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Subjects or Citizens

British Caribbean Workers in Cuba, 1900–1960

Robert Whitney

Publication Year: 2013

Cuba is widely recognized as a major hub of the transatlantic Hispanic and African diasporas throughout the colonial period. Less well known is that during the first half of the twentieth century it was also the center of circum-Caribbean diasporas with over 200,000 immigrants arriving mainly from Jamaica and Haiti. The migration of British West Indians was a critical part of the economic and historical development of the island during the twentieth century as many of them went to work on sugar plantations. Using never-before-consulted oral histories and correspondence, Robert Whitney and Graciela Chailloux Laffita examine this British Caribbean diaspora and chronicle how the immigrants came to Cuba, the living and working conditions they experienced, and how they both contributed to and remained separate from Cuban culture, forging a unique identity that was not just proudly Cuban but also proudly Caribbean.

Published by: University Press of Florida


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p. 1-1

Subjects or Citizens

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pp. 2-3


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p. 4-4


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pp. v-5


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pp. v-7

List of Illustrations

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pp. vii-9

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pp. ix-x

In Cuba, several key people helped us gain access to archives, facilitated meetings, and provided advice about how to go about doing things. Aleida Best, Herbert Pérez Concepción, Maria Eugenia Espronceda, Reverend Ulises Agüero, Enrique Leyva Ode, Reynaldo Alexander Carter, Carlos...

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pp. 1-25

The idea for this book surfaced over coffee in Havana in 2001. Despite having known each other for years, we had never worked together. One evening, after discussing common interests and friends, we discovered that we were both thinking about researching British Caribbean immigration...

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1. Who Are the Cuban People?

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pp. 26-39

It might seem odd to begin a book about the British Caribbean diaspora in Cuba with this question, since virtually everyone agrees that most Cubans trace their ancestry to either Spain or Africa. We know that the indigenous inhabitants of Cuba were exterminated after the Spanish conquest....

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2. “It Would Be Better for Us to Have Been in Slavery”: The British Caribbean Diaspora, Empire, and Labor in Cuba and the Dominican Republic, 1920–1950

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pp. 40-77

This chapter is about why the undersecretary of state in the British Foreign Office considered the British Caribbean diaspora a problem for British prestige in the Caribbean. It is also about why British subjects like William Goter compared working conditions in Cuba to slavery. We will...

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3. “Are We British Subjects of His Britannic Majesty or Objects?”: British Subjects and the “Right to Have Rights,” 1920–1950

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pp. 78-115

R. A. Charles’s concluding question to Marcus Garvey, the great anticolonialist and pan-Africanist leader, was not simply rhetorical. For years British Caribbean immigrants in Cuba had complained to imperial authorities about the lack of attention they had received or, alternatively,...

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4. Cuba for Cubans: The Making of a Cuban Working Class, 1937–1950

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pp. 116-145

Up to this point, readers might have noticed that we have hardly mentioned Havana and the Cuban state. There are two reasons for this relative silence. First, our primary interest so far has been to bring to light the lives and working conditions of British Caribbean workers in Cuba. Since the...

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5. “From My House to My Lodge and Then to My Church”: British Caribbean Communities and Organizations in Cuba

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pp. 146-175

British Caribbean immigrants in Cuba between 1900 and 1960 were clearly living and working between the competing spaces of plantation, island, empire, and nation. And the realities of class, racial, and gender discrimination confronted people no matter where they resided or whether or...

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pp. 176-182

This book has been about how and why British Caribbean immigrants became—or did not become—Cuban between 1900 and 1960. The timing is important. As we stated in chapter 1, national identities are not fixed or ahistorical; they evolve and are shaped by historical circumstances....


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pp. 183-205


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pp. 207-226


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pp. 227-237

E-ISBN-13: 9780813048574
E-ISBN-10: 0813048575
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813049052

Page Count: 240
Illustrations: 3 maps, 3 tables
Publication Year: 2013