A History of Organized Labor in Cuba

By Robert J. Alexander | Go to book overview

Preface

This is the first of a planned series of volumes on the history of organized labor in Latin America and the Caribbean. These deal with a subject that more than half a century ago first caused me to become interested in the societies, economics, and polities of the nations that make up the Western Hemisphere south of the United States.

My attention first focused on Latin American organized labor when I took a course in Latin American History from Professor Frank Tannenbaum at Columbia University in the late 1930s. I wrote a term paper for Professor Tannenbaum on the history of Argentine labor movement. When I completed this study, which totaled something more than 100 pages, I made the surprising (and not unpleasant) discovery that I was an “expert” on the subject—for the simple reason that it appeared that no one else in this country—except a real expert in the U.S. Department of Labor—knew anything about it.

I continued to look into the labor movements of Latin America by writing my M.A. thesis on the history of Chilean organized labor. Then, after an “extended vacation” from concentration on intellectual matters while spending three and a half years in the United States Army Air Force during World War II, I returned to the subject by writing my Ph.D. dissertation on labor relations in Chile. To collect material for that work, I made my first extended trip to Latin America in 1946–1947, spending half of that year in Chile, and first visiting Cuba on the way home.

Subsequently, during my early years as a member of the Economics faculty of Rutgers University, I had the good fortune of having an association with two people who greatly facilitated my

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