The Journal of Caribbean History: Volume 37, Issue 1

Article 4
“Dear President Machado”: Colono Nationalism During Cuba’s Turbulent 1920s and 1930s

Gillian Mcgillivray


Abstract

Cane farmers (colonos) won more benefits from Cuba’s 1933 revolution than any other sector of Cuban society. Using evidence from the Chaparra and Delicias sugar mills, this article defines who the colonos del central were, how they thought of themselves, and how they interacted with the company, the community and the nation. It argues that the colono triumphs of the 1930s resulted from campaigns begun in the 1920s. Colonos adopted nationalist language to portray themselves both as the downtrodden farmers of the nation and, collectively, the largest employers of labour, worthy of support so that they could guarantee the stability of Cuban society. The period between Gerardo Machado’s November 1924 election and May 1925 inauguration – which coincided with the sugar harvest months – proved to be a particularly good time for colonos and workers to make demands, because the incoming president wanted mass support, and sugar companies needed colonos and workers to run their mills.