98

Putnam, The Company They Kept, 7. McLeod, “Undesirable Aliens: Race, Ethnicity, and Nationalism,” 607. 97 Laville, La traite des nègres, 8–10. Fog-Olwig, Caribbean Journeys, 11. Guardia Rural, “Acta,” January 18, 1947, Archivo Provincial de Camagüey: Juzgado de Instrucción del Partido Judicial de Camagüey (hereafter APCJIPJC) 317/3919/2–3. “Declaración de Félix Socarrás Téllez: Juzgado Municipal de Sibanicu,” January 27, 1947, APCJIPJC 317/3919/31; “Declaración de Ignacio Portal Rodriguez, Juzgado Municipal Sibanicu,” January 27, 1947, APCJIPJC 317/3919/30.

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What for some was a reprieve from arduous work, others saw as an opportunity for financial gain. In Cuban plantations, as elsewhere in the Americas, the presence of a large agricultural workforce created demand for a range of goods and services readily filled by other inhabitants of plantations and even cities.99 At the beginning of the sugar harvest of 1938, for instance, Haitian-born Tertulien Jutilien left his seasonal residence in Santiago de Cuba to “sell merchandise outside of the city.”100 Such informal commerce provided money for women and children, who were largely excluded from the male-dominated forms of wage labor on plantations. In 1929, Haitian-born Rosa Pol sold “sweets” inside a barracón on the colonia Buena Vista in Palma Soriano.101 These activities even occurred inside the centrales. One company administrator complained that there were people inside the centrales “that do not have any connection to work, and I have noticed many little children bringing packages and bottles of coffee with milk to the employees working.”102 At least some wandering merchants saw themselves as a brake on the “insatiable hands of the exploiters in the Sugar Company” who force their workers “to buy at very high prices” in company stores.103 Demand for consumer goods was higher than one might imagine. Like Haitian migrants in the contemporary Dominican Republic, even poor agricultural laborers in early twentieth-century Cuba purchased manufactured goods for achieving personal dignity, “reclaiming individuality,” and “gaining momentary relief from monotony and drudgery.”104 Despite the fact that he lived on a farm in rural Cuba, Haitian August Fitz “wore shirts and undershirts of the type they sell in El Globo” a department store in the city of Camagüey described by one newspaper as “the large home of articles for gentlemen.”105 Rural workers’ desire to assert themselves through fine clothing explains why another Haitian, Jorge Laporta, was able to work as a tailor on the Central Santa Lucia in Oriente, where he made “suits” and “Palm Beach pants” for residents.106 Petty merchants 99 100

101 102

103 104 105 106

Putnam, The Company They Kept, 7; McGillivray, Blazing Cane, 142. “Declaración de testigo, Rafael Miller Leon,” March 12, 1938, Archivo Provincial de Santiago: Sala de Urgencia (hereafter APSSU) 28/286a/38. “Declaración de Rosa Pol, s.o.a.,” February 4, 1929, APSATO 336/2419/3. R.B. Wood, Administrador General to Eduardo Higaldo, Capt. Jefe Guardia Jurada, Chaparra, March 13, 1937, APLTCASMC 1/55/543/65. “La denuncia de los vendedores ambulantes,” Diario de Cuba, August 29, 1924. Martínez, Decency and Excess, 52. “Muerto por un rayo,” El Camagüeyano, April 6, 1925. Emilio González, “Secretario Judicial temporero dels Juzgado de Instrucción de Gibara y su partido judicial,” September 10, 1923 APSATO 310/2193/1.

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sold other non-essential goods for workers as well. Among the wares of wandering merchant Tertulien Jutilien were dolls, cornets, toy guns, earrings, gray socks, books, and toothbrushes.107 In 1936 an accidental cane fire near the Central Jaronu in Camagüey destroyed the homes of a number of Haitian cane cutters. Workers estimated their losses to be between 30 and 100 pesos; their possessions normally included clothing, beds, hammocks, and tables.108 As Chapter 7 will show, fine clothing and manufactured goods had significant symbolic value for migrants returning to Haiti as well. Through the informal commercial networks constituted by buyers and sellers, Haitian men and women interacted extensively with individuals of other nationalities. Haitian Tertulien Jutilien lived with Maria Martinez, a woman originally from the Dominican Republic who was also “accustomed to working in the countryside during the zafras.”109 William Stokes, an individual from the United States living in rural Cuba, recalled that one “could usually buy boxes of boniato from Haitians.”110 Haitian migrants also gambled in various forms on sugar plantations, including buying and selling lottery tickets. One observer hyperbolically declared that “there is no human being with more love for gambling than the Haitian.”111 On the colonia Demajagual in Camagüey, Haitian-born Antonio Luis was known as an “individual who does not work and when he does only dedicates himself to selling lottery tickets . . . and gambling.”112 Besides selling lottery tickets, Haitians also bought them in large numbers. In 1937, observers blamed the widespread deportation of Haitian laborers for the “overwhelming” number of unsold lottery tickets in Guantánamo.113 Despite the inevitable drain on the majority of Haitians’ already low wages, there are reasons gambling could be appealing to workers in such harsh conditions since it “suspends

107

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109 110 111

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Cirilo Rodriguez L. Sgto. Esc. 39 de la Guardia Rural, Jefe del Puesto to Juez Municipal de Alto Songo, January 27, 1938, APSSU 28/286a/63. Gregorio Rivera Gonzalez, Cabo del Esc. 41 de la Guardia Rural y Jefe del Puesto, untitled document, February 5, 1936. APCTU 4/8/2–5. “Declaración de testigo, Rafael Miller Leon,” March 12, 1938, APSSU 28/286a/38. Enrique Cirules, Conversación, 176. “Cómo occurrió el hecho sangriento de la colonia ‘Montada,’” El Camagüeyano, June 4, 1925. [Untitled Statement by R. Ayala, Augusto Porro, Francisco Garcia, Guardias Rurales], February 24, 1936, APCTU 4/15/2. “Los haitianos y la lotería nacional,” La Voz del Pueblo, May 06, 1937.

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compliance not only with the mathematical but also with the political and social orthodoxies governing everyday life.”114 Haitians were not the only individuals on Cuban soil who gambled. Gambling was common among all social classes and all regions in Republican Cuba.115 In fact, Haitians, Cubans, and individuals of other nationalities gambled together on sugar plantations, revealing the extent of social relationships that workers created across national lines. In Ciego de Avila in 1942, Haitian laborer Alberto Luis bought his lottery tickets from Luis Woi Tung, a Chinese individual who lived on the same sugar plantation.116 Perhaps as a result, Luis often borrowed money from Juan Cumber, a Jamaican worker who had “on many occasions . . . given him nickels and dimes so that he could pay his bills.”117 Similarly, one day in 1928 in San Germán, Haitians José Ramón, José Manuel, and Antonio Segundo were gambling with a Dominican named José Martínez and Gabino Quial, a Cuban.118 Gambling was so common in sugar barracones that “gamblers from the cities” made “incursions in the colonias” to play. Among them was Antonio Fadragas, a white middle-class Cuban who gambled with Adolfo Estévez Cardenas, a “black” of unknown nationality in the colonia Montada in Morón, Camagüey.119 Haitians also used their leisure time to reproduce their labor by preparing food, washing clothes, and performing other domestic duties. In the colonia Fontanales number 3 in Camagüey, Lucia Pradela, a married Haitian woman, performed domestic labor in her house.120 Domestic labor was probably not the only work such women performed. In 1929, Rosa Pol told authorities that she worked in her house, though she also sold food in the barracones.121 Nor was all such labor performed by women. During the dead season of 1926 on the colonia La Isabel in Las Tunas, a group of Haitian men joined forces to cook, clean, and gather food. Simon Pie and José Luis, two Haitians who worked with oxen, left “from the barracón . . . where they lived and worked, to the store on the 114

115 116

117 118 119

120 121

Kavanagh, Dice, Cards, Wheels, 11. See also DaMatta and Soárez, Águias, burros e borboleta, 104. Sáenz Rovner, The Cuban Connection. “Acta Num. 1448 de la Policía Nacional, Sección de Ciego de Avila,” July 13, 1942, APCTU 25/1, Pieza #1/1. “Declaración de Juan Cumber (soa),” July 14, 1942, APCTU 25/1, Pieza #1/10. “Detención por juego al prohibido,” Diario de Cuba, August 23, 1928. “Cómo occurrió el hecho sangriento de la colonia ‘Montada,’” El Camagüeyano, June 4, 1925. “Declaración de Lucia Pradela (soa),” July 17, 1942, APCTU 25/1, Pieza #1/44. “Declaración de Rosa Pol, s.o.a.,” February 4, 1929, APSATO 336/2419/3.

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colonia to buy soap.” At that point, they separated and divided their work. Pie traveled “to the ravine to wash his clothing” while “Luis returned to the aforementioned barracón to make lunch for both” as well as for Luis’ father who “had gone to look for boniato” on a distant colonia. Even such close-knit cooperation among Haitians did not prevent them from forming relationships with people of other nationalities. When Simon Pie was injured, Obdulio Celasio, an individual from Curaçao, alerted Pie’s companions and aided them in seeking medical attention.122 In another case, in 1924, Cuban-born Eliodoro Hechavarría cooked in a small restaurant on the colonia Barrancas where Haitian-born José Joan ate.123 Buying and selling sex on plantations was another economic activity in which Haitian-born men and women engaged outside the sphere of formal wage labor. In Palma Soriano two Haitians, Bertina Nicolasa and José Nicolás, worked as a prostitute and pimp respectively.124 Like sugar production and petty commerce, the network of prostitutes, their brokers, and their customers cut across national lines. On the colonia Pennsylvania, Haitian-born José Leyva, along with another Haitian, a Barbadian, and two Cubans supplemented their work by “bringing women from other places to exercise prostitution so that they could appropriate the products that said women obtain.”125 In Leyva’s house were two Cuban-born women, Clemencia Pimentel Menendez and Marcela Martínez Rosell, who were “engaging in prostitution under [his] direction.”126 Although authorities were quick to employ labels like prostitution, the term obscures the wide range of ways that sex was organized on sugar plantations. Disentangling these various threads illustrates women’s highly divergent experiences in rural Cuba and serves as a reminder that the world that workers created outside of the company gaze could be highly exploitative for others. Women and men like those above engaged in prostitution and many probably did so voluntarily. However, in many sexual relationships among workers it is difficult to parse the contours of

122

123 124

125

126

Sub-Inspector de la Policia Judicial to Juez de Instruccion de Victoria de Las Tunas, July 24, 1926, APLTJVLT 97/1347/19–20. “Sucesos de la provincia: Reyerta y lesiones,” Diario de Cuba, October 17, 1925. “Información del : Detención por ejercicio de la prostitución,” Diario de Cuba, August, 16, 1928. Inocente G. Pichardo Quintanal, Cabo del Escuadron 31 de la Guardia Rural to Juez de Instrucción de Camagüey, January 19, 1947, APCJIPJC 317/3919/22. Guardia Rural, “Acta,” January 18, 1947, APCJIPJC 317/3919/2–3.

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commodification, consent, and affection, suggesting the analytical limits of the word prostitution. Considering worker mobility, poverty, and imbalanced sex ratios, even the most genuine relationships could be ephemeral and involve some kind of economic support or exchange. Men’s feelings for the women labeled as prostitutes cannot be reduced to that of a commodified biological process. Likewise, women accused of prostitution emphasized their personal relationships with men – probably a defense against authorities, a recognition of actual affective ties, and an effort to assert respectability.127 For others, there was nothing voluntary about having sex for money. An untold number of women were victims of a sex trafficking network that connected Haiti to Cuba and involved the tacit consent of sugar companies. Evidence of such clandestine activities is sparse but revealing. As the previous chapter explained, Haitian rights organizations complained that women were sold to Cuba; Haitian officials believed that sugar companies “facilitate[d] the arrival of women and children in order to retain workers.”128 Some Haitian women were specifically recruited to “clean bottles” in Cuba, which they found out upon arrival, was a euphemism for working as prostitutes for sugar laborers.129 The practice of selling young women in Cuba was carried out by Haitian individuals, not just companies. One Haitian woman was arrested in the streets of Santiago de Cuba when she tried to deliver “six young Haitian peasant women who had just arrived” to unspecified buyers.130 In Niquero in 1928, seventeen-year-old Angela Rios accused her Cuban mother and Haitian stepfather of trying to “sell her or trade her to other Haitians for food or other articles.”131 Sadly, trafficking of women of various nationalities was not so uncommon in Cuba. In 1925, Cuban immigration officials circulated a report among officials in Oriente, Cuba, concerning the need to crack down on La Trata de Mujeres (The Trade in Women) of all nationalities.132 127 128

129 130

131

132

See also Putnam, The Company They Kept, 84–6. “Enquête de la Ligue Haitienne pour la Defense des Droits de l’Homme et du Citoyen sur notre émigration, Interview de Monsieur F. Hibbert,” Le Nouvelliste, May 28, 1925. Pedro Díaz, “Guanamaca,” 36. “Enquête de la Ligue des Droits de l’Homme sur notre émigration à Cuba: Interview de Monsieur B. Danache,” Le Nouvelliste, May 13, 1925. Juez de Instrucción de Manzanillo to Presidente de la Audiencia de Santiago de Cuba, December 6, 1928, ANC: Audiencia de Santiago (Siglo xx), (hereafter ANCASXX) 46/9/1. Gobernador de Oriente to Comisionado de Inmigración Encargado de la Cuarentena, April 3, 1925, APSGP 786/13/25.

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Women and children could also be the victims of rape, perhaps the clearest reminder that one person’s activities outside the workplace could entail severe violence for another. For instance, in Palma Soriano, Haitian worker Ignacio Pol attempted to sexually assault a young child. He was thwarted when the victim’s older sister alerted their mother, Rosa Pol, a twenty-one-year-old Haitian woman who sold desserts to workers. Upon learning of the assault, she and Lidia Pelegrin Larduet, a Cuban, prevented the attack and notified authorities.133 In the realm of informal commerce, the Haitian and Cuban women inhabited the same space; in the face of a danger that did not discriminate according to nationality, they depended on each other for mutual help. In the world of the sugar plantation, men’s rivalries over women could quickly turn to violence. In 1928, a Haitian named Manuel Félix shot another Haitian named Luis Cesar Batista four times over what investigators euphemized as “issues of skirts.”134 At times, such love triangles included individuals of other nationalities and cut across sectors of the plantation. On the colonia “Rincón uno,” near Manzanillo, Alberto Castillo and José Tomás, of unknown, probably Cuban nationality, murdered Arsenio Líos because of the latter’s “sustained illicit relations with the Haitian Isabel,” Castillo’s girlfriend.135 Similarly, Alberto Luis and Juan Cumber, a Haitian and Jamaican, respectively, fought over an Afro-Cuban woman named Maria, who lived on their colonia and worked during the yearly harvests as a prostitute.136 Other relationships and the conflicts they spawned cut across sectors of the plantation, illustrating the complexity of workers’ communities in rural Cuba. In 1919, a Cuban rural guard desired the affections of a Jamaican prostitute who was in a relationship with the aforementioned Ney Louis Charles. In the context of the labor hierarchy, the guard would have had quite a bit of power over the immigrant agricultural worker. However, native birth and higher status on the plantation hierarchy did not stop him from desiring a Jamaican woman; nor could it help him to break up the couple. Eventually, he killed his Haitian rival after being rebuffed by the Jamaican.137 Women’s perspectives were not always collected for these sources, perhaps because they were not present at the 133 134

135 136 137

“Declaración de Lidia Pelegrin Larduet,” February 4, 1929, APSATO 336/2419/4. “Un sujeto que mató a otro por cuatro disparos de revolver fue ayer procesado con exclusion de fianza,” El Camagüeyano, February 14, 1928. “El fiscal pide la pena capital para dos reos,” El Diario de Cuba, February 28, 1933. “Declaración del Acusado Alberto Luis (soa),” July 14, 1942, APCTU 25/1, Pieza #1/12. Laville, La traite des nègres, 7–10.

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fights or because they were merely objects in struggles between men that seemed to require little additional explanation from authorities. In this way, gender shaped the construction of the archive and limits what we can know about women’s lives in sugar plantations. Physical violence among workers was not limited to sexual assault or men’s fights over women. Like other activities, these conflicts involved individuals of different nationalities and sectors of the plantation. At times, the company’s most skilled employees, fueled by alcohol and racism, inflicted violence on resting workers. In 1919, Everett Brown described a group of Haitians, who “had their hammocks all slung” in a cane car. They “were waiting to be transported to Preston” and “resting for their trip.” Soon, an engineer from a different camp became “gloriously drunk . . . took a gun away from a guard” and beseeched the Haitians to get out of the car. “They would not get off the car so he climbed on and began to punch every black head he saw.” Brown continued: “if it had not been for a bunch of whites trying to get him off the car, he would have been knifed, for they all wear knives all the time, and it is a habit they have of disposing of any one they don’t like.”138 Brown’s account demonstrates the racism he and other engineers held for fieldworkers, though it also suggests that Haitians had recourse to physical violence in Cuba. There is some truth to his claims. Haitians and other sugar workers often engaged in physical fights involving alcohol and weapons. Although administrators organized their interpretation of events around racial and national differences, such emphases do not appear in workers’ accounts of conflicts. In fact, fights among Haitians were just as frequent as those between Haitians and individuals of other nationalities. For instance, on February 24, 1936, around 10 PM, Miguel Fis and Rafael Solo, two Haitians who lived on the colonia San Ramon, began arguing over an unknown “question.” When it became clear that “Solo wanted to hit him,” Fis “pulled out the revolver he carried and shot [Solo].”139 Neither side revealed what that “question” was, though other altercations involving Haitians reveal a range of possible motivations. These centered on issues specific to the worlds of petty commerce, prostitution, leisure, and rural work.140 Collectively, these illustrate that the ideas of race and 138

139

140

Everett C. Brown to Ethel Brown. 1-Sep-[?] Probably 1919, UFECB, Box 1, Folder 2-Cuba. “Testimonio de Alberto Rios y Diego Rodriguez, Soldados de la Guardia Rural,” February 24, 1936, AP Camagüey: Tribunal de Urgencia 4/4/1. For similar arguments about laborers on the Caribbean coasts of Guatemala, see Opie, Black Labor Migration, 6, 44–6.

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the way they functioned in rural Cuba were more complicated than the stark picture emphasized by journalists and company officials. Race was but one of numerous issues that influenced worker interactions, and in many cases it was not the most salient one. Some worker conflicts were caused by disputes over the terms of conducting petty commerce or efforts to rob merchants. In 1943, a Haitian named Benito Luis threatened Ignacio Montes, the Jamaican store owner who sold him his cigarettes on the colonia #1 in Santa Cruz del Sur. The shop owner refused to allow the Haitian to return an opened box of cigarettes that he had purchased a few minutes before. In response, Luis began “to break the bottles of maltina, beers and at the same time threatened to kill the bodeguero, who fled running.”141 Other wandering merchants were robbed or even killed by fellow rural residents.142 Bouts of physical violence also originated from workers’ bravado and efforts by intoxicated men to one-up each other. Such actions are best understood as an effort to show strength, gain respect, and reinforce masculinity in an economic sector that was not conducive to any of the three. On May 9, 1929, Haitian-born José Zayas approached his house to find a number of other Haitians drinking out front. His entrance was blocked by José Samuel, another Haitian. According to a witness, “Zyas rebuked him asking why he was prevented from entering his house and declaring that he could do so freely.” Samuel replied “because he didn’t want him to.” When Zayas persisted in entering his own house, Samuel “hit his hat, knocking it on the ground.” Zayas asked him to pick it up and “Samiel [sic] answered with a strong blow to the left eye with a piece of sugar cane.”143 Although Zayas was the victim of an attack that doctors were “almost certain” would lead to the loss of his eye, he refused to identify Samuel to authorities. In this case, the grandstanding that led to the conflict probably also prevented Zayas from seeking judicial redress. Zayas was not unique in this regard. A Haitian named Delta Welsen sought medical treatment for a “grave” machete wound on his lower back. Doctors and police refused to believe that it had come from a woodchopping accident, as Welsen had claimed. They wondered why

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143

“Testimonio del acta de denuncia,” January 4, 1943, APCTU 33/18/1. Cirilo Rodriguez L. Sgto. Esc. 39 de la Guardia Rural, Jefe del Puesto to Juez Municipal de Alto Songo, January 27, 1938, APSSU 28/286a/63. “Declaracion de José Pol Fisco conocido por José Pie,” May 7, 1929, APSATO 351/ 2576/37.

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“Welsen wants to silence the truth of what happened, perhaps to seek revenge on his own.”144 Company and state officials were quick to repress Haitians’ leisure activities when they subverted institutional goals of production or law enforcement. For instance, in 1929, Haitian-born Juan Bautista defied United Fruit Company orders to travel to a distant field to cut cane in order to take advantage of his time off – an act that administrators and judicial authorities referred to as a strike. In Bautista’s own words, he “had drunk some cups of liquor, which made him a little drunk.” As a result, “he did not want to go and work and was in the barracón looking for a way to go and find food, because the animals or some unknown person, ate what he had made.”145 As guards approached him, a verbal and physical fight broke out. A Jamaican cook reported that “Bautista was talking a lot and saying that he wouldn’t work in the non-company fields.”146 The officer claimed that Bautista had reached for his knife while resisting arrest “with an aggressive attitude,” requiring him to “use force.”147 Local courts in Banes sent Bautista to prison on charges of threatening an “agent of authority.”148 Company and state officials did not share such a unity of purpose when workers’ leisure activities pitted the institutions against each other. In this respect, Haitians’ day-to-day actions provide a glimpse into the fissures between sugar companies and the Cuban state; they may have also exacerbated them. At times, state officials framed workers’ tendencies to gamble or engage in prostitution as a lack of productivity. For instance, in 1951, a member of the Guardia Rural described two Haitian men accused of running a prostitution business as individuals who “do not work despite the fact that the colonia is in the harvest period.”149 In the same manner, a group of rural guardsmen referred to Haitian Antonio Luis, an alleged gambler, as “an individual that does not work.”150 What local authorities interpreted as a drain on workers’ productivity, company administrators recognized as a precondition for production. As El 144 145 146 147 148

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“Un tajo extremadamente misterioso,” El Cubano Libre, August 29, 1915. “Comparecencia del Acusado Juan Batista s.o.a.,” May 28, 1929, ANCASXX 29/1/13. “Declaración de José Brown,” May 29, 1929, ANCASXX 29/1/16. “Declaración de Emilio Puche Suarez,” May 29, 1929, ANCASXX 29/1/14. The conviction was eventually overturned on appeal. Juez de Instruccion de Banes to Presidente de la Audiencia de Oriente, May 26, 1929, ANCASXX 29/1/1. “Diligencia de Mauro J.F. Chirino, Guardia Rural,” January 12, 1951, APCJIPJC 319/ 39615/ 4. Untitled statement by R. Ayala, Augusto Porro, Francisco Garcia, Guardias Rurales, February 24, 1936, APCTU 4/15/2.

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Camagüeyano declared bluntly in 1924: “in a colonia in the interior with no women and only a little gambling from time to time, you will probably not find any workers.”151 This explains why rural guardsmen in the Central Baguanos and elsewhere accepted bribes from known gamblers in exchange for the right to play.152 Other state officials were less obliging. Undercover police officers arrested men and women from different nationalities for illegal gambling or engaging in prostitution.153 In the case of wandering merchants, the situation was reversed. Although they were within their legal rights to buy and sell goods in public spaces to workers, those who engaged in petty commerce faced scorn and harassment from both urban shopkeepers and sugar company officials for undercutting prices of permanent stores.154 Company guards expelled and physically harmed petty merchants of all nationalities from sugar plantations. For instance, in 1924 on the Central Miranda, Salvador Bhar, a Cuban-born wandering merchant “was attacked brutally by a Guardia Jurado” merely for selling goods on company premises.155 In response, such vendors called upon their rights to inhabit public space. They also protested company behavior to state authorities. For instance, one group of wandering merchants complained that companies used the most “reprehensible measures” to stop them. Typically, “the Guarda Jurado [private company guard] arrives at the place where the vendor is, which is always a public place, before telling them that they cannot continue there because it is prohibited by ‘the Company.’” When vendors asserted their right to sell by pointing out that “it’s not private property . . . the guarda jurado scatters the merchandise, mistreats him in words and deeds and then accuses him of disobedience and assault.”156 One group of wandering merchants created the Union de Vendedores Ambulantes de la Provincia de Oriente [Union of Wandering Merchants in Oriente Province] and petitioned to state officials to halt the company 151

152

153

154

155 156

“Cómo ocurrió el hecho sangriento de la colonía ‘Montada,’”El Camagüeyano, June 4, 1925. “Declaración de Manuel Fusalba,” March 11, 1913, ANCASXX 8/1/1. Juez de Instrucción, Holguín to Presidente de la Audiencia. Santiago de Cuba, June 30, 1922, ANCASXX 68/2/1. “Soldados vestidos de paisano prestan buen servicio en el campo,” La Voz del Pueblo, January 12, 1928. “El comercio de Mayarí produjo una queja contra los vendedores ambulantes,”Diario de Cuba, February 21, 1928; “La denuncia de los vendedores ambulantes,”Diario de Cuba, August 29, 1924. “La denuncia de los vendedores ambulantes,”Diario de Cuba, August 29, 1924. Ibid.

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abuse. The daily activities of Haitians and other sugar workers divided company administrators and state officials, two groups whose unity is normally interpreted as the bedrock of republican Cuba. Haitians responded to repression from companies and states in a variety of ways. In the realm of gambling, Haitians and other workers opposed police attempts to stop their games, leading to physical confrontations. In 1942, Julian Castillo, a Haitian-born individual who sold lottery tickets for a living, was approached by a police officer. Rather than surrender his list of numbers, Castillo “resisted it, not wanting to accompany [the guard].”157 Similarly, undercover agents sought to arrest Haitian-born Antonio López on the assumption that he and another “were dedicated to making bets on the terminals” on the colonia Ambición, an illegal practice involving making side bets on the outcome of the official national lottery. López responded with violence, insults, and assertions of his masculinity. In addition to “brandishing the machete he was carrying,” he told the guard “not to touch him that he was no woman and that if they touched him he would kill one of them.” At that moment, agents showed him their identification cards, to which López responded by thrusting his machete in their faces and telling them they could “wipe their asses” with the identification.158 Rather than physically resisting arrest, the Haitian men and women accused of prostitution responded by claiming occupations perceived as legitimate. Cuban-born Marcela Martínez Rosel denied being a prostitute to authorities. Instead, she claimed to work within her house as the “cousin [prima hermana] of José Leiva,” the Haitian-born individual accused of making money off of her sex.159 Clemencia Pimentel Menendez, another accused, similarly declared that Leiva “was a friend of [hers] for a very long time.”160 Men and women also asserted that the men only engaged in honorable work and did not need to sell women’s sex for money. Rather than depending on the sex work of Victoria Dominguez, Haitian-born Rápido Luis claimed that he “maintains her 157 158

159

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“Acta 263–42 de la Policía Municipal de Esmeralda,” May 7, 1942, APCTU 17/32/1. “Testimonio: Acta por Infraccion Ley Loteria,” July 24, 1942, “Declaración de Apolonio Reyna Lazcano,” July 27, 1942, APCTU 22/8/1, 15. Special thanks to Orlando Rivero-Valdés for explaining the concept of betting on the terminals to me. “Declaración del Testigo: Marcela Martínez Rosel, Juzgado de Instrucción, Camagüey,” January 19, 1947, APCJIPJC 317/3919/7. “Declaración del Testigo: Clemencia Pimentel Menendez, Juzgado de Instrucción de Camagüey,” January 19, 1947, APCJIPJC 317/3919/8.

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with all of the products of his work, which is cutting cane and other jobs in the colonias.”161

mass deportation and union mobilization in the 1930s In the 1930s, Haitians faced new hardships in the form of campaigns of mass deportation from Cuba; the decade also witnessed these immigrants’ most active participation in formal labor organizations. Both of these emerged amid the backdrop of Cuban political unrest and imperial flux, which culminated in the so-called Revolution of 1933. Although migration decrees had obligated migrants’ annual return, these, like so many other aspects of early migration legislation, were not fully enforced. By the early 1920s, however, the Cuban government began to monitor repatriation more stringently, especially for migrants who signed contracts with companies before leaving Haiti and who arrived in Cuba through private ports. Companies like The Cuban American Sugar Co., which operated the large mills at Chaparra and Delicias, made twenty peso deposits for each immigrant they imported. At the end of harvests, the Secretary of Agriculture, Commerce and Labor demanded passenger lists to prove that contracted migrants had been returned.162 By the late 1920s, enforcement of these laws was consistent enough that companies resorted to fraud to receive their deposits back. In 1928, the United Fruit Company at Preston was missing some of the immigrants they had recruited. Toward the end of the harvest, as workers faced the upcoming dead season, administrators announced that “the central had work for two or three more months.” The Haitians that arrived in search of employment were forcefully placed on a ship and returned to Haiti against their will. The fact that these individuals were not the same as the ones who had originally been recruited was of no concern to the company – as long as the numbers were equal.163 The event caused a scandal in Haiti, and the Haitian government imposed a brief ban on

161

162

163

“Comparecencia de Rápido Luis, soa, Juzgado de Instrucción, Camagüey,” January 19, 1947, APCJIPC 317/3919/14. See the series of documents exchanged between administrators of Chaparra and Delicias and the Cuban national government between 1923 and 1926 ANCSAIC 4/45. See also, ANCDR 375/24 for 1923 correspondence between The Cuba Company and the Cuban government. T. Godoy, Santiago de Cuba to R.B. Wood, Chaparra, November 15, 1928 APLTCASMC 1/43/444/192, 225.

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migration in response. Just a few years later, however, scenes of forced deportation became common – not by the actions of sugar companies but by order of the Cuban government itself. In the decade of the 1930s, the conjuncture of economic decline, political unrest, and popular pressure in Cuba led to government-led repatriation drives against immigrants. Worldwide depression in 1929 sent global sugar prices spiraling downward with disastrous effects for sugar workers, who experienced shorter harvests, lower wages, and increased unemployment. Black immigrant laborers and the imperial policies deemed responsible for their presence in Cuba were the perfect scapegoats for Cubans’ woes.164 In 1931, a small, final contingent of Haitians migrated legally; Cuba’s eastern border closed behind them. Over the next decade, the Haitians in Cuba faced discrimination and mass deportation. When a nationalist coalition of organized laborers, students, and political activists successfully overthrew the US-backed government of Gerardo Machado in the Revolution of 1933, among the first actions of the short-lived revolutionary government were the abrogation of the Platt Amendment and the passage of the Nationalization of Labor or “fifty percent” Law. The latter required all Cuban companies to ensure that at least half of their labor force was Cuban.165 Cuba’s relationships to both the United States and Haitian immigrants were being renegotiated. Between 1933 and 1939, the Cuban government repatriated over 38,000 Haitians with overwhelming, but not unlimited, support from the Cuban labor movement. With the exception of the Communist party, Cuban labor unions clamored for the expulsion of the migrants, whom they accused of stealing jobs and reducing wages. Proponents of deportation included workers outside of Oriente and Camagüey who had little or no interaction with immigrants. In 1938, the Comite Unidad Obrera Cienfuegos (Committee for Worker Unity of Cienfuegos), which was based in a place without a significant population of Caribbean immigrants, wrote the Secretary of Labor to inform him that “thousands of workers congregated” in Cienfuegos in support of deportations and to remind him of his obligation “to give jobs to Cuban workers” and to enforce “social laws” against “foreign companies.”166 164

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On the perceived link among empire, immigration, and racial decline, see Araquistain, La agonía antillana, 11. Whitney, State and Revolution, 116–7, 136–7, 154–5; Whitney and Chailloux Laffita, Subjects or Citizens, 121–6. Comite Unidad Obrera Cienfuegos to Secretario del Trabajo, Habana, November 3, 1938 ANCDR 702/21/23.

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Deportation tended to be violent, though some Haitians managed to remain in Cuba through a variety of legal means. During repatriation drives, soldiers moved through the countryside, capturing Haitians and leaving them detained in towns to be picked up as the group returned. As one soldier later recalled: Some [Haitians] began to flee and some hid themselves under bails of cornhusks and so we grabbed them by the feet and we surrounded them in the store. Then, in the afternoon, we descended with the batch of Haitians . . . and gathered them in the patio of the [Rural Guard] headquarters . . . and we started concentrating them in this place.

Haitian property was also targeted by soldiers and civilians. Some rural workers banded together to force desperate Haitians to sell property cheaply. They sought “to buy Haitians’ animals, the goats, the chickens, although paying them was a joke.” Members of the Rural Guard were also known to “divide Caribbean immigrants’ precarious goods among themselves . . . their bunch of corn, their plot of yuca, their pigs, the small savings that they had been able to have, their homes and furniture.”167 Available passenger lists show that the vast majority of repatriated Haitians were rural-dwelling men in their thirties and forties, though women and children were targeted as well. For instance, in November 1938, the Julian Alonso brought 1011 Haitians from Santiago de Cuba to the Haitian port of Aux Cayes. Of them, 39 were women and 153 were children; the rest were adult men. Over half of the men on the voyage were in their thirties and forties and only two were in their twenties. Haitians’ ages and social relationships had some effect on repatriation. Every child in ship records was accompanied by an adult woman with the same surname. For example, when 33-year-old Camela Louis was forced onto the Julian Alonso, she was joined by six Louis children: Adocternes, Emanie, Monictor, Selvina, Telinor, and Michel. Authorities’ respect for migrants’ kinship bonds appears to have been limited to that between women and their young children. There are no examples of men accompanied by minors (although such households existed in rural Cuba). Nor are there any examples of adult women and men being deported with the same surname, making it ultimately impossible to discern whether any couples managed to remain together in the process of deportation.168 167

168

Manuel Santana, “Estudio de la comunidad cubano-haitiana de Pilón del Cauto” (1986) quoted and cited in James, Millet, and Alarcón, El vodú en Cuba, 54–60. “Relacion de los repatriados haitianos que a su bordo conduce el Vapor de la Empresa Naviera de Cuba ‘Julian Alonso’ de acuerdo con el decreto no. 282 de enero 1937, con destino a AuxCayes (Haiti)” November 28, 1938 ANCSP 39/1.

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The violence and chaos of detention had the potential to separate friends and families. When soldiers burst into one Haitian household, the surprised man gave chase, perhaps to distract them from a woman and child who hid among boniato in the hut’s rafters. As some soldiers pursued the fleeing man, others discovered the woman and child and captured them on the spot. There was no guarantee that the three would be reunited.169 Haitians employed a surprising number of legal tactics to avoid repatriation. When faced with the threat of expulsion, some adopted Cuban citizenship. Of 229 Haitians who changed citizenship between 1925 and 1960 in selected cities and towns in Oriente, 84 percent did so at the height of repatriation drives between 1933 and 1939. All but eight who pledged loyalty to the Cuban republic in these years listed their occupation as rural laborers.170 Others sought less permanent solutions by petitioning Haitian and Cuban state authorities. In Mayarí in November 1938, a Cuban rural guard named José I.Z. Marrero gave pause when he encountered “a large quantity” of Haitians who “carry a document issued by the Consuls of the Republic of Haiti in Santiago de Cuba, according to which the Authorities grant the bearer . . . permanence in the place they dwell for a more or less prolonged period of time.” The documents, which were intended to allow immigrants time to dispose of property, were being distributed without regard to Haitians’ actual holdings.171 Indeed, Cuban authorities complained that Benjamin Clermont, the Consul General of Haiti, “attempts to place the greatest number of possible obstacles to repatriation,” though as Chapter 6 shows, this may have involved corruption on the consul’s part.172 Such techniques offered temporary protection for Haitians who kept authorities at bay by claiming modest amounts of property. In many ways, this was an echo of an earlier generation of freed Cuban slaves’ efforts to claim a place in the Cuban republic through “property in writing” and “property on the ground.”173 For instance, Cantariso Damas, a Haitian 169

170

171

172

173

Manuel Santana, “Estudio de la comunidad cubano-haitiana de Pilón del Cauto” (1986) quoted and cited in James, Millet, and Alarcón, El vodú en Cuba, 60. These come from the citizenship petitions housed in APSRECTC. They include the following cities and towns: Santiago (Norte and Sur), San Luis, Songo, Palma Soriano, Ramón de las Yaguas, El Caney, El Cobre. José I.Z. Marrero, M.M., Sgto. Escd. 17 de la Guardia Rural. Jefe del Puesto to Jefe del Escd. 17 de la G. Rural, Mayarí, November 29, 1938 ANCDR 702/21/24. Angel Pino y Aguila, 2do. Tte. Del Ejercito Constitucional. Delegado de la Sec. del Trabajo en la Rep. Antillanos to Secretario del Trabajo, December 8, 1938 ANCDR 702/21/28–9. Scott and Zeuske, “Property in Writing, Property on the Ground,” 670.

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who lived near Mayarí, learned of his impending deportation in early October 1938. He successfully delayed the process because he owned “four hens and three turkeys” jointly with other people. In addition, Damas had “three beds for his relatives and a horse” that he was holding as collateral for a debt that a Cuban named Manuel González owed him. Soldiers gave Damas time to liquidate his property and collect his debts. But when they returned the next month to take him away, he showed them a document from the Haitian Consul in Santiago allowing him to stay for the remainder of the year.174 Antonio Pier, a Haitian in Hongolo Songo, near El Cobre, was even more ambitious. Perhaps with the aid of a lawyer, he wrote a letter directly to the President of Cuba, claiming that his presence in Cuba would not harm the national economy but that his absence would destroy his family. Pier explained that he engaged in subsistence farming and did not work in either the coffee or sugar industries, apparent proof that he “could not harm Cuban national interests.” Furthermore, he had lived in Cuba for twenty years, married a Cuban woman and had eight children on the island. The Secretary of the Presidency forwarded the petition to the Secretary of Labor for review.175 These two men used a combination of rural property, legal channels, and economic and kinship networks to secure a place in Cuba. It is unclear whether either petition was successful, though neither Damas’ nor Pier’s names appear on the passenger lists of the ships that left Santiago in December 1938 and January 1939.176 If the 1930s marked the legal termination of the migratory movement and the end of many Haitians’ sojourns in Cuba, it also represented the beginnings of Haitian participation in organized labor. Organizing was not easy for people of African descent in republican Cuba, especially immigrants. As numerous scholars have demonstrated, the powerful idea that Cuba was a raceless nation had emerged during the country’s nineteenth-century independence wars. This belief made it difficult for 174

175

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José I.Z. Marrero, M.M., Sgto. Escd. 17 de la Guardia Rural. Jefe del Puesto to Jefe del Escd. 17 de la G. Rural, Mayarí, November 29, 1938 ANCDR 702/21/24. Antonio Pier, “Exposicion al Honorable Señor Presidente de la Republica,” December 17, 1938 ANCDR 702/21/33. “Relacion de los Repatriados Haitianos que a su bordo conduce el Vapor de la Marina Constitucional ‘Columbia’ de acuerdo con el Decreto Ley No. 282 de enero 1937, con destino al Puerto de Aux Cayes (Haiti)” December 13, 1938 ANCDR 702/ 21/42–56; “Relacion de los repatriados haitianos que a su bordo conduce el vapor de la marina Constitucional ‘Columbia’ de acuerdo con el decreto ley no. 282 de enero de L(@& [in original] con destino al Puerto de AuxCayes (Haiti),” January 16, 1939, ANCDR 702/21/66.

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non-whites to speak out against racial inequality directly since activists themselves could be labeled racist. The most notorious example of this was the 1912 massacre of members of the Cuban Partido Independiente de Color (PIC), an all-black political party that was deemed racist by Cuba’s white majority for its insistence on identifying racial discrimination on the island. With exceptions, black political mobilizing normally occurred under banners of Cuban nationalism, social class, or other raceneutral frames.177 Not surprisingly, much of Haitians’ formal organizing occurred within labor unions. Though they mobilized formally with less frequency than they employed other coping strategies, Haitians did join unions by the 1930s, particularly those affiliated with communism. Approximating the number of Haitian participants is difficult. In many cases, even the authorities bent on repressing the radical branches of the labor movement could not fathom that Haitian rural workers held any type of radical ideology like communism. While this allowed Haitians to convincingly deny knowledge of labor organizing, it also created a situation in which much of Haitian mobilization was hidden from institutional view, and by extension, archival sources. Haitians’ interactions with individuals of other nationalities placed them in communication with various labor organizers. When asked about Haitians, José Soltura, a Cuban railroad worker who organized for the Communist party in the 1930s, recalled: “I had many contacts with the cane cutters.”178 A case from Las Tunas illustrates what those “contacts” may have looked like. On February 13, 1934, a Haitianborn individual named Emmanuel Foucand was returning to the Manati Sugar Plantation where he worked after a visit to the town of Victoria de Las Tunas. The literate Haitian was arrested upon arrival for carrying “a packet of leaflets” that had been printed in neighboring Holguín by the Confederación Nacional de Obreros de Cuba (CNOC), by then a Communist-controlled coalition of labor unions.179 The pamphlet encouraged sugar workers to strike in sympathy with mobilized workers in the Syndical Section of the Camagüey Liquor and Soap Company [Seccion Sindical de la Compañía Licorera y Jabonera de Camagüey].180

177 178 180

De la Fuente, A Nation for All, 12–14; Scott, Degrees of Freedom, 206–15, 226–48. 179 Morciego, El crimen de Cortaderas, 44. See Sullivan, Radical Solidarities, 220. Alfredo Caballero, Jefe G. Jurados, Departamento de Guarda-Jurados del Central Manatí to Juez de Instrucción, Victoria de Las Tunas, February 21, 1934, APLTJVLT 103/103/1409/50.

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When questioned by police, Foucand claimed that he had been too poor to rent a hotel room in the city and was approached by a white Spaniard who allowed him to spend the night in the headquarters of “the Local Worker Syndicate.” In return, Foucand was asked to deliver a packet, which he was told were pants, to the “Secretary General of the Syndicate in Manatí,” a Cuban.181 Police rounded up the three men. The Haitian, Cuban, and Spaniard all denied any knowledge of the pamphlets, their contents, or the situation in Camagüey. Drawing upon well-worn racial stereotypes, the Sergeant of the Municipal police believed the Haitian but not the Cuban or the Spaniard. He accused the latter of “taking advantage of the ignorance of the unhappy Haitian.”182 For this officer, even a literate Haitian carrying subversive leaflets at a moment of political crisis could not be a Communist. Did Emmanuel Foucand really believe that a packet containing over 300 leaflets was a pair of pants? Was the Haitian “ignorant” of the ideas of communism as the local authorities and many subsequent historians have claimed? Or was he part of an organization that sought to organize workers across the lines of race, nationality, region, and economic sector? Although it is impossible to respond to these questions with certainty, the Foucand case illustrates a number of larger issues related to Haitians’ formal mobilization. These include the timing of mobilizations, the possible connections between literacy and labor organizing, and the influence of officials’ ideas of race on the creation of the archive. The Foucand case occurred in 1934, a moment of high labor organizing in Cuba, especially by the Communist party in the sugar industry. Not only did Haitian rural workers participate in these mobilizations, there would have been few opportunities for them, or any other sugar fieldworkers, to mobilize formally much earlier. Before the 1930s, Haitian participation in organized labor was minimal, not because of any kind of cultural isolation but because of the limited reach of unions themselves. Haitian agricultural workers arrived in Cuba without union experience. During the US occupation, the Haitian labor movement was in its infancy and concentrated in the urban areas – not the rural migrant-sending zones.183 181

182

183

“Comparecencia del Acusado Emanuel Foucard, soa” [en Victoria de las Tunas] February 14, 1934, APLTJVLT 103/103/1409/23. Acta signed by Dionicio Hernandez, Sargento P. Municipal, Actuante, February 14, 1934, APLTJVLT 103/103/1409/26. Chief of the Gendarmerie d’Haiti to the Chief of Police, Port-au-Prince, “Report on Labor Unions and Labor Movement of Haiti,” October 14, 1927 attached to letter from

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In contrast, labor unions of various types sprouted up in Cuba even in the late colonial era and organized throughout the Republican period. Unions in Cuba, though significantly more widespread, were still limited when it came to organizing sugar fieldworkers. Before the 1930s, unions in the sugar industry were composed of nationalist, skilled labor organizations that made few overtures to either fieldworkers or foreigners. The well-known sugar strikes of 1917, for example, involved mill mechanics, port workers, and even colonos in central Cuba. Similarly, the labor agitation that rocked multiple regions of Cuba in 1924 was limited to railroad personnel, small farmers, and mill workers. Fieldworkers are absent from narratives of both strikes.184 Even Cuban labor organizations that declared sympathy for immigrant laborers often failed to organize foreign sugar workers. In the early republican period, a large contingent of Spanish anarchists opposed national divisions among Cuban workers and spoke out against the mistreatment of Caribbean immigrants. However, they were concentrated among the Spanish community in Havana and were harshly repressed beginning in 1916, shortly after Caribbean immigration began in earnest.185 The Union de Obreros Antillanos (UOA) [Union of Antillean Workers] provides another case of rhetorical inclusivity, ambitious goals, and limited reach. The UOA was founded in 1924 by a group of Jamaicans led by Enrique Shackleton. The organization made petitions to British consuls, corresponded with Cuban newspapers and sought to appeal directly to Caribbean immigrants. Their inaugural meeting included speeches in English, Spanish, French, and other languages as well as the national anthems of Cuba, Haiti, Britain, the Dominican Republic, and the Internationale.186 Despite this, the UOA’s best-documented activities were concentrated in the city of Santiago de Cuba where it provided aid to destitute immigrants. Furthermore, since the vast majority of Haitian agricultural laborers spoke Haitian Creole or the Spanish they picked up in Cuba, the effectiveness of a French-language speech is questionable. Perhaps this is why the only known Haitian representative of the UOA was Edmond Craig, the Haitian consul in Santiago.187 Even if it did

184

185 186 187

John Russell to the U.S. Secretary of State, October 26, 1927, USNA RG 59 838.504/4; Matthew Smith, Red & Black in Haiti. Dumoulin, Azúcar y lucha de clases; Soto, Historia de Cuba, 25–6; Carr, “Mill Occupations and Soviets,” 134–5. Shaffer, Anarchism and Countercultural Politics, 6, 58, 84. “La fiesta de los obreros antillanos,” Diario de Cuba, August 31, 1924. McLeod, “Undesirable Aliens: Haitian and British West Indian Workers,” 115–16.

