How did Cuba's long-established sugar trade result in the
development of an agriculture that benefited consumers abroad at
the dire expense of Cubans at home? In this history of Cuba, Louis
A. Perez proposes a new Cuban counterpoint: rice, a staple central
to the island's cuisine, and sugar, which dominated an export
economy 150 years in the making. In the dynamic between the
two, dependency on food imports—a signal feature of the Cuban
economy—was set in place.
Cuban efforts to diversify the economy through expanded rice
production were met with keen resistance by U.S. rice producers,
who were as reliant on the Cuban market as sugar growers were on
the U.S. market. U.S. growers prepared to retaliate by cutting the
sugar quota in a struggle to control Cuban rice
markets. Perez's chronicle culminates in the 1950s, a period
of deepening revolutionary tensions on the island, as U.S. rice
producers and their allies in Congress clashed with Cuban producers
supported by the government of Fulgencio Batista. U.S. interests
prevailed—a success, Perez argues, that contributed to
undermining Batista's capacity to govern. Cuba's inability to
develop self-sufficiency in rice production persists long after the
triumph of the Cuban revolution. Cuba continues to import
rice, but, in the face of the U.S. embargo, mainly from Asia. U.S.
rice growers wait impatiently to recover the Cuban market.