Louis A. Pérez Jr. is J. Carlyle Sitterson Professor of History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the author of numerous books, most recently,
Something to Fear
The chapter examines the transformations wrought by the expansion of sugar production in the first half of the nineteenth century. Few indeed were the professions and vocations not implicated in and dependent on the new wealth created by sugar. Most of all, sugar summoned into existence production modes dependent on the coerced labor of enslaved Africans on a scale unprecedented in the nineteenth century. By midcentury the demographics of sugar production had assumed a stark salience: the combination of free people of color and enslaved women and men had expanded to nearly 60 percent of the total population. The commitment to sugar production and dependency on enslaved labor acted to lock Cuba into Spanish colonial rule as a matter of stability and as a condition of security. The efficacy of Spanish colonialism, long after Spain was expelled from the mainland, was transacted within a paradigm of white privilege implicated in the defense of prevailing racial hierarchies—the essence of the status quo—the purpose to which nearly one hundred years of Spanish colonial rule was dedicated.