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include Haitian members, the UOA is best understood alongside the urban organizations I analyze in Chapter 6. Although branches of Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) thrived among immigrants in Cuba, including a branch on the United Fruit Company Plantation in Banes, the organization initially attracted British West Indian immigrants, and within that group, mill workers and skilled laborers. “In the early 1920s,” Frances Sullivan writes, “the organization’s officer corp . . . was composed exclusively of skilled, semiskilled, and professional West Indians residing in the La Güira neighborhood of Banes.” Even the general membership were largely “seasonal mill or factory laborers.” British Caribbean fieldworkers did not hold UNIA leadership positions until the 1930s. Workers’ nationalities, but especially their position in the sugar industry, help explain why historians have not been able to find evidence of Haitian participation in the organization in Cuba despite Garvey’s documented opposition to US actions in Haiti and calls by the leadership to recruit Haitians in Cuba to the organization.188 By the time the UNIA in Oriente expanded its membership among fieldworkers, other options were available to Haitians. Sugar company repression, and not just unions’ limited reach, may explain the sparse presence of fieldworkers in labor organizations before the 1930s. In the aftermath of a 1916 railroad strike, a top administrator in The Cuba Company explained that repression of all unions was the only way to prevent mobilization by cane cutters. “The railroad strike cost us a lot of money to break, but we had to break it . . . if we had recognized the labor unions, which our men had formed, we would have had a labor union among cane cutters and other classes of labor in every sugar mill on the island.”189 Likewise, the Cuban government dispatched the army to end a 1923 general strike in Camagüey. It had been organized by railroad workers, though one foreign newspaper suggested that Haitian and Jamaican cane cutters were involved.190 Communist labor organizations were the most successful at attracting Haitians, though the party’s efforts to do so did not begin until the 1930s. By that time, most unions were pressuring the Cuban government to

188

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Sullivan, “‘Forging Ahead’ in Banes, Cuba,” 238, 251, 253; Howard, Black Labor, 184; McLeod, “Sin dejar de ser cubanos,” 83. George H. Whigham to Robert Fleming, Esq., London, December 26, 1916 CCA Box 23, Folder 4c, R-180. Howard, Black Labor, 158; Giovannetti, “The Elusive Organization of Identity,” 6.

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deport foreign workers. The Communist party, in contrast, took a public stance in favor of immigrant laborers’ rights. Two months after Emmanuel Foucand was detained for carrying subversive leaflets, a Communist pamphlet decried the “bad conditions” of rural workers, especially those of African descent. “And if besides being blacks, they are Haitians and Jamaicans then the land is taken from them brutally and they are embarked just like in the times of slavery.” The organization’s goals were unequivocal: “Against all racial discrimination. For the respect of peasants’ lands, both black and foreign, including Haitians and Jamaicans.”191 Unlike other public overtures to Haitians, Communists recruited Haitian sugar workers to their ranks with some success. However, Communist organizers only mobilized sugar workers in the late 1920s and fieldworkers after that. The Partido Comunista de Cuba (PCC) was founded in Havana in 1925, on the opposite end of the island from the sugar industry and twelve years after Caribbean immigrants began entering with the blessing of the state. Despite rhetoric that favored universal class solidarity, links to the sugar industry were slow and initially limited to mills. As Frances Sullivan explains, the PCC began expanding its organization into eastern Cuba and the sugar industry in the late 1920s. A cell was established in the United Fruit Company’s plantation of Banes only in 1930, one year before the final contingent of Haitians arrived in Cuba. These early organizations were limited to skilled workers. The expansion of the Communist party, Sullivan argues, “was accomplished without significant cooperation from sugar workers; Banes’ early PCC leaders and members were by and large laborers for the company’s repair shops, workshops, and transportation sectors, but not its sugar factories or cane fields.”192 It is not coincidental then, that the Foucand case and other ambiguous ones like it do not appear until the 1930s, when the party had reached out to fieldworkers. Although membership rolls do not exist for such clandestine organizations, proclamations did make references to Haitian members. A Communist leaflet attached to various walls throughout Santiago de Cuba on the night of October 31, 1933, mentioned “numerous jailed Haitian companions” 191

192

“Manifiesto impreso Firmado por el Comité Central del Partida Comunista de Cuba llamando a los campesinos obreros agrícolas y soldados a luchar por sus reivindicaciones,” La Havana, March 28, 1934; ANC: Fondo Especial (hereafter ANCFE) 1/4. I am indebted to Frances Sullivan’s fine-grained analysis of the PCC, the CNOC, and their early attempts to organize sugar workers in Cuba. Sullivan, “Radical Solidarities,” 224.

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among a laundry list of workers who faced political repression on the island.193 The fact that Emmanuel Foucand was literate and spoke Spanish to police without an interpreter means that he would have been able to read the pamphlets he carried and strengthens the likelihood that he was actively organizing for the CNOC.194 The correlation between functional literacy and Haitians’ participation in unions is noteworthy. Considering the illiteracy of the majority of Haitian migrants, it is striking that Foucand and others identified in state documents as either alleged or confirmed union participants were often literate. For example, Juan Emilio, a Haitian port worker, was a literate member of the Seccion Sindical de Embarcadero no. 1 in Las Villas.195 On the one hand, the correlation between Haitians’ literacy and their participation in Cuban labor unions could be the exception that proves the rule. If the overwhelming majority of Haitians who arrived in Cuban ports were illiterate, then a handful of lettered Haitians participating in unions is not that revealing. However, a number of Haitians acquired basic literacy in Cuba, suggesting that they may have adopted both education and union experience on the island. One consul noted that Haitian immigrants “learn, if not to read, at least to sign their names, often in Spanish.”196 There was some truth to his statement. The Haitians who arrived in Cuba between 1916 and 1921 had a rate of illiteracy that averaged 93.75 percent. Among these, most were first-time migrants. The percentage who had previously been in Cuba ranged between 0.5 percent and 10.6 percent; in most years it was less than 1 percent. As the movement wore on, illiteracy rates decreased as more migrants were making their second and third journeys. Between 1924 and 1928, arriving Haitians’ illiteracy rates decreased to an annual average of 82.2 percent. On average, over one quarter (28.54 percent) had already spent one or more years working in Cuba.197 Multiple trips to Cuba correlated with higher literacy rates. 193

194

195 196

197

“Defensa Obrera Internacional: Sección Cubana del Socorro Rojo Internacional: Comité Ejecutivo Provincial de Oriente A los Obreros, Campesinos, Estudiantes Revolucionarios, soldados, marinos y Policias” Santiago de Cuba, October 30, 1933 – accompanied by “Declaracion de Manuel Neyra y Rios,” APSATO 2/19/3, 13. “Comparacencia del Acusado Emanuel Foucard, soa [en Victoria de Las Tunas],” February 14, 1934; APLTJVLT 103/103/1409/23. “Sección Sindical Embarcadero Numero 1,” 1934; ANCFE 8/143. Edmond Craig, Ancien Consul à Cuba, “A propos de la Brochure de M. Lélio Laville,” L’Autre Cloche, May 19, 1933. Pérez de la Riva, “Cuba y la migración antillana, 1900–1931,” chart vii.

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There are many possible ways that Haitians could have picked up the rudiments of education in Cuba. Dalia Timitoc Borrero, the daughter of a Haitian father and Cuban mother, spent most of her childhood on coffee farms and sugar plantations near Guantánamo. However, she temporarily lived with an aunt in the city of Holguín, where she attended two different schools.198 Her story indicates that Haitians and Cubans formed families on the island and shows that access to Cuban public schools was within reach for some children of rural workers. Haitians may have been able to take advantage of the small schools founded by religious organizations and sugar companies on the premises of plantations themselves. A Haitian descendant named Evaristo Luaso attended such a school on a United Fruit Company plantation.199 It is also possible that labor unions in eastern Cuba, like other workers’ organizations on the island, established workers’ schools or literacy programs.200 The Cuban prison system served as a site of both literacy and radicalism in early twentieth-century Cuba, though incarceration cannot explain all Haitians’ union participation. While in prison, Haitians like Augusto Manuel Pool took advantage of the penal system’s education programs. “Lacking all instruction,” he wrote to the jailer, “I wish to take advantage of my time in this [place] to acquire the knowledge that is so necessary in life.”201 Newspapers were available to inmates in at least some Cuban jails as well.202 In addition to the violent and inhuman conditions of prisons, Cuban writers from the 1920s and 1930s describe them as places where individuals interacted constantly and became radicalized. Carlos Montenegro’s 1937 novel Hombres sin mujer poetically explains that prisoners were cut off from the outside world, but not from each other. “In the presidio, solitude did not exist. It was the great tragedy of a common solitude.”203 For Menegildo Cue, the fictional character in Carpentier’s ¡Écue-Yamba-Ó!, incarceration raised his race consciousness.204

198 199

200 201

202 203 204

Timitoc Borrero, Montecafé, 66–7. McGillivray, Blazing Cane, 100; Howard, Black Labor, 85; Giovannetti, “Black British Subjects,” 146. The story of Luaso is recounted in Fernández, United Fruit Sugar Co., 21. Sullivan, “‘Forging Ahead’ in Banes,” 245. Letter from Agusto Manuel Pool, Recluso #15845 to Comandante Pedro A. Castells, M.M. Establecimiento, November 28, 1932, ANCPC 500/21. Antoine Bervin, Mission à la Havane, 44. Carlos Montenegro, Hombres sin mujer, 69. Carpentier, Écue-Yamba-Ô, 130–45.

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Such stories were not limited to literary works. For instance, Aurelio Castillo, an illiterate Haitian rural worker, was first convicted by a Camagüey court on charges of homicide in 1924. After seven years in prison, he wrote his first letter to a prison official and completed his sentence shortly thereafter. In 1935, Castillo returned to prison on two new convictions. This time, he was described as literate and identified as a threat to the Cuban state. The specifics of his second conviction are unknown but their political nature is clear. A local court in Camagüey convicted Castillo of assaulting a Cuban official. He was also charged by Camagüey’s Tribunal de Urgencia, an emergency court designed to repress political subversion, for breaking Decree Law 292/934. That statute prohibited a range of activities that included using or possessing high caliber guns or explosive devices, performing “acts of sabotage,” or creating “public disorders” motivated by politics or class.205 Haitians’ participation in unions or other formal political organizations was often invisible due to the nature of institutional sources and Haitians’ efforts to avoid detection. As the Foucand case illustrates, even authorities attempting to eliminate radicalism could not comprehend that an individual they thought to be infinitely primitive could join an organization that most Latin Americans at the time considered to be quintessentially modern.206 Politically active Haitians certainly took advantage of this in order to deny any knowledge of communism or labor radicalism. In 1934, Cuban police found a copy of a communist newspaper called Bandera Roja among the possessions of José Caridad Menendez, who was identified by his landlord as Haitian. The publication itself was relevant to its bearer, who was planning to leave his coffee farm because of “the rounding up of Haitians.” Its front page carried a story on immigrant deportations under the headline: “In Oriente They Hunt Haitians.”207 When questioned by police, however, Caridad Menendez claimed that he was from Santo Domingo and that he was illiterate. As in the Foucand case, highly mobile Haitians carried the subversive literature from city to countryside. Caridad Menendez said that he had purchased shoelaces in the nearby town of Julia, which were wrapped in the newspaper that he could not read. Cuban friends affirmed that “José Caridad does not have 205

206

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Penal record of Aurelio Castillo, ANCPC 319/22; Reportorio Judicial: Revista Mensual (1934), 139–42. Special thanks to Orlando Rivero-Valdés for bringing this publication to my attention. Drinot, The Allure of Labor, 2–5; French, “The Laboring and Middle-Class Peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean,” 331. “Comparacencia del acusado José Caridad Melendres,” July 24, 1934, APSTU 1/2/7.

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Communist ideas.”208 The sitting judge on the Tribunal de Urgencia refused to press charges.209 Haitians also avoided detection from authorities (and historians) through the state’s inability to identify them. Numerous Haitians adopted new names during their sojourn in Cuba. While companies took advantage of the name changes to avoid paying back wages or to dodge the terms of contracts, name changes also afforded Haitians a degree of anonymity. For example, in 1932 a Haitian-born worker who went by the names of either Pedro Castillo Alvarez or simply Domingo was arrested for unspecified crimes of a political nature; Cuban authorities scrambled to identify the “political prisoner.” “Once warned of the penalty incurred from neglecting the truth [faltando la verdad],” Domingo swore “under firm oath” that he had arrived in Cuba in 1920 as a teenager under the auspices of the Cueto Company. His real name was Napoleon François. Prison officials listened intently, wrote “Anapoleon Fransua” on his file and began the necessary paperwork to deport him from the island.210 As François’ case attests, the combination of name changes and deportation obscures Haitian political activism in Cuba. The limitations of archival sources help to explain why firsthand accounts and oral histories conducted by Cuban-based scholars are those that most often speak of Haitian participation in formal labor organizing. Haitians’ participation in the Communist party in the 1930s coincided with a period of heavy mobilization by Cubans throughout the island in opposition to President Gerardo Machado. Cuban sugar workers, as well as students, political activists, and laborers in other industries played a significant role in his August 1933 downfall. The fall of Machado did not stop worker mobilizations, both within and outside of formally constituted labor organizations. Sugar workers from fields and centrales throughout the country ceased work and seized mills in protest.211 Eyewitness accounts of the period make constant reference to the participation of mobilized Haitian and Jamaican immigrant workers, many of whom were not led directly by the Communist party.212

208 209

210

211 212

“Declaracion de Agapito Hernandez Arevalo,” July 24, 1934; APSTU 1/2/9. Octavio Boué Frias to Jefe de Puesto, Bueycito July 23, 1934; “Comparacencia del acusado José Caridad Melendres,” July 24, 1934, both in APSTU 1/2/4, 7. Prison record for “Domingo o Pedro Castillo Alvarez,” March 24, 1932; ANCPC 242/45. Carr “Mill Occupations and Soviets,” 138–40. Sullivan, “Radical Solidarities,” 245.

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Oral histories illustrate that Haitian fieldworkers participated in the labor unions that seized mills in 1933; some also faced the brunt of rural repression in the aftermath of these strikes. Cuban historian Efrain Morciego used oral histories to detail the worker takeover of the central Senado in Camagüey one month after the fall of Machado. On September 9, 1933, Cuban and immigrant workers from factory and field collaborated to occupy the mill. Like other mill occupations of the period, the workers formed a self-governing soviet on the plantation. Two months after the initial takeover, a group of fieldworkers including a Cuban, a Spaniard, and numerous Haitians marched from their various colonias toward the central. Their plan was to pressure officials to release incarcerated labor leaders and take union demands seriously. The march was met with violence from Cuban rural guardsmen, who cornered the protestors and fired upon them indiscriminately. With nowhere to go, over twenty workers, in their majority Haitians, were trampled by spooked horses and struck by the bullets of the rural guardsmen.213 Valentín, an eyewitness from the Canary Islands, “saw a Haitian with a gunshot in his shoulder; the bullet had split his collarbone and had come out the top, it looked like they had chopped him with an axe.” In what may have been a rhetorical flourish, Valentín claimed that the Haitians yelled “Long live the Strike!” even as the bullets flew by them.214 Whether the last part was a faithful retelling or a dramatic fabrication, Haitians’ commitment to the strike was clear to the heterogeneous group of rural workers in Cuba.

conclusion When viewed from the perspective of Haitian immigrant laborers and their fellow sugar workers, the Cuban sugar industry and its rural environs look quite different than the nationalist claims of the Cuban press or the pretensions to order, productivity, and power in plantation records. On the one hand, occupational sectors of the plantation were not as monolithic as administrators claimed. Not all Haitians were cane cutters, and workspaces in both field and factory witnessed laborers of different nationalities laboring together. The fact that Haitians moved within the racially stratified labor hierarchies of plantations and carved out areas of autonomy questions the extent of company power and the pervasiveness of racial ideologies in 213

Morciego, El crimen de Cortaderas, 9, 21.

214

Ibid., 40.

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rural Cuba. Whether during or after work hours, Haitians interacted with individuals of other nationalities. Through commerce, collaboration, and conflict, laborers of all nationalities created new worlds out of shared experiences in cane fields and sugar centrales. Such networks emerged before the mass deportation drives of the 1930s and managed to survive after them. National differences and racial ideologies did not determine workers’ economic activities, socialization, or even their fights – suggesting a more limited reach of Cuban ideas of race and nation among the country’s rural-dwelling population than has been previously assumed.

4 Picking Coffee and Building Families in Eastern Cuba

In the early weeks of the 1932 sugar harvest, a twenty-five-year-old Haitian named Belisario Pol was cutting cane when his machete became lodged in a thick tangle of roots. The unexpected sticking of his knife was enough to throw off his cutting rhythm. With his momentum disoriented, Pol sliced the thumb on his left hand so badly that he missed thirty-five days of work at the worst possible time – during the height of the sugar harvest. In accordance with the law, the Compañía Azucarera Fidelidad [Fidelity Sugar Company] filed a report with local authorities, provided some compensation to Pol, and collected their own share from a US-based insurance company. Exactly two months later, Pol was expected to appear in court in conjunction with the injury. But as one company guard attested he “had not been able to get the worker Belisario Pol . . . because he [had] left for the coffee fields of Guantánamo” eighty-five miles to the southeast; Pol’s whereabouts were unknown.1 The guard’s inability to locate Belisario Pol is symptomatic of a larger institutional myopia that has obscured Haitians’ actions outside the Cuban sugar industry. Cuban state institutions exerted a much weaker gaze on the coffee industry than sugar, especially before the 1930s. As a result, once he left the sugar plantation, the injured worker disappears from the historical record. Despite nationalist claims that coffee was a quintessentially Cuban commodity, low production and profitability meant that neither the country’s national budget nor its economic stability had depended on the crop since the early decades of the nineteenth century. The consumers in the United States who purchased so much 1

“Declaracion de Felipe M. Rodriguez,” March 27, 1932, APHJPIH 301/5544/29.

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155

Cuban sugar obtained their coffee elsewhere. In the first two decades of the twentieth century, both Cuba and the United States each imported millions of pounds from places throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, including Haiti. The result is a thin archival record for Cuban coffee production. What was negligible in national or imperial terms was a matter of economic life and death for the workers and local communities who dedicated part of each year to growing coffee in Cuba. In most years, the sugar harvest began in January and ended before coffee-picking started in the fall. This seasonal difference allowed them to combine work in both industries and secure a year-round wage. The combination of Haitian coffee skills and Cuban sugar wages allowed some migrants to buy or lease land in coffee-growing districts of Cuba. Though they did not always leave a thick paper trail, movements like Belisario Pol’s were hardly unique in eastern Cuba. Despite some overarching similarities, Haitians’ experiences in the coffee industry differed from those of sugar. As in the sugar industry, Haitian coffee workers established a number of social and economic networks with individuals of other nationalities and engaged in activities to exert control over their lives and labor. The nature and organization of coffee picking provided more autonomy for coffee workers than sugar. For some, this came from gaining access to land, something that was not possible for Haitians in the sugar industry. Coffee also provided a source of wage labor for women and children. Unlike the male-dominated world of cane cutting where women and children could only participate in informal economies, these latter groups could earn a wage picking coffee. There were limits to these advantages. In contrast to the idyllic image of small-scale, independent coffee growers that has been prevalent in Cuba and other parts of the Americas since the era of slavery, work was difficult, tedious, and likely to bring in about as much money for an individual as a sugar harvest. Men, women, and children expended massive amounts of labor to secure the niche of personal sovereignty that coffee afforded. For women and children especially, labor often went unpaid and was coupled with additional domestic work. The prevalence of family labor meant that tensions within domestic spaces occurred alongside conflicts with landowners and other workers. By the late 1920s, the combination of Haitian labor and government protectionism had resuscitated an industry that had been in decline since the nineteenth century. Coffee’s economic position was beginning to improve at the very moment that the Cuban government began regulating

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the economy and rethinking migration policies. In the 1930s, the Cuban government repatriated Haitians in response to the sugar industry’s woes and workers’ xenophobia. In contrast, coffee growers touted the importance of Haitian immigrants to the coffee industry in highly nationalist terms. Their petitions influenced the local implementation of state policies and the construction of nationalist discourses – two things that, at the national-level, were shaped mostly by debates about sugar. As a result, Haitian coffee workers experienced the mass deportations of the 1930s differently than their counterparts in the sugar industry. Initially, they were granted formal exemption from repatriation because of their utility for the coffee harvest. As the state consolidated its regulatory control over the coffee industry in the 1930s and established a minimum wage, Haitians were rounded up in an effort to attract a Cuban labor force and held for months in camps as a possible labor reserve. In repatriation, like labor itself, coffee’s advantages were coupled with their own unique hardships.

“black milk” in boom and bust The early twentieth century was not the first time that the Cuban coffee industry was influenced by people and events in Haiti. Coffee plants had arrived in Cuba in the middle of the eighteenth century but production exploded in the wake of the Haitian Revolution. As the revolutionary wars decimated one of the world’s major sugar and coffee economies, Cuban planters took advantage of the new international demand.2 More importantly, thousands of refugees from revolutionary Saint Domingue brought agricultural expertise, capital, and enslaved laborers to eastern Cuba, where coffee production expanded under French auspices. In 1790, the year before the Haitian Revolution, Cuba exported around 187,610 pounds of coffee. By the end of the conflict in 1804, annual exports surpassed a million pounds. Exports peaked in 1833 at well over 64 million pounds.3 The success of the Cuban coffee industry was short-lived, however. After 1833, coffee production and profitability declined and was displaced in economic importance by the thriving sugar industry.4

2

3 4

Attempts to diversify Cuban agriculture and promote coffee production had actually begun before the Haitian Revolution. See Van Norman, Shade-Grown Slavery, 11, 34–8. Pérez de la Riva, El café, 7–8, 51. Ibid., chapter 6; Van Norman, Shade-Grown Slavery, 112.

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By the twentieth century, Cuban coffee exports were minimal and sugar was king. Data from 1918 places this all in sharp relief: that year, Cuba produced 3,860,000 short tons of sugar – its best year to date. By contrast, coffee exports were almost non-existent and Cuba imported over 25 million pounds from countries throughout the Americas, including Haiti – whose own coffee industry had recovered soon after independence.5 Coffee drinkers in the United States, whose numbers increased throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, never depended on the Cuban product. On the one hand, US coffee consumption remained limited and geographically confined until the 1830s; US consumption expanded rapidly at the precise moment that Cuban production faltered.6 The US policies that stimulated Cuban sugar in the twentieth century had no equivalent effect on coffee. From the perspective of what César Ayala called “the colonial division of labor,” one could argue that the US occupation of Haiti increased that country’s coffee trade with its northern neighbor, creating a situation where Cuba supplied sugar while Haiti supplied coffee.7 In actuality, Haiti’s coffee represented only a small percentage of US coffee imports. The international coffee trade was less regulated than sugar. It had none of the complicated combinations of tariffs and quotas that US policymakers enacted to strike a balance between domestic sugar producers and those in the Caribbean and Pacific colonies. Instead, coffee was traded on an open market; Brazil sent the lion’s share to the United States, and Haiti was not even among its top five suppliers. There was no imperial pressure on Cubans to grow coffee.8 Independent of any US imperial policies, Cuban coffee production rebounded slightly by the late 1920s. In the five years from 1921 to 1925, 149 million pounds of coffee entered Cuban ports. During the next five (1926–30), that number had shrunk to 81 million pounds. Exports increased as well. Merchants exported 5402 pounds of Cuban coffee between 1921 and 1925. In the following five years, 28,964 pounds were exported. These trends became sharper in the 1930s. Imports for the

5 7

8

6 Pérez de la Riva, El café, 214–15, 218–19. Jiménez, “From Plantation to Cup,” 39. Ayala, American Sugar Kingdom, 64; United States Department of Commerce, Foreign Trade of the United States in the Calendary Year 1925, 35. Topik and Samper, “The Latin American Coffee Commodity Chain,” 123; United States Department of Commerce, Foreign Trade of the United States in the Calendar Year 1925, 38.

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entire decade were less than 1.5 million pounds while exports increased almost tenfold.9 Coffee’s rebound was partially due to state protection, which began in the middle of the 1920s and increased in the 1930s after the abrogation of the Platt Amendment.10 However, most Cubans believed that Haitians were equally responsible. In 1928, Santiago’s Diario de Cuba ran an article under the headline: “All the farms use Haitians for gathering coffee.”11 A few weeks later, an editorialist in Santiago de Cuba rhetorically asked: “To whom is owed the fact that Oriente is developing large coffee farms, finding itself at the point of supplying the national demand? Well it is due to the Haitians.”12 Their observations are consistent with population trends. As in sugar-growing areas, increases in coffee production were coupled with immigration and demographic transformations. During the period of coffee’s resurgence, Palma Soriano, a small city in Oriente province, was Cuba’s highest producing area.13 In 1919, the city had 7634 inhabitants who were neither Cuban, Spanish, Chinese, African, nor from the United States, representing about 15 percent of the total population.14 By 1931, that number jumped to 9256 – still proportionally about 15 percent of the total population.15 In 1943, after a period in which many Haitians were deported and others changed their citizenship, the number of black non-Cubans in Palma Soriano was 2572, representing only 3 percent of the population.16 Cubans attached nationalist significance to coffee even in the decades when production was limited.17 At the height of its recovery, coffee did not come close to reaching the economic or political importance of sugar. As the prominent slogan went: “Without sugar, there is no country.” But coffee held a symbolic role that surpassed its economic value. If Cuba required sugar to be a country, it seemed that Cubans required coffee just as much. As imports indicate, Cubans consumed coffee in large quantities. In the 9 11

12

13

14 15 16 17

10 Pérez de la Riva, El café, 214–15, 218–19. Arredondo, El café en Cuba, 24–5. “Todas las fincas utilizan a los haitianos para la recogida de café,” Diario de Cuba, August 03, 1928. “¡El Haitiano es el único inmigrante necesario en Cuba!: Notas del momento.” Diario de Cuba, August 23, 1928. “Estadística de la Producción de Café en 1926,” 1927, Enclosure to letter from L. Lanier Winslow, Chargé d’Affaires ad interim to Secretary of State, July 6, 1927, USNA RG 59 837.61333/2. Cuba, Census of the Republic of Cuba 1919, 434. Cuba, Memorias inéditas del censo de 1931, 216. Cuba, Informe general del censo de 1943, 860–1, 924. This was true in the nineteenth century as well. See Van Norman, Shade-Grown Slavery, 24.

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middle of the twentieth century, one scholar claimed that even rural Cubans who “may lack food or be reduced to a little bit of dried beef” always have their “small cup of coffee.”18 Coffee also had strong cultural resonances. Four years after Fernando Ortiz published Cuban Counterpoint: Tobacco and Sugar, which used the two titular commodities to explore Cuban history, society, and national identity, the renowned ethnographer gave coffee its due in his own characteristic writing style. In the preface to a book that remains the only systematic study of the Cuban coffee industry, Ortiz described coffee as “the national drink.” “In Cuba,” he claimed, “coffee was like a black milk, like a cigar made into broth, like honey made of coal.” One would be hard pressed – past or present – to find a Cuban to disagree with these claims about coffee’s pervasiveness on the island.19 Despite its modest production, Ortiz and other Cubans of the 1940s depicted coffee as a major protagonist – albeit of tertiary importance below tobacco and sugar – in Cuba’s cultural development during the nineteenth century. As a foreign crop that flourished in Cuban soil under the care of French planters, coffee was the perfect symbol of creolization, high culture, and even Enlightenment ideas of freedom. For Cuba, sugar was seigneurial, feudal and foreign; Tobacco was patriarchal, garden, homegrown and proletarianizing; coffee, in the dance of Doña Sugar and Don Tobacco danced between the two. It was foreign but creolized, it was master but not absentee, it was an empresario, but progressive, it brought slaves but also free workers and above all culture and desires for liberty.20

They also claimed that slaves’ work conditions in the coffee industry were more humane than in sugar. Ortiz is the most well-known but not the first to characterize coffee slavery in benign terms or to idealize its putative cultural legacies. Alberto Arredondo titled a 1941 study: Coffee in Cuba: The Life and Passion of a National Treasure.21 Over a decade before Ortiz and Arredondo, a Cuban journalist described Cubans’ tendency to “make literary watercolors of the French cafetales.”22 Idealistic depictions of coffee slavery have influenced interpretations of early twentieth-century wage labor. This is partly due to the fact that there have been few studies of Cuban coffee, especially for the twentieth century.23 18 21 22 23

19 Pérez de la riva, El café, 213. Ortiz, “Prólogo,” x. 20 Ortiz, “Prólogo,” xiii. Arredondo, El café en Cuba. “¡El haitiano es el único inmigrante necesario en Cuba!” Diario de Cuba, August 23, 1928. Pérez de la Riva’s El café remains the only study to treat the twentieth century. For the nineteenth century, see Van Norman, Shade-Grown Slavery; Meriño Fuentes and Perera Díaz, Un café para la microhistoria; Singleton, “Slavery and Spatial Dialectics.” There have, however, been a number of scholars who have called for studies that go beyond

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It is also explained by the tendency to conceptualize Haitians’ movements and work in terms of slavery. Indeed, for one writer in Diario de Cuba, Haitian immigrant laborers were the closest thing to slaves that one could find in the realm of wage labor in 1928. “Those cafetales and those marvels,” he wrote of Cuba’s nineteenth-century farms, “were made with arms even cheaper than Haitian arms . . . it was possible because the workforce didn’t cost anything, they were the arms of slaves.”24 Perhaps it is not surprising that Cuban ideas about coffee slavery influenced interpretations of free labor in the industry, even among contemporary historians. Most believe that work in the twentiethcentury coffee industry provided better conditions and higher wages than the sugar industry. Unlike sugar, coffee does not need to be harvested through the night; at times, workers pick the plant under protection from shade trees as well. Scholars claim that wages were higher and social relations more harmonious because workers were paid according to an individual yield rather than grouped in work gangs, as they often were in the sugar industry.25 As the following section shows, nationalist visions of Cuban coffee labor, though oversimplified, influenced ideas of race as well as migration and trade policies in the late 1920s and 1930s.

haitian laborers and coffee production In July 1928, the Guantánamo daily, La voz del pueblo, reminded readers of rural rhythms that would have been self-evident to anyone who produced cash crops in the Caribbean: “when the cane falls the coffee rises.”26 Indeed, seasonal patterns in the planting, harvesting, and processing of coffee and sugar allowed Haitians to combine work in both industries. Since Haitians hailed from coffee-producing regions, they could work the Haitian coffee harvest before migrating to Cuban cane fields. In fact, one observer noted that migrants specifically timed their trips to Cuba “with the end of the coffee crop in Haiti.”27

24 25

26 27

sugar. Stubbs, Tobacco on the Periphery; Fernández Prieto, Cuba agrícola; García Álvarez, “Las economías locales en el Oriente de Cuba”; Santamaría García and Naranjo Orovio, Más allá del azúcar. “¡El haitiano es el único inmigrante necesario en Cuba!” Diario de Cuba, August 23, 1928. Carr, “Omnipotent and Omnipresent?” 266; Guanche and Moreno, Caidije, 26–7; Ortiz, “Prólogo,” xii–xiii; Pedro Díaz, “Guanamaca,” 26. “La cosecha de café este año será más abundante,” La Voz del Pueblo, July 7, 1928. Winthrop R. Scott, “Immigration in Northern Haiti,” March 22, 1924, USNA RG 57 836.56/1; see also Hume, “On the Margins,” 82.

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If the differences between coffee and sugar seasons allowed Haitians to work in both harvests, similarities between Cuban and Haitian coffee production allowed them to grow coffee in Cuba rather than return to Haiti. Although coffee is picked and processed in distinct ways throughout the Americas, such processes were identical in Haiti and Cuba.28 Like other coffee producers in the Americas, both countries produced the coffea arabica variety.29 After coffee cherries were harvested, workers in both countries employed the dry method of processing. This means that coffee cherries were dried in the sun before their three outer layers (pulp, silver skin, and parchment) were removed all at one time with a mortar and pestle or other blunt tool.30 Sometimes unshelled coffee cherries were sold to merchants who stored them and processed them with machinery. Coffee experts agreed that “the types of coffee beans of Haiti are very similar to those of Cuba.”31 This explains why Haitians increasingly established themselves in the cafetales of eastern Cuba rather than returning to the coffee fields of their birthplace (Figure 4.1). According to a Cuban journalist, Haitians were “the best arms” to work in the coffee industry.32 Since Haitians took the wages they earned from sugar work and moved to coffee-producing areas, they may have been agents in transferring profits from sugar into other industries. To name but one example, Toussaint Pierre arrived in Cuba through the United Fruit Company’s private port of Antilla right in time for the 1921 sugar zafra. Although he likely signed a one-year contract obligating his return to Haiti on a company ship, Pierre took whatever wages he earned from the company and settled permanently in Juan Baron, a coffee-growing zone of Palma Soriano.33 28

29 30

31

32 33

Roseberry, “Introduction,” 2, 5; Arredondo, El café en Cuba, 94–5; Nicholls, Haiti in Caribbean Context, 132; Girault, El comercio del café, 73, 83; Pérez de la Riva, El café, 226. Topik, “Coffee,” 73; Girault, El comercio del café, 119; Pérez de la Riva, El Café, 1. This is contrasted with the wet method, which requires more capital and demands a timing that is not so important in the dry method. Roseberry, “Introduction,” 13; Girault, El comercio del café, 73, 148–50; Pérez de la Riva, El café, 262. Sr. Juez de Instrucción de Guantánamo from Secretario, Secretaría de Gobernación, Habana, March 5, 1923, ANCASXX 57/16 (Primera Pieza)/148–50. “La inmensa riqueza cafetalera de Yateras,” Diario de Cuba, August 4, 1928. Tuassain Pierre #152, APSRECTC 370/2. Similarly, Anais Nelson left Haiti in 1922 and arrived in Banes, Cuba, the site of a United Fruit Company’s sugar plantation. After working a single sugar harvest, he moved to the coffee-growing region of Palmarito de Cauto in Palma Soriano where he remained. Credena Sevya had an almost identical story. He arrived in Santiago de Cuba in January 1915 and worked one sugar harvest in the Central Santa Lucía before moving to Palmarito de Cauto. See “Anais Nelson (Rafael

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figure 4.1 View of a coffee farm in Oriente, Cuba. A small Cuban coffee farm stands in stark contrast to the more iconic, large industrial sugar centrales of eastern Cuba. Although romanticized as spaces of social harmony and easier labor, such coffee farms required volumes of tedious labor from men, women, and children. “Vista de un cafetal en Oriente.” Source: “Asuntos cubanos por el Ing. Pablo Llaguano y de Cárdenas. Breves notas sobre el cultivo de la planta del café en Cuba, 1934” Courtesy of Archivo Nacional de Cuba, Donativos y Remisiones, Caja 215, Expediente 21.

Sugar wages certainly helped Haitians secure access to coffee-producing land in Cuba, which was not possible in the sugar industry.34 Unlike the sugar colonos (small farmers) who were “predominantly white,” some Haitians managed to carve out autonomy by becoming coffee-producing colonos through purchase and lease of land.35 Haitian-born Andrés Pol

34

35

Calderón) #53,” July 14, 1937, APSRECTC 375/1; “Credena Sevya (Juan Fis) #54,” August 2, 1937, APSRECTC 375/1. In the Cuban coffee and sugar industries, some landowners ceded small plots of land to immigrant laborers so that they would grow foodstuffs and remain during their respective harvests. In the coffee industry, Haitians’ access to land went beyond the small plots for growing foodstuffs. See also Carr, “Omnipotent and Omnipresent?” 277–80; “Todas las fincas utilizan a los haitianos para la recogida de Café,” Diario de Cuba, August 3, 1928; Timitoc Borrero, Montecafé, 13. McGillivray, Blazing Cane, 31.

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“bought the coffee farm called ‘Luisa de Plats’ situated between Bayate and Monte Rus” where he lived until his death in 1929.36 Others made formal agreements that gave them access to land in exchange for a portion of the crop. In 1933, Haitian migrant José Caridad Menendes entered a contract with a Cuban landholder, “for the planting of coffee for two years.”37 Caridad agreed to maintain the field and harvest the coffee, which he would remit to Boue. “Upon the expiration of the contract,” Boue was required “to pay the sum of seventy pesos, official money.”38 Owning a coffee farm was also within reach for women in Cuba, though I have no evidence of a Haitian woman owning land. Of the 446 coffee farms in Palma Soriano in 1911, 37 were owned by women.39 Twentieth-century Haitian migrants’ influence on the Cuban coffee industry may hold some parallels to the influence of Franco-Haitian refugees on the industry a century earlier. But there is no direct evidence that new migrants worked for the descendants of nineteenth-century refugees. On the one hand, land changed hands in eastern Cuba throughout the nineteenth century, including in the late colonial period, illustrating the pitfalls of assuming rural continuity.40 That being said, early twentieth-century land records for the coffee farms in Oriente contain traces of the region’s history of heterogeneity. Documents contain many landowners with French, English, and of course, Spanish surnames.41 Although a number of Haitians managed to control coffee-producing land in eastern Cuba, the majority picked and processed the crop for a wage. In terms of age and gender, coffee workers were more diverse than those that cut sugar cane in twentieth-century Cuba. In contrast to the all-male force of cane cutters, Diario de Cuba observed that Haitian 36

37 38

39

40

41

“Se va aclarando el crimen de campesino haitiano Andrés Pol,” La Voz del Pueblo, June 27, 1929. “Declaración de Octavio Boue Frias,” July, 24, 1934, APSTU 1/2/6. “Comparecencia del Acusado José Caridad Melendres,” July 24, 1934, APSTU 1/2/7. Caridad was not the only Haitian who grew coffee on a parcel of land in Cuba. In the region of Guantánamo, Tiburcio Fis “had leased a certain amount of land” within “the coffee area of Bayate” before his death in 1929. See “Muerte horrible de un haitiano en Bayate,” La Voz del Pueblo, February 15, 1929. Compiled from “Relacion de los Cafetales del Termino de Palma Soriano,” February 21, 1911, APSGP 177/25/1–12. See for example, Scott and Zeuske, “Property in Writing, Property on the Ground,” 677–80; Pérez, Cuba: Between Reform and Revolution, 195; Casey, “Sugar, Empire and Revolution in Eastern Cuba.” Lists of coffee farms and their owners exist for Guantánamo (1907), Alto Songo (1906), Jiguaní (1906), Cobre (1906), and Palma Soriano (1911). They are housed in APSGP 177/ 1/1–29; APSGP 177/10/1 and APSGP 177/25/1–12.

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“men, women and children are employed” on cafetales.42 A government survey from 1926 recognized that the 4237 male coffee workers in Oriente were dwarfed in number by 6387 women and children laborers.43 Indeed, Haitian households varied in size and composition but all of their members could earn wages in coffee fields. Women and children could process picked coffee while a male relative worked in sugar. Since coffee may be processed long after it is picked, women were known to de-shell coffee inside the barracones of sugar plantations while men cut cane. Timitoc Borrero talks about her sister “going at the mortar and pestle, piling the coffee” on a sugar plantation while their father cut cane.44 In 1936, Haitian laborer Alberto Fiz and his mother lived on a sugar plantation in Camagüey. Among their possessions was “a coffee mill.”45 Work in the coffee industry also provided an economic opportunity for women and children who did not have access to the company wages of a male relative in the sugar industry. Dalia Timitoc Borrero, the daughter of a Haitian father and Cuban mother, recalled the coffee fields outside of Guantánamo in the 1930s as places where adult women and young children were active picking during the harvest. “Almost always, those who came to harvest coffee were the women who didn’t have a husband to help them raise their children.” She continues, “when you approached a barracón there were almost no big people, what you saw most were children.”46 Adult men also traveled to coffee farms with dependent children. In 1915, Haitian-born José Carlo Luis arrived at the finca Santa Rita in Palma Soriano “accompanied by his two sons and a nephew.”47 As in the sugar industry, Haitians worked alongside individuals of other nationalities in the coffee industry and formed social relationships that cut across national lines. A Haitian named José Luis worked with a Martinican named Arturo Jaime on a coffee field near Vega Limones in Baire. The two immigrants worked alongside various members of the 42

43 44 45

46 47

“Todas las fincas utilizan a los haitianos para la recogida de café,” Diario de Cuba, August 03, 1928. Cuba, “Apendice anual a la memoria del censo decenal,” 24. Timitoc Borrero, Montecafé, 77. “un molino de café” – [No Title on Page], Acta and Witness Testimony compiled by Gregorio Rivera Gonzalez, Cabo del Esc. 41 de la Guardia Rural y Jefe del Puesto, February 5, 1936, APCTU 4/8/2. Timitoc Borrero, Montecafé, 23–5. Comparecencia del Acusado José Carlo Luis. Juzgado Municipal de Palma Soriano, September 27, 1915, ANCASXX 43/6/5.

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López Suárez family, Cubans who identified as white and who may or may not have owned the land on which all of them labored. Whether the immigrants were employees or fellow workers, they shared a familiarity with members of the Cuban family that went beyond a shared worksite. In April 1933, José Luis and Arturo Jaime “heard screams from the López’s mother” and dropped what they were doing to help. They arrived at the scene of a fight between two of the López Suárez brothers and members of a neighboring family, which the immigrants proceeded to break up. As their white counterparts nursed their injuries and sought medical help, the Haitian and Martinican comforted the Cubans’ mother by “accompanying [her] to the house.”48 Clearly, these relationships were not limited to a strict exchange of labor and wages. Women and children’s work on Cuban coffee fields increased the number of wage earners in a household. However, in contrast to popular beliefs and scholarly claims, coffee work in Cuba was not inherently more remunerative than sugar work for the individual laborer.49 Both coffee and sugar wages fluctuated according to world prices, individual productivity, and specific employers. In addition, wage rates in the sugar industry directly affected those in the coffee sector. Cane cutters received the highest wages when sugar prices were high. Coffee employers were forced to match them if they wished to compete. In 1926, a US official in Cienfuegos noted that “ordinary [coffee] laborers are paid according to the price of sugar.”50 This is especially apparent during World War I when sugar’s profitability and fieldworkers’ wages reached an all-time high. Coffee growers did not benefit from wartime sugar prices but were still forced to compete with the wage rates of the sugar industry. A group of coffee growers in Guantánamo sent a representative to the central government in 1917 to complain about high wages: 48

49

50

“Instructiva al acusado José Luis,” 30-may-1933, “Instructiva de cargos al acusado Arturo Jaime,” May 30, 1933, APSATO 352/2592/59–60. For scholars who make opposite claims, see Carr, “Omnipotent and Omnipresent?” 266; Guanche and Moreno, Caidije, 26–7; Ortiz, “Prólogo,” xii–xiii; Pedro Díaz, “Guanamaca,” 26. The importance of women and children’s labor in coffee and other agricultural pursuits has been explored in other parts of the Americas. Stolcke, Coffee Planters, Workers and Wives; Stolcke, “The Labors of Coffee in Latin America”; Dore, “Patriarchy from Above, Patriarchy from Below”; Sharpless, Fertile Ground, Narrow Choices, 159–61. Edwin J. Pond, Consular Clerk, Cienfuegos, “Commercial Coffee Growing,” April 09, 1926, USNA RG59 837.61333/1.

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the current European War has made life enormously more expensive and caused the wages of braceros to increase. Cultivations like sugar cane . . . can perfectly weather the increase in production costs, though the phenomenon for us is that production expenses increase in cost while the price of coffee has diminished considerably in the Market, to the point of offering a price per quintal that does not even cover the cost.51

Since coffee growers in Oriente competed for labor in the country’s top sugar-producing region, coffee wages there were higher than in any other part of Cuba.52 For individual Haitians, the question was not whether to harvest coffee or cut cane, but how to combine both activities to obtain the highest possible compensation. In the coffee fields, wage laborers were paid according to the number of 28-pound cans they could fill with coffee beans during a workday. Official sources estimated a worker’s daily yield at 5.85 cans.53 In 1928, coffee workers in Oriente received between 20 and 25 cents per can.54 This means that average daily wages ranged between $1.17 and $1.46 during the year’s coffee harvest. Those who moved to the sugar fields in time for the 1929 sugar harvest received an average of $1.50 per day. Though wages for harvesting coffee and cutting sugar cane were close, they were both significantly higher than what an individual would make on a sugar plantation during the tiempo muerto. In other words, the Haitian laborer who picked coffee for $1.46 per day made more money than the one who stayed on the sugar plantation, where field wages during the dead season of 1929 averaged $1.05 per day.55

labor expenditure, exploitation, and conflict in the coffee industry The increased autonomy of the coffee colono and the extra money of the coffee picker both came at the expense of immense amounts of labor, both paid and unpaid, by the entire family. Although renting or purchasing 51 52

53

54

55

“Los cosecheros de café,” La Voz del Pueblo, September 25, 1917. “Estadística de la producción de Café en 1926,” 1927, Enclosure to letter from L. Lanier Winslow, Chargé d’Affaires ad interim to Secretary of State, July 6, 1927, USNA RG 59 837.61333/2. Latter-day Cuban anthropologists estimate this to be much higher at 8 to 12 cans. Pedro Díaz, “Guanamaca,” 26. “Comenzó la recogida en la aona cafetalera de Guantánamo,” Diario de Cuba, August 17, 1928; “Todas las fincas utilizan a los haitianos para la recogida de café,” Diario de Cuba, August 03, 1928. All wage rates are calculated from work accident cases in APHJPIH.

