Sugar, Cigars, and Revolution
The Making of Cuban New York
More than one hundred years before the Cuban Revolution of 1959 sparked an exodus that created today’s prominent Cuban American presence, Cubans were settling in New York City in what became largest community of Latin Americans in the nineteenth-century Northeast. This bookbrings this community to vivid life, tracing its formation and how it was shaped by both the sugar trade and the long struggle for independence from Spain. New York City’s refineries bought vast quantities of raw sugar from Cuba, ultimately creating an important center of commerce for Cuban émigrés as the island tumbled into the tumultuous decades that would close out the century and define Cuban nationhood and identity.
New York became the primary destination for Cuban émigrés in search of an education, opportunity, wealth, to start a new life or forget an old one, to evade royal authority, plot a revolution, experience freedom, or to buy and sell goods. While many of their stories ended tragically, others were steeped in heroism and sacrifice, and still others in opportunism and mendacity. Lisandro Pérez beautifully weaves together all these stories, showing the rise of a vibrant and influential community.
Historically rich and engrossing, Sugar, Cigars, and Revolution immerses the reader in the riveting drama of Cuban New York. Lisandro Pérez analyzes the major forces that shaped the community, but also tells the stories of individuals and families that made up the fabric of a little-known immigrant world that represents the origins of New York City's dynamic Latino presence.
"Few people are aware that during the nineteenth century, Cubans constituted the major immigrant Hispanic community in New York. Lisandro Pérez, through exhaustive and well documented research, brings into focus the outstanding political, economic and cultural significance of this presence in the history of the city as well as in Cuban history."
—Oscar Zanetti, Universidad de La Habana
"In the 18th century a sugar trade sprang up between New York and Cuba, and with it a Cuban community grew in Gotham. Its evolution down to the 1898 war with Spain has heretofore been only lightly sketched. Now Lisandro Pérez’s splendid study offers a full blown portrait. His research drills down to bedrock, and his absorbing narrative, which focuses on individual actors as well as sweeping historical forces, is engagingly written."
—Mike Wallace is a Pulitzer prize winning historian of New York City
"A riveting history of exile and migration. More than a century before the rise of Miami, New York City was home to a vibrant transnational Cuban community. Its members lived in the city, using it to feed their business ventures, their intellectual and artistic pursuits, and their political visions, which were wide-ranging enough to include plots to annex the island to the United States and dreams of nationalist revolution. Lisandro Pérez provides a vivid glimpse into a relatively little-known Cuban and Latino New York in the nineteenth century."
—Ada Ferrer, author of Freedom's Mirror: Cuba and Haiti in the Age of Revolution
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