This article explores the nature and meaning of sugarcane arson in Cuba during the first four decades of the twentieth century. In the scholarly literature as well as popular memory, the illegal burning of sugarcane has been seen as an important means by which marginalized groups, such as slaves, rebels, bandits, and striking workers, challenged the established order during times of political and social upheaval. Sugarcane arson, however, was not just a tactical measure utilized during extraordinary moments, but was intrinsic to the island's sugar economy. Despite varied efforts by government officials and plantation managers to prevent cane fires, a number of groups—including colonos (cane farmers) as well as cane cutters—regularly ignited sugar fields for their own purposes. Using sugarcane arson as an analytical lens thus provides a more nuanced picture of agrarian relations in prerevolutionary Cuba.

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