Labor Expenditure, Exploitation, & Conflict in Coffee Industry 167 land permitted a certain degree of autonomy, it did not decrease Haitians’ labor expenditures. In his 1941 study of Cuban coffee, Alberto Arredondo referred to coffee colonos as being “alongside the harvester—the group who suffers most from the wealth of coffee.” He described the colono’s work as “exhausting” because they “weeded the fields, hung small cords, prepared the seedlings, and planted the coffee.” They also “maintained the shade trees, . . . constructed a hut, and made a small batey.” It is no wonder that observers of coffee farms mentioned that colonos were accompanied by “their offspring.”56 In published newspaper advertisements, landholders seeking coffee-growing tenants specifically requested “a person with family.”57 The labor of women and children on coffee farms carried its own risks and offered few rewards. In addition to picking and processing coffee, Haitian women and children performed extra labor before the official workday began in order to supplement the low wages they received. Timitoc Borrero explained that “the coffee we harvest from the trees [for the landowner] hardly pays the bills of the store.” As a result, she and her mother woke up even before the normal harvest hours to pick extra coffee that had fallen on the ground in order to sell and supplement their wages. Children did not always receive a cash wage at all. Sometimes, instead of fieldwork, they supervised younger siblings while their parents harvested. In other moments they guarded fields for local landowners in exchange for food.58 The labor of the entire family was frequently necessary for small-holders to make a profit or wage laborers to survive. Haitian families’ ability to earn extra money in the coffee industry during sugar’s tiempo muerto had very real drawbacks. As E.P. Thompson points out, even when “real wages advanced” they often did so “at the cost of longer hours and a greater intensity of labour so that the breadwinner was ‘worn out’ before the age of forty. In statistical terms, this reveals an upward curve. To the families concerned it might feel like immiseration.”59 Thompson’s description is echoed by Dalia Timitoc Borrero’s recounting of the mental and physical toll of constant movement and year-round physical labor on her parents. “They are tired of moving from one place to another . . . with all of us always following.”60 This was

56 57 58 59 60

Arredondo, El café en Cuba, 175–6. “Solicitud,” El Cubano Libre, November 14, 1916. Timitoc Borrero, Montecafé, 16, 23, 36. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class, 211. Timitoc Borrero, Montecafé, 78.

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clear even to observers of the coffee industry. In 1941, Alberto Arredondo declared that “the life of the harvester, has been the miserable life of the nomad who is forced to leave on long and risky annual journeys to earn a few cents.”61 The harshness of life and the exploitation of the entire family help explain why many work conflicts in the coffee industry occurred within domestic spaces, which are largely invisible to historians because they occurred privately. Timitoc Borrero described moments when her parents stayed up later than the children, crying, talking, and arguing. Once she heard her mother “talking with papa; I don’t know, I hate to hear them lamenting so much, it seems to me that it is about having to move from one place to another, without fixed destination.” At another moment, her parents had to choose whether or not to move while her father recovered from a cane cutting injury. Her mother claimed “that as soon as he is better, they’ll leave; and papa asked her to where; but it seemed like he was crying and she answered that she did not know.”62 Tensions among family members were coupled with worksite conflicts that occurred both vertically with employers and horizontally among fellow workers. Those who leased land were subject to abuses by landowners and could be expelled in times of economic crisis. “At any moment that colono may be expelled, for one reason or another, in favor of one that better pleases the landowner.” Late and incomplete payments by landowners to their tenants or employees were also common.63 As in the sugar industry, coffee workers’ attempts to increase their autonomy or wages led to conflicts with landowners when the latter’s goals of production were threatened. Gleaning coffee fields for fallen cherries before the official workday started was not tolerated by landowners, who perceived such activities as theft. “On Sundays,” recalled Timitoc Borrero, “the owners of the cafetales grab their horse and go for a tour of the farm to see who was stealing coffee.” In response, she had to exercise “the utmost caution not to pick a single tiny whole grain among those on the ground.” This meant grabbing only those that had been partially eaten by rats and leaving the whole ones intact. Workers like Timitoc Borrero’s mother knew what kind of weather brought out the vermin and acted accordingly. “And if it rained during the night, she would get up even earlier, with all that slime, she knew that the rats would have eaten all of the mature coffee they found on their path that 61 63

62 Arredondo, El café en Cuba, 94. Timitoc Borrero, Montecafé, 36, 77, 81–2. Arredondo, El café en Cuba, 175–6.

Labor Expenditure, Exploitation, & Conflict in Coffee Industry 169 night.” For Haitian women and children who depended on the gleanings of coffee to increase their family’s wages, rats and landowners were not their only competitors. Timitoc Borrero and her mother knew that if they waited too long to glean a field, other fieldworkers could always “fall onto a field in gangs and then lay it to waste.”64 Ideas of race on coffee farms held certain similarities with sugar colonias. In both industries, observers employed the label “Haitians” to refer to groups of black fieldworkers, which could obscure a more diverse workforce. Arturo Jaime and José Luis were from Martinique and Haiti, respectively. Nevertheless, observers referred to both men as “the Haitians.” The two men’s participation in a fight reveals that, as in the sugar industry, conflicts in the coffee sector revolved less around issues of race or nationality than the immediate, material realities of rural life. On April 6, 1933, two white Cuban brothers named Jacinto and Ernesto López Suárez quickly grabbed their machetes as two other Cuban brothers, one white and one mestizo, passed their house in Vega Limones in Baire. Jacinto and Ernesto believed that one of the passing brothers was “the son of a bitch who had destroyed [their] fence.”65 The response of the accused was hardly meek. According to one witness, he “was carrying a revolver in his belt” and boasted that their disagreement “would not be over until one of them was killed.”66 Nobody died in the fight that ensued; perhaps because the Haitian and Martinican entered the fray and successfully broke it up. This conflict, which included white and mestizo Cubans as well as a Haitian and Martinican, had little to do with race or nationality and much more with rural life and family loyalty. In the words of one of the participants, “all the events took place because the López brothers blamed him for a destroyed fence.”67 In another case, competing landowners employed the labor of fieldworkers to settle a score. In Guantánamo in 1951, Andres Lachais Otamendi and Francisco Campos y Guitian had been locked in a legal dispute over the cafetal La Sierra before the judge ruled in favor of the former claimant. In response, Campos y Guitian, his two sons, and “more than sixty workers, in their majority Haitians” arrived on the disputed farm at six in the morning when the coffee was not quite ready to be

64 65 66 67

Timitoc Borrero, Montecafé, 36. “Acta de la Guardia Rural, Baire,” April 8, 1933, APSATO 352/2592/7. “Declaracion de Faustino López,” April 7, 1933, APSATO 352/2592/2. “Instructiva de cargos al acusado: Emilio López Céspedes,” May 1, 1933, APSATO 352/ 2592/31.

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picked, perhaps hoping to come and go before other workers arrived. “With machetes in their hands,” the group harvested “more than four hundred cans of coffee” from the disputed farm.68 As on sugar plantations, conflicts among fieldworkers centered on the realities of rural life more than race or nationality. But as the next section will show, ideas of race and nationalism were not identical in the two industries.

regulating the border on coffee grounds, 1928–38 As the Cuban coffee industry expanded over the course of the 1920s, its proponents articulated a nationalist ideal that centered on the “black milk.” Its content differed from more mainstream pronouncements, as did its economic prescriptions. Journalists in eastern Cuba commonly distinguished between sugar, a product associated with foreign domination, and coffee, “the most Cuban industry in our patria.”69 None denied that this “most Cuban industry” required foreign laborers to exist. As Diario de Cuba exclaimed: “Through the Haitians, through the repudiated Haitians, they are making Cuban wealth in Oriente province.” At stake was the physical homeland itself. By making land profitable and keeping local economies stable, Haitians prevented territory in eastern Cuba from “passing into foreign hands.”70 Cubans disagreed about whether this was due to Haitians’ skills in picking coffee or a supposed willingness to accept low wages.71 However, they all agreed that having Haitian laborers in Cuba was preferable to importing Haitian coffee. This differed greatly from the many Cubans who considered Haitians mere pawns of US sugar interests. Cuban coffee growers’ apparent acceptance of immigrant laborers did not extend to all things Haitian. The same interests who accepted foreign laborers strongly opposed the entrance of foreign coffee, especially when it was smuggled into Cuba. Since at least the early nineteenth century, an active coffee trade, both legal and clandestine, emerged between Haiti and

68

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70

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“Acta” signed by P. Figueroa Vilató, Guardia Rural, Andres Lachais Otamendi, denunciante, y Pedro Gainza Terrero, Testigo, October 15, 1951, APSATO 354/2610/1. “El Secretario de Agricultura y el problema cafetalero,” Diario de Cuba, October 20, 1937; “Los cafetaleros de Oriente,” La Independencia, September 03, 1915. “¡El haitiano es el único inmigrante necesario en Cuba!” Diario de Cuba, August 23, 1928. “Delictuosa la oposición al reembarque de haitianos,” Newspaper Clipping. n.d. probably from La Información. ANCDR 702/21/27.

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Cuba. Traveling alongside the Haitian laborers who migrated to Cuba were smugglers who brought coffee into the island. “[W]hatever smuggling goes on,” wrote one US official in Haiti, “is out of Haiti, mainly coffee and laborers.”72 The economic effects of this were felt in both countries. In November 1920, a US official stationed in the Aux Cayes Department of Haiti’s southern peninsula declared: the greater part of all the coffee from the Port-à-Piment section goes out of Haiti without payment of duty, and presumably into Cuba without payment of duty. To the smuggler there would be[,] if this is a fact, a saving of three cents per pound at this end, and eleven cents at the other end.73

Coffee smuggling was not limited to Haiti’s southern peninsula, nor was it a haphazard process. A well-organized coffee smuggling network stretched from Cap-Haitien, in Northern Haiti to eastern Cuba, to mention one example. In January 1923, “el Patrón Toledo . . . went to Cap-Haitien” aboard the T.B. Gain, a Cuban ship. There, he picked up 434 bags of coffee “from another ship” before returning to the Cuban port of Caimanera, near Guantánamo. Upon arrival, Toledo presented false documents claiming that he had come from Jamaica. He then passed the contraband to three Cubans who owned coffee farms in the area. They loaded the Haitian product onto a train in Guantánamo and sent it to merchants operating in Santiago as if it were produced locally.74 At times, Cuban and foreign coffee were physically mixed to avoid detection.75 Cuban state officials and coffee producers bemoaned the clandestine trade. In 1923, authorities estimated Cuban government losses from coffee smuggling at $9920.24.76 Cuban producers publicly complained against this competition. In 1916, “several landowners” penned an open letter to El Cubano Libre complaining of a merchant’s “departure for the neighboring Republic of Haiti,” with the goal of bringing “coffee from said point, through fraudulent means.”77

72

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74

75 76

77

Harold H. Utley, District Commander to Chief of the Gendarmerie, September 1, 1921, USNA RG127 E176 Box 1 Folder: [Monthly Reports] January 1918–September 1921. J.A. Rossell, Department Commander, Department of Aux Cayes to Chief of the Gendarmerie, November 6, 1920, USNA RG127 E176 Box 1, Folder: [Monthly Reports] January 1918–September 1921. Sr. Juez de Instrucción de Guantánamo from Secretario, Secretaría de Gobernación, Habana, March 5, 1923, ANCASXX 57/16 (Primera Pieza)/148–50. Pérez de la Riva, El café, 260. Sr. Juez de Instrucción de Guantánamo from Secretario, Secretaría de Gobernación, Habana, March 5, 1923, ANCASXX 57/16 (Primera Pieza)/148–50. “¿Contrabando de café?,” El Cubano Libre, October 25, 1916.

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Coffee growers made their arguments for immigrant workers over imported coffee on the national stage in 1928. In July of that year, the Haitian government suspended emigration to Cuba, allegedly because Haitians were being mistreated by Cuban officials.78 Despite support for the emigration ban among some Cubans, others predicted ruin for the Cuban coffee and sugar harvests.79 As during previous bans, politically powerful sugar companies and their representatives in the United States exerted pressure on the Haitian and Cuban governments to resolve the issue quickly. In the case of the 1928 ban, pressure from sugar interests forced the governments of Haiti and Cuba to the negotiating table. However, coffee growers in both countries shaped the negotiations, illustrating the close connection between migration and trade policies.80 Haitian authorities tried to use the migration crisis to exact tariff concessions from the Cuban government. Even after “the Cuban Government [had] satisfied his objections regarding Haitians who have emigrated to Cuba,” Haitian president Louis Borno told a US official that he did “not intend to lift the suspension of emigration until an agreement shall be reached . . . on certain other questions as well.” Borno’s goal was to press for “the reduction of Cuban taxes against certain Haitian products, such as coffee, limes and other fruits,” something that producers within Haiti had been requesting for years.81 The Cuban government readily made guarantees for the proper treatment of Haitian citizens on Cuban soil. Officials also agreed on the necessity of a bilateral treaty regarding labor migration and Haitian imports, though no specific agreements were reached at that time.82 The postponement of the Haitian–Cuban treaty may have resulted from pressure from Cuban coffee growers whose petitions for the protection of their product butted up against the demands of Haitian growers,

78 79

80 81

82

Green to Gross, July 19, 1928, USNA RG59 837.5538/9. “La inmensa riqueza cafetalera de Yateras,” Diario de Cuba, August 4, 1928; “Sigue amenazante el problema de la inmigración haitiana,” La Voz del Pueblo, July 28, 1928; “Todas las fincas utilizan a los haitianos para la recogida de café,” Diario de Cuba, August 03, 1928. Engerman, “Changing Laws and Regulations,” 93. C. Gross to Secretary of State, August 1, 1928, USNA RG59 837.5538/12. Summary of article in Le Nouvelliste from May 30, 1923 in G.H. Scott, “Memorandum for the Chief of the Gendarmerie d’Haiti,” June 1, 1923, USNA RG127 E166 and 170, Box 1, Folder: Reports, Intelligence to AHC 1923. “Correspondance Echangée avec La Légation de Cuba relativement à l’émigration des Travailleurs haitiens” in Republique d’Haiti: Bulletin Oficiel du Department Des Relations Exterieures – Num. XIII. copied in USNA RG59 838.021/4.

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even though they both relied on essentially the same labor force. Right before the two governments began negotiations, the Block Agrícola de Oriente, an agricultural organization based in eastern Cuba, had requested increased protection for Cuban coffee. Specifically, this group asked their government to “establish an embargo, over the ports of our Republic, for a minimum period of six months beginning with the first of October of this year, prohibiting the entrance during these six months, of foreign coffee.” The idea was to allow Cuban growers to sell domestically without competition before importing enough to fulfill demand. They also requested a stronger tariff on coffee imports. “This” they declared “will be our contribution to the Economic Independence of our Country” – a recipe that required Haiti’s workforce but not its coffee.83 Like other states around the region, the Cuban government’s increasing intervention in the national economy stepped up during the worldwide depression that began in 1929.84 At the international level, the price of commodities like sugar and coffee fell rapidly. Sugar companies lowered daily wages and shortened sugar harvests, creating massive numbers of underemployed and unemployed agricultural workers on the island. The Cuban state continued to increase its role in regulating the economy, including its national border. In the 1930s, they made efforts to stop the immigration of Caribbean workers and to deport those already on Cuban soil. The Cuban government banned Caribbean migration after 1931 and forcefully deported over 38,000 Haitians during the following decade. These measures enjoyed widespread, but not unlimited, support from Cuban workers. This was but one small piece of a larger transformation in the nature of US imperial control and the strengthening of the Cuban state. By the late 1920s, Cuban President Gerardo Machado had become openly dictatorial. The politician who had been favored for his ability to create stability and prevent constant US interventions faced a revolutionary movement of workers and students that toppled him in 1933.85 The revolutionary government abrogated the Platt Amendment but was soon supplanted by a coalition led by Fulgencio Batista; a new phase of Cuban politics had begun. Batista embarked on projects of state-building laden with the

83

84

85

“En Palma Soriano se interesan por el auge de la producción de café,” Diario de Cuba, August 08, 1928. Coffee production, in particular, was regulated around the globe for most of the twentieth century. Topik and Samper, “The Latin American Coffee Commodity Chain,” 139. Martínez Heredia, La revolución cubana del 30, 3–4.

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language of nationalism and supported by the U.S. State Department. This post-Platt Amendment state-building included an emphasis on the coffee industry; the deportation of immigrants continued as well.86 The immigration restrictions of the 1930s responded to the realities of the sugar industry. However, as in 1928, coffee growers played a significant role in the local implementation of such policies. During 1933 and 1934, approximately 8000 Haitians were repatriated from Cuba against their will, though a number managed to obtain a government exemption to remain picking coffee.87 In July 1934, on the eve of the coffee harvest, landowners in the coffee-growing regions of Guantánamo and Yateras successfully petitioned the government “not to carry out any more repatriations of Haitians.”88 Despite the petitions’ success, Haitians linked to the production of coffee seem to have acted cautiously in the face of the repatriation threats. For example, that year, Haitian-born coffee colono José Caridad sought to liquidate his assets by leaving a coffee contract early and making contacts with the Communist party, the only organization to defend immigrants’ rights to stay in Cuba. Caridad declared that since “they were carrying out the gathering of Haitians to embark them for their country, [he] tried to hand over the land to [his landlord].”89 Caridad was also in possession of a copy of the current issue of Bandera Roja, a Communist newspaper whose front page carried an article under the heading: “In Oriente They are Hunting Haitians.”90 While the repatriation of Haitians continued throughout the 1930s, coffee growers continued to emphasize the importance of Haitian workers. In 1938, coffee producers again requested that the government delay repatriations, an indication that large numbers of Haitians remained in Oriente. In the early part of the 1938 coffee harvest, La Voz del Pueblo in Guantánamo published an article voicing strong opposition to Haitians’ presence in Cuban coffee fields. The author presciently remarked that

86

87

88 89

90

Whitney, State and Revolution, 2–3, 122–3, 136–7, 154–5, 173; Whitney and Chailloux Laffita, Subjects or Citizens, 104–19. McLeod, “Undesirable Aliens: Haitian and British West Indian Immigrant Workers in Cuba,” 245. “Suspendida la repatriación haitiana,” La Voz del Pueblo, July 20, 1934. Octavio Boué Frias to Jefe de Puesto, Bueycito, July 23, 1934, APSTU 1/2/4. “Comparacencia del acusado: José Caridad Melendres,” July 24, 1934, APSTU 1/2/7. “En Oriente cazan haitianos,” La Bandera Roja, January 05, 1934, enclosed in APSTU 1/2/14.

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day and night we see many Haitians heading to the cafetales where they think they won’t be picked up, because the owners of cafetales have influence to avoid it; but there is no influence strong enough now, since the Government is committed to embarking 50,000 Haitians.91

The author correctly predicted coffee growers’ attempts to delay the repatriations in 1938 and the government’s rejection of them. As in 1934, the Asamblea Cafetaleros held a meeting where “they agreed to elevate an energetic protest to the Secretary [of] Labor and other authorities with the goal of suspending the re-embarkation of Haitians [in] those zones.”92 The Municipal Alcalde of Jamaica, a town near Guantánamo, sought to convince the Secretary of Labor that mass deportation would lead to economic destruction and even political instability. The “rounding up of Antilleans at the moment will lead to the loss of eighty percent of the current coffee harvest because there are not enough natives to substitute for them.” He predicted “possible alterations of public order since mature coffee is lost in the countryside making it impossible for harvesters to cover their obligations.”93 Frequently, growers did not question the principle of deportations, just their timing. In a very typical argument, the Asociación de Bayate told the Secretary of Labor: “We do not protest the re-embarkation of Antilleans, we are seeking a stay until the 15th of December otherwise the collection of coffee would be totally lost.”94 This time, the government did not heed coffee growers’ pleas. In October 1938 in Guantánamo and Yateras, the places that had successfully blocked repatriation in 1934, the military “was removing many Haitians from the cafetales hoping that the Secretary of Labor would continue to back them.”95 Cuban coffee growers’ inability to protect Haitian workers in 1938, as they had done four years earlier, was largely the result of new regulation of the coffee industry by the Cuban government. As indicated above, coffee interests had petitioned for the protection of their industry beginning in the late 1920s, which included the defense of Haitian 91 92

93

94

95

“La recogida de haitianos,” La Voz del Pueblo, August 24, 1938. Dr. Pérez Andre, Gobernador Provincial to Secretario de Trabajo, Habana. October 26, [1938], ANCDR 702/21/2. Tamames, Alcalde MPAL, Jamaica to Secretario de Trabajo, La Habana, October 28, 1938. ANCDR 702/21/6. La Asociación de Bayate to Secretario del Trabajo, La Habana, October 28, 1938, ANCDR 702/21/7. The only coffee-growing group who did not oppose the repatriation of Haitians that year was in Palma Soriano. “Malestar por la actitud de varios alcaldes,” Newspaper clipping probably from El Pais with byline October 31, 1938. Actual publication date unknown. ANCDR 702/21/27.

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laborers.96 However, during the 1930s the industry became fully protected by the national government, which set minimum coffee workers’ wages and domestic prices. At that point, officials believed that Haitians could be replaced with Cubans. Haitians’ leverage for avoiding deportation had disappeared. The Cuban government’s attempts to regulate coffee occurred almost a decade after growers initially requested protection. It was not until 1934 that the Office of Coffee and Cacao and the better-known Cuban Institute for the Stabilization of Coffee (ICE-Café) were created. The latter hardly functioned until 1936.97 At the same time, regulating the coffee industry was a complex process fraught with many false starts and failures.98 The strong competition Cuban coffee faced on the international market had persuaded Cubans that the “aspiration of the Cuban coffee grower should consist in producing enough for domestic consumption.”99 Between 1935 and July 1938, the Cuban government attempted to raise the price of Cuban coffee on the domestic market. This involved setting price controls on processed and unprocessed coffee, placing high tariffs on coffee imports, and obliging growers to export a fixed percentage from every harvest. It was only in March 1937 that authorities settled on a successful formula for determining the quantity of Cuban coffee to be sent for export. The final result was that the domestic price of coffee in Cuba ranged between $18.00 and $20.00 per quintal. This was $6.00 to $7.00 higher than Colombia, the country with the next most expensive coffee in the region. It was over $10.00 higher than the equivalent product from Haiti.100 The increase of Cuban coffee prices permitted the government to implement a minimum wage law for coffee harvesters without bringing ruin to their employers. In November 1937, the government decreed that coffee harvesters should receive 15 cents per can of coffee, amounting to a daily wage of a little more than 80 cents – an amount significantly lower than pre-depression levels.101 In the minds of many, raising wages for 96 97 99 100 101

“El bajo precio del café,” Diario de Cuba, February 27, 1930. 98 Pérez de la Riva, El café, 233, 236, 239. Arredondo, El café en Cuba, 64, 73. “El bajo precio del café,” Diario de Cuba, February 27, 1930. Arredondo, El café en Cuba, 62–4, 67–8, 71–5, 113. “El Secretario de Agricultura y el problema cafetalero,” Diario de Cuba. October 20, 1937. “Serán mejorados en los salarios todos los obreros del café,” Diario de Cuba, October 13, 1937; “El Dr. García ha sido enviado por la Comisión de Salario Mínimo para que investigue cuanto perciben los obreros que recolectan el café,” Diario de Cuba, September 09, 1937; “Jornal mínimo de 82 cts. diarios a los obreros de la industria del café,” Diario de Cuba, October 27, 1937; Arredondo, El café en Cuba, 94–6.

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picking coffee would permit Cubans to make a living on coffee farms and replace Haitians. It is not a coincidence that all of these interventions in the Cuban coffee economy took place right before the Cuban government rejected petitions to protect Haitians in the coffee industry from deportation. The health of the Cuban coffee industry – it was believed – no longer depended upon their labor. By 1938 Haitians’ importance to the coffee industry no longer prevented them from deportation, but it did make the process of repatriation more difficult. The plans to replace Haitian immigrant laborers with Cubans by guaranteeing a minimum wage reopened a debate. Did Haitians dominate coffee production because of their skills? Or were they the only ones willing to accept the industry’s low wages? One journalist summed it up succinctly: some coffee harvesters in Oriente [were] protesting the [repatriation] measure and asserting that [Haitians] are indispensable for carrying out the labors of the coffee harvest . . . Is it that among our many thousands of unemployed there do not exist enough workers capable of carrying out this work? Or is it that they don’t want to pay the wages in accordance with the law?102

When the time came to determine the answer to this question, officials in charge of repatriation chose to err on the side of caution at the great expense of Haitians’ comfort, health, and well-being. Instead of being deported quickly, Haitians were detained on Cuban soil for months to ensure a safety net for Cuban coffee growers. During the 1938 coffee harvest, La Voz del Pueblo noted: The Secretary of Labor appears to be aware that the Cuban is not an addict of this work and to prevent a disaster has ordered that the Haitians to be repatriated be concentrated in camps, so that in the cases when Cuban hands are lacking for the coffee harvest, the coffee growers could ask for the workers they need among the re-concentrated Haitians and the government would concede them.103

Besides a limitation on Haitians’ ability to move freely, conditions in these camps were inhumane. One official admitted that there were “big difficulties with the water service” with “delays up to two days on many occasions.” Without water, under the hot Caribbean sun, the detained Haitians agitated against their conditions. Cuban authorities complained of “disorders in the camp due to the lack of this liquid.”104 During the 102

103 104

“Delictuosa la oposición al reembarque de haitianos,” Newspaper Clipping. n.d. probably from La Información. ANCDR 702/21/27. “La repatriación de antillanos,” La Voz del Pueblo. October 28, 1938. Secretario del Trabajo from Angel Pino y Aguila, 2do Tte. De Caballeria E. Constitucional, Delegado Sec. del Trabajo, December 16, 1938, ANCDR 702/21/32.

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harvest, coffee growers and officials argued whether or not “antillanos already in concentration camps [in] Santiago de Cuba should be newly returned to the fields.”105 It appears that they never were. Between 1938 and 1939, 5700 Haitians were deported from Cuba.106 Despite this, some Haitians managed to stay in Cuba, though they often put their coffee-growing activities on hold. The Haitian-born father of Dalia Timitoc Borrero chose to hide from authorities while her Cubanborn mother armed herself to defend her husband’s residence in Cuba. All the children in her family were given strict orders. If someone knocks on the door, not to open it, if they ask for papa, [say] that they already picked him up, like the other Haitians and he should be in Haiti. Poor papa lived in hiding, without having time to plant a single vianda or anything, the time only permitted him to be hidden and we lived in suspense: Papa hidden and Mama with a sharpened machete, because she said that she would kill the one who knocked on the door to take papa to Haiti.107

The inability of Haitians to work in the Cuban coffee industry due to repatriation and self-concealment helps explain the dramatic drop in coffee production in Oriente province between 1937 and 1939. In the two-year period, coffee production in Oriente decreased from 604 thousand to 465 thousand pounds. In Palma Soriano alone, production fell approximately 36 percent, from 251 thousand to 163 thousand pounds.108 By 1940, the waves of mass deportation had come to an end, though Haitians’ presence on Cuban coffee farms remained significant. In Guantánamo in 1951, a labor force of “more than sixty workers” picking coffee for two Cuban landowners was still composed of “mostly Haitians.”109 Ethnographic studies conducted in Cuba show first- and second-generation Haitians’ active participation in coffee picking in Oriente as late as the 1970s.110

conclusion Since the nineteenth century, Cuba’s coffee industry has not held the same political and economic power as sugar for the Cuban national or 105

106

107 109

110

Secretario de Trabajo, Havana from Juan Masso Garzón. Pdte. Ejecutivo Mpal de Caficultores, November 12, 1938, ANCDR 702/21/30. McLeod, “Undesirable Aliens: Haitian and British West Indian Immigrant Workers in Cuba,” 2. 108 Timitoc Borrero, Montecafé, 43. Arredondo, El café en Cuba, 192. “Acta firmado por P. Figueroa Vilató, Guardia Rural, Andres Lachais Otamendi, Denunciante, y Pedro Gainza Terrero, Testigo,” October 15, 1951, APSATO 354/2610/1. Pedro Díaz, “Guanamaca.”

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US imperial governments. It has, however, been imbued with nationalist significance as a symbol of humane slavery, creolization, and harmonious social relationships. On the one hand, this combination has obscured Haitians’ experiences in the coffee industry by either ignoring them completely or idealizing them as a pastoral antidote to the sugar industry. Haitians did contribute to the Cuban coffee industry in significant ways, where they established similar social and economic networks as they did in the sugar industry. All of this came at the cost of massive expenditures of paid and unpaid family labor, providing serious qualifications to claims about coffee labor. On the other hand, Cubans’ idealization of the coffee industry influenced Haitians’ experiences during the 1930s. As revolution transformed Cuba’s relationship with the United States, and Batista initiated processes of state-building, Cuban planters successfully petitioned the Cuban government to delay migrant repatriation by marshalling a local variant of Cuban nationalism – one that promoted the importance of foreign laborers over foreign coffee. This had its limits. By 1938, Haitian coffee workers were incarcerated for long periods before facing the same repatriation as their counterparts in sugar.

5 Creating Religious Communities, Serving Spirits, and Decrying Sorcery

On September 22, 1915, a Haitian rural worker named José Carlo Luis arrived at a coffee farm near Santa Rita right in time for the annual harvest. Within a few days, he began to question his decision to spend the season there. The problems he experienced had nothing to do with issues of work and wages; they were of a spiritual nature. On his second night, he “was unable to sleep” because in the “early morning he heard the sound of dragging chains and some ghosts appeared, speaking words to him that he could not understand.” In response, Carlo Luis “jumped from his hammock and traveled to the town of San Luis” in search of the rural guard station. He called upon authorities because he wanted “guards to accompany him to the farm in order to get his family out.”1 They took Carlo Luis’ story very seriously. Rural Guards accused Martin Santos, the Cuban-born owner of the farm, of practicing what Cubans at the time labeled brujería (witchcraft). Upon hearing the charges, Santos was incensed, asking the rural guardsmen “to search the entire house . . . in order to demonstrate that what was denounced was not true.” “Feeling that his reputation as an honorable man was harmed,” Santos then asked police to bring suit against José Carlo Luis “for false denunciation.”2 The rural guardsmen found no physical evidence to implicate Santos, so they arrested José Carlo Luis for making a “false denunciation.”3 1

2

3

“Comparecencia del Acusado José Carlo Luis: Juzgado Municipal de Palma Soriano,” September 27, 1915, ANCASXX 43/6/5. “Denuncia” signed by Agripino Jardines, Eleusipe Mesa, y Castillo, September 25, 1915, ANCASXX 43/6/1. “Declaración de Martin Santos y Pérez,” September 25, 1915, ANCASXX 43/6/4; Agripino Jardines and Eleusipe Mesa, “Denuncia,” September 25, 1915, ANCASXX 43/6/1.

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The Haitian refused to leave without his family and insisted that the rural guards “bring his two sons and nephew [too], resisting with this motive to continue the journey.” Soon, a fight broke out between Carlo Luis and the guards over whether to proceed.4 He was later charged, not for false denunciation, but for attacking the guardsmen.5 The case inverts the tropes that journalists and latter-day historians have employed to interpret religious belief and repression in early twentieth-century Cuba. As a black immigrant laborer who accused a white native landowner of practicing brujería, Carlo Luis reversed the racial roles of the denunciations that were so common. Furthermore, his apparent belief in those supernatural powers sets him apart from better known critics of African spirituality in independent Cuba. Among them were social scientists and politicians, for whom the existence of African religious communities cast doubt on Afro-Cubans’ fitness for full citizenship in the republic. They also feared that these religions were primitive and should be eliminated from a nation that was trying to become modern. Despite the Cuban constitution’s protection of religious freedom, police regularly broke up rituals on other legal pretexts. Journalists, however, had no such obligations to even nominal religious tolerance. They attacked religion directly and stoked popular fears by publishing sensational tales about blacks, both Cuban and immigrant, who kidnapped and ritually murdered white and mixed-race children throughout the island.6 Although incompatible with these well-known narratives, the Carlo Luis case was not so aberrant within the spiritual worlds of eastern Cuba. This suggests that lettered visions of race and nationalism obscure more than they reveal about local religious practices in rural Cuba. Only a small percentage of religious denunciations received significant newspaper treatment. Journalists emphasized only the brujería cases that conformed to their racial and nationalist visions, often embellishing details to buttress their arguments. These sensationalized cases occurred alongside others, like that of José Carlo Luis, that received less attention because they could not be distilled into clean racial arguments for the Cuban press. Analyzing the brujería cases that did not hit the national spotlight provides glimpses 4

5

6

“Comparecencia del Acusado José Carlo Luis: Juzgado Municipal de Palma Soriano,” September 27, 1915, ANCASXX 43/6/5. “Auto de Procesamiento: Santiago de Cuba, Auto Juez: Sr. Rolando Ramos,” October 1, 1915, ANCASXX 43/6/10. Helg, Our Rightful Share, 238–9; Román, Governing Spirits, ch. 3; Palmié, Wizards and Scientists, 210–25; Bronfman, Measures of Equality, ch. 2.

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into a spiritual world that was not dictated by anxieties about citizenship or racial improvement. Instead, local-level narratives about African magic and religion were shaped by believers and practitioners themselves and less by newspaper characterizations or anthropological writings. In the less-publicized cases, both Haitians and Cubans implicated a diverse array of individuals in practices of brujería, including Cubans, Haitians, and people from the United States. While some accusations were motivated by a cynical abuse of the judicial system, others indicated an intense belief in the religious, and particularly the magical, powers of the accused. Even ritual content and the composition of religious communities defied the anthropological categorizations that emerged in the early twentieth century. At the very moment that interactions among anthropologists, state officials, and practitioners in Havana and parts of rural Haiti were defining the contours and content of what would respectively come to be called “Santería” and “Vodou,” Haitians and Cubans participated in a variety of ritual practices together in far off eastern Cuba. There, they created heterogeneous spiritual practices, religious communities, and forms of collective memory that may have looked much different than the national cults in the making.7 These relied on the overarching structural similarities among different African traditions and the religious flexibility characteristic of these beliefs. More specifically, they probably emerged through Haitians’ and Cubans’ efforts to establish correspondence between specific spirits in their respective spiritual hierarchies. What is clear is that these communities received little anthropological attention until many decades later.8 In the spiritual realms, just as in the material, Haitians and individuals of other nationalities forged bonds to cope with the difficulties and dangers of life in Cuba that were invisible to nationalist writers and contemporary historians.

religious practice and denunciation in the americas African spiritual beliefs and religious practices have been a central vehicle for creating community and meaning in the New World since the first African slaves arrived in the Caribbean. For decades, historians and anthropologists have asserted that many aspects of African religions 7

8

Palmié, The Cooking of History, 18–19, 54, 56, 60; Ramsey, The Spirits and the Law, 6–7; Wirtz, Ritual, Discourse, and Community, ix–xii. Viddal, “Vodú Chic,” chapter 3.

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were developed in response to the inhuman conditions of New World slavery.9 Slaves from different parts of Africa combined their religious beliefs with elements of European and Indigenous spirituality to create new religious institutions and communities.10 Throughout the Americas, different religions were made and remade; they later received names like Candomblé in Brazil, Vodou in Haiti, Obeah in Jamaica, Santería in Cuba, and many others in these and other countries.11 Despite the very real differences that developed as African slaves dispersed through the Western hemisphere, there are overarching structural commonalities in religious cosmologies and ritual practices. African-derived religions are marked by the existence of a spiritual hierarchy. At the top, a single god inhabits a spiritual realm not of the Earth. Below are a host of spirits that may include an individual’s ancestors. Each of these is associated with different aspects of life and death, over which they may exert some control. They have their own demands, traits, and idiosyncrasies as well. Over the centuries, practitioners have coupled many spirits with Catholic saints, allowing them to manifest themselves with any of a number of different “faces.”12 Practitioners serve these spirits by performing ritual acts that include feeding them with fruits, vegetables, animals, or other goods. Unlike the supreme god at the top of the hierarchy, spirits may communicate with people on earth by speaking through their practitioners during ceremonies involving ritual possession. Among practitioners, a hierarchy also exists that differentiates between the priests and priestesses who have undergone processes of initiation and the religious practitioners they lead.13 Although spiritual leaders are guided by specific and often rigid ideas of ritual practice, propriety, and tradition, they are not beholden to a central institutional orthodoxy or canon of sacred texts. Ritual practices are carried out according to oral traditions that are passed down through spiritual leaders. Although influenced by anthropological texts, their content is still open and fluid. Within individual traditions, rituals, 9

10

11

12 13

An early wave of scholarship, often associated with Melville Herskovits, treated diasporic religions as African cultural retentions that survived the horrors of the Middle Passage and slavery. Herskovits, The Myth of the Negro Past, 7. More commonly, scholars now claim that these religions were formed in response to these horrors, not in spite of them. Mintz and Price, The Birth of African-American Culture, 44; Dayan, Haiti, History, and the Gods, xvii. Sidbury and Cañizares-Esguerra, “Mapping Ethnogenesis”; Palmié, “Introduction,” 13–14; Ferreira da Silva, “Out of Africa?,” 40; Barnes, “Introduction,” 7. Rey, Our Lady of Class Struggle, 199; Desmangles, The Faces of the Gods, 98, 138, 143. Noel, Black Religion, 11. See also Dodson, Sacred Spaces, chapter 2.

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objects, and deities have undergone transformations in form and content to retain meaning for their followers, whether slaves or contemporary workers.14 As Patrick Bellegarde-Smith notes: “it is the religion that is likely to change, while the theology, though not static, may remain true to itself.”15 The fluidity of religious content and the fact that it transforms to reflect the changing needs of practitioners makes these religions particularly potent vehicles of community formation, repositories for collective memory, and mechanisms of coping and adaptation in harsh and unstable living conditions.16 The transformation of ritual content also provides scholars with a unique entry point for analyzing the lives and perspectives of practitioners, especially subaltern populations whose visions of themselves and their history do not appear in the archival sources created by public and private institutions.17 African religious practices have also been the object of repression in both slavery and freedom throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, including Haiti and Cuba. From the earliest conquest of Africa and the Americas, European governments and their papal backers used African and Indigenous religious practices to justify military conquest and enslavement.18 In the colonies, African religious practices became sites of contestation among planters, colonial governors, and slaves throughout the Caribbean.19 State repression of African-derived religions did not stop after independence or abolition. In nineteenth-century Haiti, numerous governments legislated against African religions in the name of civilization. Such laws were resurrected and enforced vigorously during the 14

15 16

17 18

19

Brown, Santería Enthroned, 9–10; Brown, “Systematic Remembering, Systematic Forgetting,” 66; Dayan, “Vodoun, or the Voice of the Gods,” 16; Palmié, The Cooking of History, 3-5. Bellegarde-Smith, “Introduction,” 4. In one revealing instance, Karen McCarthy Brown has observed subtle changes in the dispositions of specific lwas (spirits) associated with Haitian Vodou. Ogou, the lwa associated with militarism and politics in Haiti, manifests a slightly different personality in the United States, where his characteristic tirades are coupled with tears of rage. “Immigrant life in New York,” she concludes, “has revealed another dimension of his anger.” Brown, “Systematic Remembering, Systematic Forgetting,” 71, 83–4. See also Brown, Mama Lola, 15, 44–7, 221; Dayan, Haiti, History, and the Gods, xvii; McAlister, Rara!, 4–5; Dubois, “Vodou and History,” 98; Palmié, Wizards and Scientists, 5–14. Palmié, Wizards and Scientists, 5–14; Dayan, Haiti, History, and the Gods, xix–xx. Wade, Race and Ethnicity, 27; Cañizares-Esguerra, Puritan Conquistadores; Clendinnen, Ambivalent Conquests, ch. 4–6. Brown, The Reaper’s Garden, 62, 93; Kate Ramsey, The Spirits and the Law, 31–2.

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US occupation of Haiti. In this context of foreign occupation, Vodou became a central cultural justification for the US mission and its violence.20 Similar processes occurred in Cuba. Immediately after Cuba’s nominal independence in 1902, journalists and social scientists condemned African religions as markers of barbarism, national atavism, and criminality. In 1906, Cuban anthropologist Fernando Ortiz published El hampa afrocubana: Los negros brujos (The Afrocuban Underworld: The Black Witches), which applied the criminological theories of Cesare Lombroso to Afro-Cuban religious practitioners.21 Other voices in Cuban society believed that African religious practices would have to disappear before the Cuban nation, and especially Afro-Cubans within it, could reach the ranks of “civilization” and earn the right to self-government and citizenship. As social scientists identified the putative social ills of African religious practice, police broke up rituals, which they labeled brujería (witchcraft). However, unlike independent Haiti, which outlawed specific religious practices, the Cuban constitution guaranteed freedom of religion. In the latter country, practitioners were arrested on the rationale that they were guilty of illicit association or breaking sanitary measures, though convictions were not always forthcoming.22 In both Haiti and Cuba, the efforts of journalists, social scientists, and state officials were linked to popular fears of African spirituality. In a December 1863 Haitian case whose actual details remain unknown, a group of seven Haitian men and women were accused of killing a young child for ritual purposes; the alleged culprits were executed. What became known as the “Bizoton Affair” sparked popular outrage among Haitians and was used as proof of Haitian primitivism to the foreigners who relished the story.23 Such cases were even more common in postemancipation Cuba. In that island, highly sensationalized brujería scares involving the alleged ritual murder of children captured national headlines and provoked hysteria on numerous occasions. In the first of dozens of cases that occurred in the republican period, a four-year-old girl named Zoila was reported missing from her home near Havana. Newspapers quickly spread word of the disappeared girl along with rumors that she may have been the victim of a ritual murder perpetrated for healing purposes. Zoila’s body was eventually found in a state of decomposition with internal organs missing, increasing public outrage at the alleged work 20 22 23

21 Ramsey, The Spirits and the Law, 130–1. Ortiz, Hampa Afro-Cubana. Palmié, Wizards and Scientists, 227–8; Bronfman, Measures of Equality, 21, 101. Ramsey, The Spirits and the Law, 83–6; Smith, Liberty, Fraternity, Exile, 106-8.

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of the brujos. Numerous Afro-Cubans known to be practitioners of African religions were arrested; two received the death penalty.24 The case of Zoila was a boon to Cuban journalists, who quickly established a specific type of reporting genre for discussions of brujería scares, making them critical actors in spreading these rumors, shaping public perceptions of African religions and urging state repression.25 Judicial repression and popular opposition to African religious practices persisted in both Haiti and Cuba even after anthropologists and cultural nationalists began to interpret these practices more favorably. In Cuba, Haiti, and elsewhere in Latin America, lettered classes shifted their visions of Indigenous and African-derived culture and religious practices between the early 1920s and the 1950s.26 In the context of increased political and economic domination by the US state and foreign companies, cultural nationalists within Cuba and Haiti began to promote their countries’ African cultural roots as authentic antidotes to foreign control. This created a new anthropological interest in folklore and distilled forms of African-derived culture. In 1921, Fernando Ortiz’ “Los cabildos afrocubanos,” published in the Revista Bimestre Cubana, challenged readers to conceptualize these colonial-era organizations where African religion and culture flourished as a part of “our national folklore” that required preservation, albeit in modified form.27 Official tolerance of African religions in the name of folklore was coupled with strict definitions as to what counted as authentic ritual practice and what was deemed inappropriate for national culture.28 In Cuba, intellectuals’ valorization of afrocubanismo did not prevent sectors of rural society from denouncing practitioners of brujería or judicial authorities from persecuting them. This was especially true for Haitians, whom Cuban social scientists excluded from their positive depictions of African-descended culture.29 If journalistic treatment of brujería scares followed specific narrative tropes, the identities of those 24 25 26

27

28 29

Bronfman, “En Plena Libertad,” 549–50; Helg, Our Rightful Share, 109–14. Román, Governing Spirits, 18. Bronfman, Measures of Equality, 111–14; Moore, “Representations of Afrocuban Expressive Culture,” 41; Wirtz, Ritual, Discourse, and Community, 60–8. For other examples in the Americas, see Largey, Vodou Nation, 23; de la Cadena, Indigenous Mestizo, 45; Andrews, Afro-Latin America, 166–72; Andrews, Blackness in the White Nation. Ortiz, “Los cabildos afrocubanos,” Revista Bimestre Cubana 16:1 (January–February 1921) reprinted in Ortiz, Los cabildos, 24. Ramsey, The Spirits and the Law, 190; Román, Governing Spirits, 14, 21. Chomsky, “Barbados or Canada?” 440.

