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DEPOSITED BY THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
THE AGRICULTURE OF CUBA
600 miles from the mainland of South America, while the western tip of Cuba is only 130 miles from the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico.
As one of our nearest foreign neighbors, Cuba is located in a strategic position for the defense of the United States. It lies squarely across the entrance to the entire Gulf of Mexico, whose waters wash the shores of five of the Southern States, and it lies across the northern approach to the Caribbean Sea and the Panama Canal.
Not only are good will and close cooperation between Cuba and the United States vital for defense, but Cuba is also the most important of all the Latin American countries from the standpoint of the volume of trade with the United States, particularly in agricultural products. During recent years, 1936-40, the total trade with Cuba averaged about 200 million dollars annually and constituted about one-fifth of the total United States trade with all the 20 Latin American countries. The extent to which Cuba depends upon the United States is indicated by the fact that more than three-fourths of Cuba's total exports during recent years have been to the United States and, in turn, Cuba has obtained more than two-thirds of its imports from this country.
From Cuba the United States imports principally those products that either are not produced at all in the United States or else are produced in insufficient quantities: Cane sugar, aromatic cigar tobacco, molasses, tropical fruits, winter vegetables, rum, coffee, henequen, sponges, and ores of maganese, copper, iron, and chromium. The total value of imports from Cuba varied from 105 to 148 million dollars annually during the 5 years 1936-40. United States exports to Cuba consisted principally of industrial products, but included about 22 million dollars' worth of agricultural products, such as rice, wheat flour, lard, pork, cotton, and vegetables, and about 5 million dollars' worth of forest products.
The United States has always had a close interest in Cuba's wellbeing, as was pointed out many years ago by the Secretary of State under President Monroe (2, p. 372)4 as follows:
Cuba, almost in sight of our shores, from a multitude of considerations has become an object of transcendent importance to the political and commercial interests of our Union. Its commanding position with reference to the Gulf of Mexico and the West Indies seas; the character of its population; its situation midway between our southern coast and the island of San Domingo; its safe and capacious harbor of Havana, fronting a long line of our shores destitute of the same advantage; the nature of its productions and of its wants, furnishing the supplies and needing the returns of a commerce immensely profitable and mutually beneficial, give it an importance in the sum of our national interest, with which that of no other foreign territory can be compared, and little inferior to that which binds the different members of this Union together.
President McKinley in his last words at Buffalo reiterated that other considerations were even more important than the commercial
The peace of Cuba is necessary to the peace of the United States; the health of Cuba is necessary to the health of the United States; the independence of Cuba is necessary to the safety of the United States.
Until 1899 Cuba was under the rule of Spain. Although the Cubans had made numerous attempts to obtain their independence, it was not accomplished until 1898, when the United States helped to attain that objective. After the end of the Cuban War of Independ
Italic numbers in parentheses refer to Literature Cited, p.143.
It was under British rule for 1 year, 1762-63, after which it was returned to Spain in exchange for Florida.
dence, the island was administered by a military governor appointed by the United States during the period of a little over 3 years beginning on January 1, 1899, while conditions were being stabilized and an autonomous government was being set up. On May 20, 1902, this had been completed and the Cuban Government began its existence along democratic lines, with an elected president and legislature.
Cuba is divided into six Provinces with the following area and estimated population as of June 30, 1938:
1 The Isle of Pines is included in the Province of La Habana.
When Columbus discovered Cuba on his first voyage on October 28, 1492, the island was inhabited by Indian tribes. These offered little resistance to the Spanish conquerors and were reduced to virtual slavery. By the end of the sixteenth century so few Indians remained in Cuba that a mestizo population (a mixture of Spanish and Indian blood), common in most other Latin American countries, never developed in Cuba.
For nearly four centuries, until 1899, Cuba remained under Spanish rule. Consequently, its people are predominantly Spanish in race and culture. As early as 1517, Spain authorized the importation of Negro slaves into Cuba from Africa, and it is estimated that during the following 250 years about 60,000 slaves arrived (12). Subsequently the importation of slaves increased to an estimated million before slavery was completely abolished in 1886. The census of 1817, as well as that of 1841, shows that the colored population exceeded the white population. The proportion of colored had declined to only about 24 percent by 1931, although the proportion of mulattoes had increased. The present population of Cuba is therefore Spanish, colored, and a mixture of these two. Some Cuban observers (12) estimate that about one-half of the total population may be classified as whites and about one-fourth as mulattoes.
