Sugar & Railroads: A Cuban History, 1837-1959

Sugar & Railroads: A Cuban History, 1837-1959

Sugar & Railroads: A Cuban History, 1837-1959

Sugar & Railroads: A Cuban History, 1837-1959


Though Cuba was among the first countries in the world to utilize rail transport, the history of its railroads has been little studied. This English translation of the prize-winning Caminos para el azucar traces the story of railroads in Cuba from their introduction in the nineteenth century through the 1959 Revolution.

More broadly, the book uses the development of the Cuban rail transport system to provide a fascinating perspective on Cuban history, particularly the story of its predominant agro-industry, sugar. While railroads facilitated the sugar industry's rapid growth after 1837, the authors argue, sugar interests determined where railroads would be built and who would benefit from them. Zanetti and Garcia explore the implications of this symbiotic relationship for the technological development of the railroads, the economic evolution of Cuba, and the lives of the railroad workers.

As this work shows, the economic benefits that accompanied the rise of railroads in Europe and the UnitedStates were not repeated in Cuba. Sugar and Railroads provides a poignant demonstration of the fact that technological progress alone is far from sufficient for development.


The Association of Caribbean Historians is delighted to welcome this English translation of the important work by Oscar Zanetti and Alejandro García, Caminos para el azúcar. This book was awarded the Elsa Goveia Book Prize by the Association in 1989, as the best work on Caribbean history published between 1986 and 1989. Up to now, however, it has been very hard to obtain outside Cuba; and language barriers made it even more inaccessible for those unable to read Spanish. This English version will, for the first time, allow scholars and general readers access to an original and significant contribution to Caribbean, and Cuban, history.

The Association is deeply grateful to the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for its generous grant, which supported the initial phase of the project to publish English translations of those Elsa Goveia Prize-winning books not originally published in that language. We are also very grateful to our long-standing and very active member, Professor Franklin W. Knight of the Johns Hopkins University, who initiated the project, and saw it through to the publication of the present edition, as well as contributing an introduction. The University of North Carolina Press deserves our thanks, too, for undertaking the publication of the translation.

The Association looks forward to more translations of Elsa Goveia Prizewinning books appearing in the future. In particular, an English translation of the 1992 (joint) winner, G. A. Baralt's La Buena Vista, has already been completed. This translation and publication project, in fact, can only further the aims of the Association of Caribbean Historians and help to break down the linguistic and other barriers between those of us who research and study the history of the Caribbean.

Bridget Brereton

President, Association of Caribbean Historians

April 1998 . . .

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