Haitians, Cubans, & Religious Communities in Eastern Cuba 187 accused changed in the first decades of the twentieth century. “Though early on, the prototypical brujo was African-born, by the late 1910s and 1920s many were identified as Haitian and Jamaican migrants.”30 For instance, less than one year after Ortiz’ essay on cabildos appeared, a sensational brujería scare involving a Haitian occurred in Camagüey. In 1922, a young woman reported that someone had kidnapped her fouryear-old daughter. Police officers and neighbors believed the girl had been taken in order for her body and internal organs to be used in an act of ritual cannibalism. A group of Haitians from the area who were known religious practitioners were quickly arrested. Newspapers in Camagüey and Havana produced sensationalized reports of the case, stoking a public furor that only increased when the young child’s mutilated body was found. Eventually, the child’s mother confessed responsibility for the crime, admitting that she had accidentally killed the child before staging the corpse and blaming it on brujos. Despite this, some were still convinced that Haitian immigrants were somehow involved.31 But what of the individuals who practiced these religions in order to cope with the difficulties of rural life? What types of religious practices and denunciation occurred outside the scope of journalists’ tendentious reporting?

haitians, cubans, and religious communities in eastern cuba In addition to their skills picking coffee and cutting sugar cane, Haitians brought their religious traditions to Cuba. Dalia Timitoc Borrero, the Cuban-born daughter of a Haitian man and Cuban woman, recalled Haitian spiritual leaders on the coffee farm where she grew up in the 1930s. One of them was Santiago Fiz, whose religious practices and the discussions surrounding them served as a vehicle for cementing community and collective memory.32 Fiz used religious songs and ceremonies from Haiti to invoke previous generations of his family members and their role in the Haitian Revolution. This also taught Haitian history to young

30 31

32

Román, Governing Spirits, 19. A more detailed account of the case appears in McLeod, “Undesirable Aliens: Haitian and British West Indian Immigrant Workers in Cuba,” 166–9. For a fictionalized and highly racist account of one of these cases involving Afro-Cubans, see José Heriberto López, “Instintos regresivos,” Cuba Contemporánea, June–July–August 1927. Wirtz argues that day-to-day discussion of rituals, not just what transpires at ceremonies, produces cohesion among religious practitioners. Wirtz, Ritual, Discourse, and Community, xiii–xiv, 2–3, 26.

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people like Borrero. “While he sang . . . he beat the ground with a stick like they did in Haiti[,] calling to his ancestors.” He told Borrero that the songs were also sung by his family members during “the war of the Haitians against the French.”33 The religious communities that practitioners formed in eastern Cuba during the first decades of the twentieth century were not constituted strictly along national lines.34 In 1928, on a farm called “El Reposo” in Guantánamo, a funeral and dance were held for a deceased Haitian. Among the individuals in attendance were “five or six Cubans” and “about 30 Haitians,” showing the heterogeneity of rural communities and the way they were strengthened through ritual events.35 Dalia Timitoc Borrero recalled visiting a “spiritual center” in the community of La Caridad de los Indios, one of the few settlements of people who selfidentified as descendants of indigenous Taino in post-conquest Cuba.36 The center was run by an Indian woman named La Negra and was apparently very popular. When La Negra “had many sick people to heal” the above-mentioned Haitian, Santiago Fiz, worked as her assistant.37 In 1944, Cuban Evelio Rojas and Haitian José Caridad Fis were practicing together “in the household of Señora Angela Perez Garcia” in Baracoa, in Eastern Cuba. Among their ritual items was “a packet” containing “two red scarves, one white one, a cross, a detente, a cigar, three white cloths, fifty playing cards, and the quantity of fifty cents in the following fractions, two pieces of twenty cents and one of ten cents.”38 Haitians often served as the religious leaders in these heterogeneous groups. In 1936, in Yaguajay, Las Villas, police interrupted a large ceremony in which “more than one hundred people were surrounding Alberto Diaz, a Haitian” who was leading the ritual. Among his followers

33 34

35 36

37 38

Timitoc Borrero, Montecafé, 37–8. Marc McLeod briefly acknowledges Haitians’ and Cubans’ tendency to practice religion together. McLeod, “Undesirable Aliens: Haitian and British West Indian Immigrant Workers in Cuba,” 191, 194. More recently, Lara Putnam has claimed that “supernatural manipulation served as a kind of lingua franca across the Greater Caribbean” Putnam, Radical Moves, 51. “‘Ultimo Rezo’ que termina en una orgía tragica,” La Voz del Pueblo, May 21, 1928. “Los indios de Yateras,” Diario de Cuba, February 2, 1930. See also Yaremko, “Obvious Indian.” Timitoc Borrero, Montecafé, 38. “Acta del Guardia Rural,” Firmado por: L.E. Gilbert Garcia y Octavio Diaz, April 1, 1944, Archivo Provincial de Santiago: Juzgado Municipal de Baracoa (hereafter APSJMB) 198, 5.

Haitians, Cubans, & Religious Communities in Eastern Cuba 189 “figure[d] many women and some children.”39 When it came to healing, Haitians’ services were even requested by white Cubans. In 1936, Marcelino Ruguera Aguila, a white Cuban living in rural Camagüey, required the expertise of a local Haitian healer. Ruguera Aguila’s “youngest son of ten years had become sick and because of the sickness, a Haitian named Benito Luis, a neighbor, had offered to cure the boy with brujerías, herbs, and concoctions.” Soon, the boy was healed and Luis received seventeen pesos in return for his services.40 Although such diverse communities are at odds with traditional anthropological concepts of timeless practice bound by ethnicity, they are consistent with recent work by Stephan Palmié. As early as the late nineteenth century, there was no strict correlation between a practitioner’s racial ancestry and their decision to practice religions deemed “African” among the relatively well-documented communities in Havana. Nor has it been uncommon for practitioners to seek out spiritual expertise and putatively older traditions among practitioners in other parts of the African Diaspora.41 Haitians’ and Cubans’ tendency to practice together may have been motivated by the magico-religious power and leadership often attributed to the former.42 Even recently published “oral traditions” from Maisí, the easternmost point of Cuba, contain numerous tales depicting Haitian spiritual power and point to the durability of this image. For instance, in 1935 a prized fighting rooster lost a cockfight (and with it his owner’s large wager) to a disheveled bird belonging to a Haitian. Right before he could be killed, the moribund bird ran out of the cockpit and disappeared into the crowd. When the Cuban owner of the defeated rooster arrived home that night, he found that his father had been mysteriously injured with “a bloody wound in his neck” in the same spot as his defeated rooster. The Haitian’s magical power was to blame. Haitians’ powers became evident to Cuban Tomás Mateu as well. His team of mules refused to walk past a cemetery in 1920. As he sought to turn the mules around,

39

40

41 42

“En la finca ‘Camaján’ celebraban ritos brujos, mientras actuaba de santón, un haitiano Lombrosiano,” Diario de Cuba, May 31, 1936. Certification of Trial Record by José Patao Bravo, Secretario del Juzgado Municipal de San Jeronimo en Vertientes, January 19, 1937, APCJIPJC 304/3723/4. Palmié, The Cooking of History, 48–9, 115–23, 205. Lauren Derby makes a similar argument for Haitians in the Dominican Republic and others have argued that spiritual power is often attributed to the most marginalized individuals in society. Derby, “Haitians, Magic, and Money,” 523; Wade, Race and Ethnicity, 93.

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Mateu “felt [something] like a man suddenly mounted on the haunches of his horse,” though nobody was there. The problem persisted every time Mateu passed the cemetery until he consulted “a Haitian santero” who “told him what he should do.” After following the Haitian’s instructions, the problem was solved. The fact that the Haitian was called a santero, or initiated leader of Cuban Santería, suggests that Haitians may have adopted Cuban religious practices or that Cubans may have subsumed Haitians’ spiritual practices into their own idioms and systems.43 Identifying the specific religious traditions that Haitians and Cubans practiced together is impossible. Available sources do not allow historians to discern what Haitians’ and Cubans’ rituals and healing practices actually looked like. With the exception of the recorded oral histories from Maisí and the memoirs of Timitoc Borrero, all of the known cases are available to historians only because they were recorded by authors bent on repressing African religious practices. Not only did journalists and state officials lump all forms of ritual practice into categories like brujería or brujería haitiana, they added adjectives like “satanic” or “Lombrosian” to their reports, thus associating these religions with devil worship and the criminological writings of Cesare Lombroso.44 Sources from this “scandalously partial archive” make it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to discern ritual content and meanings.45 However, the cases serve as a form of what anthropologists often refer to as “telling moments” that may be analyzed for what they say about the individuals who participated in ritual practices, the symbols they employed in their altars, and the dynamics of religious denunciation in the countryside.46 Ultimately, these documents provide only signposts, albeit very helpful ones, in the religious world created by Haitians and Cubans. On the surface, Haitians’ and Cubans’ engagement in shared religious practices and ritual communities may seem counterintuitive. However, recent scholarship has historicized labels such as Haitian Vodou and Cuban Santería to show that they were not always used by practitioners themselves and offer a false sense of homogeneity and consensus to ritual practices that were in fact quite decentralized and even contested.47 In contemporary Santiago de Cuba, for instance, the religious rituals of 43 44

45 46 47

Matos, Maisí, 43–4, 53–4. For instance, see “En la finca ‘Camaján’ celebraban ritos brujos, mientras actuaba de santón, un haitiano Lombrosiano,” Diario de Cuba, May 31, 1936. Román, Governing Spirits, 34. For a reflection on “telling moments,” see Wirtz, Ritual, Discourse, and Community, 1–19. Wirtz, Ritual, Discourse, and Community, chapter 3; Ramsey, The Spirits and the Law, 6.

Haitians, Cubans, & Religious Communities in Eastern Cuba 191 individuals who self-identify as practitioners of Santería reflect “crosspollination” and “idiosyncratic” combinations of diverse religious elements, producing heterogeneity and local variations even within a single tradition. Furthermore, individual members of a community may attend the same ceremony and strongly disagree upon its authenticity or significance. What ultimately unites spiritual communities is “participation in a common dialogue” that emphasizes “religious propriety rather than shared belief.”48 The dialogic aspect of belonging in a religious community is emphasized in Karen McCarthy Brown’s discussion of the relationship “between participant-observer and informant.” Ultimately, she argues “the only truth is the one in between.”49 One symbol that seemed to serve as a site of religious dialogue between Haitians and Cubans was the Virgin of Charity of Copper. In Guantánamo in 1928, when police raided a “center of Haitian brujería” in the barracones of the Central La Isabel and arrested a Haitian named Manuel García, they seized “a Virgin of Charity in pieces.”50 Other ritual objects included “a plate containing wines and other potions for curing, lit candles, pieces of bowl, [and] stones known as thunderstones.” Negative newspaper coverage of the case noted that “most grave” was that Garcia “dedicated himself to performing cures for many people, among them two fanatical women.” His followers’ nationalities are not given, but the journalist’s lament about Garcia’s popularity, combined with the fact that they were not qualified by labels like haitiano or haitiana, suggests that the two women, if not other followers, were likely Cubans.51 Although some of the Cubans’ and Haitians’ ritual co-practices revolved around the Virgin of Charity, the image probably held different meanings for them, which may or may not have been reconciled by practitioners. Since reports of her miraculous appearance, the Virgin of Charity has held varied meanings for the Cubans who venerate her. At some moment during the first decades of the seventeenth century, as a black slave and two indigenous brothers were canoeing in the Bay of Nipe, on the northeastern coast of Cuba, they encountered a small figure of the Virgin Mary. The image had brown skin and was accompanied by 48

49 50 51

Wirtz, Ritual, Discourse, and Community, xiii, 3–5, 30, 32; Palmié, “Now You See It, Now You Don’t,” 90–1. Brown, Mama Lola, 12. “Detenido un curandero en Guantánamo,” Diario de Cuba, February 17, 1928. “Centro de brujería. Haitiano sorprendido por la guardia rural,” La Voz del Pueblo, February 17, 1928.

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a sign declaring “I am the Virgin of Charity.” Like other miraculous apparitions of the Madonna in colonial Latin America and the wider Atlantic, the Virgin of Charity served as a tool for spreading Catholicism among non-European and non-elite groups in Cuba. However, the Virgin’s image was also a source of political empowerment and local identity formation for the enslaved and lower classes who used her to frame their petitions to colonial authorities in terms of official Catholicism.52 During Cuba’s nineteenth-century wars of independence, the Virgin of Charity became a national symbol for the rank and file soldiers, many of African descent, who called on her for protection. The brown color of her skin also became associated with dominant visions of Cuban nationalist discourses that touted the racial mixture of the island’s population – making her a powerful symbol of national inclusion.53 In the twentieth century, the Virgin of Charity became widely known among practitioners of African religions in Cuba as a counterpart to Ochún, the female spirit central to many ritual practices. According to ethnographic research from the past decades, like the Virgin Mary, Ochún serves as an intercessor for practitioners. She is often associated with fresh water, the experiences of women, childbirth, and the uterus.54 But even within Cuba Ochún has historically had many manifestations and competing personalities. Renowned mid-twentieth century Cuban anthropologist Lydia Cabrera identified Ochún Fumiké, who helps barren women conceive and “loves children.” Another face is that of Ochún Yeyé Moró “the most happy, coquettish and dissolute of them all” who is “continually out partying, . . . Puts on makeup, looks at herself in the mirror, puts on perfume.” Finally, there is Ochún Awé who “does not resemble at all the exuberant woman of life and happiness” and is sometimes referred to as “Ochún with dirty clothing.”55 Haitian migrants’ use of the Virgin of Charity, a potent religious and national symbol, may have been partially spurred by strategic motivations to seek inclusion in Cuba. However, like other instances when Haitians have adopted religious rituals from other sources, migrants imbued the Virgin with their own meanings.56 In 1925, Haitian-born rural worker Aurelio Castillo had a tattoo of the Virgin of Charity on his forearm.

52 53 54 55

Díaz, The Virgin, the King, and the Royal Slaves, chapter 4. Portuondo Zuñiga, La Virgen, 26–7, 226; Gonzalez, Afro-Cuban Theology, 81–3. Cros Sandoval, Worldview, the Orichas, and Santería, 238. 56 Cabrera, Yemayá y Ochún, 70–2. Richman, “A More Powerful Sorcerer,” 31.

Haitians, Cubans, & Religious Communities in Eastern Cuba 193 Beneath it was the year 1922 and the phrase, written in Spanish, “Remember the Virgin of Charity.”57 Haitians were no strangers to the religious and political significances of the Virgin Mary. Haiti was the site of its own Marian apparitions, out of which emerged a combination of Catholic and Vodou religious practices, popular meanings, and political struggles.58 Contemporary anthropological work shows that in Haitian Vodou, the Virgin of Charity carries special significance as Lasyrenn (La Sirène), a mermaid figure often characterized within the larger family of female spirits called the Ezilies.59 In a broad sense, many of Lasyrenn’s characteristics are similar to those of Ochún. Like Ochún, Lasyrenn is associated with water, though her domain is the ocean, not fresh water. Lasyrenn is also considered “one of Vodou’s most important female deities.”60 Like Ochún, Lasyrenn has multiple manifestations, each with their own personality. In some aspects, she is “a seductress,” at other times she may be “fierce.” “Those who offend ‘Manbo’ Lasirèn may be lured to a watery death. But those who serve her well are richly rewarded.”61 The fact that Ochún and Lasyrenn represent similar principles does not mean they should be conflated. It does suggest that in the context of the fluidity characteristic of African religions, the Virgin of Charity could serve as a space “in between” or a site of dialogue for devotees of both Ochún and Lasyrenn. Lasyrenn may have also held a specific appeal to Haitian migrants in Cuba. Lasyrenn “was derived from the carved figures on the bows of the ships of European traders and slavers” signifying that the spirit “may have roots that connect, like nerves, to the deepest and most painful parts of the loss of homeland and the trauma of slavery.”62 Despite the very real differences between African slavery and the process of migration, it is easy to understand why Haitians invoked Lasyrenn, who calls them to the sea, during a difficult migration experience over water that led to harsh working conditions. Given the association between Lasyrenn, the ocean, the Virgin of Charity, and Cuba, it is not surprising that Haitians invoked the Virgin of Charity for protection on their journeys to Cuba.63 If many aspects of Vodou rituals are conceptualized as mini-dramas that help an individual cope with the complexities and difficulties of life, then 57 58 60 62 63

“Hoja Histórico-Penal del Penado: Aurelio Castillo,” March 25, 1925, ANCPC 319/22. 59 Rey, Our Lady of Class Struggle. Brown, Mama Lola, 220–4. 61 Christophe, “Rainbow over Water,” 90. Cosentino, “Interleaf E,” 148. Brown, Mama Lola, 223–4. Fieldwork in contemporary Cuba by Julio Corbea confirms this. Corbea Calzado, “Historia de una familia haitiano-cubana,” 70 n1.

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Lasyrenn’s association with either “watery death” or monetary rewards is the perfect allegory for the risky journey to Cuba.64 The music of the Haitian peasantry articulated it unequivocally: “They sent me to Cuba/ to die there/ The Virgin of Charity says no/ I’m not afraid of dying, oh!”65 In addition to protection, there are other reasons that Lasyrenn would appeal to migrants who temporarily or permanently left their existing religious and social networks in order to create new ones in Cuba. Namely, devotees to Lasyrenn may gain spiritual status without being initiated in a lengthy, formal, and possibly expensive process under the supervision of a recognized priest or priestess. “In many stories, people are captured by Lasyrenn and pulled under the water, down to Ginen . . .. But as often as not such tales are strategies used by the poor and otherwise disenfranchised to gain access to the prestigious role of healer.”66 What better way to reconstitute a ritual collective in the face of physical separation from one’s home community? Perhaps this was the spiritual trajectory of Manuel Garcia, the above-mentioned Haitian religious leader who was known for “practicing cures” and whose altar contained an image of the Virgin of Charity.67

local dynamics of religious repression in eastern cuba The networks and communities of African religious practice, healing, and magic that Haitians and Cubans created were not immune to repression from state authorities or denunciation from their peers. Cuban journalists and social scientists interpreted ritual practice and its repression along a tidy division between the black believers who practiced brujería and the white or mixed-race individuals who denounced them.68 They described these religious practices as primitive superstitions that had no place in a civilized society. Rituals were referred to as “absurd practices,” stripping them of any religious validity. In 1928, Diario de Cuba, a Santiago daily, applauded the lengthy prison stay given to a Haitian accused of “mistreating” a Cuban girl for ritual purposes because it would remind the convicted “that he lives in an era of civilization and

64 65 67

68

Brown, Mama Lola, 15, 57, 106; Cosentino, “Interleaf E,” 148. 66 Moral, Le paysan haitien, 70. Brown, Mama Lola, 224. “Centro de brujería. Haitiano sorprendido por la Guardia Rural,” La Voz del Pueblo, February 17, 1928. Román, Governing Spirits, 88–90.

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progress.”69 Earlier that year, ritual objects confiscated for destruction from a group of Haitian and Cuban practitioners were described with disdain by Guantánamo’s La Voz del Pueblo as “artifacts appropriate for . . . a museum in Madagascar or Senegambia.”70 Although journalists claimed that sensational coverage of brujería scares was blind to race, newspapers of the period printed rumors they knew to be false and heightened racist stereotypes associated with blackness.71 In 1913, La Voz del Pueblo declared that some people from the town of Jurisdicción had called the police with “different versions about the death of a girl.” Some claimed that brujos “had taken out her heart and others that she had been cruelly raped by a black man.”72 According to the very narrative presented by the newspaper, however, neither of these scenarios was even possible. In this case, a Cuban woman came home from working in the field to find her one-year-old child dead and her ten-year-old screaming for help. According to one version of the story, an unknown black man had come into the house, grabbed the child from her caretaker’s arms and suffocated her before the screams of the other child sent him fleeing.73 By opening the article with reiterations of racial stereotypes about blacks as rapists and savage cannibals, the journalist further embellished the already racist elements of the story. By sensationalizing brujería scares and molding them into existing racial and national narratives, Cuban journalists severely misrepresented local dynamics of belief, practice, and denunciation. Numerous cases involved accusations of brujería that could not be narrated through the established genres. These received little, if any, press coverage. In the cases that follow, as in other contexts of African religious repression, it is impossible to know exactly what happened from the available sources. Did these individuals actually seek to harm children? If so, was religion or sorcery really a motivating factor? Perhaps, as Lara Putnam suggests: In such a world, where even those parents still alive and in residence necessarily left their children to face risks day after day, attributing senseless death to witchcraft

69

70

71

72 73

“Repugnante ultraje a una niña de cuatro años en Jurisdicción Arriba,” Diario de Cuba, March 18, 1928. “Centro de brujería. Haitiano sorprendido por la guardia rural,” La Voz del Pueblo, February 17, 1928. See Román for journalistic claims to race-neutral reporting. Román, Governing Spirits, 101–2. “Horrible infanticidio,” La Voz del Pueblo, September 8, 1913. “La brujería en Guantánamo,” La Voz del Pueblo, September 13, 1913.

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might offer some kind of solace . . . The loss of a child to a malignant enemy might just be easier to bear than the loss of a child for no reason at all.74

Rather than trying to establish the veracity of these accusations, this section seeks to analyze the mechanics of religious denunciation in order to understand the role that local actors played in shaping religious repression in Cuba.75 Although many brujería scares had clear racist motivations, not all cases of religious denunciation in Cuba can be read as simple vehicles of anti-black or anti-Haitian racism. Besides, some cases did not fit standard narratives easily; this may explain why newspapers gave them little coverage. One such case occurred near Mayari in March 1927. A 55-year-old Haitian individual named Emeterio de Dios was passing by a small settlement surrounding a railroad crossing known as Chucho Zoilo in Holguín. De Dios was arrested by the police and charged with attempting to kidnap children. According to de Dios, he was “returning from Cueto,” where he had traveled for work, when “he felt a pain and got off of his horse in front of a house.” Almost immediately, “the señora of that house wanted him to leave but the pain impeded it.” The woman fell upon him “with blows . . . tying him up and making the accusation.”76 The woman and her neighbors had a different story to tell. Andres Ramos, a 37-year-old Cuban peasant, claimed that he “was returning from his work to the home of his stepdaughter, Castula Machado. He was already close to the house when he saw a negro getting off of his horse and grabbing Victoria Machado, the seven-month-old daughter of Castula by her little arm.” Immediately, he “yelled ‘run they are taking a little girl.’” Ramos and Castula Machado wrested the child from de Dios’ arms before two more neighbors arrived and helped detain him.77 Certain aspects of the accusation against Emeterio de Dios carry the hallmarks of other child kidnapping scares of the period.78 First, de Dios was known among some of the witnesses as a religious practitioner. One of the neighbors involved declared that he knew “that Haitian from Tacajó and knows that he dedicates himself to being a healer and 74 75

76

77 78

Putnam, Radical Moves, 68–9. These goals and the subsequent analysis draw heavily upon Kate Ramsey’s research about anti-superstition campaigns in Haiti. Ramsey, “Legislating ‘Civilization’”; Ramsey, The Spirits and the Law. “Comparacencia del acusado Emeterio Fis conocido por Emeterio de Dios,” March 12, 1927, ANCASXX 36/3/5. “Declaracion de Andres Ramos,” March 17, 1927, ANCASXX 36/3/19. See Helg, Our Rightful Share, 108–16.

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brujería.”79 Second, residents of the district were already on edge because of previous rumors of child kidnappings in the area. Castula Machado, the mother of the alleged kidnapping victim, said that she had heard that “about fifteen or twenty days ago in the Central Baguanos they had lost a three year old girl.” Machado claimed that she was afraid that “they wanted to do the same” to her child.80 After Emeterio de Dios’ arrest, another individual claimed that someone had also tried to kidnap his young son.81 Finally, like other such cases, actual evidence against Emeterio de Dios was flimsy and contradictory. The only person who claimed to see Emeterio de Dios grab the child was Andres Ramos, who was approaching the house from a neighboring field. Castula Machado, who was knitting inside when she heard Ramos scream, claimed that she “had had to take [her child from de Dios] with the help of some neighbors.”82 The neighbors in question, on the other hand, claimed that they did not “see at the precise moments–in which the said Haitian took said girl, but did see when said Haitian had tried to flee.” They helped detain him, though they never saw him holding the child.83 Finally, witnesses claimed that Emeterio de Dios confessed his motives for kidnapping the child, though he did not speak Spanish. In his own testimony, which was obtained through an interpreter, de Dios denied all charges and did not mention any motive.84 Despite this, Emeterio de Dios was arrested by police, convicted of kidnapping, and sentenced to seventeen years and four months in jail. He died in prison at the Isle of Pines ten years later.85 If this kidnapping scare was similar to other cases in Republican Cuba, there was at least one major difference that may explain its absence from the press. According to his accusers, Emeterio de Dios was acting on behalf of a larger client. They believed that he “was trying to bring [the infant] to Preston to an American woman who . . . paid a lot of money for

79 80

81 82

83 84

85

“Declaracion de Cruz Almaguer Lopez,” March 17, 1927, ANCASXX 36/3/21. Witness testimony from Castula Machado signed by José Merecion, Sargento de la Policía Municipal de Mayari, March 9, 1927, ANCASXX 36/3/2. Flor Moreno, “Diligencia,” March 09, 1927, ANCASXX 36/3/3. Witness testimony from Castula Machado signed by José Merecion, Sargento de la Policía Municipal de Mayari, March 9, 1927, ANCASXX 36/3/2. “Declaracion de Cruz Almaguer Lopez,” March 17, 1927, ANCASXX 36/3/21. “Comparacencia del acusado Emeterio Fis conocido por Emeterio de Dios,” March 12, 1927, ANCASXX 36/3/5. Juez de Instrucción de Secretario de Audiencia, “Causa seguida, por el delito de ‘Sustracción de menores’ contra Emeterio Fis,” August 17, 1927, ANCASXX 21/6/48. Juzgado Municipal de Isla de Pinos, Death Certificate, November 14, 1937, ANCASXX 21/6/126.

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children that they brought to her.”86 This single and significant detail does not fit into the standard tropes that Cuban newspapers used to describe the practice and repression of African religions. Unlike other kidnapping cases, this one does not appear to have received any treatment in the newspapers of eastern Cuba. In contrast to Cuban journalists, who claimed that brujería was a symptom of national atavism and degeneracy, these Cubans accused an “American woman,” supposedly a bearer of civilization in the island, of brujería. Rumors like these may have resulted from the abrupt rural transformations engendered by the US military and economic presence in Cuba. As Stephan Palmié notes, rather than “representing a mistaken interpolation of archaic fantasy into the rational script of agroindustrial labor relations,” such stories reflect the “sense of moral crisis unleashed by a predatory modernity.”87 Not only did the de Dios case occur at a site where railroads crossed and laborers’ settlements formed, the USdominated sugar industry served as a reference point for the accusers’ rumors. Castula Machado’s fears of kidnapping were heightened by the fact that another child was rumored to have disappeared from within a sugar central. More significantly, she believed the threat against her own daughter to have been the result of a conspiracy between a US woman living at the site of a large sugar plantation and one of the thousands of Haitian laborers who arrived in the area to work such plantations. The inclusion of the woman from the United States in Cuban residents’ narratives about brujería-influenced kidnapping shows that fears of African religions may have emerged from rapid social change and dislocation, which included, but was not reducible to, a form of anti-black racism. People of African descent also made religious denunciations, further complicating simplistic narratives of racist denunciation. There were numerous instances when Haitians made accusations of brujería in Cuba. For instance, in 1921, in the section of Guantánamo known as La Loma del Chivo, a Haitian named Benito Fis was accused of kidnapping and eating a child who lived in the area. The accuser and only witness was Eduardo Martinez, another Haitian, who lived in close proximity to Fis and claimed to have seen the crime “through one of the gaps that exist in the wooden wall that separates the room of one and the other Haitian.” 86

87

“Causa seguida, por el delito de ‘Sustracción de menores’ contra Emeterio Fis,” June 21, 1927, ANCASXX 21/6/7. Palmié, Wizards and Scientists, 66.

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Even if racist beliefs made the story believable to Cuban authorities, it was probably not Martínez’s main motivation in denouncing his neighbor. El Cubano Libre wondered why “Martínez, who declared that he had been present at the consummation of the crime, did not do anything to prevent it, even when there had been screams.” The newspaper speculated that he lacked bravery or had arrived only after the child had been killed. They failed to ask whether Martínez had used the brujería denunciation as a pretext for resolving some other conflict with his neighbor.88 Accusing a neighbor of brujería or violence may have seemed like an easy way to exact revenge for previous rivalries. As in Haiti, moments of religious repression in Cuba were opportunities “for the settling of local accounts.”89 Such was the case of a group of Cubans who accused Haitians of practicing brujería in the city of Guantánamo. In 1937, a Cuban denounced his two Haitian neighbors for “putting brujerías in the patio of their home.”90 Cuban police, however, questioned the accuser’s story and its motives, especially when they found no evidence to substantiate the charges. They concluded “that the accuser . . . wants to live in the house that the accused inhabits . . . and that not finding a way for him to leave from said house, and knowing that he is a Haitian citizen, he made the denunciation in question so that [the Haitian] would be expelled for being pernicious.”91 The Haitians were not prosecuted. In some cases, Haitians accused their close social relations of performing violent acts in the name of brujería. In 1928 in Camagüey, a Haitian woman named Rosa Olay was accused of brujería by her husband. He claimed that after “having given birth,” Olay placed “a jutía [tree rat] in the crib, in place of the child.” Although he never saw the infant, Olay’s husband claimed that “the unhappy creature was handed over to the brujos.” Perhaps Olay performed an abortion or hid the child from her husband for other reasons. Regardless, his denunciation, which led to the incarceration of his wife, was motivated by something other than race.92 Not all religious denunciations can be attributed to cynical abuses of state power and the manipulation of popular stereotypes. Many, perhaps 88

89 90 91

92

“Un haitiano salvaje asesinó a un niño, y se comió su cuerpo,” El Cubano Libre, October 20, 1921. Ramsey, The Spirits and the Law, 201. Testimony of Hilario Asencio Sayan, January 25, 1937, APSSU 4/37/1. Antonio Bertran, Guardia Rural to Cuartel General “Silverio del Prado,” February 10, 1937, APSSU 4/37/11. “Haitiana capturada,” Diario de Cuba, February 11, 1928.

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including those above, were made by individuals who earnestly believed in the magico-religious powers of the accused, which they sought to counteract using the power of the state. At times, the very journalists who treated African religions as mere superstition displayed a kernel of belief in the efficacy of religious practice. In 1913, for instance, La Voz del Pueblo reported on a Catalan immigrant named Viladiu. One night “an unknown woman approached him putting her hand on his left shoulder.” While staring into his eyes, she “uttered some unintelligible words making some cabalistic signs” before she “disappeared as if by enchantment.” Immediately afterward, Viladiu reported “having an inert and pained left arm,” which did not improve with topical treatments. “Is this some bruja who wanted to bother the young Catalan?” the journalist wondered.93 What the writer at La Voz del Pueblo interpreted as a slim possibility, non-practicing individuals in local communities widely accepted. In 1915 Campechuela, in the present-day province of Granma, a Cuban family suffered a rash of illnesses that convinced them they had been victims of brujería. First, a young couple experienced “strange phenomena,” which produced “inexplicable scenes in their home.” After a year of marriage, the wife became pregnant “without . . . a single symptom or related suffering until a few days before she was to give birth.” The young infant was “extremely gaunt” and “the mother became paralytic and totally listless, to the extent that she could not nurse the little girl.” At the same time, the woman’s husband and father both “suffered a strange illness,” in which tumors formed on their bodies that “disappeared from night to morning.” The family was convinced that “it was nothing more than the work of someone in Campechuela who dedicates himself to practices of brujería and . . . wanted to cause harm to the family.” One family member wrote a letter to the press calling for “an investigation” to find and punish whoever was responsible.94 Among those who believed in the efficacy of brujería were religious practitioners who distinguished their service to the spirits from what they perceived as malicious magic. As Karen Richman argues, Haitian devotees distinguish religion from magic, though certain magical practices may be subsumed into Vodou rituals over time, placing religion and magic in

93 94

“¿Brujería ó qué?” La Voz del Pueblo, July 12, 1913. “¿Caso de brujería?” La Voz del Pueblo, September 14, 1915. For a discussion about the way the Cuban press provided knowledge that aided state repression of unacceptable religious practices, see Román, Governing Spirits, 18.

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a perpetual dialectical relationship.95 This means that for Haitians and many other practitioners of African religions, there is a category of very real and powerful rituals that are said to exist but are not normally employed when practitioners serve the spirits. Haitians’ distinction between religion and magic manifested itself in Cuba as well. In her memoirs, Dalia Timitoc Borrero recalled that Santiago Fiz, a known healer and religious practitioner, sang a song that clearly distinguished between the two. “They tell you that I am a brujero/ I am not a brujero, ná/ If I work it’s with the moon/ With the moon and with the sun.”96 Unlike Haitian laws, which explicitly allowed some types of ritual practices while banning others, independent Cuba had no official laws against religion. Instead, they were prosecuted on the grounds of illegal association or breaking sanitation laws. This did not prevent the Haitians who faced repression in Cuba from claiming with earnestness that they were not practicing brujería. On January 1, 1920, Haitians Luis Polo and Basilio Simón were celebrating a religious ceremony, perhaps in honor of Haitian independence day, in a barracón in the Central Céspedes in Camagüey. Police “found them dancing with a lit flame in their hands as well as a bottle that appeared to contain rum, and additionally cards with which they did distinct ceremonies.”97 Both Polo and Simón declared that they “were not dancing brujería.”98 What officials may have interpreted as an outright denial of any type of ritual practice, the defendants probably considered a clarification that they were not performing witchcraft or magic, just a religious dance – a legally valid defense in Haiti.99 Haitians’ widespread distinction between religion and magic also motivated them to denounce people for practicing the latter in both Haiti and Cuba. In many periods in Haitian history, including the years of peak migration to Cuba, state-led campaigns to eliminate ritual practices lumped diverse forms of magic with religious practices. Paradoxically, the enforcement of Haiti’s laws against sortilèges (spells) was often shaped by popular sectors, many of whom were religious devotees who fell under the law’s jurisdiction. These individuals petitioned state authorities to

95

96 97

98

99

Richman, Migration and Vodou, 17–18; Ramsey, The Spirits and the Law, 61; Román, Governing Spirits, 27, 40. Timitoc Borrero, Montecafé, 37–8. Cabo Esc. 32 de O.P. to Juez Municipal de Caunao [sic], January 1, 1920, APCJIPJC 303/ 3710/4. “Comparecencia de Basilio Simón,” and “Comparecencia de Luis Polo,” January 1, 1920, APCJIPJC 303/3710/6–7. For instance, see Ramsey, The Spirits and the Law, 66–76.

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prosecute what they perceived as malicious magic, thus shaping the meanings of the law profoundly.100 For rural Haitians, one threat of malicious magic was the kidnapping and murder of children by female sorcerers called loup garou. In the early 1940s, Alfred Métraux recorded rural Haitians’ tales of kidnappings performed by loup garou. According to his informants, a loup garou approaches the house of its intended victim in the middle of the night hoping to trick the child’s mother into giving her child to the sorcerer. She calls the child’s mother . . ..then asks, “Will you give me your child?” If then, drowsy and only half-awake, she still replies, “Yes”–then that’s that: the child is lost . . . The sorcerer can also appear in a dream to the mother and promise her a present in the same breath as mentioning the child’s name. To accept the gift is tantamount to handing over the child.101

As in rural Haiti, Haitian migrants in Cuba called upon state authorities when they believed themselves to be the victim of malicious magic. Some of these cases bear remarkable similarities to the loup garou narratives in Haiti. In other words, some of the narratives of religious fear that circulated in rural Cuba were informed by beliefs from Haiti, not just Cuban newspapers. In September 1931, in Yateras, Guantánamo, an individual named Clemente Garcia (aka Creme Lopez), was accused by Haitians of attempting to kidnap a young girl in a case that appears to be a manifestation of a loup garou rumor in Cuba. According to his accusers, Lopez, whose nationality was not recorded in court documents, approached a Haitian woman named Elisa Poll, asking “how many children they had and the age of each one.” According to Poll, it was not just Lopez’ “suspicious attitude” that prevented her from answering the questions. It was also the “repeated cases . . . of brujería in the area,” whose ceremonies “sometimes” required “children of a certain age.” Clearly, rumors of brujería and child kidnapping circulated among Haitians, as they did among Cubans, even if their ideological underpinnings were quite different from those of the Cuban press. Poll’s fears were corroborated by the specific knowledge her brother-in-law, another Haitian named Martin Fis, claimed to possess. Fis declared that he knew that “for some time” Lopez was “dedicating himself to the kidnapping of children” for brujería. Around midnight, Poll’s young daughter “let out strong screams that did not allow them to sleep, and being suspicious they got up.” At that moment, “a companion of Fis named Martin Poll who 100

Ramsey, The Spirits and the Law, 157.

101

Métraux, Voodoo in Haiti, 271–2, 303.

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also lives there,” arrived at the house, “warning them that in the gap between the ground and the floor of the house [sótano] there was a lit flame.” When the residents of the house went to investigate, they found “Garcia [Lopez] under the site where the abovementioned girl sleeps.”102 Lopez was initially charged with kidnapping, though his sentence was later overturned for lack of evidence.103 Fears of malicious magic are likely what motivated José Carlo Luis, the Haitian whose story opened this chapter, to ask judicial authorities for help when he saw ghosts. In September 1915, Carlo Luis awoke in the middle of the night. According to his testimony, there was no doubt that his world was being altered by a malicious force. In the “early morning he heard the sound of dragging chains and some ghosts appeared, speaking words to him that he could not understand.” Did Carlo Luis see the ghost of a loup garou (a phenomenon also described by Métraux), who was asking permission to take his child? No wonder Carlo Luis insisted that rural guardsmen help him “get his family out” of harm’s way.104

conclusion Cuban newspapers’ racially charged narratives about African religious belief and repression obscure the diversity of beliefs and practices in rural Cuba. Newspaper reports represented the beliefs of many sectors of Cuban society and played a significant role in spreading racist ideologies. However, they failed to represent the heterogeneity of individual religious communities; neither did they have a monopoly over religious rumors in Cuba. Other competing narratives circulated as well, sometimes originating among believers themselves. By using judicial records as “telling moments,” it is possible to discern religious communities composed of Haitians, a diverse array of Cubans, and perhaps individuals of other nationalities. Although it is impossible to know exactly what caused these diverse religious communities to coalesce, practitioners may have gathered around images of the saints that held meanings across spiritual traditions.

102 103

104

“Auto en Causa numero 574 de 1931,” October 15, 1931, ANCASXX 43/8/4. “A la Sala: Dr. Francisco Fernandez Plé. Abogado Fiscal,” March 7, 1932 and “Audiencia de Oriente: Secretaria Doctor Enrique Ferrer y Ferrer Secretario de la Audiencia de Oriente,” March 7, 1932, ANCASXX 43/8/21, 71. “Comparecencia del Acusado José Carlo Luis: Juzgado Municipal de Palma Soriano,” September 27, 1915, ANCASXX 43/6/5.

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While their communities were not immune from denunciation and repression, these did not always take the form of the brujería scares narrated by the press. Haitians’ distinctions between magic and religion, as well as their experiences with state-led repression of religion, probably shaped the way anti-religious campaigns played out in Cuba. Individuals could denounce the magical practices of an individual without differing greatly in worldview of the accused or questioning their spiritual power.

6 Mobilizing Politically and Debating Race and Empire in Cuban Cities

In 1942, Antoine Bervin was appointed by Haitian president Elie Lescot to travel on a “moral and cultural mission” to Cuba. As Bervin, an individual hailing from Haiti’s elite, understood it, the motivation for sending him was simple: “Over there, they wrongly imagine that all Haitians are cane cutters.” During his three-year stay in Havana, Bervin met with President Fulgencio Batista and members of the Cuban diplomatic corps. He triumphantly described the moment when he pressured the Cuban government to pay an indemnity to the mother of Félix Alphonse, a Haitian rural worker who had been murdered in Cuba over a decade earlier. Bervin’s interactions with living and breathing Haitians were more ambivalent, however. Mlle Constance Edouard greeted Bervin with warmth and gave him a sweater. In a gesture of goodwill and expectation, a group of Haitians in a Cuban prison presented Bervin with a hand-carved stamp with his name inscribed among “tropical landscapes.” Others brought only their anger. On the same day that he met the imprisoned Haitians, Bervin was visited by Frédéric Cole, someone who showed “the ruggedness of the [Haitian] generals” of the nineteenth century, an oblique references to Cole’s rural roots and dark skin. After questioning whether Bervin “was really a Haitian,” Cole made some “reflections” that were “very severe toward those who had represented Haiti in Havana” in previous years. Bervin would eventually record these and other experiences for Haitian readers in a book called Mission à la Havane.1 He was one of hundreds of literate Haitians who lived and worked in Cuba’s urban spaces and 1

Bervin, Mission à La Havane, 14, 36, 43–6. For the association between blackness and the Haitian army leaders of the nineteenth century see Nicholls, From Dessalines to Duvalier, 8.

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maintained communication with Haiti through a thriving print culture. His published memoirs embody this perfectly. Unlike Bervin, most lived in the eastern Cuban cities of Santiago and Guantánamo. Through their writings, they influenced public opinion in Haiti and Cuba by detailing their firsthand experiences in both countries. Literate Haitians’ writings and political actions in eastern Cuba must be interpreted in both transnational and intra-imperial terms. Writing from eastern Cuba gave them a unique opportunity to bypass Haitian censorship laws and to criticize the US occupation of Haiti. However, Cuba had its own constraints. Haitian writers were required to conform to Cuban norms that circumscribed the ways that people of African descent could talk about race or organize politically. Literate Haitians followed the same political norms as Afro-Cubans but their most critical engagements with Cuban racial ideologies were published in Haiti.2 In Haitian newspapers, they debated Cuba’s racism and working conditions in a way that mirrored conversations happening among Cubans themselves. For their Cuban audiences, lettered Haitians made public statements that perched uneasily between the inclusive language of nationalism, which made claims on behalf of all Haitians, and the divisive discourses of class, color, and cultural superiority that distinguished them from agricultural workers. This linguistic tension and political opportunism had a price for agricultural workers. As Frédéric Cole’s invective implies, Haitian rural workers had significantly less access to consular representation in Cuba than their urban-dwelling counterparts. Considering that consuls were appointed from the ranks of these lettered urbanites, the office of the consul represented one of the most stable points of interaction across class lines for the Haitian population in Cuba. The inconsistency of consular representation made this relationship a fraught one, especially during the repatriations of the 1930s, when consuls were accused of both corruption and negligence from agricultural workers. Lettered immigrants also sought to influence Haitian politics and criticize US imperialism from Cuban soil. Considering Cubans’ quickness to label both Afro-Cuban autonomous political mobilization and Haitian immigration as precursors to race war, such activism was not easy. Urban Haitians employed their close understanding of race and politics in Cuba to organize without breaking political norms. By adopting the specific 2

Such navigation of national and imperial borders was not unique to Haitians in Cuba. Throughout the nineteenth century, exile and activism in Jamaica was a central feature of Haitian politics. See Smith, Liberty, Fraternity, Exile.

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techniques of Afro-Cuban activists, Haitians managed to avoid accusations that their mobilizations would place Cuba on the road to race war. In 1915, they hosted Rosalvo Bobo, a high profile political exile who left Haiti on the eve of the US occupation. In Cuba, Bobo published tracts against the United States and received a warm reception from both Haitians and Cuban journalists. A few years later, Haitian residents of Santiago established a Cuban branch of the Union Patriotique, the prominent Haitian anti-occupation organization. Unlike Bobo, the Union enjoyed support from agricultural workers. Ultimately, this group of lettered Haitians shaped politics and ideas of race in both Haiti and Cuba. They also influenced the lives of their Haitian counterparts in rural Cuba, though not always for the better.

shaping public opinion in haiti and cuba: connections in ink and steam Among the Haitians who traveled to eastern Cuba during the first decades of the twentieth century were urban laborers and professionals who settled in Cuban cities like Santiago and Guantánamo. In 1919, there were 748 foreign-born adult males de color living in the city of Santiago de Cuba and 507 in the city of Guantánamo.3 Haitians constituted an unknown but significant portion of them. In 1932, a Haitian newspaper estimated the “Haitian colony in Santiago de Cuba” to consist of “approximately 180 members.”4 Between 1904 and 1958, the Guantánamo marriage record contains over 100 entries for Haitians who worked outside of agriculture. In both cities, they were jornaleros (unspecified laborers), carpenters, masons, shoemakers, machinists, tailors, musicians, watchmakers, merchants, empleados (unspecified lowlevel office positions), lawyers, and consuls. Women worked within their homes, and, in some cases, as seamstresses.5 Like their rural counterparts, the Haitians inhabiting Cuba’s cities developed social and commercial networks with individuals of other nationalities. In Guantánamo, between 1904 and 1958, well over half of the forty-nine marriages of Haitians involved a spouse of another nationality. Nineteen were with Cubans. Eleven were between Haitians and

3

4 5

The term de color referred to people whom census-takers identified as “black, mixed and yellow.” Cuba, Census of the Republic of Cuba 1919, 454. “A propos d’un cable de Cuba,” Haiti Journal, February 29, 1932. Compiled from APSRECTC and APGREC.