Some laborers from Haiti and Jamaica have also come to Cuba, and early in the nineteenth century a number of Chinese laborers were imported under 8-year contracts, thus establishing a small Chinese section of the population. The latest official census, taken in 1931, shows the following composition of Cuba's population:
Cuban white and mulatto..
2, 278, 288
3, 962, 344
The population on January 1, 1940, according to official estimates, was 4,252,959. This is equal to an average of 96 persons per square mile, nearly double the number in the United States and more than in any continental American country except El Salvador, although fewer than in some of the other Caribbean Islands. Cuba's population has more than doubled since 1907. The capital city, Habana, with nearly three-quarters of a million inhabitants, has about one-sixth of the total population. (See fig. 2.) The following tabulation shows the population of the 12 Cuban cities having more than 60,000 inhabitants each: 728, 197 Sancti Spíritus
Santiago de Cuba -
99, 363 Ciego de Avila
The principal occupation is agriculture. According to the census of 1919, about one-third of the population was listed as gainfully employed. Of these, about 48 percent were farmers and farm laborers; about 20 percent were engaged in manufacturing and mechanical trades; 16 percent, in merchandising and transportation; 12 percent, in domestic and personal service; and 4 percent, in professional service. Subsequent estimates placed the proportion in agricultural and professional services considerably higher.
The income and standard of living of most of the people in Cuba are not comparable with those in the northern part of the United States. They approach more nearly those in our Southern States, and are well above those in many other Latin American countries and far above those in far eastern countries. Wage rates have been considerably improved as a result of the minimum-wage legislation. Minimum wages for field laborers and for those employed in sugar mills range from $1.30 to $1.50 per 8-hour day; for laborers in cities, from $1.50 to about $2.10; and for skilled laborers, from $2.50 to $5.6 The principal difficulty from the standpoint of the worker, however, is not so much the wage rates as the inability to find steady employment.
The well-being of the mass of poorer people, particularly those dependent upon the sugar industry, varies widely from month to month, depending on whether the sugar mills are operating. Most of this group do not have sufficient financial resources to permit them to accumulate reserve funds to carry them through the ensuing season of unemployment. Consequently, when the mills close, the standard of living is greatly reduced. The period during which sugar is being harvested and the mills operate is called the zafra. This usually begins in January and continues for 2 to 3 months, depending upon the amount of sugar to be made in other words, the size of the quota. During this period of employment, most of the wages are spent and an atmosphere of relative prosperity develops. Later during the dead season (tiempo muerto) many are without employment and, not having accumulated reserve funds, are without land or equipment to grow their own food. They live on a reduced diet, consuming less meat and milk and relying principally on rice, beans, and cheap native vegetables until the next zafra.
About_two-thirds of the Cuban population are in the low-income group. It is estimated (12) that this group spends about 60 percent
6 These wage rates include the 10- to 25-percent increase in minimum rates that became effective in November 1941.
of its income for food, whereas most people in Europe and North America spend only 30 to 45 percent of their total income for food, leaving 55 to 70 percent for the purchase of other things conducive to a higher standard of living. With a total population of 4.2 million, Cuba in 1939 had about 175,000 radios, 58,000 telephones, 17,135 private automobiles, and about 20,000 mechanical household refrigerators.
Because of the mild semitropical climate it is not necessary to expend as much for housing, warm clothing, or food as in countries with cooler climates (fig. 3). Furthermore, many staple articles of food can be grown easily and are readily available. This is particularly true of the starchy foods sufficient for subsistence, such as bananas, yuca, malangas, sweetpotatoes, yams, and many native fruits. Relatively
FIGURE 3.-Typical farmhouses with thatched roofs made of palm leaves.
few fresh or leafy vegetables, such as cabbage, spinach, and lettuce, are consumed, even though they may be grown easily.
One of Cuba's gravest and most urgent economic and social problems is to provide employment and a means of livelihood for workers in the sugar industry during the long period when the mills are not operating.
Cuba has been endowed with an excellent semitropical climate, much good soil for agriculture and forestry, and some valuable deposits of minerals, but has practically no coal or petroleum. The topography varies widely from low, marshy areas to mountainous districts. Most of the island may be generally described as rolling, with numerous wide valleys and plains.
The mountains are principally in three groups, located at each end and in the middle of the island. The largest group is the Sierra Maestra in the extreme eastern and southeastern part, principally along the southern coast. In this region is the Pico de Turquino, the highest point on the island, with an altitude of 7,872 feet. Other ranges, principally the Sierra de Los Órganos in the western end of the