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individuals from Guadeloupe, St. Thomas, Jamaica, the United States, St. Christopher, and Tortola (in the Virgin Islands).6 In 1935, Louis Joseph Hibbert, the Haitian consul in Santiago, served as the godfather for a young Fidel Castro after marrying one of the boy’s teachers.7 Regular steamship traffic carried people and goods between Haiti and the eastern regions of Cuba, facilitating the circulation of letters and printed materials between the countries and permitting lettered Haitians to remain in close contact with Haiti. For instance, in 1927, Francisco Duplisis traveled by steamship from Haiti to Santiago de Cuba “carrying in his power eighteen letters addressed to other people” there.8 Newspapers from Haiti also circulated in Cuban cities. In a letter to the Port-au-Prince daily Haiti Journal, Edmond Jansème, the acting Haitian consul in Santiago, Cuba, wrote “to remind you that our [Haitian] newspapers are read here.”9 During a 1932 earthquake in Santiago de Cuba, readers of Haiti Journal received updates from Haitians in Cuba who were affected.10 “Despite the distance that separates it from you,” one individual quipped to Haitian President Sténio Vincent in 1931, “the Colony [in Cuba] does not lose sight of you for even one minute.”11 Literate Haitians were attuned to political events in Cuba, including episodes of racial violence, even before migration to the country was officially recognized in 1913. To give just one example, in June 1912, the year before Cuban sugar companies were allowed to recruit Haitian laborers, readers of L’Éclaireur in Port-au-Prince were informed that “the situation is hardly bright in our neighbor’s abode.” The Cuban government’s declaration of “a state of siege,” the newspaper complained, means that “the Constitution does not procure any guarantee to political prisoners” and “the Government may execute them at their whim.” “We sincerely deplore this crisis.”12 The newspaper was referring to the Cuban government’s repression of the Partido Independiente de Color (PIC), the all-black political party that had formed during the previous years. It was led by Pedro Ivonnet and Evaristo Estenoz and composed of

6 7 8

9 10 11

12

Compiled from APGREC. Ugás Bustamante, Haití, 65; Ramonet, Fidel Castro, 58–9. Juez de Instrucción de Santiago de Cuba to Presidente de la Audiencia de Oriente, April 22, 1927, ANCASXX 30/1/1. “Les haitiens à Cuba,” Haiti Journal, May 06, 1931. “A propos d’un cable de Cuba,” Haiti Journal February 29, 1932. “La colonie haitienne à Cuba,” Haiti Journal, January 19, 1931. Cuban music circulated in Haiti through recordings and radio broadcasts as well. Averill, A Day for the Hunter, 39. “Coup-d’oeil: La situation à Cuba,” L’Éclaireur, June 12, 1912.

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Afro-Cuban military veterans who felt cheated from the fruits of military victory against Spain and the continued racism of independent Cuba. The party had been declared illegal before the 1912 elections because it violated the Morua law, which forbade the existence of any racially defined political party. A 1912 armed protest by the PIC met with swift repression from the Cuban government. In Oriente province, unknown thousands of Afro-Cubans without affiliation to the party lost their lives from governmental and popular violence.13 Coverage of the event in Haitian newspapers explains why passenger travel to Cuba in 1912 was less than one quarter what it had been the previous year.14 In response to the anti-PIC violence, Haitians debated the nature of Cuban racism in their newspapers. The terms of these debates closely matched similar discussions occurring in Cuba. While L’Eclaireur expressed dismay about the Cuban government’s “state of siege” and the execution of Afro-Cuban prisoners, others described the events as an aberration in a society that was otherwise racially harmonious. In response to the repression of the PIC, Haitian intellectual Dantès Bellegarde approached the Cuban Chargé d’Affaires in Port-au-Prince and inquired about “the origins of the movement and about the situation of blacks in Cuba.”15 At the moment that Afro-Cubans were being murdered in Oriente province, the Cuban official told Bellegarde that no preoccupation of race dominates the spirit of Cuban leaders; no barrier separates the races; the law is equal for all, and the blacks have their place throughout,–in the assemblies where national interests are discussed, like the public schools where their children rub elbows with the descendants of the most authentic white families.16

The official’s description of Cuba as a bastion of racial fraternity reflected a predominant strain of nationalist thought that emerged during Cuba’s wars of independence. What contemporary scholars call “racial democracy” is succinctly described in the iconic statement of José Martí, the Cuban independence leader who envisioned post-independence Cuba as a republic “with all and for all.”17 13

14 15

16 17

Helg, Our Rightful Share, chapter 7; Scott, Degrees of Freedom, 229–52; de la Fuente, A Nation for All, 71–6. Ferrer, Anuario estadístico, 24–5. Bellegarde’s 1912 coverage and his conversation with the diplomat are referenced in Dantès Bellegarde, “Le problème noir à Cuba,” Le Nouvelliste, April 26, 1913. Dantès Bellegarde, “Le problème noir à Cuba,” Le Nouvelliste, April 26, 1913. de la Fuente, A Nation for All, 27–8; Ferrer, Insurgent Cuba, 1; Helg, Our Rightful Share, chapter 2; Duno-Gottberg, Solventando las diferencias, 53–64.

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The following year, in 1913, Caribbean contract migration was legalized in Cuba, reviving longstanding, racially charged debates about the economic needs of the country and its ideal racial composition. In February of that year, Cuba Contemporánea, a Havana monthly, published a systematic argument against the entry of Haitians and all other “blacks” into Cuba. The article used census data to warn that non-white immigration would cause blacks to overtake white Cubans numerically. The author implied that the Afro-Cuban leaders who opposed race-based immigration prohibitions were engaging in activities reminiscent of the PIC by trying to overwhelm the white majority. Finally, the piece argued that the entry of foreign blacks would derail Afro-Cubans’ attempts to achieve cultural parity with Cuban whites because the former would inevitably mix with these immigrants who “are not . . . so susceptible to modify their crude nature.”18 Literate Haitians in Port-au-Prince and Cuba commented on the antiHaitian racism that permeated Cuban immigration debates, as they had during the repression of the PIC. In 1913, Dantès Bellegarde responded specifically to the editorial in Cuba Contemporánea, which he and other Haitians read in Port-au-Prince. In the pages of Le Nouvelliste and Haiti Litteraire, he reminded readers of the Cuban ideology of racial equality that had been introduced to him the previous year during the repression of the PIC. “I don’t know Cuba well enough to dare answer such reassuring affirmations,” he declared in response to the Cuban official’s rosy picture of racial democracy, “but an article in Cuba Contemporánea– . . . gives me some worry on this point.”19 Bellegarde’s simultaneous invocation of Cuban racial democracy and reporting of Cuban racism was a strategy that Afro-Cubans frequently employed in Cuba. Even after the failure of the PIC, Afro-Cubans commonly used the language of nationalist egalitarianism to claim rights, arguing that Martí’s vision remained unfulfilled.20 Bellegarde was aware of Afro-Cubans’ political struggles and presented them to a Haitian audience. He complained that “some cultivated blacks” in Cuba who opposed a race-based immigration law in Cuba were criticized roundly by Cuban journalists. He also implied that the racism faced by Haitian immigrants and Afro-Cubans was largely the same. In so doing, he opposed the editorialist’s assertion that Afro-Cubans’ struggles for 18 19 20

Carlos De Velasco, “El problema negro,” Cuba Contemporánea, February 1913. Dantès Bellegarde, “Le problème noir à Cuba,” Le Nouvelliste, April 26, 1913. de la Fuente, A Nation for All, 26–39.

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equality would suffer from black immigration. “But isn’t it humiliating,” Bellegarde rhetorically asked, “for . . . blacks in Cuba to see access to their country blocked to men who have committed no other crime than having black skin?”21 For Bellegarde, the Afro-Cuban struggle for equality was inseparable from the desire of Haitians to defend their countrymen from racism and discrimination in Cuba. During the next decade, Haitian laborers traveled to Cuba in increasing numbers and literate Haitians in Cuban cities continued to report on the racially charged anti-immigrant debates in Cuba. In Haiti, they spoke about Cuban racism with a frankness that would have been difficult in the Cuban political climate. In 1922, for instance, the Haitian newspaper Le Matin published an open letter from “a group of Haitians” in Santiago de Cuba. They complained that “Cuban workers” roundly opposed Haitian immigration and often asked whether “Haiti” was “trying to plague the Republic of Cuba.”22 After an extended visit to Cuba beginning in 1919, Haitian writer Lélio Laville argued that: “Haitian emigration became proverbial in Cuba to the point that the most classless, and miserable, when they want to respond to an insolence, an injustice or to reclaim some right, will ask you with brazenness, ‘Do you think I am some Haitian?’”23 Not all lettered Haitians resident in Cuba were so critical of Cuban racial ideologies and practices, however. Some even defended Cuban race relations in Haitian newspapers using the same language as Cuban apologists. In 1933, Edmond Craig, a former Haitian consul who was still residing in Cuba, published a defense of Cuban society in L’Autre Cloche, the Haitian newspaper that had publicized Laville’s aforementioned text. First, Craig argued that any racial inequalities in Cuba were mere legacies of slavery that would soon disappear. He also alluded to the PIC in order to buttress his arguments. If it had not been for the tactlessness of Evariste Stenoz [sic] and Ivonnet, the black Cuban today would not be just what he is now, but a probable aspirant to the Premiere Magistrate of the State, because once instructed, he will be rich, and that is the only difficulty preventing him from realizing the aspirations that are conceded to him as a citizen by the constitution of that country.24

21 22 23 24

Dantès Bellegarde, “Le problème noir à Cuba,” Le Nouvelliste, April 26, 1913. “L’émigration haitienne à Cuba,” Le Matin, January 30, 1922. Laville, La traite des nègres, 7. Edmond Craig, Ancien Consul à Cuba, “A propos de la brochure de M. Lélio Laville,” L’Autre Cloche, May 19, 1933. Other Haitians made similar arguments about the positive effects of migration on rural Haitians’ habits. See R.C. Charlot, “Simple réflexions au sujet d’une Police municipale,” Haiti Journal, February 12, 1932.

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Taking his cue from the immigration debates that had raged in Cuba during the previous decades, Craig denied that racism existed in Cuba or that Haitians faced racial discrimination. Like many Cubans, Craig criticized immigrant agricultural workers by decrying their lack of education and culture – sidestepping discussions of race. “The Haitian is viewed badly for his deeds,” Craig argued. “The Haitian emigrant,” he continued, “would not be so disdained, if he presented himself in Cuba differently, if his mentality were less blocked.”25 Through such statements, Craig reproduced a racial logic shared by individuals from both Haiti and Cuba. In both countries, it was common for wealthy, white, or light-skinned individuals, including middle-class Afro-Cubans, to mask overt racism and racial inequalities by claiming that the black masses were unprepared for leadership or lacked education and civilization.26 Literate Haitian observers in Cuba debated the working conditions that migrant agricultural laborers faced with similarly divided conclusions. In 1922, Louis Callard, the Haitian consul at Jobabo, the site of a large sugar plantation in Cuba, published a series of negative descriptions of migrant laborers’ lives. He complained that in the Manati sugar mill, two Haitian laborers were forced to work without pay by the rural guard as punishment for “having refused to help transport a sick Jamaican to the hospital.”27 He also denounced the health risks Haitians faced on sugar plantations after seeing “about fifty of our women and men stretched out under the sun and covered from head to foot by infected pustules, some more dead than alive, all without medical care, and nourished only barely by sugar cane.”28 Some Haitian observers interpreted agricultural work conditions in Cuba much more positively. In 1925, the Haitian League of Rights of Man and Citizen interviewed numerous Haitian consuls in Cuba regarding the treatment of migrants. While some officials spoke about the exploitation of Haitian workers in Cuba, others defended working conditions there. When asked for his “opinion about Haitian emigration to Cuba,” Emmanuel Nazon, a former consul in Cuba, told the League that migrants received “a material and moral profit” from their work in Cuba.29 Others 25

26 27 28 29

Edmond Craig, Ancien Consul à Cuba, “A propos de la brochure de M. Lélio Laville,” L’Autre Cloche, May 19, 1933. Emphasis added. Trouillot, Haiti: State against Nation, 125–6; de la Fuente, A Nation for All, 154–5. “L’émigration haitienne à Cuba,” Bleu et Rouge, October 11, 1922. “L’émigration haitienne à Cuba,” Bleu et Rouge, August 29, 1922. “Enquète de la Ligue des Droits de l’Homme sur notre émigration à Cuba: Interview de Monsieur Emm. Nazon,” Le Nouvelliste, May 26, 1925.

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argued that migration to Cuba would instill rural Haitians with the values of civilization – thus making similar arguments about immigrant respectability as their British Caribbean counterparts in Cuba.30 “Our country dwellers, barefoot from their birth, illiterate, accustomed to sleeping on the ground, eating on the ground or squatting, upon arriving in Cuba are continually shoed, they sleep at least in a hammock, eat at a table, and learn, if not to read, at least to sign their names, often in Spanish and they go to the theatre.”31 Others made similar arguments about the positive effects of migration on rural Haitians’ habits. One individual believed that return migrants would make the best police officers in Haiti since they would be influenced by Cuba’s own police force and its relationship to “a people in plain development of evolution.”32 Literate Haitians also sought to shape public discussions about migration in Cuba by contesting derogatory characterizations of Haitian immigrant laborers. They responded to the anti-Haitianism of the Cuban press, not by questioning its underlying logic, but rather by showing themselves to be exceptions. In 1922, Louis Callard described his efforts to convince Cubans that not “all the inhabitants of Haiti are cast from the image of the rural Haitians . . . and possess the same degree of morality and intellect.” To this end, he carried “a phototype of Clément Magloire,” the light-skinned director of the Haitian daily Le Matin, which he once displayed to an unnamed Cuban woman hoping to change her entrenched idea that “there are no white Haitians.”33 In so doing, they were employing a strategy whose variants were adopted by middle-class Afro-Cubans, British Caribbeans in Cuba, and even members of the Cuban branch of Marcus Garvey’s U.N.I.A. Historian Tomas Fernández Robaina calls this “the individualist solution,” in which Cuban blacks sought to achieve “the same positions as white men, making them see that black men had adequate preparation, and knew how to act in a correct manner in society.”34 The distance that literate, urban-dwelling Haitians in Cuba sought to create between themselves and their rural counterparts is revealed by their estimate that in 1932, the “Haitian colony in Santiago 30 31

32

33 34

Queeley, Rescuing Our Roots, chapter 1. Edmond Craig, Ancien Consul à Cuba, “A propos de la brochure de M. Lélio Laville,” L’Autre Cloche, May 19, 1933. R.C. Charlot, “Simple réflexions au sujet d’une Police municipale,” Haiti Journal, February 12, 1932. “L’émigration haitienne à Cuba,” Bleu et Rouge, October 21, 1922. Fernández Robaina, Personalidades en el debate racial, 170; Guridy, Forging Diaspora, 72; Queeley, Rescuing Our Roots, 47–8.

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de Cuba” consisted of “approximately 180 members” – a statistic that elided the tens of thousands of agricultural laborers just beyond the city limits.35 There were moments when Haitians and Cubans publicly questioned negative stereotypes about rural Haitians. In an open letter to the Havana newspaper El Mundo in 1922, Camille J. Leon, the Haitian Chargé d’Affaires in Havana, complained of the “unfavorable opinions and fears formulated by some of the newspapers,” especially “their almost hostile sentiments—against the entry into Cuba of Haitian workers judged undesirable.” “If [Haitians] were an ‘undesirable’ element,” he rhetorically asked, “how does one then explain the increase of sugar production in Cuba?” Leon even inverted known racial stereotypes about rural Haitians in Cuba by declaring that migrant workers were recruited “because of their multiple qualities: resistance and high work yield, humility, morality, and natural inclination for country life.”36 At times, Cubans openly agreed with such statements. In a conference paper delivered in Santiago de Cuba titled Haiti bajo el imperialismo yankee, Cuban journalist José Diego Grullon wrote: “It is an error . . . to believe that the Haitians are an uncultured people [pueblo inculto].”37 In their efforts to subvert negative stereotypes about Haitian laborers, however, Leon and Grullon represented Haitian migrants as helpless victims of imperialism and the sugar companies. “Never, not even one time,” the Haitian official declared, “has a Haitian migrant worker left his country on his own account.”38 Likewise, Grullon stated that Haitian migrants were helpless victims of their surroundings, “sadly tricked by the tentacles of capitalism.”39 By falsely stating that Haitian immigrant laborers were moved against their will, Leon and Grullon implied that they were pawns of Cuban sugar companies. In effect, they were contributing to an exclusionary strain of Cuban thought that explained immigrant laborers’ presence in Cuba as the result of imperialism instead of their attempts to take control over their lives in the context of US military and economic penetration.40

35 36 37 38 39 40

“A propos d’un cable de Cuba,” Haiti Journal, February 29, 1932. “L’émigration haitienne à Cuba,” Bleu et Rouge, October 25, 1922. Grullon, “Haiti bajo el imperialismo yankee,” 8. “L’émigration haitienne à Cuba,” Bleu et Rouge, October 25, 1922. Grullon, “Haiti bajo el imperialismo yankee,” 8. Carr, “Identity, Class, and Nation,” 84; McLeod, “Undesirable Aliens: Race, Ethnicity, and Nationalism,” 615.

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of consuls and courtiers: haitians’ urban–rural networks in cuba The print culture that connected Haitian urbanites to literate audiences in both Haiti and Cuba could not reach the largely illiterate Haitian rural workers in Cuba to the same degree. Nevertheless, better-off Haitians interacted with agricultural workers in at least two capacities: as officially -sanctioned consular representatives charged with advocating for Haitian citizens and as courtiers, the individuals who moved throughout the countryside hoping to fleece workers of their wages. On the surface, the difference between public servants and independent opportunists could not be greater. Yet in the minds of many agricultural workers, the lines were blurred. Workers regularly complained of consuls’ ineffectiveness and corruption. Furthermore, some courtiers posed as consuls to collect money from workers. For the latter, both collected fees and neither could be depended upon fully for protection. Haitian consuls worked in Havana and cities in the sugar-producing areas of Oriente and Camagüey–Santiago, Guantánamo, Jobabo, Puerto Padre, and Antilla. Over the course of this period, their duties included registering migrants as they entered Cuban ports, collecting passport fees on behalf of the Haitian government, and navigating Cuban official channels to protect migrants from all forms of illegal abuses in Cuba. Previous scholarship describes the Haitian consular staff in Cuba as totally negligent toward agricultural workers, corrupt in their dealings with the Haitian state, and unwilling to stand up to the sugar companies, giving Haitians little recourse to challenge their poor working and living conditions.41 The image of negligent consuls and non-petitioning migrant workers is oversimplified. Haitian agricultural workers interacted with their consuls in a variety of ways that ranged from collective petitioning to outright avoidance. One consul marveled at “the quantity of letters that arrive for me from all parts of Oriente!” – indicating that illiterate workers in Cuba hired scribes to communicate with authorities, as they did in Haiti.42 At other times, workers organized in order to press their consular officials. Fernand Hibbert declared that: “Often they group together and do not fail to address their consuls and legation for 41

42

Pérez de la Riva, “Cuba y la migración antillana, 1900–1931,” 27; Plummer, Haiti and the United States, 111; Zanetti and Garcia, United Fruit Company, 247. “Enquête de la Ligue des Droits de l’Homme sur notre émigration à Cuba: Interview de Monsieur B. Danache,” Le Nouvelliste, May 13, 1925.

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the least misunderstanding.”43 Not all Haitians in Cuba interacted with their consuls in this way. Some refused to call upon them at all. Louis Callard lamented that even basic information about the number of Haitians in his jurisdiction could not be determined with precision because migrants “never consented to come and register in my offices.”44 At another moment, when asked whether he intervened on behalf of workers, he responded by rhetorically asking “And how could I do it when they have never addressed a complaint against anyone?”45 The range of Haitian workers’ responses to their consuls may be explained by practical concerns as well as their deep-seated mistrust of officials. This is reflected in the words of Nathan Borgella, a Haitian laborer who returned to Haiti in 1928 after working in Cuba for over a year. He told the Haitian opposition paper Le Petit Impartial that “since our means are generally restricted, we do not count on adjudication” from consuls. He also referred to “the consul” as “the first exploiter of Haitians!”46 The wide spectrum of agricultural workers’ interactions with consuls is matched by the different ways consuls functioned in Cuba, which included moments of active (though limited) support for workers, severe negligence, and outright exploitation. At least occasionally, Haitian consuls in Cuba intervened on behalf of migrant laborers when Cuban laws were disregarded, challenging categorical statements about their apathy. First, some consuls sought to protect incoming migrants from the abuses of Cuban port officials. For instance, in 1917, Haitian consuls complained that upon entering the quarantine station in Santiago, migrants were being robbed by Cuban police who searched their bags under false pretexts.47 Consuls also intervened on behalf of Haitians who were incarcerated in Cuba, even before migration was legalized. In 1911, the Haitian consul in Santiago wrote the Governor of Oriente to “make an appeal” for “clemency” and “liberty” for Apollon Pierre, who had been “detained in the prison of Santiago for five months” despite the fact that “his guilt . . . had

43

44 45

46

47

“Enquête de la Ligue Haitienne pour la Defense des Droits de l’Homme et du Citoyen: Sur notre émigration: Interview de Monsieur F. Hibbert,” Le Nouvelliste, May 28, 1925. “L’émigration haitienne à Cuba,” Bleu et Rouge, August 29, 1922. “Enquête de la Ligue des Droits de l’Homme sur notre émigration à Cuba interview de Monsieur L. Callard (suite et fin),” Le Nouvelliste, May 16, 1925. “Le gouvernement de Mr. Borno refuse d’entendre un malheureux qu’on a maltraité à Cuba,” Le Petit Impartial, July 24, 1928. Comandante de Caballería, Delegado de la Secretaria de Gobernación to Gobernador Provincial de Oriente, September 26, 1917, APSGP 375/1/1.

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not been proven.”48 In 1912, the Haitian consul requested information about Simon Telismon Raphael, who had been arrested in June of that year in Banes, Cuba, perhaps as part of the anti-PIC repression occurring at the time.49 Consuls also sought to protect incarcerated migrants from poor prison conditions. In 1928, the Haitian minister in Havana complained to Cuban authorities that “all the Haitians in jail” in Ciego de Avila “are subject to true forced labor.” The incident was covered by the Havana newspaper El País, resulting in an official Cuban investigation of prison conditions in Camagüey.50 Finally, consuls inquired about Haitians who died on Cuban soil. In January 1923, Edmond Laporte, the Haitian consul in Santiago, asked the Governor of Oriente for information about the death of Edgard Zéphyr, who had been “killed by a cane car on December 31st of last year” before being “buried during the night by the Police.”51 Haitian consuls even intervened on behalf of workers for problems that occurred within the confines of sugar plantations. In December 1920, Louis Callard, the Haitian consul at Jobabo, traveled within the plantation owned by the Manati Sugar Company. He came across two Haitian men cleaning the headquarters of the company’s Guarda Jurado (private security force) without pay. The forced labor was a punishment meted out by the sugar company for refusing to transport another laborer to the hospital. Callard promptly headed to the office of Eduardo Diez de Ulzurrun, the company’s top administrator, questioning the legality of both the charge and punishment. Diez de Ulzurrun claimed that forced labor was a common punishment on his and other plantations. When pressured, however, he promised the consul that Haitians would henceforth be sent to the municipal police in Las Tunas, instead of being subject to the plantation’s private security forces and ad-hoc judicial system.52 Callard pressured companies to comply with Cuban laws again the following year. In the context of falling sugar prices and high unemployment, he addressed a letter to “Administrators of the Manati Sugar Company” because of the “very alarming and well-founded reports about the critical situation that Haitian workers face in Manati.” He 48 49 50

51

52

Consul d’Haiti to Gouverneur de Oriente, September 14, 1911, APSGP 785/37/61. Consul d’Haiti to Governor of Oriente, July 05, 1912, APSGP 374/14/1. José Rosado Aybar, Subsecretario, Secretaria de Gobernación to Jefe de la Policia Nacional, September 14, 1928, ANCSP 44/32/np. Edmond Laporte to Gobernador Provincial de Oriente, January 12, 1923, APSGP 376/14/1. “L’émigration haitienne à Cuba,” Bleu et Rouge, October 11, 1922.

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made reference to the contracts that laborers signed with the company to demand that unemployed laborers be returned home by the company. It was the company’s “imperious duty,” he said, “to repatriate all the malheureux that it made come from Haiti.” It is clearly oversimplified to describe consuls as totally negligent of workers or obsequious to sugar companies. “These are human lives, in the hundreds, at stake,” Callard wrote, “for which your company and I are responsible.”53 Although consuls intervened on behalf of agricultural laborers, their support was limited to cases when Cuban laws were breached. They did not challenge any aspect of Haitians’ labor or migration experience that was protected by the letter of the law, no matter how abusive. For instance, despite consuls’ efforts to protect incoming immigrants from theft in Cuban ports, they did not question the unpopular quarantine policies for agricultural laborers, even though such policies were motivated by “prevailing racial ideologies in Cuba” as much as “scientific, medical, or public health interest.”54 Some, including Callard, defended the practice in Haitian newspapers, invoking the rigidity of Cuban law and the Platt Amendment. “To avoid quarantine in Cuba,” he declared, “the emigrant has but one remedy: don’t go to Cuba.”55 Urban-based Haitians and consuls responded differently, however, when they were subject to Cuba’s quarantine policies, further highlighting the way public health concerns and consular protection were imbued with racial and class biases. In 1923, the steamship Biskra arrived in Santiago from Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The twenty passengers who planned to stay in the city were sent to quarantine. Among them was the wife of a Haitian consular official.56 The implication that these passengers potentially carried the diseases associated with rural migrant laborers outraged them. “They began to protest . . . claiming that they were in perfect conditions of health.” During the exchange with the officials, “a scandal was produced” and many “lamented having come to Cuba to suffer quarantine.”57 The story even made it into the local newspaper, unlike the complaints of incoming agricultural workers.

53 54 55

56

57

“L’émigration haitienne à Cuba,” Bleu et Rouge, August 29, 1922. McLeod, “We Cubans,” 60. “Enquête de la Ligue des Droits de l’Homme sur notre émigration à Cuba: Interview de Monsieur L. Callard (suite et fin),” Le Nouvelliste, May 26, 1925. “Protesta de unos pasajeros,” La Independencia, January 11, 1923; “El vapor Biskra y la señora esposa de un ministro,” La Independencia, January 11, 1923. “Protesta de unos pasajeros,” La Independencia, January 11, 1923.

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Such ideas were probably shared by the consuls themselves, whose deference for the law disappeared when better-off Haitians in Cuba were inconvenienced. Later the same year, Haitian official Marcel Latour was joined in Santiago by his family. When they arrived at the port from Haiti, they were sent to quarantine because Latour’s young son had not been vaccinated. Edmond Laporte, the Haitian Consul General in Cuba immediately requested the family’s release. “Mister Latour is not just anyone,” he declared in a letter that achieved the family’s release within 24 hours.58 By challenging whether laws should be applied to all Haitians, the case suggests that access to effective consular representation in Cuba, like state services in Haiti, was heavily contingent on social position. The limits of consular intervention are also apparent from the fact that consuls did not challenge work conditions, no matter how harsh, when the letter of the law was not broken. B. Danache, the acting Haitian consul in Santiago in 1925, made the point explicitly when asked whether “migrant laborers were mistreated in certain mills in Cuba.” He responded that he had never received a “complaint relative to bad treatment” and merely helped laborers navigate legal channels after work accidents. Curiously, he then claimed that he didn’t “call the murder of five Haitians that took place last December or January ‘bad treatment’” because it was not a systematic part of company policy, but the result of extenuating circumstances. Although Danache filed a report about the murder, it is doubtful that he could have ever witnessed any of the “bad treatment” that was built into company labor policy since he received reports about “the sanitary state of Haitian workers” from United Fruit Company administrators.59 Rather than forcing companies to follow laws and protect workers, officials like Danache contributed to their façade of legality by working with companies without investigating their labor practices. There is little doubt that some officials accepted bribes from the United Fruit Company.60 Some consuls seem to have acted only after being forced to do so. Emmanuel Nazon did not initially take action when a Haitian agricultural 58

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Edmond Laporte, Consul Général de la Republique d’Haiti to Gobernador Provincial de Oriente, April, 25, 1923, Gobernador de Santiago de Cuba to Edmond Laporte, April 25, 1923, APSGP 376/1/1–2. “Enquête de la Ligue des Droits de l’Homme sur notre émigration à Cuba interview de Monsieur B. Danache (suite)” Le Nouvelliste, May, 16, 1925. Dossier for Elie Lescot, May 18, 1932, USNA RG127 E183, Box 2, Folder: Haitian Citizens.

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worker was murdered by a Cuban official on the United Fruit Company plantation at Preston in 1919. Nazon investigated the case only after Lélio Laville, a Haitian writer visiting Cuba, penned an open letter to him demanding a response that was published in the Haitian daily Le Matin. Nazon’s subsequent visit to the Preston plantation was the “first time” he had entered the property, raising serious questions about the extent to which he could represent Haitian sugar workers effectively.61 Haitian consuls’ interventions on behalf of agricultural workers explain why some laborers petitioned officials. However, there were other aspects of the consular-worker relationship that were more exploitative, providing an explanation for many migrants’ avoidance of Haitian officials in Cuba. Nathan Borgella’s characterization of “the consul” as “the first exploiter of Haitians” probably referred to their actions in Cuban ports.62 A 1920 Haitian law obligated migrants to enter ports where consuls were stationed and officially register in their offices. Such registration required migrants to pay a fee of $2.00, which represented more than a sugar worker’s daily wages in most years. Consuls and ship captains devised ways to obtain even more money from incoming and outgoing migrants. Ship captains commonly collected migrants’ passports and gave them to the consulate. In some cases, “the passports are not at any time in the possession of the emigrant nor delivered to him by the consul.” When migrants sought to leave Cuba without their documents, they were required to “obtain a new passport” and pay the consul an additional $2.00.63 Indeed, before he became president of Haiti in 1941, Elie Lescot served as the Haitian consul in Antilla, Cuba, during World War I. In addition to his salary, Lescot reportedly “amassed a fortune of $80,000 through immigration fees and bribes from the United Fruit Company.”64 Agricultural laborers’ avoidance of consuls and other Haitian urbanites may have also stemmed from their interactions with courtiers. Courtiers were non-laboring individuals who traveled throughout the rural and urban spaces of eastern Cuba devising various strategies for cheating individuals, especially agricultural laborers. One individual called them “Haitian parasites,” while another said they were “the 61 62

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Laville, La traite des nègres, 7–9. “Le gouvernement de Mr. Borno refuse d’entendre un malheureux qu’on a maltraité à Cuba,” Le Petit Impartial, July 24, 1928. United States Senate, “United States Senate Inquiry 2,” 1365–6. Dossier for Elie Lescot, May 18, 1932, USNA RG127 E183, Box 2, Folder: Haitian Citizens.

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most pitiless exploiters of workers.”65 Courtiers’ specific techniques are best documented in the ports. When rural workers arrived in Cuban train stations, they were met by courtiers who approached the migrants “to serve as porters.” Courtiers then rushed migrants along and encouraged them to purchase steamship tickets for vessels that were not necessarily in port yet. They also facilitated migrants’ payments of $2.00 to consuls for return passports. Finally, courtiers helped migrants convert their cash wages into checks in preparation for the journey home. In this process, courtiers received $3.00 from steamship companies and “one or two percent . . . of the value of the check” as payment from migrants.66 Although courtiers were not technically consuls, their actions damaged the reputation of state officials in two ways. First, consuls were associated with courtiers because it was commonly believed that they worked together. Laville’s description of courtiers’ actions in the port of Santiago said that they were “tolerated by the Police and the steamship companies.” In the process of buying return tickets, paying consular passport fees, and converting currency, Laville described courtiers as the individuals “that beat the bass drum,” indicating that they coordinated the bureaucratic demands to which returning migrants were subjected.67 In addition, some courtiers claimed to be consular officials, making it extremely difficult for workers to know whom to trust. In 1935, a Haitian named Coclès Simon falsely claimed to be a “delegate of the [Haitian] consulate . . . in order to exploit unhappy Haitians in the countryside.” Simon was arrested by the Cuban police for his actions.68 But his success at embezzling money from laborers using the guise of a state official suggests that a consul demanding money from migrant laborers was probably not that uncommon, even outside of Cuban ports. In the eyes of workers, consular legitimacy was certainly damaged when courtiers posed as state officials.

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Laville, La traite des nègres, [first quote] 6. “Enquête de la Ligue Haitienne pour la Defense des Droits de l’Homme et du Citoyen: Sur notre émigration: Interview de Monsieur F. Hibbert,” Le Nouvelliste, May 28, 1925. Laville, La traite des nègres, 6. It is not clear from Laville’s text whether migrants were obligated by law or merely practical reasons to convert hard currency into checks. Laville, La traite des nègres, 6. Louis Hibbert, Consul General de Haiti to Gobernador Provincial de Oriente, January 5, 1935. APSGP 377/50/1.

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political organizing in cuban cities Haitians’ urban communities were large and influential enough to engage in political activism and to influence Haitian politics from Cuban soil, even as the United States dominated both territories. This was no easy task considering Cubans’ tendency to interpret any mobilization by people of African descent as precipitating a race war. Haitians used their knowledge of Cuban racial debates and adopted Afro-Cuban techniques to organize without breaking Cuban political norms. By emphasizing commonalities between Haiti and Cuba, especially their experiences under US domination, activists helped to blur the lines between Haiti and Cuba. In 1915, they hosted a visit from Rosalvo Bobo, an exiled Haitian military leader. A decade later, they formed a Cuban branch of the Union Patriotique, a well-known Haitian organization that opposed US imperialism. The latter organization, unlike Bobo himself, had popular support from Haitian rural workers in Cuba. Only three years after the Cuban state massacred thousands of AfroCubans in Oriente in the name of preventing a race war, a Haitian military leader named Rosalvo Bobo landed in the region. Bobo was a political and military leader who successfully marshaled peasant troops in Northern Haiti in 1915 in an attempt to overthrow President Vilbrun Guillaume Sam. When the latter was killed and Bobo was poised to take the presidency, US Marines formally entered Haiti, beginning a two-decade military occupation of the country. In response, Bobo did what a number of Haitian political exiles had done before him: He fled to Cuba and stayed there from August 30th to October 7, 1915.69 In Cuba, Bobo promoted himself as the rightful president of Haiti and sought to raise opposition to the US occupation. Initially, this was a difficult task. Newspapers in Havana were critical of the exiled general and linked him with the practice of Vodou and the PIC, which many feared was resurging that year.70 Police even gathered intelligence on Bobo, which they compiled alongside information regarding “the elements of color” in Cuba.71 However, Bobo was more successful with Cubans in Santiago because of his connections with literate Haitians in the

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Roger Gaillard offers the most thorough account of Bobo’s life and his political experiences leading up to the United States Occupation of Haiti. Gaillard, Les blancs débarquent II. See also Smith, Liberty, Fraternity, Exile, 326–7. Chomsky, “The Aftermath of Repression,” 10; Gaillard, Les blancs débarquent II, 219. For a counter-argument, see Fernández Soriano, “El exilio cubano.” Gobernador Provincial From Jefe de la Policía Especial, October 07, 1915, APSGP 786/3/15.

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city and his ability to distance himself from Haitian agricultural workers. Bobo’s interactions with the Haitian urban community in Cuba and his ability to highlight commonalities between Cuba and Haiti gave him enough space to organize. Despite his relatively short stay in Cuba, Bobo’s presence helped cement the social and political positions of the lettered group of Haitian expatriates in both home and host country. Rosalvo Bobo’s connections with literate Haitians and Cubans in Oriente allowed him to deflect press criticisms and remain on the island. When a Havana newspaper described Bobo in negative terms, Haitian consular officials in Santiago defended him. The Haitian consul in Santiago wrote a letter to La Tarde, a Havana newspaper, “protest[ing] against the insinuations inspired by ill-will or crass ignorance about our illustrious co-citizen, Doctor Bobo.”72 Bobo also took advantage of the Haitian communities in Santiago and Guantánamo to pursue his political goals. On September 30th, in Santiago, he held “a meeting in which some 50 Haitians attended” in a house in whose “interior there are some rooms occupied by Haitians.”73 Bobo’s connections with this urban community probably facilitated contacts with journalists, organizations, and prominent individuals in the city. On September 7th, for example, Bobo visited the office of the newspaper, El Cubano Libre “accompanied by . . . the exconsul of Cuba in Gonaives (Haiti), Mr. Bernardino Rodriguez.”74 A little over a week later, he attended a meeting of the Circulo Obrero, a labor union, where “he occupied a preferential place at the table” and spoke to Cuban workers “relative to the defense of the worker” in Haiti.75 Bobo also traveled to Guantánamo and apparently considered the possibility of “establishing himself there.”76 Rosalvo Bobo’s self-presentation was consistent with the strategies that many Afro-Cubans, British West Indians, and urban, literate Haitians used in Cuba. Instead of portraying himself as a Haitian military leader of African descent, Bobo introduced himself as a European-educated man 72 73

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La Tarde, October 06, 1915 cited in Gaillard, Les blancs débarquent II, 222. Letter to Gobernador Provincial de Oriente from Jefe de la Policía Especial, October 01, 1915, APSGP 786/3/1. “Bobo,” El Cubano Libre, September 07, 1915. “El Dr. Bobo en el “Circulo Obrero,” El Cubano Libre, September 17, 1915; “En el Circulo Obrero: Lo visitó el Dr. Bobo,” La Independencía, September 17, 1915. Coded Telegram to Secretario de Gobernación from the Gobernador de Oriente, October 04, 1915, APSGP 786/3/8, 10. Coded Telegram to Gobernador Civil, Santiago from Dr. Ros, Alcalde Municipal, Guantánamo, October 05, 1915, APSGP 786/3/11, 12. Telegram to Gobernador Provincial de Oriente from Jefe de Policía Especial, October 07, 1915, APSGP 786/3/15.

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of culture. In a public speech he delivered to Cuban journalists, Bobo detailed his studies of “medicine, law, the sciences, political economy, and diplomacy.” He also claimed to “easily speak French, English, German, Italian and Spanish.”77 In September, both major newspapers in Santiago published identical portrait photographs of Bobo wearing a suit – presumably furnished by the leader himself.78 Bobo’s claims to respectability, like his Cuban, Haitian, and British Caribbean counterparts, entailed an exclusion of lower classes. The exiled general sought to distinguish himself from the Haitian agricultural laborers migrating to Cuba in large numbers. In fact, in his speeches, he claimed that he would find ways to keep Haitians within their own country. His presidential platform included “offering my compatriots a way to earn their daily subsistence as well as foment small cultivations and attend to livestock raising.” Bobo lamented: “Haitians . . . avid to work, have to abandon my country to search for a livelihood in others.” If his plan were carried out, Bobo argued, Haiti’s peasantry would “become tranquil and satisfied without thinking about convulsions that only serve to pauperize the country.”79 With such statements, Bobo simultaneously appealed to both Haitians and Cubans. For the former, he spoke of small, secure landholdings, better rural conditions, and an end to the militarism that was draining the Haitian countryside. For the latter, he dissociated himself from two of the prevailing negative associations about Haiti in Cuba – its unpopular migratory patterns and political instability. The distance that Bobo placed between himself and Haitian immigrant agricultural laborers was critical for his success. Although he sidestepped much of Cuban racism, the same cannot be said of the Haitian migrant laborers who were coming to Cuba in growing numbers. While one paper called the exiled military leader “a distinguished guest,” a headline just a few weeks earlier had made reference to the legal arrival of eighty migrant workers as “The Haitian Invasion,” indicating that the illiterate laborers and not the cultured military leader were perceived as a foreign threat to stability.80

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“Los últimos sucesos políticos en Haiti,” El Cubano Libre, August 31, 1915. “Un caudillo haitiano,” El Cubano Libre, September 06, 1915; “El General Rosalvo Bobo,” La Independencía, September 07, 1915. Nicolás Valverde, “Hablando con el Dr. Bobo,” El Cubano Libre, September 07, 1915. “El general Rosalvo Bobo,” La Independencia, September 07, 1915; “La invasión haitiana,” El Cubano Libre, August 05, 1915.

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Rather than viewing Bobo as a military leader representing a primitive country who would cause a race war in Cuba, the major newspapers in Santiago accepted his self-presentation as a cosmopolitan individual steeped in European values. El Cubano Libre described him as a “man of ample culture and exquisite manners.”81 La Independencia raved about Bobo’s “gentlemanliness and the grade of culture he possesses.”82 Eventually, both papers added an accent mark to Bobó, altering the pronunciation of his name from a Spanish word for “fool” into a benign surname.83 Bobo tempered his discussions of Haiti for a Cuban context in order to highlight the two countries’ similar positions within the United States’ Caribbean empire. In Haiti before the US occupation, Rosalvo Bobo published explicit references to Haitians’ blackness and the racism of the United States.84 While in Cuba, he followed the lead of middle-class AfroCubans and avoided overt references to race. Instead, Bobo appealed to Cubans by employing the language of anti-imperialism. He referred to the United States Occupation of Haiti as a “horrendous political crime” and denounced the United States’ actions in the Caribbean as “imperialism that wraps itself in the mantle of democracy.”85 By portraying Haitian politics through the prism of US imperialism, Bobo was making common cause with Cubans, who also lived under US imperial control. This was successful partially because newspapers had interpreted the United States’ occupation of Haiti in light of the experiences of Cuba and the larger Caribbean even before Bobo arrived. “It is believed that the United States will eventually establish in Haiti, little more or less than the same relations that exist between that nation and the Republic of Cuba. Some unknown analog to the Platt Amendment will be adopted,” asserted El Cubano Libre.86 When the United States military formally occupied Haiti, Cuban newspapers reported: “they are

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“Bobo,” El Cubano Libre, September 07, 1915. “El Dr. Rosalvo Bobo, en Santiago: Una entrevista tenida con él,” La Independencía, August 31, 1915. See also Forment Rovira, Crónicas De Santiago De Cuba II, 249. “El Dr. Bobó se fue, se despidió à la . . . ” El Cubano Libre, October 8, 1915; “En el Circulo Obrero: Ló visitó el Dr. Bobó,” La Independencia, September 17, 1915; “Crónicas breves: Una entrevista con el doctor y general Rosalvo Bobó, ex-presidente de Haiti,” La Independencia, September 14, 1915. Chomsky, “Migration and Resistance,” 3. “Los últimos sucesos políticos en Haiti,” El Cubano Libre, August 31, 1915. “El mundo entero al día: La enmienda Platt en Haiti,” El Cubano Libre, August 09, 1915. See also “Una enmienda Platt para Haití,” El Cubano Libre, August 12, 1915.

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establishing in [Haiti] a protectorate analogous to what exists in Santo Domingo.”87 After Bobo’s arrival, some Cubans thought he personified commonalities between Haiti, Cuba, and other parts of Latin America. “The case of general Bobo offers all the characteristics of the endemic disease of almost all the convulsive Republics of Hispanic America. He symbolizes the desire of a people tired of tyranny and brandishing the flag of reconquest of power, [who] triumphed . . . amidst a drama of blood and appalling sacrifices.” The article continues: “Cuba also knew these pains . . . even if they didn’t take such enormous proportions.” The article even implicitly compared Rosalvo Bobo to Mario Menocal, president of Cuba.88 On October 7, Bobo left Santiago on a steamer bound for Kingston, Jamaica – another historically popular destination for exiled Haitians.89 Santiago’s El Cubano Libre reported on his departure and described the “good welcome” Bobo had received from the city’s newspapers.90 Despite periodic rumors in Haiti about his return, Bobo never achieved his goal of ruling the country. He died in Paris in December 1929, five years before US troops left Haiti.91 Although Bobo’s actions in Santiago did not result in profound political transformations in Haiti, they were significant for the Haitian community in the cities of Oriente, Cuba. Bobo was the highest profile Haitian visitor to Cuba during the first decades of the twentieth century. The Cuban press coverage that Bobo enjoyed in Cuba allowed his arguments, which mirrored those of the larger Haitian urban community, to gain publicity in Cuba. Bobo’s claim to represent all Haitians at the same time that he distanced himself personally from the mass of agricultural workers migrating to Cuba lent credence to statements made by literate Haitians throughout the period. Furthermore, Bobo’s ability to blur the political lines between Haitians and Cubans by conceptualizing them under an anti-imperialist framework laid the groundwork for future, and more successful, forms of Haitian political organizing in Cuba. Roughly at the same time that Rosalvo Bobo arrived in Santiago de Cuba, a group of Haitian urbanites under the leadership of Georges Sylvain, a lawyer and former diplomat, founded l’Union Patriotique 87

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“Por diez años, los Estados Unidos asumen la dirección de Haití,” El Cubano Libre, August 25, 1915. “Bobo,” El Cubano Libre, September 07, 1915. Smith, Liberty, Fraternity, Exile, 326–7. “El Dr. Bobó se fue. Se despidió a la . . .,” El Cubano Libre, October 07, 1915. Gaillard, Les blancs débarquent II, 224–8; Schmidt, The United States Occupation, 121; “In Memoriam: Dr. Rosalvo Bobo,” Le Pays, December 02, 1930.

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(UP-Haiti) in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.92 The organization became particularly active in 1920. By 1921, it claimed a membership of “17,000 adherents, spread throughout all the important population centers” of the country. The group’s stated goals were “to work to raise the restrictions placed by the United States of America on the plain exercise of independence and sovereignty of the Haitian nation.” Unlike the military strategies of other anti-occupation movements, the UP-Haiti sought to achieve its goals through “pacific measures.”93 From its founding, the Union Patriotique’s activities spread beyond Haiti proper. The organization formed relationships with the NAACP and sent delegates throughout Europe and the Americas.94 Haitians formed a branch of the Union Patriotique in Santiago de Cuba in 1926. The organization sought to keep members abreast of “the daily facts . . . of Haiti” and to achieve “the unification of all Haitians and the instruction of their children born in this territory in the languages of French and Spanish.” The UP-Cuba’s educational plans included creating “a primary and secondary course, obligatory French class, as well as Haitian civic instruction, History and Geography of Haiti and Cuba.”95 Haitians’ decision to open a branch of the opposition organization in Cuba highlights the size and significance of the lettered Haitian community in eastern Cuba. The organization also represented a clear emulation of one of Afro-Cubans’ most prominent political strategies. In Republican Cuba, it was common for middle-class Afro-Cubans and British Caribbean migrants to organize into allegedly apolitical organizations that were registered with the government as social clubs. These clubs provided an autonomous space to socialize, educate members of the community, or engage in cultural and religious activities.96 Like these other clubs, the UP-Cuba registered with the government as a non-political organization. The UP-Cuba’s constitution forbade “discussions of party politics” during meetings.97 It was even registered under the politically innocuous name of the Georges Sylvain 92

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“Union Patriotique,” Le Nouvelliste, August 11, 1915; United States Senate, “Inquiry into Occupation 1,” 44. “Union Patriotique,” Bulletin Mensuel de l’Union Patriotique, No. 3, February 1921. Plummer, “The Afro-American Response,” 131–2; Hector, “Solidarité et luttes politiques”; McPherson, “Joseph Jolibois Fils,” 126–34. “Reglamento de la Sociedad de Recreo y De Instruccion ‘Georges Sylvain,’” December 04, 1926, APSGP 2566/4/16. de la Fuente, A Nation for All, 15, 37–8, 140; Guridy, Forging Diaspora, 73–5; Giovannetti, “Black British Subjects,” 195. “Reglamento de la Sociedad de Recreo y De Instruccion ‘Georges Sylvain,’” December 04, 1926, APSGP 2566/4/16.

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Society for Recreation. They thus paid tribute to the UP-Haiti’s original founder while staying within the bounds of Cuban political norms. Official stationery, however, included Unión Patriotica on its letterhead.98 In order to gain political allies and avoid charges of racial or national exclusion, the UP-Cuba opened its ranks to “foreigners, particularly the children of hospitable Cuba.”99 The clearest example of the Union Patriotique’s adoption of Afro-Cuban political strategies in Cuba were their references to José Martí, Cuba’s “Apostle,” who perished on the battlefield during Cuba’s independence wars. One open letter used his words as an epigraph. “Liberty is very dear, and one must resign oneself to live without it or decide to buy it at any price.”100 Martí was a “signifier of social unity” in the first decades of Republican Cuba, invoked or silenced by groups trying to achieve their vision of the Cuban nation.101 In the case of the UP-Cuba, this interpretation of Martí’s thought was one that tended toward transnational solidarity and anti-imperialism. When the organization was criticized for their fundraising activities in Cuba (to be described below), the UP-Cuba’s leaders referred to Martí’s 1895 journey from New York to Cuba via Haiti.102 They claimed: “we are doing that which Cuba did when its Apostle Martí crossed the lands preaching and receiving donations to liberate his country.”103 Through this analogy the UP-Cuba’s project of raising money and consciousness in Cuba became equivalent to José Martí’s similar actions in Haiti. Haiti’s struggle against the United States occupation was related to Cuba’s independence wars from Spain. In sum, Haitians’ contributions to Cuban nineteenth-century independence were touted at the same time that reciprocity was requested. Like Cuba’s veterans of African descent, Haitians were invoking their role in Cuba’s independence struggle to claim an organizational space in Republican Cuba.104

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“Reglamento de la Sociedad de Recreo y De Instruccion ‘Georges Sylvain,’” December 04, 1926, APSGP 2566/4/13–17. “Reglamento de la Sociedad de Recreo y De Instruccion,” December 4, 1926, APSGP 2566/4/18. “Carta Abierta a los Delegados haitianos a la Sexta Conferencia Panamericana,” Diario de Cuba, February 10, 1928. Guerra, The Myth of José Martí, 3, 7. This journey is chronicled in Martí, Diarios de campaña. Presidente, Vice-Presidente and Secretario General of the Union Patriotica Haitiana Georges Sylvain to José R. Barceló, Gobernador Provincial de Oriente, January 6, 1928 APSGP 2566/4/27–8. Ferrer, Insurgent Cuba, 182; Scott, Degrees of Freedom, 180–8; de la Fuente, A Nation for All, 39.

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Unlike Rosalvo Bobo, who never built a popular movement in Cuba, the UP-Cuba enjoyed some support from Haitian agricultural workers. Of the thirty founding members, some had addresses that tied them directly to the Cuban sugar industry, such as Osner Prospere, who lived on the Central San German.105 The cross-class nature of the UP-Cuba’s support is further indicated by the result of a collection it held for Joseph Jolibois fils, one of the Union Patriotique’s well-known traveling representatives. Jolibois was the editor of the Courrier Haitien, a Haitian newspaper that was shut down by occupation officials because its incendiary rhetoric was at odds with US-imposed censorship laws in Haiti. After leaving jail, Jolibois took his anti-imperial message to other parts of Latin America and the world.106 From February to April 1928, members of the UP-Cuba circulated within Oriente and Camagüey to raise funds for Jolibois. The organization collected money ranging in increments from $1.00 to $46.00 in the spaces where Haitians lived and worked. Of the twenty-seven collection sites listed in the newspaper, twenty-one were sugar centrales and bateyes, others were colonias, and a few were small rural towns. The collection yielded $397.55 and was featured in the Santiago newspaper, Diario de Cuba.107 Popular support for the UP-Cuba may be explained by the fact that the organization dealt with the problems and issues faced by Haitian agricultural workers living in both Haiti and Cuba. During the US occupation of Haiti, the organization famously criticized land expulsions in Haiti and called for rural development programs.108 Joseph Jolibois fils, the recipient of the funds raised by the UP-Cuba, had been known in Haiti for trying to organize the lowest sectors of Haitian society and for writing inflammatory editorials against the United States. He was often incarcerated as a result.109 Members of the UP-Cuba also criticized the harsh conditions facing Haitian agricultural workers in Cuba. After a large group of Haitians was forcefully expelled from Cuban soil in 1928, an open letter was sent to the consul in Santiago demanding information. It was signed:

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“Lista de los Miembros Activos que formaron la Asamblea General . . .,” December 04, 1926, APSGP 2566/4/11. Schmidt, The United States Occupation, 196; Hector, “Solidarité et luttes politiques”; McPherson, “Joseph Jolibois Fils,” 128-9. “Cerrada la suscripcion pro Union Patriotica haitiana: Resultado de la colecta,” Diario de Cuba, August 09, 1928. “L’Union Nationaliste et le peuple haïtien,” Haiti Journal, October 06, 1930. Schmidt, The United States Occupation, 196, 219; Hector, “Solidarité et luttes politiques”; McPherson, “Joseph Jolibois Fils,” 125-6.

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“President of the Haitian Patriotic Association in Cuba.” Other members of the UP-Cuba transmitted copies to mainstream and radical newspapers in Haiti; both published it.110 Despite their official apolitical stance, a necessity for operating in Cuba, the UP-Cuba remained active in Haitian political affairs. During the Sixth Pan-American conference, held in Havana in January 1928, members of the UP-Cuba wrote an open letter to the official Haitian delegates. It was published in Diario de Cuba and asked them to join the chorus of voices who opposed the United States’ imperial activities in the Americas. The UP-Cuba made claims on the conference delegates “as the citizens of the Republic of Haiti that we are.” The Union also invoked the memory of the Haitian Revolution to oppose the United States’ presence in Haiti. Haitian delegates were urged to “pull from the talons of the American eagle our liberty and our independence that our grandfathers bequeathed us at the price of a million sacrifices, and that they have signed over to us in their blood.”111 The brand of Haitian nationalism the letter espoused was tailored to the Cuban political context. Public pronouncements highlighted aspects of both Haitian and Cuban nationalism, as well as the larger issues of antiimperialism and Pan-American solidarity. We would feel very happy if these phrases . . . could stir up your patriotic sentiments and unconditionally place you on these worthy delegations that have denounced out loud, without any fear, the imminent danger that threatens the rights of Latin American peoples by the incessant Yankee interventions at the whims of Wall Street and in the name of Civilization.112

Like other lettered activists in the African Diaspora, Haitian members of the UP-Cuba framed their claims using the language of pan-Americanism in order to achieve their goals without appearing to subvert the racial order or Cuban national sovereignty.113 Like Rosalvo Bobo, there were times when the UP-Cuba trod a thin line among Cuban observers and even the Cuban government, especially when Haitian agricultural laborers were involved. Before the UP-Cuba officially began raising money on sugar plantations, they had to defend 110

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“L’Affaire des émigrants haitiens à Cuba,” Le Petit Impartial, July 18, 1928; “Nos compatriotes sont-ils chassés de Cuba?” Le Nouvelliste, July 13, 1928. “Carta abierta a los delegados haitianos a la Sexta Conferencia Panamericana,” Diario de Cuba, February 10, 1928. “Carta abierta a los delegados haitianos a la Sexta Conferencia Panamericana,” Diario de Cuba, February 10, 1928. Polyné, From Douglass to Duvalier, 9, 60, 71; Verna, “Haiti’s ‘Second Independence,’”3.

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themselves from “seeming revolting” or “undesirable” to the Cuban government – two epithets often attached to Haitian agricultural laborers. Cuban Secret Police interrupted a UP-Cuba meeting on January 2, 1928, and expelled Manuel Milanes, a Haitian-born individual with Cuban citizenship, for unknown reasons, which the UP-Cuba described as “unjustified things.”114 Later in the same month, Pierre Hudicourt, a member of the Haitian branch of the Union Patriotique, and Dantès Bellegarde, a longtime critic of Haitians’ working conditions in Cuba, were barred from entering Cuba for the Sixth Pan-American conference.115 The Union Patriotique’s final political project was an attempt to cultivate support among Haitians in Cuba and the Dominican Republic for the 1930 Haitian election. After fifteen years of military occupation and puppet presidents appointed by the United States, the 1930 contest promised to be the first free election in occupied Haiti and a sign that US troops would be leaving in the not-too-distant future.116 We must insist . . . that the Haitians currently in Cuba and Santo Domingo will need only to register at their respective legations so that elector cards are emitted in their favor, [and] that they will reclaim them at the moment of their arrival in Haiti for their vote. This will assure us a formidable majority.117

It is unknown whether Haitians in either country participated in the 1930 election. Regardless, the “formidable majority” that the UP sought to build was achieved. Sténio Vincent, the nationalist candidate and onetime member of the UP-Haiti, was elected in the first presidential election of the occupation. Joseph Jolibois fils, the beneficiary of the UP-Cuba’s fundraising activities, won a seat in the Chamber of Deputies.118 After the election, Lamothe Azar, Vice-President of the UP-Cuba, traveled back to Haiti to represent “the Haitian colony in Cuba” in order to establish links with the new administration and assert the importance of the Cuba-based Haitian community. During the meeting, Azar also petitioned President 114

115

116 117 118

Presidente, Vice-Presidente and Secretario General of the Union Patriotica Haitiana Georges Sylvain to José R. Barceló, Gobernador Provincial de Oriente, January 6, 1928, APSGP 2566/4/27–8; Corbea Calzado, “Historia de una familia haitianocubana,” 66–7. “Cubans Bar Haitian,” New York Times, January 13, 1928; Cook, “Dantes Bellegarde,” 130–1. Schmidt, The United States Occupation, 107. Letter to Perceval Thoby from Georges Séjourné, September 15, 1929, NYKFHCA 3/16. “Monsieur J. Jolibois Fils à ses electeurs,” Haiti Journal, October 17, 1930; “Le Nouveau Secrétaire d’État des Finances et des Travaux-Publics,” Le Pays, November 29, 1930.

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Vincent “for the prompt amelioration” of living and working conditions for Haitians in Cuba.119

the era of repatriations At the very moment that representatives of the UP-Cuba were asking for improved working conditions for Haitians in Cuba, the Cuban government began deporting Haitians and other immigrant workers in large numbers. As previous chapters show, not all Haitians on Cuban soil were affected by the repatriation drives in the same way. Although some urban Haitians faced popular anti-Haitian racism from neighbors, they were afforded protection from the Cuban state, which permitted them to remain in the cities of eastern Cuba. Like their agricultural counterparts, urban-based Haitians experienced Cuban xenophobia during the 1930s. In 1937 in the city of Guantánamo, a Cuban denounced his two Haitian neighbors using the stereotypes associated with agricultural workers. He claimed that the two Haitian urbanites were “going to advise their fellow countrymen not to go cut cane unless they increased wages.” The accusation of worker radicalism was embellished with every Haitian stereotype available. First, the accuser made references to Haitian Vodou by claiming that his neighbors were “putting brujerías [witchcrafts] in the patio of their home.” He also drew upon the notion that Haitians would start a race war in Cuba by claiming that “said Haitians spoke badly of Cubans, saying that if Batista had done in Haiti what he did on September 4, they would have lit Guantánamo on fire and started a war against the government.”120 Cuban police, however, questioned the accuser’s story and its motives, indicating the degree of state protection that better-off Haitians received. After speaking to the accused Haitians, a Cuban official decided that “it is not certain” that the individuals “speak badly of Cubans, nor that they wanted to sabotage the cutting of sugar cane.” “What is certain in this case,” the officer decided, “is that the accuser . . . wants to live in the house that the accused inhabits . . . and that not finding a way for him to leave from said house, and knowing that he is a Haitian citizen, he made the denunciation in question so that he would be expelled for being pernicious.”121

119 120 121

“La colonie haitienne à Cuba,” Haiti Journal, January 19, 1931. Testimony of Hilario Asencio Sayan, January 25, 1937, APSSU 4/37/1. Antonio Bertran, Guardia Rural to Cuartel General “Silverio del Prado,” February 10, 1937, APSSU 4/37/11.

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The protection of the Cuban police and literate Haitians’ long battle to distance themselves from agricultural workers probably permitted Haitians (and other non-white foreigners) to remain in Cuba’s urban spaces during and after the repatriations. As mentioned above, there were 748 foreign-born adult males de color living in Santiago de Cuba in 1919 and 507 in Guantánamo. In 1943, after a decade of repatriations, this figure increased to 1027 in Santiago and 900 in Guantánamo.122 Indeed, literate Haitians continued to create organizations in Cuba after the repatriations. Just a few years before the foundation of the British West Indian Welfare Centre in Guantánamo, Haitians formed the Union Haitiana in Cueto and the Union Club Haitien in Morón, Camagüey, in 1942 and 1943, respectively.123 Urban-based Haitians continued to register marriages officially in Guantánamo in the 1930s and 1940s as well.124 Some Haitian consuls took advantage of Cuba’s anti-immigrant nationalism and the deportation drives to profit from desperate agricultural workers and the steamship companies transporting them. Not only was Haitian consular protection minimal for migrants facing deportation, but consuls were known for protecting only those workers who paid them. As Haitians were being deported in Santiago in the 1930s, Haitian consuls “issued certificates . . . to some elements so that they would not be repatriated,” but only in exchange “for certain amounts of money.” There were also rumors that steamship companies were paying consuls a cash amount for every deported Haitian on their vessels.125 In this context, it is not surprising that some Haitian agricultural laborers became increasingly frustrated with their consuls. In 1933, a Haitian named Juan José traveled to the home of the Haitian consul in Santiago. Upon arrival, José brandished a knife and threatened to kill the

122

123

124 125

Both figures include what census-takers described as blacks, yellows, and mestizos. Cuba, Census of the Republic of Cuba 1919, 454. Cuba, Informe General del censo de 1943, 922–5. Documents relating to the foundation of the Union Haitiana, June 28, 1942, APSGP 2667/5/2–5; “Acta de Constitución,” signed by José Manuel Nieve and JnBaptiste Poiderin, September 26, 1943, Archivo Provincial de Camagüey: Registro de Asociaciones (hereafter APCRA) 125/1/2. Special thanks to Frances Sullivan for bringing the former organization to my attention. For analysis of the British West Indian organization, see Queeley, Rescuing Our Roots, 1. Compiled from APGREC. Lieutenant Angel Pino Aguila to Secretario de Trabajo in Havana, October 27, 1938, ANCDR 702/21/4.

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consul if the official did not give him 600 pesos in reparation for an unknown grievance.126

conclusion In addition to the many thousands of Haitians who worked in Cuban sugar plantations and coffee farms, there was a small group of literate, Haitian urbanites who settled in Cuban cities like Santiago and Guantánamo. These individuals maintained strong social and commercial networks with Cubans and remained in close communication with Haitian affairs through letters and newspapers that circulated between the two countries. Despite their small number, these literate Haitians in Cuba conveyed the details about Cuban racial politics and working conditions to a larger Haitian audience by contributing letters and articles to Haitian newspapers. They also organized on various occasions to protest US imperial policies in Haiti – most notably in 1915 to host Rosalvo Bobo and again throughout the late 1920s, when they formed a Cuban branch of l’Union Patriotique. Although they communicated with Haitian newspapers and Cubans on behalf of agricultural laborers, they also sought to distance themselves from these individuals in order to avoid the dominant strands of antiHaitian racism in Cuba. Urban Haitians’ actual relationships with Haitian agricultural workers, which are revealed by analyzing the interactions among consuls, courtiers, and agricultural workers, were similarly tenuous and sometimes hostile – though much more complex than previous historians have argued. During the 1930s, the number of Haitian agricultural workers in Cuba diminished as a result of widespread repatriations. Some became the target of anti-Haitian racism by Cubans, though they received a degree of protection that was not available to sugar workers. Some consuls even profited from the crisis by demanding money from migrants in exchange for protection, creating more friction in an already fragile relationship.

126

“Estuvo a punto de ser muerto a puñaladas el consul de Haití,” Diario de Cuba, March 03, 1933.

7 Returning to Haiti and the Aftermath of US Occupation

In the summer of 1928, after a year of working in Cuba, Nathan Borgella and other Haitians were apprehended by police; two were killed as they protested. The individuals in question had entered Cuba legally and had committed no crime. Nevertheless, they were being deported. The group was forced onto a steamer and dropped off in Petit-Goâve, Haiti, miles away from Borgella’s original point of origin. Upon returning, “he traveled to the capital on foot, having nothing to eat but a can of sardines and two small pieces of bread.” After arriving in Port-au-Prince, the deportee took his story to the radical newspaper Le Petit Impartial to “officially bring it to the attention of the Haitian government.”1 Borgella’s forced expulsion from Cuba and his voluntary movements between rural and urban Haiti were shared by tens of thousands of Haitians between 1928 and 1940. His efforts to communicate with the state illustrate that the massive return of migrants was closely tied to the politics of the late occupation and its aftermath. Migrants continuously returned from Cuba to Haiti during the officially recognized migratory movement. Between 1913 and 1931, it was common for migrants to return home at the end of the Cuban sugar harvest. Almost 20 percent of the Haitians who migrated to Cuba annually during the 1920s had already entered the country at least once, highlighting the circular nature of migration.2 However, flows of return migrants increased dramatically beginning in 1928 and throughout the 1

2

“Le gouvernement de Mr. Borno refuse d’entendre un malheureux qu’on a maltraité à Cuba,” Le Petit Impartial, July 24, 1928. Pérez de la Riva, “Cuba y la migración antillana, 1900–1931,” Table vii.

235

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1930s. In 1928, as the case of Borgella indicates, the Cuban government forcefully repatriated over 2000 Haitians from the country. Those numbers increased in subsequent years as the Cuban government shifted its relationship to both the United States and Haiti. In 1933, Cuban revolutionaries successfully overthrew Cuban dictator (and US ally) Gerardo Machado. The most notable acts of the short-lived, postrevolutionary Cuban government were to abrogate the Platt Amendment, which had ensured US imperial dominance over Cuba, and to institute the Nationalization of Labor, or 50 Percent, law, which required companies operating in Cuba to ensure that at least half of their workers were Cuban. The reach of the Cuban state expanded further under the subsequent government of Fulgencio Batista. Soon the labor quota was coupled with repatriations. Between 1933 and 1940, an additional 38,500 Haitians were deported.3 British West Indian and Spanish immigrants also left Cuba voluntarily and through coercion in the same period, though in smaller numbers.4 This pattern of migration restrictions amid imperial flux and nationalist state-building was occurring elsewhere in the hemisphere. The Haitians who returned from Cuba in the 1930s shared their experiences with millions. Closed borders and economic downturns meant that 1940 marked the end of a peak period of global human migration in which hundreds of millions of people had relocated since the mid-nineteenth century.5 The United States instituted migration restrictions on Mexicans and other groups as other territories closed their borders as well. In this moment, legal restrictions and poverty sent British West Indians scrambling back to their islands of origin from far-flung migration destinations.6 As many scholars have shown, this latter process placed the British Empire and its island governments in crisis as officials failed to aid migrating subjects in distress. The combination of increased expectations and assertiveness among return migrants, widespread poverty, and the failings of the imperial state contributed to the wave of riots that erupted throughout British Caribbean territories in the 1930s. These transformed 3

4

5 6

Whitney, State and Revolution, McLeod, “Undesirable Aliens: Haitian and British West Indian Immigrant Workers,” 2. Cervantes-Rodríguez, International Migration in Cuba, 133–4; Whitney and Chailloux Laffita, Subjects or Citizens, chapter 4. McKeown, “Global Migration, 1846–1940.” Putnam, “The Making and Unmaking of the Circum-Caribbean Migratory Sphere”; Putnam, Radical Moves; Gordillo, Mexican Women and the Other Side of Immigration, 41.

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island politics and marked the first major steps toward decolonization in the British Caribbean, which did not actually begin until the 1960s.7 Similar dynamics were at play in the United States’ empire in Central America and the Caribbean. As in Cuba, national and international resistance movements against US control (coupled with the noninterventionist commitments of the Good Neighbor Policy) culminated in the US withdrawal of troops from the Dominican Republic (1924), Nicaragua (1933), and Haiti (1934).8 In Cuba and the Dominican Republic, post-colonial states grew under the rule of strongmen who sought to expel Haitians from their territories. In 1937, Rafael Trujillo, the dictator of the Dominican Republic, ordered the massacre of over 10,000 Haitians who had inhabited the borderlands between the two countries in an effort to impose political, racial, and national borders there.9 The contingents of migrants returning from post-Platt Amendment Cuba arrived as Haiti achieved its own “second independence” from the United States. Though less studied than their British Caribbean counterparts, Haitian migrants’ homecomings were also prominent in Haiti’s contested efforts to construct a post-colonial future in the 1930s and 1940s. In other words, the processes I trace in Haiti are best understood as episodes in much larger shifts in imperial power, island nationalisms, and Caribbean histories of return migration. The experience of return varied widely among Haitians. Some arrived voluntarily with Cuban sugar money, while others were coerced onto steamships in varying states of penury and physical decline. Migrants’ experiences were also shaped by massive political and economic changes that took place in Haiti. During and after the occupation, the Haitian government became more interventionist in economic affairs. Like other countries in the Americas, the government sought to increase and diversify agricultural exports and beautify urban spaces in the name of modernity and even racial progress.10 At the same time, however, the country was fragmenting politically. By the late 1930s, disparate radical ideologies flourished and state repression increased.11 7

8 9 10

11

Putnam, Radical Moves; Richardson, Panama Money in Barbados; Bolland, The Politics of Labour; Whitney and Chailloux Laffita, Subjects or Citizens; Palmer, Freedom’s Children. McPherson, The Invaded. Turits, “A World Destroyed, a Nation Imposed”; Derby, “Haitians, Magic, and Money.” See, for instance, Fischer, A Poverty of Rights, 2. On the specific issue of race and reform, see Drinot, The Allure of Labor, 18–22. Smith, Red & Black in Haiti, 1–3.

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Return migrants were conspicuous in this context of ambitious statebuilding, heightened nationalism, and political polarization. They were a staple in the Haitian literary production of the 1930s and 1940s, which has been especially powerful in shaping ideas about return migrants. Haitian novels, along with newspapers and official documents, looked upon return migrants with differing shades of hope, fear, and disdain as potential harbingers of work discipline, civilization, political radicalism, or profligacy. In contrast to elite expectations, many return migrants used the wages they earned in Cuba to avoid working in Haiti’s export economy. Instead, many return migrants engaged in a variety of activities to achieve economic autonomy and improve their social status. These included purchasing land, migrating to cities, and acquiring nice clothing and manufactured goods. In Haiti’s rural and urban spaces, these strategies often met with elite disapproval and coercive state policies that were geared both specifically to return migrants and more generally to urban and rural workers.

race, politics, and government in post-occupation haiti The Haiti that migrants left in the 1910s and early 1920s was not the place they returned to during the 1930s. The final years of the occupation and the decade that followed witnessed major political transformations. These shifts were part and parcel of a constellation of attempts by Haiti’s lettered population to rethink who they were, the composition of their society, and the future of a newly independent Haiti.12 Central to new nationalist visions was an idealization of the peasantry, which represented a significant shift in Haitian national thought. Despite rhetorical inclusivity, these new ideologies had their limits, especially when it came to mobile populations returning from Cuba or heading into Haitian cities. In 1920s Haiti, as in many other parts of Latin America, social scientists developed anthropological theories that promoted the positive benefits of racial mixture and celebrated the African and indigenous roots of their own national societies. These new ideologies were an affront to the scientific racism that academics in Europe and the United States employed to justify their imperial policies in Asia, Africa, and the Americas. In Haiti, such cultural nationalism was known as Indigénisme 12

Verna, “Haiti’s ‘Second Independence’”; Pamphile, Contrary Destinies, chapter 3.

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and strongly associated with the ethnographic works of Jean Price-Mars, especially his 1928 Ainsi parla l’oncle (So Spoke the Uncle). Price-Mars’ audience was not just foreign academics but also Haiti’s Francophile elite, which he accused of suffering from a “collective Bovarysm” that caused them to denigrate their own African biological and cultural roots. The movement was not limited to the social sciences. Beginning in the 1920s, Indigénisme manifested itself in visual arts, literary works, and music; it also became a central idea in the political movements for selfgovernment.13 Indigénisme and its later offshoots were inseparable from the Haitian political context. In addition to being a response to local and international forms of racism, these new ideas emerged after a period when rural dwellers offered heavy resistance to the US occupation. Between 1915 and 1930, when US Marines controlled the Haitian government through puppet presidents, the biggest threat to the imperial order were rebellions and strikes led by peasants and students. Between 1918 and 1920, the Caco rebellion raged in parts of rural Haiti. It was quelled only with the aid of US airplanes and the destruction of entire villages and populations. In 1929, a student protest over scholarships at a US agricultural school quickly grew into a countrywide strike against the occupation. During the strike, Marines massacred between twelve and twenty-four peasant protestors in the southern peninsula. The island-wide protest only subsided when it was announced that there would be a fair presidential election in 1930.14 Indigénisme and anti-occupation nationalism provided a degree of Haitian political unity in 1930 that began to erode even before the common enemy of the US invaders left. Soon after the occupation ended, Sténio Vincent, the popular, nationalist winner of the 1930 13

14

For a discussion of scientific racism in the United States and Europe, see Mosse, Toward the Final Solution; Tucker, The Science and Politics of Racial Research; Larson, Sex, Race, and Science; Kühl, The Nazi Connection. For a discussion of Jean Price-Mars and the larger Indigéniste movement in Haiti see Price-Mars, Ainsi parla L’oncle; Antoine, Jean Price-Mars and Haiti; Largey, Vodou Nation; Ramsey, The Spirits and the Law, chapter 4; Kaussen, Migrant Revolutions, chapter 1; Smith, Red & Black in Haiti, 25; Dash, Literature and Ideology in Haiti, chapters 2–3; Shannon, Jean Price-Mars; Dash, “Neither France nor Senegal.” For discussions of this trend elsewhere in Latin America, see Wade, Race and Ethnicity, 105–7; Telles, Race in Another America, chapter 2; Vianna, The Mystery of Samba; Moore, Nationalizing Blackness; Price, The Convict and the Colonel, 174–7; Andrews, Afro-Latin America, 165–73; Andrews, Blackness in the White Nation. McPherson, The Invaded, 246; Schmidt, The United States Occupation, 102–3, 196; Bellegarde-Smith, Haiti: The Breached Citadel, 111–12; Renda, Taking Haiti, 33–4.

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presidential election, successfully changed the constitution to concentrate power in the executive branch. His efforts were met with a number of failed coup attempts involving prominent Haitian leaders and military officials.15 After the occupation, the Indigéniste movement itself split between noiristes and Marxists. The former transformed Indigénisme’s message of anti-racism and pride in African culture into a rigid ideology proclaiming blacks’ biological essence and their unique role as the natural leaders of Haiti. The latter interpreted capitalism and class differences as the primary divisions within Haitian society, though many organizations and leaders combined elements of both.16 The previous fears of an armed nationalist rebellion were replaced by a red scare. During the Vincent administration, political opponents, especially Haitian Communists, faced repression from the newly centralized government. Violence and in-fighting occurred among opposition groups throughout the postoccupation period as well.17 Haiti’s splintered politics did not prevent the governments of Vincent or his successor from carrying out a number of significant urban and rural projects. Indeed, the Haitian president believed that economic conditions were responsible for political (in)stability.18 Like its Latin American and Caribbean neighbors, the Haitian government expanded its role in the economic affairs of the country during the late 1920s and throughout the 1930s. The main goal was to increase the cultivation of export crops and modernize urban spaces after the capitals of Europe and the United States.19 In Haiti, these plans began under the US occupation and continued through the presidencies of Sténio Vincent (1930–41) and Elie Lescot (1941–46). In 1924, John Russell, the highest ranking US official in Haiti declared that the country’s “future prosperity depends upon the development of her soil.”20 A few years before, in 1918, occupation forces had implemented a constitution in Haiti that permitted foreigners to own 15

16 17 18 19

20

Corvington, Port-Au-Prince au cours des ans 1934–1950, 14–16, 27–36; Pamphile, Contrary Destinies, 53. Smith, Red & Black in Haiti, 19–28; Kaussen, Migrant Revolutions, 67. Smith, Red & Black in Haiti, 3–4, 22–7. Verna, “Haiti’s ‘Second Independence,’” 26–7. On rural modernization and an increase in the role of the state elsewhere, see Turits, Foundations of Despotism, chapters 4–7; Santamaría Garcia, Sin azúcar no hay país, 3–5; McGillivray, Blazing Cane, 146. On urban spaces, see Rosenthal, “Spectacle, Fear, and Protest”; Corvington, Port-Au-Prince, 1934–1950; Derby, The Dictator’s Seduction, 70–9; Drinot, The Allure of Labor, 12–14. Third Annual Report of the American High Commissioner at Port-au-Prince, Haiti to the Secretary of State, December 31, 1924, USNA RG 59 838.00/2079.

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land for the first time since Haitian independence. The occupation government subsequently courted foreign capital for agricultural production and provided “vocational and manual training” to Haitians in rural areas. They also sought to increase the collection of taxes by declaring that export crops like coffee, cacao, and cotton had to be sold in cities, not in the countryside away from the gaze of the state.21 By 1924, Russell was optimistic: “If further development takes place in sugar and cotton and if additional staple industries are developed, so as to minimize the present dangerous predominance of coffee, Haiti can face with confidence its future as a competitor in the export markets of the world.”22 Similar goals drove state policies in the aftermath of the occupation, highlighting an area of overlap between the periods of US and Haitian rule. For all his nationalism, Vincent remained politically and culturally close to the United States.23 In 1936, a Haitian government report echoed Russell’s statements from twelve years earlier. “Only agriculture can create wealth in Haiti; all the activities of this country are ineluctably conditioned by agricultural production.”24 In the 1930s, the Haitian government sought to improve the quality of Haitian coffee and diversify exports. The year after the occupation ended, the Haitian government awarded a concession to the Standard Fruit Company to promote banana exports, thus continuing the occupation practice.25 In the 1940s, the regime of Elie Lescot oversaw the creation of the Société HaïtianoAméricaine de Développement Agricole (SHADA), a collaboration between US companies and the Haitian government, designed to increase rubber production to serve the Allied cause during World War II.26 Plans to increase Haiti’s agricultural exports were predicated upon the availability of an abundant labor force that would be tied to the land. Attempts to attract foreign capital were combined with exhortations to the peasantry to produce export crops rather than engage in subsistence agriculture or move to cities. Prominent politicians communicated with peasants directly in Creole, the language of the Haitian majority, rather

21

22

23 24

25 26

“L’arrêté du 18 octobre 1922 et la liberté du commerce dans les campagnes,” Le Matin, September 20, 1923. Third Annual Report of the American High Commissioner at Port-au-Prince, Haiti to the Secretary of State, December 31, 1924, USNA RG 59 838.00/2079. Verna, “Haiti’s ‘Second Independence,’” 14–18; Pamphile, Contrary Destinies, 45–53. “La richesse de notre pays depend de la culture de nos terres,” L’Action Nationale, December 16, 1936. Dehoux, Le problème du café; Lundahl, Peasants and Poverty, 303. Smith, Red & Black in Haiti, 44.

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than French, the language of governance. For instance, on the eve of the withdrawal of US troops from Haiti, President Sténio Vincent addressed a group of rural Haitians in Creole about government attempts to bring water to the countryside and develop fallow lands in order to grow grain, bananas, and cotton.27 Four years later, after US troops had left the country, Vincent addressed peasants in Aux Cayes in an effort to encourage them to cultivate the land with exportable crops rather than passing their time idly. The president, who claimed that he was responsible for Haiti’s “second independence,” recalled the labor policies that revolutionary leaders implemented during the country’s first independence struggle (1791–1804). He even made reference to the fact that Toussaint L’Ouverture, the Haitian revolutionary hero, had forced freed slaves back onto plantations to maintain agricultural production in the aftermath of abolition, drawing a parallel with 1930s Haiti. And like the young people of [L’Ouverture’s] era hardly wanted to devote themselves to cultivation under the fallacious pretext that they were free,–I want to tell you that not much has changed, and they spent the workday “running around and vagabonding” – don’t you see that nothing has changed?28

For Vincent, as during the occupation, charges of “vagabonding” may have actually referred to peasant engagement in subsistence, as opposed to export agriculture.29 During the occupation, the government established agricultural and trade schools in an effort to train Haitian rural-dwellers in the scientific techniques of agricultural production. After the occupation, the schools lost their funding but the government’s ideas about the proper labor of the peasantry remained the same.30 In 1935, the Haitian government offered land to rural families who “agreed to plant 50 percent of such acreage with export crops.”31 Nevertheless, Le Matin later complained that peasants only “do small-scale cultivation” since “their needs are very limited,” resulting in “a grave inconvenience for the national economy.”32 27

28

29 30 31 32

“Le Président Vincent parle aux paysans dans leur patois,” Haiti Journal, May 02, 1933. For an extended discussion on the French/ Creole division as a mechanism for stratifying Haitian society see Nicholls, Haiti in Caribbean Context, chapter 11. “Le Discours des Cayes,” La Lanterne (Cayes), December 31, 1937. For Toussaint L’Ouverture’s labor policies, see Lundahl, Politics or Markets, chapter 8; Dubois, Haiti: The Aftershocks of History, 31–4. Scott, The Art of Not Being Governed, 101. Lundahl, Peasants and Poverty, 302–3. Ibid., 303; “Le bien rural de la famille,” L’Assaut, July 3, 1935. “Ici, Port-au-Prince,” Le Matin, January 31, 1936.

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Efforts to develop the countryside were coupled with an emphasis on urbanisme (city planning) in Port-au-Prince and Haiti’s other cities. During the occupation, US policies sought to illuminate cities with electric lamps and make streets more sanitary. After the Marines left, state efforts to beautify urban spaces may have actually increased. Throughout the 1930s, newspapers spoke of “the necessity of making cities more attractive, ridding villages of buildings that are too old, and rectifying their convoluted streets.”33 In 1937, a law was passed aiming to regulate construction projects in the city, increase electric and water infrastructures, and restore old buildings.34 Throughout Port-au-Prince, the effects of these policies were noticeable as construction projects were carried out to increase the aesthetics and infrastructure of the city. In the period after the occupation, the major streets of Port-au-Prince were widened and paved. The Grand’rue in the center of downtown was “embellished with a grass strip converted from the old footpath and endowed with uniform sidewalks.” New churches and hotels were constructed and empty lots were transformed into public plazas. Improvements to the city’s infrastructure were also underway. In 1937, water had gathered under a viaduct on the rue Cappoix before flooding the surrounding areas and causing property damage. The government responded by building a large stone dike to prevent further unnecessary floods. Finally, wide roads connected Port-au-Prince to outlying areas, integrating distant populations into the sphere of the capital and drawing renewed attention to previously abandoned neighborhoods.35 As in other parts of the Americas, discussions of sanitation and urban reform were imbued with racialized assumptions about improving the masses by changing their environments and habits.36 A 1936 editorial in L’Action Nationale was unequivocal on the point. “In our days, all civilized people strive for one capital goal: urbanisme.”37 The same publication later praised the Haitian government’s urbanisme as “a new step toward great civilization.”38 For the urban poor, urbanisme could entail forced relocation and the clearing of their neighborhoods. On a visit to Port-au-Prince in the late 1930s, Katherine Dunham described a “slum 33 34 36

37 38

“Urbanisme, bienfait social,” L’Action Nationale, December 28, 1936. 35 Corvington, Port-Au-Prince, 1934–1950, 138. Ibid., 139–41. Caulfield, In Defense of Honor, 55–63; Stepan, “The Hour of Eugenics,” 73; Drinot, The Allure of Labor, 131–4. “Urbanisme, bienfait social,” L’Action Nationale, December 28, 1936. “Urbanisme,” L’Action Nationale, June 15, 1937.

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area” in the city as being full of “mud and filth” and consisting of “huts of cardboard, tin, and burlap,” which were divided by “narrow passages,” and punctuated with “charcoal braziers.” A few years later, these structures were “torn down and their sites reclaimed” to prepare for official celebrations of the two-hundred-year anniversary of the founding of Port-au-Prince to be held in 1949.39 The problems of rural productivity and urbanisme were intimately linked. Many feared that rural-born individuals were swelling the ranks of the urban poor instead of working in the countryside. Indigénisme’s racial championing of peasants transformed into talk of racial decline when rural dwellers entered cities. In the minds of Haiti’s ruling classes, peasants were giving up the allegedly pure, “good life” of the countryside for the anxiety-producing, “hectic life of the city.”40 In 1930, L’Élan complained that there were “large strapping men” that “could be staying on their lands to work.” Instead, they moved to the cities where they became “dirty and smelly,” “circulating through our streets, be it with a box under their arms calling themselves shines, be it with a bucket full of bottles on their heads offering whipped kola.”41 Canapé-vert, the 1943 novel by Pierre Marcelin and Philipe Thoby-Marcelin, illustrates this by depicting rural–urban migration as a phenomenon that drains individuals of their ambitions to work. Sarah, a rural-born prostitute in Port-auPrince, ridicules a newly arriving woman who expressed a desire to work for having “a silly, country idea. She too, at the beginning of her urban career, had nursed that naïve intention, but she soon satisfied herself that the only reward of work was fatigue and exhaustion.”42 The results of the state’s efforts to increase Haiti’s production of exports during and after the occupation were mixed. Between 1924 and 1948, the volume of major Haitian exports steadily and sharply increased, from 41.3 to 88.1 thousand metric tons. In the peak year of 1938–39, Haiti exported 97.1 thousand metric tons of agricultural goods. Previous scholars have criticized the effects of Haitian economic policies after the occupation on the basis of a decline in coffee production.43 In actuality, these increases in the overall quantity of exports represent a shift away from coffee and a move toward diversification. In 1924–25, Haiti

39 40 41 42 43

Dunham, Island Possessed, 44–5. “Ici, Port-au-Prince,” Le Matin, January 31, 1936. “Il faut obliger les campagnards à travailler la terre,” L’Élan, November 6, 1930. Marcelin and Thoby-Marcelin, Canapé-Vert, 114–15. Lundahl, Peasants and Poverty, 302–8.

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exported 30.8 thousand metric tons of coffee, representing 79.4 percent of total exports. In the ensuing two decades, the percentage of coffee in total exports decreased while sugar, sisal, and bananas did the opposite. Although coffee maintained its position as the leading export crop in Haiti, by 1947–48 production had decreased to 22.7 thousand metric tons, representing 34.9 percent of all exports that year.44 Low commodity prices in the world market, however, meant that diversification and an increase in production did not bring more revenue. After netting the Haitian government an annual average of 94.3 million gourdes (18.86 million USD) in the five fiscal years between 1924–25 and 1928–29, export values remained predictably low during the depression. From 1929–30 to 1942–43, the average annual value of Haitian exports was only 43.2 million gourdes (8.64 million USD).45

return migrants and radical politics “The return of the emigrants is an interesting sight,” a US official in Aux Cayes declared in 1925. “Two or three hundred come at a time, crowded on a small motor launch which anchors in the bay while the passengers come ashore in row boats.” There they were met by “a band of customs’ [sic] men and police” whose job it was “to examine their baggage.” In good years, the baggage could be substantial, as many return migrants carried “a new small trunk tied with a new rope.” Migrants were also known to bring money. When sugar prices were high and Cuban companies thrived, observers noted that return migrants carried “consederable [sic] money,” and credited them with bringing “a steady influx of capital” into their home regions. Even “the laborers who left with nothing return with enough to buy small farms.”46 In 1924, one US official claimed that “the United Fruit Company’s men are in much better condition than others, they have better clothes and more money, and look to be in better physical condition.”47 The process of return was not always so smooth. Carrying this much wealth made migrants vulnerable to the corruption of state officials and the envy of their peers. Customs officials were known for extorting money

44 46

47

45 United Nations, Mission to Haiti, 210, 14. Ibid. Maurice P. Dunlap, American Consul, Port-au-Prince, “Significance of Haitian Emigration to Cuba,” September 10, 1925, USNA RG 59 838.5637/6. Winthrop R. Scott, “Immigration in Northern Haiti,” March 22, 1924, USNA RG 59 838.56/1.

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from return migrants. In 1923, for instance, Le Courrier Haitien criticized an official who imposed exorbitant fines on “the poor Haitian emigrants returning from Cuba.”48 Others were victims of fellow return migrants or Haitian merchants. Upon their return to Haiti from Cuba in 1937, a Haitian woman named Dieudonne Thimothée “succeeded in captivating the trust and heart” of another returning migrant laborer. After landing in Port-au-Prince, she stole his money and the numerous goods he was bringing back from Cuba.49 Migrants’ conspicuousness in rural Haiti and their reputation as rich individuals made them special targets for merchants who inflated prices to take advantage of their cash. In Aux Cayes, an official noticed that “so many Haitians returning from Cuba come in with at least one year supply of all the necessities of life except food, and the merchants, resenting this, gauge [sic – gouge].”50 On the other hand, some migrants arrived home with nothing that could be stolen. In years of low sugar prices, individuals returned with very little money and in poor physical health due to low wages, undernourishment, unemployment, and harsh working conditions in Cuba. In 1921, for instance, a year of low sugar prices and wages, US authorities reported that many Haitians were returning “without the usual wealth.”51 In the midst of the depression in 1937, a group of 496 returnees landed in Port-au-Prince in a “deplorable and miserable state.” They were apparently “gaunt, exhausted from fatigue and . . . privations, the majority sick, without a cent.”52 Migrants returned under varying degrees of coercion from Cuban authorities and sugar companies. Between 1913 and 1931, migrants left Haiti legally and many could and did return home voluntarily after one or more years abroad. However, the number of involuntary returns increased substantially beginning in 1928. In May 1928, L’Echo observed that many “Viejos,” the name given to elite sugar cane cutters, were returning to Haiti after having spent “many years” in Cuba.53 That 48

49

50

51

52 53

Press Excerpt from Le Courrier Haitien, October 8, 1923 mentioned in D.C. McDougal, Gendarmerie d’Haiti, “Memorandum for the Brigade Commander,” October 9, 1923, USNA RG 127, E165, Box 1, Folder: “Summary of GD’H 1921, 1 of 2.” “Comment le rapatrié de Cuba fut dépouillé de son avoir par son amie et le mari de celle-ci,” Le Matin, April 23, 1937. J.A. Rossell, Department Commander, Gendarmerie d’Haiti, Aux Cayes to Chief of the Gendarmerie, July 1, 1920, USNA RG 127 E 176 Box 1, Folder: [Monthly Reports] January 1918–September 1921. Harold H. Utley, “Intelligence Data: Aux Cayes, August 1, 1921 to August 31, 1921,” September 10, 1921, USNA RG127 E165, Box 6, Folder: Aux Cayes Conditions. “Rapatriement massif d’émigrants haitiens à Cuba,” Le Matin, February 23, 1937. “Retour des travailleurs Haitiens de Cuba,” L’Echo, May 24, 1928.

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same year, over 2000 Haitians were deported from Cuban soil against their will.54 Deported migrants arrived under much less advantageous conditions than those who came voluntarily. As Chapters 3 and 4 describe, repatriated Haitians were treated violently and not given time to gather their belongings, forcing them to abandon significant stores of money and property on the island. At times, they were detained for many days before actually being repatriated, placing a strain on their health and material resources. In 1928, the majority of deported migrants had left “their suitcases or trunks deposited in the boarding house where they were staying” and could not bring them home.55 In 1937, the Haitian press reported, a group of repatriated migrants “were embarked with urgency, without even being allowed the time to put their effects in order and bring them.”56 Faced with these deportations, the Haitian government sought to regulate migrants’ returns by directing them to their original places of departure or to improvised hospitals and dormitories. The migrants who appeared visibly sick were taken to hospitals. In 1937, 500 migrants were dropped off at the port of Aux Cayes. From there, they were “directed to the old prison where the Service d’Hygiène provides them with some services.”57 Earlier that year, a group of 448 return migrants was taken to “Fort-Islet where . . . they were lodged and fed.”58 Another significant area of state action involved returning migrants to their regions of origin.59 When a group of Haitian migrant agricultural workers from Cuba were dropped off in Port-au-Prince, the Vincent government took “measures . . . to help these malheureux return to their dwelling places. By automobiles and trucks, they were driven, to different regions of the country, to locations as close as possible to the localities they indicated as their place of residence before going to Cuba.”60 Haitian journalists interpreted state efforts to regulate migrants’ returns as humanitarian actions, though official responses were equally motivated by pressing political and economic concerns. In 1937, L’Action 54

55

56 57 58 59

60

“Emigration and Deportation of Colored Population from Eastern Cuba,” – June 7, 1928, USNA RG59 837.5538/ 8. Letter from T. Godoy, Santiago de Cuba to R.B. Wood, Chaparra Sugar Company, November 15, 1928, APLTCAMSMC 1/43/444/192, 225. “Rapatriement massif d’émigrants haitiens à Cuba,” Le Matin, February 23, 1937. “Émigrants,” La Garde, March 21, 1937. “Rapatriement,” L’Action Nationale, February 22, 1937. “Le gouvernement de Mr. Borno refuse d’entendre un malheureux qu’on a maltraité à Cuba,” Le Petit Impartial, July 24, 1928. “Rapatriement massif d’émigrants haitiens à Cuba,” Le Matin, February 23, 1937.

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Nationale declared that government efforts to provide medical services and homeward transportation to return migrants “touched us profoundly.”61 Yet government officials feared that migrants’ experiences in Cuba or the traumatic process of deportation would cause unrest. In 1921, after the collapse of sugar prices in Cuba and shortly after the end of widespread peasant rebellion in Haiti, a US official warned that return migrants, especially those without money, were potential risks to security. The return of a number of Haitian emigrants from Cuba without the usual wealth will doubtless give the police authorities some trouble as many of those returned here are not residents of this district and consequently are without friends or other means of support. Each consignment arriving is being carefully watched.62

Later, in the midst of the Vincent administration’s (1930–41) repression of Communists, prominent citizens and state officials complained of the “mounting Communist propaganda” in the migrant sending (and receiving) area of Aux Cayes. There were also known links between Haitian and Cuban Communist party leaders, explaining why the government had been motivated to prevent return migrants and their potentially subversive ideas from spreading beyond migrant-sending areas.63 Government officials’ fears were not groundless. According to noiriste and Marxist contemporary novels, the experiences of hardship in Cuba contributed to the political radicalization of Haitian migrants. While these novels do not necessarily portray the realities of migrants’ experiences, they illustrate radicals’ expectations of returning workers. Maurice Casseus’ 1935 noiriste text, Viejo, details the life of Mario, a Haitian peasant who spent sixteen years in Cuba before returning to Port-auPrince. Mario became embroiled in the political movement against the US occupation and entered a love triangle with Cap, a former Marine, over the affections of a Haitian woman named Olive. He eventually rejected the racism, cultural influence, and political domination of occupation officials in favor of embracing the African cultural roots of Haiti and other parts of the African Diaspora.

61 62

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“Rapatriement,” L’Action Nationale, February 22, 1937. Harold H. Utley, “Intelligence Data: Aux Cayes, August 1, 1921 to August 31, 1921,” September 10, 1921, USNA RG127 E165, Box 6, Folder: Aux Cayes Conditions. For a discussion of President Vincent’s violent anti-Communist policies, see Smith, Red & Black in Haiti, 22–3. For claims about Communism’s presence in Aux Cayes, see “Des Cayes,” La Lanterne, January 2, 1937.

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In Cuba, Mario experienced the harsh working conditions and racial discrimination suffered by other Haitian sugar workers. He recalled “the infinite field streaked with stagnant pools after the rain, and this herd of blacks who creep toward the cutting.” “All the chests make this han! han! han! intermittently and soon it is nothing but a long murmur, uniform and vague.”64 He began to interpret Cuban reality in racial terms, describing the country as a racist place that thrived economically only through the exploitation of blacks. Mario described “the entire island covered by prejudice, Cuba set against the defenseless black, the Centrales running to assault his black skin.”65 He perceived his conflicts over labor on sugar plantations as contests between white and black as well – a belief that clashes with the analysis of Chapter 3. While reflecting on a fight he had with a Cuban police officer that led to the latter’s death, Mario declared: “No, no, no remorse, but one hundred percent hate, Mario, one hundred percent struggle for the defense of the crucified race!”66 Mario’s growing racial and political radicalization began in Cuba, though it would not reach its zenith until his return to Haiti. In a Haitian houmfort (Vodou temple), his awareness of anti-black racism was complemented by a realization that his true origins lay in Africa. As he walked through the streets of Port-au-Prince, Mario recognized the hereditary, ancestral dance, the dance his nude father danced, the whole tribe at the beginning of the nocturnal clearing. Mario left for the dance, guided by the drum. His course was a flight towards the tunnel where he encountered the god in the grim mask that the tribe celebrated, like those days in the burning land of his Guinée.67

Mario’s prise de conscience made him intensely critical of both the United States Marines and Haiti’s elite politicians who spoke on behalf of popular sectors without actually representing them. He participated in a fictionalized account of the general strike that spread throughout Haiti in 1929 alongside a Communist and a disaffected member of the Haitian elite. Mario spoke out against the press censorship in Haiti and complained that the occupation “smothers us, it cannot continue like this.”68 Other characters invoked the Haitian Revolution. “Let’s prove to these pigs that we are still the heirs of 1804.”69 But for Casseus, the strike’s main message 64 68

69

65 66 67 Casseus, Viejo, 17. Ibid., 31. Ibid., 32. Ibid., 154. Ibid., 97–102. For Haitian complaints of press censorship see “‘Whole Haytian People Deceived,’ Asserts Port-au-Prince Editor,” New York Herald Tribune, February 16, 1930. Casseus, Viejo, 97.

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was one of black resistance to white oppression. “Long live the strike! Down with the white executioner eternally set against black skin!”70 Like Casseus’s Viejo, Jacques Roumain’s Gouverneurs de la rosée (1944) portrays return migrants as potential carriers of radical political ideologies. The novel details the experiences of a Haitian agricultural worker named Manuel who returned to his (fictional) native village of Fonds Rouges after spending fifteen years in Cuba. The village he left was in a state of decline, the ground was parched from a drought, and the land barely produced anything. Poor natural conditions were exacerbated by fierce rivalries among peasant families that prevented cooperation. Like Mario, Manuel’s experiences of harsh labor and racism in Cuba radicalized him. He recalled “the bitter wave of cane fields” defined by “the endless fatigue of the overburdened body.”71 Compounding the difficulties of labor were the acts of violence and racism by rural guardsmen. Manuel experienced “bludgeoning” from rural guards in Cuba who cursed at him for being a “Damned Haitian, black piece of shit.”72 Instead of forming a strong racial consciousness in Cuba, Manuel’s experiences there taught him the importance of class solidarity across racial lines. In Cuba, he witnessed the problems of worker division as well as the benefits of unity and labor organizing. In another example of a Haitian literary gloss of a complex Cuban reality, Manuel claimed: “In the beginning, in Cuba, everyone was defenseless and without resistance; this one believed himself white, that one was black and there was bad blood between us: all were scattered like sand and the bosses walked on this sand.” This changed “when we recognized that we were all alike, when we organized ourselves for the huelga [labor strike].”73 Upon returning to Haiti, Manuel sought to translate the spirit of worker unity learned in Cuba to help his native country. He attempted to locate a source of water, bring it to the village, and reconcile the differences between the peasant families of Fonds Rouges. In order to achieve these seemingly insurmountable goals, Manuel applied the lessons of worker solidarity and class unity that he had learned in Cuba. Instead of forming a labor union in Haiti, Manuel wanted to revive the coumbite, a cooperative labor form in which peasants work the field of a neighbor in exchange for food and drink.74 Instead of organizing for the benefit of a single landowner, Manuel’s goal was to build an irrigation system that 70 73 74

71 72 Ibid., 100. Roumain, “Gouverneurs de la rosée,” 283. Ibid., 284. Ibid., 321. For a description of the coumbite, see Herskovits, Life in a Haitian Valley, 71–7.

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would benefit everyone. This required the acquiescence of the entire peasant population. Mario made speeches to elders in both families encouraging them to organize and participate in the coumbite. He also fell in love with Annaise, a young girl from a rival family, promising a new unity in the village. Eventually, Manuel found water and won Annaise’s affections, but he was killed by a jealous rival while on the verge of convincing people to join the coumbite. The novel ends with water coming to the village as a result of a coumbite initiated by Annaise and Manuel’s mother, Délira.

return migrants and rural work Return migrants’ reintegration in rural Haiti, as well as the way it was perceived by lettered populations, was shaped by the context of the state’s economic development projects. During and after the occupation, lettered Haitians feared that the rural workers who had gone to Cuba would return with ambitions that did not include producing exports in the countryside. Jean Batiste Cineas’ Le drame de la terre (1933) embodies the trepidations many elite Haitians harbored about return migrants. This indigéniste novel was published the year before US troops left Haiti. It describes rural Haiti as a place inhabited by “people without history,” for whom “the world stops . . . at the four corners of their sections.”75 Paradoxically, however, like some other indigéniste writings, the novel is obsessed with the economic and cultural destruction of this pristine place as a result of US occupation policies, rivalries among peasant leaders, and migration.76 In Cineas’ novel, migrants are considered highly social and opportunistic individuals. Their work in Cuba does not help them materially and is detrimental to the Haitian countryside. Ti-Monsieur Servilius, a return migrant, “embodies the bad-luck type who bungled his life, who succeeded in nothing. A sort of bohemian who knocked about everywhere.” Servilius and other migrants expend their labor to develop countries like Cuba and the Dominican Republic at the expense of Haiti, which does not benefit.77 Servilius “did not enrich himself” while

75 76

77

Cineas, Le drame de la terre, 11, 118. See Price-Mars, “Le problème du travail.” For a larger discussion of Haitian folklorists’ anxieties about the disappearance of Haitian culture, see Ramsey, The Spirits and the Law, 213. Cineas, Le drame de la terre, 16.

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abroad. Instead, he came back with a wealth of new stories, the Spanish nickname Viejo, and a reluctance to engage in agricultural labor. In Cuba, Viejo “acquired experience from the world that the [Haitian] countryside lacks.” He “formed an original conception of life and created a savory language mixed with French, Spanish, and English words.” While this made him a hit among the elders in his home village, his new designation prevented him from working the land. Since returning, “he never seized a hoe and machete and hardly works.” Instead of performing manual labor, Viejo would now get by leading the coumbite. While his fellow countrymen dug, planted, weeded, plowed, and harvested, Viejo led them in song and enjoyed the free food and drink. Perhaps this was the reason that he always “arrived first at a meeting and left last.”78 The fears that migration to Cuba was ruining the countryside and returnees were avoiding agricultural labor were expressed by lesserknown literary voices as well. In 1932, Haiti Journal published Les Émigrés, a short story by a writer named Richard Larose.79 The story begins with a description of “a peasant family that lived from the cultivation of their land.” Their rural harmony was shattered when Belle d’Amour, a young member of the household, defied her family’s wish that she marry a politically prominent suitor in favor of Grigri, the peasant man she loved. The couple eloped and traveled to Cuba alongside other peasants from the area. They arrived at a moment of economic downturn and earned only enough to eat. After years of desperation in Cuba, they returned to Haiti to find their village in ruins. Their old farms were “entirely deserted. All had disappeared. Nothing remained any longer on the habitation: plants and trees had withered. The land became unproductive.” Rather than trying to rebuild their rural world, “Grigri and Belle d’Amour, at the end of their resources, found themselves condemned to go work in the homes” of other Haitians. For Larose, this state of affairs resulted from the fact that even successful return migrants refused to work in agriculture. Upon returning, migrants “lavished their gold on you, sang the beauty of [Cuba] to you, and with an indescribable cheekiness [sansgêne], told you about returning.” They did not work, however, since “it was party morning, noon and night.”80

78 79

80

Ibid., 16–17. Larose does not appear in standard works of Haitian literary criticism or even those dedicated specifically to the literature depicting migration. Dash, Literature and Ideology; Kaussen, Migrant Revolutions. Richard Larose, “Les émigrés,” Haiti Journal, April 27, 1932 and April 28, 1932.

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The anxieties of literary figures, both famous and obscure, were shared by journalists as well. In 1928, L’Echo, a Port-de-Paix newspaper, wondered whether a group of migrants getting off a United Fruit Company steamer would continue working in the countryside. The arms that providence sent us back . . . will they remain idle? We wish that it would be otherwise and that they would continue to work here like they just did in Cuba. That they would know that they must break a little sweat and dispense with a little energy in this land that permitted them to leave, full of vigor, to search for their fortune in Cuba.81

As literary references to return migrants indicate, the cultural influences of migrants were noticeable in the rural areas of Haiti. During 1932 fieldwork outside of Port-au-Prince, US anthropologist Harold Courlander discovered that “Cuban music . . . has found fertile soil in Haiti” due to the return of “Haitian Negroes” who had previously “been in great demand in Cuba for work in the cane fields and the sugar refineries.” As a result, the music of rural Haiti was full of lyrical references to Cuba: Célina was a beautiful girl, Célina! Célina made her toilet in a gourd, She threw the water into the roadway, That was for a man to see. Célina my dear! If it were in Quantanamo, you would have died!82

Five years later, Alan Lomax, another song recorder from the United States, noticed that “Cuban music [was] sung” in the migrant-sending area of Aquin.83 Haitian journalists’ and novelists’ anxieties about return migrants’ unwillingness to continue agricultural labor in Haiti were well-founded. Although Haitians were accustomed to wage labor and work discipline in Cuba, these were not the only experiences they brought back to Haiti. As Chapters 3 and 4 indicate, Haitian agricultural workers in Cuba engaged in techniques to resist company domination, hold out for higher wages, and diversify their economic activities. They had many reasons to continue such practices in Haiti. Even the lowest wages that migrants received in Cuba were much higher than those available in Haiti. In 1922, a US official noted that Haitians would work “an entire twelve-hour day 81 82

83

“Retour des travailleurs haitiens de Cuba,” L’Echo (Port-de-Paix), May 24, 1928. Courlander, Haiti Singing, 172–3. Lyrics translated by Courlander. For a critical interpretation of Courlander’s book, see Largey, Vodou Nation, 206–7. Alan Lomax, “Aquin,” January 23, 1937 printed in Lomax, Haitian Diary, 110.

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for a wage of twenty cents.” This was lower than the 30 to 80 cents per day that Haitians earned cutting cane in Cuba in 1933, a year of depressed wages. Few return migrants would opt for agricultural wage labor in Haiti, especially if they returned with cash or had access to land of their own. Considering that many Haitian families “live on one gourde [20 cents USD] a day,” return migrants with a little money could attempt to subsist on their savings and hold out for higher wages.84 In rural Haiti, many return migrants sought to achieve economic autonomy by buying land or engaging in other subsistence activities. Throughout the 1920s, US observers noted return migrants’ propensity to lease or buy land using the cash they received in Cuba. In Aux Cayes, “many of the laborers who left with nothing return with enough to buy small farms.”85 Usually, acquiring land was only the first step in a longterm strategy to obtain rural stability that involved multiple trips to Cuba.86 “The Haitian returning from Cuba invests in land which is leased to him, and thereafter departs again . . . to obtain the necessary funds which will permit him to build a good home.”87 Migrants’ efforts to “build a good home” involved returning with goods purchased in Cuba. Material goods represented a means for return migrants to achieve economic autonomy, engage in leisure activities, and cement social relationships in Haiti.88 “A surprising number of returning Haitians carry lanterns,” a US official noted, “an article of luxury where great stretches of country districts have no lights at night . . . and over fifty per cent bring roosters.”89 Lanterns’ uses were not limited merely to outdoor visibility. They may have also signified an ambition to educate themselves or their children. In rural Haiti, lanterns, along with money, 84

85

86

87

88

89

“Memorandum in connection with the raising of a subscription by the Patriotic Union,” Port-au-Prince, January 9, 1922, USNA RG127 E180 Box 1, Folder: Investigation Haitian Affairs 1 of 2. “Significance of Haitian Emigration to Cuba.” Maurice P. Dunlap, American Consul, Port au Prince, Haiti September 10, 1925, USNA RG 59 838.5637/6. As Samuel Martínez argues, this trend continues to the present among the Haitians who travel seasonally to the Dominican Republic. Martínez, Peripheral Migrants, 97. To Chief of the Gendarmerie d’Haiti from District Commander, Petit Goave, November 10, 1920, RG 127 E165 Box 6, Folder: Report, Jeremie Conditions. My analysis of the twentieth century draws from Tamara Walker’s study of eighteenthcentury Peruvian slaves’ strategic uses of clothing and material goods. She shows that such goods allowed slaves to challenge the limitations put on them by dressing in the finery reserved for free people and building links of reciprocal exchange and gift giving with each other. Walker, “He Outfitted His Family in Notable Decency,” 393–4. Maurice P. Dunlap, American Consul, Port-au-Prince, “Significance of Haitian Emigration to Cuba,” September 10, 1925, USNA RG 59 838.5637/6.

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were a necessity for peasants who wanted any kind of schooling. Upon entering a peasant’s home in rural Haiti, Katherine Dunham noticed that “a boy of twelve or thirteen sat at a table, reading by lantern light.” She decided that his family “was among the rich of the peasantry, that is, with enough money to send a child to school, which all Haitians passionately want to do but can seldom afford.”90 The roosters had social, economic, and religious meanings. In rural Haiti, roosters were probably acquired for their obvious use on a farm to breed and sell chickens, especially since merchants had been “buying up chickens and other food products for exportation to Cuba” during the previous decades.91 However, roosters were also a staple element in Vodou ceremonies.92 Finally, they held economic and social significance in the popular pastime of cockfighting. “Peasants with or without money,” a Haitian journalist noted, “pass hours and hours in these gageures (cockpits), which are open from Monday to Sunday from Sunday to Monday.”93 For Haitian and US state officials, the land and goods that migrants purchased, and especially the aspirations embedded in them, were a threat to development projects. In 1921, a US official in Aux Cayes blamed return migrants for the fact that “more foodstuffs are not produced in this section.” He complained that “laborers returning from Cuba have accumulated sufficient funds with which to purchase small plots of ground, that they do purchase this ground, settle down on it and produce only sufficient for their own needs.”94 Despite the labor involved, subsistence planting was described as a sign of laziness because it did not involve producing exports.95 The same official declared that return migrants could produce more “if they worked diligently each day.”96 Perhaps that is why a US soldier in Jérémie complained, referring to the Haitian peasant, that “While he is quite willing to work in Cuba, and is

90 91

92 93 94

95 96

Dunham, Island Possessed, 31–2. District Commander, Aux Cayes to Chief of the Gendarmerie d’Haiti, “Monthly Reports on Conditions, September 1918,” September 30, 1918, USNA RG127 E176 Folder: [Monthly Reports] January 1918–September 1921. See Deren, Divine Horsemen, 214–15. “Le paysan doit produire,” L’Élan, November 4, 1930. “Conditions in Department of Cayes,” Department Commander, Department of Cayes to Chief of the Gendarmerie d’Haiti, June 7, 1920, USNA RG 127 E176 Box 1, Folder: [Monthly Reports] January 1918–September 1921. For a discussion of this, see Scott, The Art of Not Being Governed, 101. “Conditions in Department of Cayes,” Department Commander, Department of Cayes to Chief of the Gendarmerie d’Haiti, June 7, 1920, USNA RG 127 E176 Box 1, Folder: [Monthly Reports] January 1918–September 1921.

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considered a valuable workingman there, when he returns he is practically useless to the country.”97 The roosters that migrants brought back from Cuba played into officials’ ongoing complaints about cockfighting, its interference with rural productivity, and its associations with vice and criminality. In 1922, the Haitian Secretary of the Interior asked the Haitian Gendarmerie to put an end to the cockfights that occurred every day in the countryside, since they “prevent agriculteurs from going to their fields and occupying themselves with their agricultural work.”98 In addition to diverting time from laborers, it was believed that cockfighting made rural Haitians more prone to criminality and vice. In 1930, L’Élan asserted that “it is necessary to restrict” peasants’ ability to “battle cocks from morning to night.” “It is there in the cockpits where they get drunk the most and where afterwards, being drunk, they go to commit crimes.”99 The return migrants whose actions were perceived to threaten rural productivity were those that received the most attention from state officials. Official silences should not blind us to the fact that many migrants probably returned home from Cuba and began working in export agriculture. Since they did not elicit comment from state officials, their experiences are rarely discussed. In Canapé-vert, a return migrant named José arrives home ready to work since “he had no other means of support except to farm his father’s property.”100 Other migrants, especially those that returned with little or no cash, were almost certainly forced to work on land that did not belong to them. These workers may have been subject to threats of violence and a militarized work discipline, as an observer attested of a tobacco plantation near Port-de-Paix in 1930. The Haitian owner “goes about his plantation on which he employs about 400 men and women with a 42 calibre revolver at his belt, about 100 cartridges in the same belt and for good measure, a repeating Winchester in his automobile.”101 They may have also moved to Haiti’s growing cities, a phenomenon that this chapter will now discuss.

97

98

99 100 101

Report to Chief of the Gendarmerie d’Haiti from the District Commander, Jeremie, May 1, 1920, USNA RG 127 E 165 Box 6, Folder: Jeremie, Reports of Conditions No. 134. B. Dartiguenave, Secretaire d’état de l’Interieur to Commandant en Chef de la Gendarmerie d’Haiti, April 1, 1922, USNA RG 127 E174 Box 1, Folder: Complaints: Dept., South, 2 of 2. “Le paysan doit produire,” L’Élan, November 4, 1930. Marcelin and Thoby-Marcelin, Canapé-vert, 99. Letter from Edmond Esqueme to Edmond Esqueme, August 28, 1930, University of Miami, Special Collections, Caribbean Documents Collection, Box 1, Folder 22.

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life in a haitian ville: return migrants in urban spaces Not all return migrants headed back to their rural places of origin. Many sought to avoid the conflicts and hard labor of the countryside entirely by settling in Haitian cities. Eli Dérosier spent “several years in Cuba as a cane worker” before moving to Port-au-Prince, where he “worked at numerous domestic jobs.”102 As Chapter 2 demonstrates, members of rural households combined migration to Cuba with movements to cities. When individuals returned to Haiti, many joined their kin in urban spaces. Elda Barjon exemplified this trajectory. After returning from Cuba, he traveled directly to Port-au-Prince “to stay with one of his relatives” who was already living there, showing that migration to Cuba overlapped with other family strategies.103 Such practices were common enough that La Garde, an Aux Cayes newspaper, complained in 1937 that “these ‘Viejos’ . . . do not want to get back to their residence, preferring to stay in the city.”104 The return migrants who settled in Haitian cities were part of a much larger trend of urbanization in the country and the region. Like other Latin American capitals, Port-au-Prince’s population increased over the course of the twentieth century.105 In 1906, the city had 101,133 people. Despite an increase in international out-migration, by 1950 Port-auPrince had 143,534 inhabitants; just under half were born in the Haitian countryside.106 Like those who returned to the countryside, the reception of return migrants in Haitian cities was heavily influenced by government efforts to beautify Haiti’s urban spaces by keeping agricultural workers in the countryside. Viejo exemplifies the way return migrants in urban spaces were perceived by lettered Haitians, explaining why one contemporary declared that the work “reflects, as if in a faithful mirror” the people inhabiting the “shady quarters of Port-au-Prince.”107 In the novel’s 102 103

104 105

106

107

Courlander, Haiti Singing, 239. “Comment le rapatrié de Cuba fut dépouillé de son avoir par son amie et le mari de celle-ci,” Le Matin, April 23, 1937. “En deux mots,” La Garde, June 27, 1937. Pineo and Baer, Cities of Hope; Rosenthal, “Spectacle, Fear, and Protest,” 38. The growth of cities was a global trend in the period. Manning, Migration in World History, chapter 9. For 1906 figures, see n.a., Haïti 1919–1920: Livre bleu d’Haiti, 23, 62. For a synthesis of census data from 1950, see Locher, “The Fate of Migrants in Urban Haiti,” 50–3. Price-Mars, “Preface,” viii.

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beginning, before Mario’s racial and political radicalization, he personified the image of the migrant who returned to Haiti’s cities and ceased agricultural labor. Instead of returning to “the vast denuded countryside,” he headed to Port-au-Prince where “he walks among unknown quartiers. Without the earth that smoked beneath his feet, and that good odor from the land that moved through his veins, mixed with his blood, Mario would be a foreigner among all these new faces that he did not know.”108 At least one familiar face was a childhood friend named Olive, a young woman who had moved to the city and “commercialized her caresses.”109 Now that he was not working the land, Mario “divides the days’ existence between Olive’s house in the quartier ‘Centrale’ and his room.” He also frequented a bar near his house called La Glacière [The Ice Chest], a place “where the guitar remains his singing companion.”110 Mario’s Spanish songs and discussions of traveling abroad gave him the reputation of being “youn viejo fini! [an accomplished Viejo]” among the bar’s patrons.111 Casseus’ perception that return migrants in the cities were unproductive was common. In 1932, L’Élan described laborers coming back from Cuba as “one hundred valid men,” who were destined to become “one hundred new charges for the city”112 (Figure 7.1). As in the countryside, return migrants were associated with the goods they brought from Cuba and their new habits. In Canapé-Vert, a Haitian peasant named Josaphat returns from Cuba. The man, who now goes by José, is described in terms of his new clothing and haughty attitude. He was a young man of exotic appearance, dressed in a sea-blue coat, flannel trousers, black-and-white shoes, a large, gray felt sombrero, à la Mexicaine, and further adorned with huge tortoise-shell spectacles. In a word, a caballero. This importantlooking personage talked with an exuberance and emphasis truly Castilian, and with a self-satisfaction seasoned his conversation plentifully with curse words and Spanish expressions. He often took off his impressive glasses, wiped them on his sleeve and replaced them on his nose.113

Similarly, at the beginning of Viejo, Mario flaunts his “gold chain with enormous links” along with “a large smile crowned with metal” for other city dwellers to see.114 The writers’ depictions of return migrants’ new mannerisms and nice clothing were corroborated by others. The cultural influences of return migrants on Haiti’s urban spaces were just as pronounced as in rural 108 112 113

109 110 111 Casseus, Viejo, 4, 91. Ibid., 12. Ibid., 19. Ibid., 21. “Les Émigrés,” L’Élan, May 2, 1932. 114 Marcelin and Thoby-Marcelin, Canapé-vert, 87–8. Casseus, Viejo, 9.

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figure 7.1 Pottery merchants in Port-au-Prince. Many rural-born migrants settled in Haiti’s urban spaces upon their return from Cuba. Shoes and nice clothing were a necessity for anyone who wished to avoid being arrested for vagrancy; return migrants joined other rural–urban individuals in Port-au-Prince as petty merchants, domestics, and in other urban trades. “Pottery Merchants, Port-au-Prince, Hayti, WI.” Source: Detroit Publishing Company, ca. 1901. Courtesy of Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Detroit Publishing Company Collection, LC-D48869.

areas. Observers noted the presence of Cuban music styles and instruments in the growing working class districts of Port-au-Prince. “Last night,” Alan Lomax wrote in 1936, “I listened for an hour to one of the native orchestras, composed of a pair of bones, a three-string guitar, a pair of Cuban cha-chas (or gourds), and a manoumbas, a peculiar bass instrument.”115 115

Lomax, “First Reports from the Field,” Letter to Oliver Strunk, Chief of the Music Division of the Library of Congress, December 21, 1936, Reprinted in Lomax, Haitian Diary, 32–3. For analysis of Lomax’ goals, experience, and itinerary, see Averill, “Ballad Hunting in the Black Republic.”

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They also brought goods that signified a desire to settle in urban spaces. In 1925, a US official noted: “The articles brought back from Cuba usually include a new suit of clothes, toilet articles, underwear, and a heavy, showy pair of American shoes.”116 Others declared that migrants returned with “more clothes than ever before, their favorite articles of clothing being a light weight colored cotton underware [sic] (usually pink), tan shoes and gaudy ties.”117 By purchasing shoes and nice clothing, return migrants were attempting to increase their social status and differentiate themselves from Haiti’s agricultural workers. As in the countryside, these goods served as markers of status in the cities. As the US sociologist James Leyburn noted of Haitians in 1941: “When a man of the masses dons the castoff shoes of some aristocrat, the logical assumption by everyone is that this man is preparing to try to move one step up the social ladder.”118 These goods were also acquired in an effort to cement their right to inhabit the streets of Port-au-Prince and other cities without fear of reprisal from the police. Shoes, clothing, and social status were closely linked in Haitian society. Both Haitian and foreign observers used shoes and nice clothing to divide the country “in terms of binary oppositions.”119 During and after the US occupation, dichotomous descriptions of Haiti’s social structure were made through the idiom of shoes. United States Marine Major Smedley Butler famously “divided the Haitian population into two categories: the 99 percent who went barefoot and the 1 percent who wore shoes.”120 Coming from a different ideological perspective, but just as prone to reductive divisions, was Langston Hughes’ 1931 claim. “To be seen barefooted marked one a low-caste person of no standing . . . Most of Haiti’s people without shoes could not read or write, and had no power.”121 Haitians described the social significance of shoes and nice clothing in similar ways. In Canapé-vert, a character named Ti-Macelin had the appearance of “a workman of the poorest class. Like them he was shabbily dressed and went barefooted, his trousers rolled up to the knees.”122

116

117

118 120 121

122

Maurice P. Dunlap, American Consul, Port-au-Prince, “Significance of Haitian Emigration to Cuba,” September 10, 1925, USNA RG 59 838.5637/6. Winthrop R. Scott, “Immigration in Northern Haiti,” March 22, 1924, USNA RG 59 838.56/1. 119 Leyburn, The Haitian People, 5–6. Martínez, Decency and Excess, 10. Schmidt, The United States Occupation, 80. Hughes, I Wonder as I Wander, 28. On the limits of Hughes’ observation of Haitian society, see Renda, Taking Haiti, 261–4. Marcelin and Thoby-Marcelin, Canapé-vert, 208.

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figure 7.2 Market in Port-au-Prince. Rural–urban migrants and returnees from Cuba brought increasing numbers of people to Port-au-Prince during and after the US occupation of Haiti. Such scenes of commercial bustle came under scrutiny from city planners trying to promote clean, well-ordered urban spaces along the model of European capitals. Market day in Port-au-Prince. “Haiti, Port-au-Prince, Market Square.” Source: National Photo Company Collection, 1909–1920. Courtesy of Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, National Photo Company Collection, LC-F81- 3800.

In 1936, L’Élan identified the alleged lack “of physical and moral cleanliness” among urban workers, whom they labeled “the barefoot people.”123 For most of the twentieth century in Haiti, shoes held an additional, quasi-legal significance since they often represented the difference between being harassed by police or being left alone. During the nineteenth century, Haitian governments sought to segregate the country strictly between urban elites and rural masses. The latter were not permitted to enter Portau-Prince or other cities except on specific market days (Figure 7.2).124

123 124

“Les pieds nus,” L’Élan, September 22, 1936. Mackenzie, Notes on Haiti II, 154–5.

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In the twentieth century, formal laws limiting internal movement in Haiti, like other parts of the world, were replaced by mobility restrictions based on the logic of hygiene and sanitation.125 Shoes were central to these regulations. In 1924, a law was formally passed making it “strictly prohibited to circulate at the Capital bare-footed.”126 Other cities followed suit in the ensuing years.127 Later, on Port-au-Prince’s Champs de Mars in 1931, Langston Hughes “asked a Haitian in the crowd . . ., ‘Where are all the people without shoes? I don’t see any of them.’ ‘Oh, they can’t walk here,’ he said. ‘The police would drive them away’.”128 These laws remained in force into the second half of the twentieth century.129 The strong linkages between dress, shoes, and social status had deep roots in Haitian history.130 In colonial Saint Domingue, the French colony that would be renamed Haiti after the Revolution, a 1779 law was proposed “forbidding both men and women of color from wearing certain types of fabric and garments.”131 After Haitian independence, the emphasis on dress, and especially shoes, continued. During his lengthy rule, Faustin Soulouque (1847–59) reportedly distributed boots to his ministers to buy their loyalty. In 1891 a French traveler in Haiti observed: “The question of footwear is the most arduous, Haitians believe themselves dishonored if they are ever shoed simply . . . How many elegant functionaries close themselves hermetically in their homes . . . for the simple reason that they do not have shoes.”132 Despite the existence of similar social and legal prescriptions about status and dress throughout the Atlantic, slaves and individuals from low social classes often acquired clothing, shoes, and other material goods to 125 126

127

128 129

130

131 132

McKeown, Melancholy Order, 41. Unknown article in Le Moniteur, May 15, 1924, translated and summarized in Thomas A. Tighe, “Memorandum for the Chief of the Gendarmerie,” May 20, 1924, USNA RG 127 E165, Box 5, Folder: “Morning Reports of Intelligence to AHC 1924 1 of 2.” Summary of newspaper Les Annales Capoises, Cap-Haitien, June 21, 1924, contained in “Memorandum for the Chief of the Gendarmerie,” June 25, 1924, USNA RG 127 E165 Box 5, Folder: Morning Reports of Intelligence to AHC 1924 1 of 2. Hughes, I Wonder as I Wander, 28–9. Dunham, Island Possessed, 45–6; Glick Schiller and Fouron, Georges Woke up Laughing, 189. This is not particular to Haiti but in fact manifested itself throughout the Atlantic in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Akinwumi, “Interrogating Africa’s Past,” 191–2; Wheeler, The Complexion of Race, 17. Garrigus, Before Haiti, 163. Texier, Aux pays des généraux, 89 quoted and cited in Fernando Ortiz, Los negros curros, 42. Ortiz erroneously states that Texier’s book was published in 1898.

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claim status or honor.133 Similarly, return migrants’ purchases of shoes and nice clothing with the money they earned in Cuba allowed them to subvert the legal and cultural norms that sought to exclude peasants from Haitian cities. With these material goods, the return migrants asserted their right to inhabit urban spaces. They also set themselves off from ruraldwelling peasants and barefoot urban workers. Although the obsession with shoes originated from elite attempts to maintain their status, return migrants and lower-class Haitians imbued them with a significance that was not reducible to a desire to enter urban areas. An oral folktale recorded in Haiti around 1940 suggests that material goods may have shaped interactions among lower-class Haitians and return migrants as well. It tells of a Haitian named Jean Britisse who stowed away on a ship to Martinique and claimed that he had swam there to avoid paying a fine. When Martinique’s best swimmer responded by challenging him to a competition, Britisse used shoes and nice clothing to intimidate his opponent and flaunt his border-crossing. He arrived at the competition “wearing a white suit, a new Panama hat and new shoes, and . . . carrying a heavy bundle.” In front of the gathered crowd, Britisse then explained: “The race is to be from here to Cuba . . . but I have a few things here in this bundle that I bought for my mother, so I’d like to drop them off in Haiti. Since I wouldn’t want to meet my old friends there in my swimming suit, I’ll just go the way I am.”134 Britisse’s boasting and fine clothing transformed the impoverished stowaway into a proud and successful migrant, unencumbered by the Caribbean borders that were actually closing at the time the story was recorded. Some Haitian observers interpreted migrants’ desire to wear shoes and nice clothing as proof that they legitimately belonged in cities. These individuals associated the use of material goods with a host of new customs and habits that distinguished return migrants from other peasants.135 Edmond Craig, a Haitian consul in Cuba, declared: “Our country dwellers, barefoot from their birth, illiterate, accustomed to sleeping on the ground, eating on the ground or squatting, upon arriving

133

134

135

See for instance, Walker, “He Outfitted His Family in Notable Decency,” 394–6; Díaz, The Virgin, the King, and the Royal Slaves, 65; Ortiz, Los negros curros, 3; Foner, Reconstruction, 79; Derby, The Dictator’s Seduction, 39; Akinwumi, “Interrogating Africa’s Past,” 195. “Jean Britisse, the Champion” is reprinted in Courlander, A Treasury of Afro-American Folklore, 66–7. For other discussions of the civilizing power of goods, see Bauer, Goods, Power, History, 69, 218; Rood, “Herman Merivale’s Black Legend,” 182.

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in Cuba are continually shoed, they sleep at least in a hammock, eat at a table, and learn, if not to read, at least to sign their names, often in Spanish and they go to the theatre.”136 Some believed that these new habits would allow migrants to fulfill new roles in Haitian cities. A 1932 editorial in Haiti Journal suggested that “our counterparts who return from Cuba” should be employed as Municipal Police because of the moral and physical benefits they receive there. Though the suggestion was novel, it did not signify a break with the logic behind official efforts at rural and urban modernization. In fact, the plan envisioned that return migrants would be responsible for clearing urban “quarters of all our sickly ones and vagabonds (roustabouts, traveling merchants doing bad business, idle [shoe]shines, recidivists).” Those who were in Cuba, therefore, were distinct from “all these undesirables” who “left their fields to come and try an adventure in the cities.”137 Those who interpreted material goods and new habits as legitimate paths to upward mobility were a minority. Most saw return migrants as a threat to the urban social order or the authentic nature of the rural peasantry. Clothing, shoes, and consumer goods are central to understanding Maurice Casseus’ interpretations of return migrants and Haitian society. “Casseus’ novel,” Valerie Kaussen argues, “is obsessed with the intrusion of the global market into Haiti, as well as with consumer and mass culture, represented as new forms of colonialism and servitude that enslave the subject’s psyche as well as his or her body.”138 In a highly allegorical love triangle, Mario’s love interest must choose between Cap, the white man from the United States who buys her imported cosmetics, and Mario, the protagonist of the novel who would eventually realize the folly of a sterile consumer culture and become the prototype of the future leader of Haiti. The incongruity between consumer goods and Casseus’ vision of an authentic black culture is clearly demonstrated when Mario participates in a Vodou ceremony. During the ritual, “Mario removed his shoes [and] socks to dance better, and rolled his woolen pants up to his knees.”139 By partially disrobing at the moment of transfiguration, Casseus posits the incompatibility between these consumer goods and Haitian nationalism, associated here with Vodou, music, and dancing.

136

137

138

Edmond Craig, Ancien Consul à Cuba, “A propos de la brochure de M. Lélio Laville,” L’Autre Cloche, May 19, 1933. R.C. Charlot, “Simples réflexions au sujet d’une Police Municipale (suite et fin),” Haiti Journal, February 13, 1932. 139 Kaussen, Migrant Revolutions, 67. Casseus, Viejo, 155.

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State officials also criticized return migrants’ shoes and nice clothing because they implied that experienced agricultural workers would not resume laboring in the countryside. “Flushed with wealth and a trunk full of clothes,” an official noted in 1920, the returning migrant “parades in front of his less fortunate friends, never to work while his money lasts.”140 Even the habits that migrants adopted in Cuba were perceived as a thin façade that did not merit an increase in status. Jean Price-Mars describes return migrants as individuals who became “mixed up by the lure of easy fortunes engendered by the prosperity of the neighboring island.” He claimed that they were “plumed with false pride because in the swarming cosmopolitan cities, they mixed some Spanish expressions with their black patois [patois nègre].”141 In other words, migrants’ efforts to claim a higher status or fit in with urban society were largely misguided. The intellectual leader of the Indigéniste movement encouraging Haitian elites to accept rural dwellers could not tolerate those very peasants when they sought upward mobility in cities. Others went further by requesting that police expel return migrants from urban spaces since their shoes and nice clothing ostensibly prevented them from being kicked out of cities like other rural-born individuals. A 1937 newspaper in Aux Cayes declared: “The Police are obligated to clear the city of these ‘Viejos.’”142 Return migrants, then, received special ire. Despite the clothing and nice shoes that protected them from harassment, they were still considered peasants who did not belong in Haiti’s urban spaces.

conclusion Between 1928 and 1940, the number of migrants who returned to Haiti from Cuba increased. Many of those who had spent numerous years in the neighboring island began to return in the context of decreases in sugar wages and deportation efforts by the Cuban government. The migrants who returned to Haiti from Cuba diverged widely in the manner in which they traveled home, their physical health, and material conditions. Although scholars have largely ignored the fate of these individuals, their importance is reflected in the frequency with which they appear in Haitian novels, newspapers, and official documents from the period.

140

141

Report to Chief of the Gendarmerie d’Haiti from the District Commander, Jeremie. May 1, 1920, USNA RG 127 E 165 Box 6, Folder: Jeremie, Reports of Conditions No. 134. January 1918–September 1921. 142 Price-Mars, “Preface,” 9. “En deux mots,” La Garde, June 27, 1937.

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Return migrants were greeted with a mixture of hope, fear, and expectations by Haiti’s government officials and ruling classes, who wondered about their reintegration into the country. Concerns about the return migrants centered on the role they would play in Haiti’s agricultural development and whether their experiences in Cuba had radicalized them politically. These questions were especially urgent because the Haitian government was attempting to increase the production of agricultural exports and modernize Haitian cities. The goods migrants brought back from Cuba, as well as the actions they took upon returning to Haiti, hint at their aspirations for upward mobility and economic autonomy in both the rural and urban areas of the country. These efforts challenged the apparent inclusivity of Haiti’s Indigéniste movement. Their efforts at acquiring land and goods, as well as the goals these signified, were challenged by state policies aimed specifically at return migrants and urban and rural workers more broadly.

Epilogue Enduring Legacies and Post-Colonial Divergences

In January 1939, a group of Haitians was deported from Santiago de Cuba to Port-au-Prince, marking the symbolic end of the seasonal migratory movement.1 In May of the following year, a Haitian sloop was stopped as it arrived at the Punto de Maisí, the easternmost tip of Cuba. The boat was carrying thirty-nine immigrants who had paid a ship captain in Port-au-Prince to smuggle them into Cuba; none had documents. Cuban authorities jailed the ship captain and the migrants were likely returned to Haiti.2 On the one hand, these people fall outside standard periodizations of Haitian migration to Cuba, including the one established in this book, that treat the 1930s as the decade when labor migration ended and forced repatriations sent many in the opposite direction. On the other hand, their lives have everything to do with the spirit of this project, which has used migrants’ experiences to cut through received wisdom and challenge assumptions about Haiti and Cuba. If I have done my job, then it should not be so surprising that these individuals arrived nine years after the Cuban government had outlawed Haitian immigration, six years after US troops left Haiti, and months after the start of the Cuban sugar harvest. This epilogue will briefly discuss the connections between Haiti and Cuba since 1940, which were influenced by the earlier period of

1

2

“Relacion de los repatriados haitianos que a su bordo conduce el vapor de la Marina Constitucional ‘Columbia’ de acuerdo con el decreto ley no. 282 de enero de L(@& con destino al Puerto de AuxCayes (Haiti)” January 16, 1939 ANCDR 702/21/66–79. Dr. Alejandro Rodríguez Cremé, Médico de Puerto to Sr. Juez de Instrucción, Baracoa, May 27, 1940. APSATO 23/251/1.

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migration. Even after Haitian agricultural workers largely stopped coming to Cuba, prominent Haitians continued to establish political and cultural links with the neighboring island. In the late 1950s, new regimes in both countries placed Cuba and Haiti on opposite ends of the political spectrum, cooling official relations for decades. Nevertheless, stereotypes about Haitians persisted in Cuba after migration itself had ceased to be a political issue. These remained even after Cuba’s revolutionary government enacted policies to promote economic equality in the 1960s and champion Haitian folklore in the 1970s. The 1990s brought new opportunities and setbacks to Haitians and their descendants in Cuba. That decade witnessed the fall of the Soviet Union and the beginning of the “Special Period.” The Cuban government was forced to promote foreign tourism and outside investment to combat the ensuing economic depression. It also witnessed a reopening of official relations with the government of Haiti, increased support for folklore, and new population flows in the form of medical exchanges. Since the 1990s, descendants have taken advantage of the emphasis on tourism and new foreign relations to assert themselves publicly as Haitians; they have also experienced both the benefits and difficulties of contemporary Cuban socialism.3

the aftermath of labor migration The human connections that linked Haiti to Cuba after 1940 were marked by prominent cultural and political figures more than agricultural workers. As the above smuggling case suggests, some rural Haitians may have continued to arrive in Cuba outside the gaze of the state. Better known were the public figures who traveled between the countries in the 1940s and 1950s. Haitian novelist Jacques Roumain spent a few months in Cuba beginning in late 1940. There, he cemented his professional relationship with Cuban poet Nicolás Guillén and was inspired to write Gouverneurs de la rosée, the novel of return migration that I analyze in Chapter 7.4 However, even Guillén himself complained that travel between the islands was becoming difficult. “To Port-au-Prince one must go by air, in a costly trip for a small fortune.”5 Despite the challenges, Haitians sought political 3

4 5

I am not the only one to make such claims. Grete Viddal explores all of these issues further in Viddal, “Vodú Chic: Haitian Religion and the Folkloric Imaginary” and “Vodú Chic: Cuba’s Haitian Heritage.” Smith, Red & Black in Haiti, 51. Guillén, “Haiti,” Magazine de Hoy, February 8, 1942. Reprinted in Guillén, ¡Aquí estamos!, 102.

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refuge in Cuba from successive military governments beginning in the 1950s. The celebrated Haitian singer Martha Jean-Claude left her homeland during the military rule of Paul Magloire and found a waiting audience in Cuba.6 Even more left for Cuba during the dictatorship of François Duvalier (1957–71). Political exile was probably the only way for Haitians to enter Cuba when relations between the countries soured in the late 1950s. Haitian writer René Depestre moved to Cuba, where he became a vocal supporter of the Socialist government and continued his literary output.7 Haitian Communist and novelist Jacques Stephen Alexis led a group of Haitian exiles on an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow Duvalier from eastern Cuba in 1961.8 Stereotypes about Haiti’s instability and migrants’ isolation persisted into the late republican period and after the Cuban Revolution. In a 1942 essay praising the Haitian Revolution and humanizing the agricultural workers who had arrived in Cuba the previous decades, Nicolás Guillén himself fell back on the old clichés of slavery and migrants’ powerlessness.9 Haitian political instability shaped discussions of the guerilla movement in the Cuban Sierra Maestra as well. In 1957, Cuban revolutionary Frank País echoed nineteenth-century voices when he reminded Fidel Castro that their 26th of July Movement needed to dispel the “fear that Cuba would become another Haiti.”10 As residents of Oriente, Haitians and their descendants were witnesses to revolutionary fighting. A month after Pais’ letter, Fulgencio Batista’s army murdered “a Haitian descendant” named Pablito Lebón along with three Cuban companions when they refused to tell government troops about a guerilla ambush. Among the beneficiaries of their silence was Che Guevara, who would later marvel at the Haitian’s and Cubans’ loyalty since they were “all totally alien to our struggle, or at least, partially alien to it.”11 The Argentine revolutionary played on the trope of rural, and especially Haitian, isolation in Cuba. Yet his narrative reveals the social relationships that existed among Haitian and Cuban members of the

6 7 8 9

10

11

Ugás Bustamante, Haití: Vivir entre leyendas, 118–20. Taleb-Khyar, “Rene Depestre”; Wylie, “Poète à Cuba by René Depestre.” Kaussen, Migrant Revolutions, 104. Guillén, “Haiti,” Magazine de Hoy, February 8, 1942. Reprinted in Guillén, ¡Aquí estamos!, 102–3. País letter quoted in Julia E. Sweig, Inside the Cuban Revolution, 29 [quote], 101. Despite this, at least some agents for the M-26–7 operated in Haiti. Guevara, Pasajes de la guerra revolucionaria, 36, 137–8 [quote]. It was not the only time that a Haitian descendant lost their life to save the revolutionaries.

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peasantry. Perhaps obliquely tied to such revolutionary anxieties, just a few months later, La Voz del Pueblo summoned the specter of Haitian child murder in Oriente. The Guantánamo daily claimed that a Haitian named Fernando Luis was motivated by jealousy and “ancestral instincts” to kill his infant daughter and drink her blood in front of the child’s mother.12 Life in Cuba changed drastically after the success of the Cuban Revolution and there were plenty of Haitians still around to experience it. In 1970, Haitians and descendants in Cuba numbered 22,579.13 In 1960, some middle-aged Haitian agricultural workers who had arrived decades before officially requested Cuban citizenship, asserting their desire to live in Castro’s Cuba rather than Duvalier’s Haiti.14 Like AfroCubans, these and other Haitians benefited materially from the revolution’s class-based policies such as agrarian reform, public health, and education.15 For instance, a 1963 law created a social security system for all Cubans; four years later, it was extended to individuals without official documentation. This modification was especially important for the Haitians and other immigrants who had arrived without identification years before.16 Eventually, economic concerns were coupled with cultural priorities. The new Cuban regime began to promote culture and folklore in order “to integrate previously disenfranchised sectors of society.” In 1964, Cuban filmmaker Tomás Gutiérrez Alea released Cumbite, based on Jacques Roumain’s novel of return migration, Gouverneurs de la rosée. Such efforts increased the next decade. By the early 1970s, as Grete Viddal illustrates, Cuban folklorists and “cultural producers” in Oriente were taking Haitian culture seriously as a legitimate component of the Cuban nation.17 These changes created new opportunities for Haitians and their descendants but they failed to eliminate racist stereotypes on the island. 12

13

14

15 16 17

“Condenado a 38 años el Haitiano que se bebió la sangre de su hijo y lesionó a la madre,” La voz del pueblo, September 21, 1957. Viddal, “Vodú Chic: Haitian Religion and the Folkloric Imaginary,” 211–2. It is not a coincidence that the first anthropological studies of Haitians in Cuba were published in this period. See Pedro Diaz, “Guanamaca”; Guanche and Moreno, Caidije. Citizenship petitions for “Toribio Perez Peralta” and “Daniel Cabrera,” December 13, 1960, APSRECTC 365; Citizenship petitions for “Luis Ernest Kernizan,” November 25, 1960 and “Batiste Y. Lanui,” June 2, 1960, and “Nestor Lezare,” May 18, 1960, APSRECTC 379/3. De la Fuente, A Nation for All, ch. 7; Gómez-Navia, “Lo haitiano en lo cubano,” 38. Gómez-Navia, “Lo haitiano en lo cubano,” 38. Viddal, “Vodou Chic: Haitian Religion and the Folkloric Imaginary,” 211–12 [quotes]. It is not a coincidence that the first anthropological studies of Haitians in Cuba were

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Haitians’ experiences in post-revolutionary Cuba were similar to those of Afro-Cubans in the sense that institutional efforts to reduce inequality and integrate populations did not always eliminate racial stereotypes.18 Mirta Yáñez’ 1976 autobiographical short story “De muerte natural” (Of Natural Causes) is a perfect example of the stereotypes that lingered in attempts to write Haitian descendants into revolutionary nationalism.19 The story is set in the coffee-growing zone of Mayarí Arriba in the immediate aftermath of the Cuban Revolution. It depicts a Haitian referred to only as Yulián as he regales a group of young Haitians and volunteer Cuban brigadistas with stories of the Haitian Revolution. For the narrator, the similarity between the Haitian and Cuban Revolutions was unmistakable. “Long before the rebels would rise up in the [Cuban] sierra and tell them similar things, the Haitians recounted their wars, the detested masters stuck on picks, and the poor in charge, those that had been slaves just a second before.”20 For Yáñez, Haitian immigrants uniquely understood the effects of both Caribbean Revolutions. The story’s action revolves around a landowner named Cuco Serra, who was angered at the prospect of losing property in Cuba’s looming agrarian reform. He had previously sympathized with Batista and had even snitched on guerilla soldiers during the fighting. The individual who was on the wrong side of one revolution soon found himself at odds with the heirs of the other. Serra repeatedly antagonized Yulián by interrupting his stories about Haiti. Serra also insulted Mackandal, the slave rebel from Saint Domingue whose revolt, 1758 public burning, and alleged ability to transform himself into an animal to avoid death are considered the precursors to the Haitian Revolution. In response, Yulián pulled out a knife and confronted Serra before both men disappeared among the coffee plants. Perhaps the Haitian had been consumed by a flame or transformed into a wolf, the narrator mused, just like Mackandal before him.21

18 19 20

21

published in this period. Diaz, “Guanamaca”; Guanche and Moreno, Caidije. Cumbite was not the only Cuban film to discuss Haiti in the period. See Craig and Rolando, “Entrevista a Gloria Rolando,” 96. De la Fuente, A Nation for All, 315–16. On the autobiographical nature of the works, see Cooper, “Irreverent Humor,” 38. Yáñez, Todos los negros tomamos café, 16. She was not the only one to connect the two. In the 1963 edition to his classic text on the Haitian Revolution, C.L.R. James added an appendix titled: “From Toussaint L’Ouverture to Fidel Castro.” James, The Black Jacobins, 391–418. Yáñez, Todos los negros, 18.

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Despite her efforts to integrate Haitians into Cuba’s revolutionary history, Yáñez displays an ambivalent relationship to stereotypes about them. A significant portion of the story’s seven pages reproduces images of Haitian isolation, exoticism, and even violence. Migrants are described in terms of contradictory extremes in their personalities; they are intensely rooted but somehow worldly, eternally patient and gentle yet prone to bouts of murderous rage. “The Haitians from the mountains of Mayarí Arriba are of this human type that are and are not tied to one place. They belong to their land and at the same time surround themselves with an air of alienation, of bursts of absences and unknown seas.”22 Visitors couldn’t help but notice “the tolerance of Haitians, framed in their distinct language, but equally fragile like an onion skin.” At any moment, they could “throw themselves into brusque and violent anger.”23 There is a timelessness to Haitians as well, making them mystical beings who possess an origin story but not a history. In her estimation, it is a tale of monotony and isolation. “From many years ago, in narrow barracones, lived groups of single men so old that each one’s age had been forgotten, with life running between cooking concoctions, uttering litanies, of which an attentive listener could recognize one or another word caught on the fly, leaving at dawn with sacks on their shoulders, gathering coffee in silence and returning to the barracón, until the next day.”24 Ideas about Haitians’ exoticism are attributed to popular lore but repeated excessively. They are only partially disavowed by the narrator. Early in the story, she makes ambiguous statements about popular images of Haitians. “But if those are the legends, it is also true that I saw a Haitian show his knife to a man, and this, according to residents’ superstition, means that his days are numbered.”25 After the landowner and the immigrant disappeared into the coffee fields, the Haitian eventually returned with a clean knife. Residents found Serra’s corpse days later. He had apparently died from natural causes, “if one can call it a natural death spending the entire night trembling in a hole, knowing that at any moment the fury of a Haitian could fall upon you like a lightning bolt, waiting with your heart in your mouth for the vengeance of Mackandal that’s in store.”26 It was not Haitian magic that killed Serra. Rather, it was the landowner’s fears of it, coupled with the triumph of both the Haitian and Cuban revolutions. For Yáñez, the stereotypes may have been true at some point but no longer. Haitians’ supernatural powers were relegated to folklore and no longer necessary in day-to-day life. Rural wrongs would 22

Ibid., 13.

23

Ibid., 14.

24

Ibid., 13–14.

25

Ibid., 14.

26

Ibid., 20.

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now be righted by a demystified socialism that, within Marxist visions of history, signaled a “death of natural causes” for the old guard and the end of Haitians’ timeless, isolated, rural existence. The belief that the revolution effected the definitive integration of Haitians into Cuban society has remained.27 It has been one of the attempts of this book to illustrate that such integration was occurring decades before through the efforts of Haitians themselves.

haitian descendants since the special period In the 1990s, Cuban society transformed again during what is known as the “Special Period.” The 1991 fall of the Soviet Union signaled the disappearance of Cuba’s largest trading partner and supplier of aid. The Cuban government responded to the economic crisis by creating opportunities for foreign investment and reorienting the economy toward tourism. On the cultural front, the official emphasis on national folklore from the 1970s expanded, as did Cuba’s foreign relations with Haiti. In 1995, Cuba and Haiti resumed normal relations and more positive images of Haiti now abound.28 In the two decades since, the Cuban government has sent thousands of medical personnel on missions to Haiti and educated hundreds of Haitian doctors in Cuban schools. All of these shifts have created new opportunities and challenges for Haitian descendants. In terms of government interactions and official print culture, relations between Cuba and Haiti have been strong since 1995. Numerous books on Haitian history and culture have been available in Havana bookstores since the early 2000s from both Cuban and foreign publishers. The bicentennial of the Haitian Revolution was commemorated with a published collection of scholarly and literary works that included writings by Nicolás Guillén, Jacques Roumain, and Alejo Carpentier. Novels by Haitian literary figures were also available in some of the major bookstores of Havana. A Spanish-language version of Frankétienne’s Mûr à crever (Ready to Burst) was available in Havana in 2009 as was the lesser-known Ecos del Caribe by Micheline Dusseck, a Haitian writer who lives in Spain. Beginning in 2002, Cubans could also

27 28

Gómez-Navia, “Lo haitiano en lo cubano,” 38. Chris Celius, “Haiti: Martelly Sides with Cuba against Senseless U.S. Embargo,” Foreign Policy Association, November 20, 2011. http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/2011/11/20/haiti -martelly-sides-with-cuba-against-senseless-u-s-embargo/ Accessed August 26, 2014.

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read Gloria Ugás Bustamante’s celebratory book about her experiences on a medical mission to Haiti in the late 1990s; Gloria María León Rojas, another writer and medical volunteer, penned a similar text after the 2010 Haitian earthquake.29 The proliferation of Haiti-related texts in contemporary Cuba is a sign of a larger diplomatic cooperation between the countries. In 2011, one analyst considered Cuba “among Haiti’s strongest and most loyal allies in the region.”30 Such relationships have thrived despite the heavy role that US and UN policymakers play in Haiti. In 2011, there were almost 300 Haitians attending medical school in Cuba and another 400 graduates working in Haiti. That year, Haitian President Michel Martelly visited Cuba, where he met with both Fidel and Raul Castro.31 The Haitian head of state spoke out publicly against the United States’ embargo against Cuba.32 This official image of Haitians has created new opportunities for descendants in Cuba, though day-to-day realities illustrate the difficulties of the new tourist economy. Increased tourism stabilized the Cuban economy after the crisis of the Special Period. It has also brought a resurgence of inequality on the island as well as examples of anti-black racism against Afro-Cubans and descendants of immigrants – both Haitian and British West Indian.33 Haitian descendants have experienced both sides of post-Special Period society. In the city of Camagüey in April 2009, I met Nina (not her real name), a twenty-nine-year-old Haitian descendant. She lived near the Central Amancio Rodriguez in Las Tunas and was in the process of finishing her licencia in education, an achievement that would have been impossible before the revolution. I met her because she was accompanying an Italian tourist who was staying in the house where I was renting 29

30

31

32

33

García Moreno and Eduardo Vázquez, La Revolución de Haiti; Frankétienne, A punto de reventar: novela; Dusseck, Ecos del Caribe; Ugás Bustamante, Haití: Vivir entre leyendas; León Rojas, Haití en la memoria. Chris Celius, “Haiti: Martelly Sides with Cuba against Senseless U.S. Embargo,” Foreign Policy Association, November 20, 2011. http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/2011/11/20/haiti -martelly-sides-with-cuba-against-senseless-u-s-embargo/ Accessed August 26, 2014. “Haitian President Highlights Meetings with Fidel and Raúl,” Digital Granma International (English edition), November 18, 2011, http://www.granma.cu/ingles/cuba-i /18nov-presidente.html. Chris Celius, “Haiti: Martelly Sides with Cuba against Senseless U.S. Embargo,” Foreign Policy Association, Nov 20, 2011. http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/2011/11/20/haiti-martelly -sides-with-cuba-against-senseless-u-s-embargo/ Accessed August 26, 2014. De la Fuente, “Race and Income Inequality in Contemporary Cuba,” NACLA Report on the Americas, July 1, 2011; Queeley, Rescuing Our Roots, 112–14, 161–84.

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a room. They had met on one of his previous trips and spent every day together whenever he visited Cuba. Like other such relationships, this one probably entangled elements of both commodified sex and genuine affection.34 She is hardly alone. Her experience suggests that Haitian descendants may engage in the sex tourism that has exploded in postSoviet Cuba, especially among poorer, darker-skinned Cubans.35 Despite the real gains under socialism, poverty remains real for many Cuban blacks and even Haitian descendants. Roberto Zurbano, the Cuban scholar and activist who has become known for his criticisms of racial inequality in Cuba, has highlighted the particularly extreme poverty of the Haitian descendants who migrated to Havana and its outskirts after the revolution.36 Other Haitian descendants have managed to take advantage of the emerging tourist economy in more public ways. I met Vida Lina Carbonell Urgelles for the first time in Spring 2008. Her grandfather was José Fif, who was born in Haiti in 1910 and arrived in Guantánamo as a young man. The family’s history illustrates Haitians’ relationships with individuals of other nationalities since their arrival in Cuba. Vida Lina’s mother (Fif’s daughter) was born in Cuba and married an immigrant from China. Vida Lina herself would later marry a man of Spanish descent. In 1968, Vida Lina, her mother, and siblings joined the ranks of the thousands of East–West, rural–urban migrants who have moved to Cuba’s capital since the revolution; José Fif stayed in Guantánamo where he passed away in 1972. Now, Vida Lina resides in the frenetic neighborhood of Centro Habana. On one of my visits, a young family member sat in the house wearing the blue and grey uniform of a Cuban police officer; Lina’s daughter lives in Florida. Their stories could be those of any number of other Cubans. Lina differs in the fact that she inhabits a public position on the island as a Haitian descendant and plays an active role in the post-revolutionary process of promoting Haitian culture. This entails taking advantage of more recent shifts toward foreign tourism.37 She runs a folkloric dance troop called Pity Féy that performs Haitian Vodou dances to Cuban and foreign audiences, especially in the resort area of Varadero, Matanzas,

34 35 36 37

Personal notebook entry in author’s possession. April 6, 2009. Stout, “Feminists, Queers and Critics,” 722; Palmié, Wizards and Scientists, 276–8. Author’s conversation with Roberto Zurbano, May 17, 2015 in Regla, Havana. Viddal, “Vodou Chic: Haitian Religion and the Folkloric Imaginary”; Cunha, “Unmapping Knowledge,” 68.

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a place that experienced little Haitian migration in the early twentieth century but significant contemporary tourism. But her relationship to African-descended religion is not reducible to that of static folklore or tourist spectacle. Vida Lina’s public folkloric presentations have a counterpart in her private religious devotions. When I arrived for a visit on a late afternoon in May 2015, she had been up since the early morning conducting a Yoruba ceremony for the Saint’s day of Yemayá. Likewise, her Havana home contains two large altars and numerous smaller ritual objects. She practices Haitian Vodou as well as other rituals, which she glossed to me as “African.”38 Some of Vida Lina’s religious practices specifically honor her grandfather and his roots in rural Haiti.39 He resides in her house as a three foot statue she refers to as muerto (Figure E.1). Over the years, she has added elements to the figure that commemorate his life and narrate her own as well. Muerto has a riding whip she purchased in Mexico to invoke his experience as a mayoral. He is also adorned with a small Haitian flag, which she purchased on a recent trip to Miami to visit her daughter. Every March, she leads an overnight ceremony in his honor outside of Havana. For the most part, Vida Lina’s devotion to African religions, including Vodou, did not begin until well into her adulthood. She hadn’t been feeling well one day in 1997 when her deceased grandfather told her in a dream where to find a prenda – an iron bowl used to serve the spirits. She realized that she had been chosen from among her siblings to maintain the family’s devotion. Vida Lina traveled with two Cuban friends to the coffee farm where José Fif had lived. They approached the area at night; a firefly landed on the front of her shoulder and directed her to a place where trees were intertwined in a distinct way. She returned the next day with her companions, dug in the spot, and unearthed the prenda. Scholars of African religions in Cuba will note that the beginning of Vida Lina’s religious life coincided with the Special Period, a time of uncertainty but one in which spirituality expanded with popular enthusiasm and state sponsorship of folklore. Indeed, Vida Lina’s story of transporting the prenda from Guantánamo to Havana contained all of the elements of a Special Period narrative in which Cubans stretched their 38

39

I am sure this lumping was done for my sake and I wish I had asked her for more specifics. What she described to me looks similar to forms of Palo described by contemporary anthropologists. See Palmié, Wizards and Scientists, 164–71; Ochoa, “Prendas-NgangasEnquisos.” This is not uncommon among Haitians in contemporary Cuba. See Viddal, “Sueño de Haiti.”

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figure e.1 Statue of Muerto. The Haitian grandfather of Vida Lina Urgelles remains in the doorway of her Centro Habana home in the form of Muerto. Urgelles practices Haitian Vodou and Afro-Cuban religious rituals, including an annual ceremony to honor her grandfather. Source: Photograph by the author, published with the permission of Vida Lina Urgelles.

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creativity in the face of dwindling resources and state services. She waited in the Guantánamo bus station with the prenda for multiple days trying to return but buses were few and full. Eventually, a man confided to her that there would be a bus coming from Havana and dropping off passengers in the middle of the night. She was told to wait quietly in a particular spot and to keep the information to herself. Eventually, she and her companions rode the bus to Havana with the prenda in tow.40 On the other hand, her story is intensely personal and spiritual – belying any simplistic effort to link state expenditures with religious devotion. After setting up the prenda in her Havana home, Vida Lina began searching for a Haitian to teach her the secret to feeding it. She again made a pilgrimage throughout Oriente in search of a Haitian willing to pass on expertise. Eventually, she found a man who lived in the small town of Florida in Camagüey. He shared a number of the secrets that her grandfather, like many other practitioners, took to their grave. He assured her that she would learn the rest in dreams over time, which she did. The prenda now sits in the rear of her house; two walls made of straw from Guantánamo stand perpendicularly to the cement walls of the building to create a four-sided hut. It is intended to symbolize her grandfather’s origins in rural Haiti; its combination of straw and concrete, perhaps unconsciously, also illustrates her family’s more recent trek into urban Cuba. The structure has just enough space for an adult to enter and contains numerous objects either owned by or invoking the living memory of her grandfather.41 Most prominent is the iron bowl that she uses to feed him. Inside are also a trunk, machetes, knives, and a large wooden mortar and pestle for grinding coffee, all of which belonged to José Fif. She has also added doll heads, glass bottles, cups of water, and the tricolor French flag. None of the Varadero tourists see this very private offering to family and the spirits. But the house is frequented by non-Haitian friends and neighbors who socialize and worship there. She is also called upon to heal people, for which she refuses to accept money. In short, Vida Lina’s spiritual practices, interactions with non-Haitians, and willingness to draw upon different strands of African religious practice represent a century-long continuity of Haitians’ spiritual leadership in Cuba. Where Vida Lina used Haitian folklore and religion to participate in Cuba’s tourist economy and create community in downtown Havana, 40 41

Interview with Vida Lina Urgelles in her home – May 18, 2015. On a more recent visit on May 18, 2015, Vida Lina had moved the prenda into a closet in the house.

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others have used education and formal organizations to address the disconnection between the equality promised by full Cuban citizenship and the racism that continues to warp perceptions of Haitians. In some cases, these organizations have allowed Haitian descendants to play a role in Cuba’s diplomacy with Haiti. In March 2008, I spoke to Olivia Labady in Guantánamo about her family history and her role in the community of Haitian descendants.42 Saiil Labadie, her father, was born in Aux Cayes, Haiti, and worked in the Central Ermita in the Cuban town of Jurisdicción. Her mother was born in Cuba to Odelis and Marie Cheri, a couple who had migrated together from Port Salut, Haiti.43 The first and second generation Haitians married in Cuba and even managed to purchase land there before the revolution. Labady was quick to praise the advances of the Cuban revolution, though she was frank about the anti-Haitian racism that she witnessed in Guantánamo. She complained that Cubans used the term Haitian with derision to refer to someone’s poverty. A “badly dressed” person of African descent, she explained to me, may be told they “look like a Haitian.” Even a Cuban woman who depended on Labady’s mother to help feed her family once admonished a child for eating too quickly. “You’re not a Haitian.” Labady also complained of the common practice of referring to adults in the diminutive form of “Haitianito” or “Haitianita.”44 Although these insults focused specifically on Haitians, black Cubans and descendants of British West Indians have also faced a resurgence of racism since the Special Period.45 Labady decried the fact that Haitians’ contributions to major events in Cuban national history were not recognized by many Cubans and that Haitians denied their ancestry. She explained that Máximo Gómez, the Dominican general who played a crucial role in Cuban independence, was 42

43

44

45

Except where noted, the narrative that follows comes from my interview with Olivia Labady, March 19, 2008. As Labady explained to me, her father changed the spelling of his name while in Cuba from Labadie to Labady so that Spanish-speakers could read and pronounce it properly. Her mother changed her surname from the Cheri of her parents to Chery for similar reasons. A Cuban anthropologist who interviewed her in 2003 wrote her name as Olivia Lavadí Chery; another has published a brief reference to her as Olivia Labadí. But as this book makes clear elsewhere, such changes and inconsistencies were not uncommon for the Haitians who migrated to Cuba, especially those who traveled without identification. I too, witnessed this when a friend’s mother (who identifies as black) who knew about my project, pointed to a black man in a sugar cane field and jokingly suggested I go interview the “haitianito.” On the other hand, numerous Cubans shared stories of growing up on cane farms and cafetales and the positive interactions they had with Haitian families. De la Fuente, A Nation for All, chapter 8; Queeley, Rescuing Our Roots, 112–14.

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actually born in 1836, when the entire island of Hispaniola was unified politically under Haitian rule. In more recent history, she reminded me that Haitians died during the Cuban Revolution but continue to be seen negatively.46 For Labady, such racism, coupled with the poor Cuban–Haitian diplomatic relations in the Duvalier years, explain why some descendants have chosen to deny their Haitian origins. In the 1990s, Cuban and Haitian foreign relations thawed, providing new opportunities for promoting Haitian history and culture on the island. Labady began to organize an association for resident Haitians and descendants in Guantánamo that achieved formal recognition from the Cuban government in 1995. It had 500 active members in Guantánamo at the time of its founding. The organization put on cultural events, such as a celebration of the bicentennial of the Haitian Revolution in 2004. Members traveled within the island and interacted with other folkloric organizations that flourished in the period as well. Unfortunately, the association had disbanded by the time of my 2008 visit, though Labady was still known throughout the city as an advocate for Haitians.47 Labady began offering classes in Haitian Creole in 1996 and had secured a Creole dictionary from someone who had come from Haiti around that time. She was still offering them during my visit. On a Saturday afternoon, I joined a group of about ten Haitian descendants in an elementary school classroom in Guantánamo. Labady instructed us in creole words and phrases that she wrote on the board. Some portions of the lesson were tempered for a Cuban context. As she explained to the group, the creole word “pingga,” which is used to signify danger or caution, had to be changed to “pringga” in order to avoid being mistaken for the Cuban obscenity. Other sample translations bespoke the realities of day-to-day life for Cubans (especially black ones) who may be arbitrarily stopped on the street by police. “Ban m kat dantite w,” she wrote on the chalkboard. “Give me your identification card.”48 She interspersed the lesson with conversations about Cuban and Haitian history, making reference to “the machete left by Jean-Jacques 46

47

48

As mentioned above, this is confirmed in a few places in Che Guevara’s diaries though the extent of Haitian participation in the guerilla movement is unknown. Guevara, Pasajes de la guerra revolucionaria, 36, 137–8. In fact, our interview was briefly paused when the brother of an eighty-year-old man in the hospital came to ask for Labady for advice and help in dealing with the stress and difficulties of the experience. The class I attended met on March 15, 2008, personal notebook.

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Dessalines” and giving a mini-lecture on the early twentieth-century migratory movement. A mention of stereotypes about Haitian brujos elicited titters of laughter from the adult students. In the context of renewed Haitian and Cuban diplomatic relations, Labady’s ability to speak Haitian Creole had value beyond the cultural pride it engendered. It also aided official interactions between Haitians and Cubans that she and other descendants were shaping in their own ways. Haitian descendants, like British West Indian and Chinese Cubans, began to envision themselves more internationally as a result of the Special Period.49 Labady was called upon to act as an interpreter when Haitians who fled their home country were shipwrecked in Cuba. She and other Haitians have also aided the Cuban medical missions that have been active in Haiti during the past decades. Between 1998 and 2010, over 6000 Cuban medical personnel traveled there.50 At least some learned the rudiments of Creole from Labady before they ever left Cuba. In fact, the first wave of students in her Creole classes were doctors, nurses, and students who were heading to Haiti. Some of these medical personnel were Haitian descendants themselves. When the Cuban government, in conjunction with Venezuela, sent a Misión Milagro group to Haiti in 2006, two of the volunteers were Haitian descendants from the Guantánamo organization. This is not unique to Labady’s peers. Haitian descendants are praised in Cuban publications for returning to the land of their parents and grandparents as volunteers. In her 2002 memoirs of a Cuban medical mission to Haiti, Gloria Ugás Bustamante recounted the life story of Juan Teodoro Tipilí, a Haitian who cut cane in early twentieth-century Cuba. Tipilí’s situation changed dramatically in the years after the Cuban Revolution and his children benefited from the official promotions of education and public health. His daughter Isabel became a medical technician and a nurse. At the very moment that the cane cutter died in Cuba, his daughter, a medical professional, was in Haiti on a medical mission.51 The movement of people between Haiti and Cuba has increased the spread of news and information between the places. Although Olivia Labady had never traveled to Haiti at the time of our 2008 meeting, her connections with Cuban internationalists and Haitians gave her a rare familiarity with the neighboring country. In her house was a Creole-language 49 50 51

Queeley, Rescuing Our Roots, 129–32; López, Chinese Cubans, 237–44. Kirk and Kirk, “Cuban Medical Cooperation,” 167. Ugás Bustamente, Haití: Vivir entre leyendas, 84–5.

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copy of the Haitian constitution, a gift from a Haitian diplomat in the 1990s. Labady displayed a familiarity with Haitian political issues as well. She told me about the electoral violence that rocked Haiti during the 1990s and one protest in particular where a gasoline tanker was threatened with torches. She also discussed Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s efforts to demand reparations from the French government in repayment for the indemnity that was exacted from the Haitian government in the nineteenth century. In the first decades of the twentieth century, connections between Haiti and Cuba were dense and mutually transformative. But as this epilogue shows, this was but one significant moment of exchange within a longer history of mutual influence. As I have detailed in an earlier chapter, both the migratory movement and Cubans’ perceptions of migrants were shaped by the two countries’ previous century of exchanges. The same is true today. The legacies of a migratory movement that began about a century ago continue to influence the foreign relations of Haiti and Cuba, including flows of people. Images of Haitians in Cuba continue to draw upon assumptions that were common to the early twentieth-century Cuban press. It has been my goal to understand migrants’ experiences in order to challenge these assumptions and to illustrate the pitfalls of interpreting the histories of Cuba and Haiti in isolation.

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Index

abolition of slavery, 11, 31–2, 34, 38 Afro-Cubans, 8, 10, 19, 38, 126, 181, 185, 186, 206, 209, 210, 212, 213, 222, 223, 225, 227, 270, 271, 274, See also workers, relationships among. agriculture, Haiti, 65, 74, 75, 241, 242, 244–5, 256 Ainsi parla l’oncle, 239 Alexis, Jacques Stephen, 269 Alexis, Nord, 40 anarchists, 145 Anse-à-Veau, 71, 81 Antilla, 69, 96, 116, 161, 215, 220 Aquin, 71, 75, 79, 253 Aristide, Jean-Bertrand, 13, 282 Artibonite, 70, 76 Aux Cayes, 4, 62, 69, 70, 71, 73, 75, 77, 80, 81, 83, 84, 85, 87, 89, 92, 94, 97, 140, 171, 242, 245, 246, 247, 248, 254, 255, 257, 265, 279 Banes, 107, 111, 135, 146, 147, 217 barracones, 103, 109, 115, 129, 164, 191, 272 Batista, Fulgencio, 30, 173, 205, 236, 269 Bellegarde, Dantès, 209, 210, 231 Bervin, Antoine, 205, 206 Bizoton Affair, 185 Bobo, Rosalvo, 40, 207, 222, 223, 224, 225, 226, 229, 230, 234 Bolivar, Simón, 39 Borno, Louis, 172 Boyer, Jean-Pierre, 34, 36, 65

Bracero program, 16 Brau, Pablo de la Torriente, 124 Brazil, 157, 183 British Caribbean migrants, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12, 39, 44, 51, 103, 108, 110, 113, 117, 119, 124, 126, 129, 132, 134, 135, 146, 147, 151, 187, 212, 223, 236, See also workers, relationships among brujería, 180, 181, 185, 186, 190, 191, 194, 195, 196, 197, 198, 199, 200, 201, 202, 281, See also religion Cabrera Infante, Guillermo, 11 Caco rebellion, 63, 67, 68, 76, 239, 248 cacos, 66, 67, 84 Camagüey, 26, 94, 115, 123, 127, 129, 139, 143, 146, 150, 152, 164, 187, 189, 199, 201, 217, 229, 233, 274, 278 Canapé-vert (novel), 244, 256, 258, 260 Canary Islands, 49, 152 Cap-Haitien, 39, 69, 71, 171 CARICOM, 13 Carpentier, Alejo, 103, 104, 105, 107, 109, 149, 273 Casseus, Maurice, 248, 249, 250, 257, 258, 264 Castro, Fidel, 14, 208, 269, 270 Cayes. See Aux Cayes censorship, 29, 206, 229, 249 Céspedes, Carlos Manuel de, 38 Chaparra Sugar Company, 69, 107, 138 Cineas, Jean Batiste, 251 Clinton, Bill, 15

309

310

Index

clothing, as symbol of status, 127–8, 258–65, See also shoes. Code Rural, 65 coffee and Cuban nationalism, 19, 156, 158–60, 170 consumption in the United States, 157 production in Cuba, 4, 18, 37, 38, 154, 156, 157–8, 176, 178 production in Haiti, 29, 35, 66, 73, 79, 85, 157, 245 trade policies, 170–3 Communism, 139, 143, 144, 146, 147, 150, 151, 174, 240, 248, 249, 269 consuls, 12, 52, 58, 119–20, 141, 142, 205, 206, 212, 215–20, 233–4 corvée, 63, 65, 67, 81, 84 coumbite, 250, 252 courtiers, 220–1 Creole (language), 280 Cuban Revolution, 269, 270, 271, 280, 281 Cubans in Haiti, 41–2, 281 Curaçao, 40 customary rights, 63, 68, 80 Danticat, Edwidge, 23 decolonization, 237 Depestre, René, 269 deportations, 14, 30, 105, 121, 128, 138, 139–42, 151, 153, 156, 174–6, 177–8, 206, 229, 232–4, 235, 236, 247, 248, 265, 267 development projects, Haiti, 2, 8, 15, 28, 30, 240–2 Dominican Republic, 4, 14, 27, 36, 43, 89, 125, 127, 128, 145, 231, 237, 251 Dunham, Katherine, 243, 255 Dusseck, Micheline, 273 Duvalier, François, 269, 270

fights. See workers, relationships among Firmin, Antenor, 40 forced labor, 28, 82, 217 Frankétienne, 273 freedom, concept of, 16, 63, 64, 94, 100–1 gambling, 18, 128, 129, 136, 137 Garde d’Haiti. See Gendarmerie d’Haiti Garvey, Marcus, 146, 213 Gendarmerie d’Haiti, 67, 88 Gómez, José Miguel, 31, 51 Gómez, Máximo, 38, 279 Good Neighbor Policy, 29, 237 Gouverneurs de la rosée (novel), 250–1, 268 Guantánamo, 3, 31, 48, 50, 54, 69, 111, 114, 119, 128, 149, 154, 160, 165, 169, 171, 174, 175, 178, 188, 191, 195, 198, 199, 202, 206, 207, 215, 223, 232, 233, 234, 253, 270, 275, 276, 278, 279, 280, 281 Guevara, Ernesto “Che,”269 Guillén, Nicolás, 268, 269, 273 Gutiérrez Alea, Tomás, 270 Haitian American Sugar Company (HASCO), 29, 74, 75, 115 Haitian Revolution, 4, 8, 10, 11, 28, 31, 32, 34, 35, 37, 73, 156, 187, 230, 249, 269, 271, 273, 280 influence on Cuba, 37–8 refugees, 36 refugees in Cuba, 32, 37, 156, 163 Havana, 10, 49, 55, 56, 107, 110, 145, 147, 182, 185, 187, 189, 205, 210, 214, 215, 217, 222, 223, 230, 273, 275, 276, 278 Hawai’i, 16, 50, 52 Hinche, 74, 76, 82 Holguín, 62, 113, 143, 149 Hongolo Songo, 142 Hughes, Langston, 61, 62, 64, 91, 260, 262

Écue-Yamba-Ó, 103, 149 education, 28, 89, 227, 241, 242, 255 El Cobre, 142 elections in Cuba, 28, 92 in Haiti, 28, 239, 240 Estenoz, Evaristo, 10, 208, 211

imperialism. See United States indentured migration, 16, 51, 63, 64, 94, 100 independence wars, Cuba, 25, 38, 228 Indigénisme, 20, 238, 239, 244, 251 Ivonnet, Pedro, 10, 208, 211

Farmer, Paul, 14 Fifty Percent Law. See Nationalization of Labor (50%) Law

Jamaica, 10, 16, 43, 51, 57, 107, 113, 171, 175, 183, 208, 226 Jamaicans. See British Caribbean migrants

Index Jean-Claude, Martha, 269 Jérémie, 71, 84, 89, 255 Jobabo, 87, 123, 212, 215, 217 Jolibois, Joseph, 229, 231

311

temporary contract migration, indentured migration Mintz, Sidney, 65 Miragoâne, 46, 71, 79 Môle-Saint-Nicolas, 71

kidnapping scares, 9, 181 L’Ouverture, Toussaint, 65, 242 labor conditions in rural Haiti, 252, 256 on coffee farms, 155, 163, 166–8 on sugar plantations, 104, 111–19, 212–13, See also workers labor unions, 18, 51, 142–52, 223, 250 land, 13, 29, 63, 65, 67, 68, 73–5, 87, 147, 155, 162, 163, 170, 254, 255 Larose, Richard, 252 Laville, Lelio, 211, 220, 221 Le drame de la terre, 251 Lescot, Elie, 205, 220, 240, 241 literacy, 19, 148–50 Lomax, Alan, 253, 259 loup garou, 202, 203 Maceo, Antonio, 40 Machado, Gerardo, 30, 139, 151, 173, 236 Magloire, Paul, 213, 269 Maïssade, 74, 75 Manati sugar company, 143, 212, 217 Marceline, Pierre, 244, 258 Marines, United States, 28, 66, 80, 82, 222, 239, 243, 249 markets, 63, 77, 79, 90 Martelly, Michel, 274 Martí, José, 38, 40, 209, 210, 228 Martinique, 73, 169, 263 Mayarí, 141, 142, 271, 272 medical internationalism (Cuban), 273, 274, 281 Menocal, Mario, 226 migration bans and restrictions, 6, 44, 45, 96, 138, 172, 173 clandestine, 46, 49, 52, 53–4 debates, 5–9, 44, 53–4, 56, 170, 174 recruitment, 64, 93, 99, 108 regional patterns in Haiti, 68–73, 96–7 regulations, 6–7, 32–3, 44, 45, 54, 56–7, 58, 64, 67, 95–100, 220, See also

Nail, Thomas, 76, 81 National Geographic, 28 Nationalization of Labor (50%) Law, 139, 236 Nicaragua, 27, 237 Nipe Bay Company, 51, 56 Nissage Saget, Jean-Nicolas, 39 noiristes, 240 Obeah, 183 Oriente, 9, 10, 26, 37, 42, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 70, 106, 107, 123, 124, 127, 131, 136, 139, 141, 146, 150, 158, 163, 164, 166, 170, 173, 174, 177, 178, 209, 215, 216, 222, 223, 226, 229, 269, 270, 278 Ortiz, Fernando, 159, 185, 186, 187 País, Frank, 269 Palma Soriano, 127, 130, 132, 158, 161, 163, 164, 178 Panama, 27, 35, 49, 73, 263 Pan-American Conference (1825), 35 Pan-American Conference (1928), 230, 231 Partido Independiente de Color (PIC), 10, 11, 51, 143, 208, 209, 210, 211, 217, 222 passports, 3, 5, 6, 40, 41, 42, 51, 64, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99, 100, 101, 215, 220, 221 Pétion, Alexandre, 39 Petit Goâve, 70, 75 petty commerce, 127–8, 136–7, 244 Platt Amendment, 26, 27, 30, 139, 158, 173, 218, 225, 236, 237 political rebellion in Cuba, 26, 92, 123 in Haiti, 28, 63, 66, 68, 73, 224 Port Salut (Haiti), 31, 71, 73, 279 Port-à-Piment, 71, 171 Port-au-Prince, 29, 38, 39, 41, 43, 55, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 73, 74, 76, 80, 90, 92, 94, 208, 209, 210, 218, 227, 235, 243, 244, 246, 247, 248, 249, 253, 257, 259, 260, 261, 262, 267, 268 Port-de-Paix, 69, 70, 71, 90, 96, 99, 253, 256

312

Index

Price-Mars, Jean, 13, 239, 265 prisons and jails in Cuba, 3, 21, 54–5, 103, 149–50, 205, 217 in Haiti, 81, 83 prostitution, 18, 126, 130–1, 133, 135, 136, 137, 244, 258 Protestantism, 12 Puerto Padre, 69, 90, 96, 215 Puerto Rico, 16, 26, 36, 50 quarantine stations, 58, 62, 216, 218 race among workers, 19, 105, 120, 169–70, 249, 250 and Cuban nationalism, 8, 209, 212 and Haitian nationalism, 239 and inequality in contemporary Cuba, 274, 275, 280 and political mobilization in Cuba, 143, 225, 227 in Cuba, 206, 209 in Haiti, 20, 206, 225, 240, 243, 244 in labor management, 7, 9, 12, 18, 19, 104, 108–10, 113 in migration debates, 7–11, 44, 49, 51, 107, 210, 211, 224 racial stereotypes about Haiti, 28, 107, 110–11, 144, 211, 213–14, 268, 271, 273 religion beliefs, 182, 183–4, 200 communities, 18, 19, 182, 183, 187–92 denunciations of witchcraft or sorcery, 10, 12, 181, 182, 185–7, 195–200, 201–3 discrimination and stereotypes, 181, 184–5, 195 distinction from magic, 200–2 in contemporary Cuba, 278 repatriations. See deportations restavek system, 91–2 return migration, 138–9, 235, 237–8, 245–8, See also deportations Revista Bimestre Cubana, 186 Revolution of 1933 (Cuba), 30, 138, 139, 151 roads, Haiti, 28, 63, 67, 73, 83–4, 243 Roumain, Jacques, 250, 268, 270, 273 rural–urban migration, 90, 91, 257

Saint Domingue, 4, 31, 32, 34, 35, 37, 156, 262, 271 Saint Thomas, 40 Santería, 182, 183, 190 Santiago de Cuba, 37, 38, 40, 41, 43, 49, 54, 58, 61, 69, 73, 85, 94, 99, 119, 123, 127, 131, 140, 141, 142, 145, 147, 158, 178, 190, 207, 208, 211, 214, 226, 227, 233, 267 Scott, James C., 5, 44, 65 Séjourné, Georges, 74 shatter zone, 65, 66, 76 shoes, 260 shoes, importance of in Haiti, 90, 258–65, See also clothing. slavery, 8, 11, 31, 34, 36, 37, 38, 65, 101, 103, 108, 109, 147, 155, 159, 160, 179, 183, 184, 193, 211, 269 Société Haïtiano-Américaine de Développement Agricole (SHADA), 241 Soulouque, Faustin, 262 Soviet Union, 268, 273 Spain, 26, 34, 38, 49, 107, 209, 228, 273 Special Period, 268, 273, 274, 276, 279, 281 spéculateurs, 66, 80 strikes, 11, 51, 108, 135, 143, 145, 146, 152 sugar and sugar companies, 18, 105, 135, 146, 215 and migration, 5, 6, 13, 31, 32, 33, 44, 45, 49, 50, 51, 52, 56, 68, 93, 94, 97, 107, 156, 170, 172, 174, 214, 246 and transformation in Cuba, 29, 50, 103, 104, 105–7, 198 importance in Cuba, 4, 5, 19, 158, 159 production in Cuba, 26–7, 29, 37, 51, 80, 107, 108, 109, 156 production in Haiti, 29, 74, 115, 241, See also labor conditions Sylvain, Georges, 226, 227 taxes and taxation, 65, 66, 67, 79, 98, 99, 101, 172, 241 temporary contract migration, 2, 3, 16, 17, 31, 33, 51, 52, 59, 63, 64, 95, 96, 102 Thoby-Marcelin, Philipe, 244, 258 Thompson, E.P., 167 Timitoc Borrero, Dalia, 149, 164, 167, 168, 169, 178, 187, 188, 190, 201 tourism in contemporary Cuba, 274, 276 trafficking. See women Trujillo, Rafael, 237

Index Union de Obreros Antillanos, 145 Union Nationaliste, 74 Union Patriotique, 207, 222, 226, 227, 228, 229, 231, 234 United Fruit Company, 49, 57, 69, 70, 93, 99, 100, 101, 107, 110, 111, 116, 117, 124, 126, 135, 138, 146, 147, 149, 161, 219, 220, 245, 253 United Nations, 15 United States imperialism in the Caribbean, 2, 13, 25, 27, 43, 104, 157, 206, 237 military occupation of Haiti, 12, 13, 28, 36, 40, 62, 63, 64, 66, 67, 68, 73, 76, 83, 84, 86, 90, 101, 120, 144, 157, 185, 206, 207, 222, 225, 229, 239, 240, 248, 251, 260 military occupations of Cuba, 26, 28, 50 United Negro Improvement Association, 146 urban areas in Cuba, 207–8 in Haiti, 30, 63, 90, 91, 92, 243–4, 257–8 policies regulating, 90, 243, 244, 262 vagabonds and vagabondage, 81–3, 242 Venezuela, 113, 281 Victoria de las Tunas, 107, 129, 143, 217, 274 viejo (nickname for elite canecutter), 116, 121, 246, 252, 257, 258, 265 Viejo (novel), 248–50, 257–8 Vincent, Sténio, 30, 208, 231, 239, 240, 241, 242, 248

313

Virgin of Charity, 192–4 Vodou, 182, 183, 185, 190, 193, 200, 222, 232, 249, 255, 264, 275, 276 wages in Cuban coffee industry, 160, 165, 166 in Cuban sugar industry, 6, 79, 115–17, 118, 122 in Haiti, 254 Wilson, Woodrow, 28 women and deportation, 140–1 and migration, 20, 87, 91, 93, 99 in rural Haiti, 87, 251 in urban Haiti, 91, 258 on Cuban coffee farms, 149, 155, 163, 164 on Cuban sugar plantations, 94, 115, 126, 129, 130–3, 149, 212 trafficking of, 101, 131 workers leisure, 104, 120, 124–6, 129–30, 135–6, 255–6 mobility, 7, 122–4 relationships among, 9, 18, 104, 113–16, 124–6, 129–30, 132–5, 143, 165, 168–9, 250, See also labor conditions World War I, 27, 51, 59, 77, 79, 103, 116, 165, 220 Yáñez, Mirta, 271, 272 Zurbano, Roberto, 275