In Sweetness and Power Sidney Mintz noted that, during his field work in Puerto Rico in the late 1940s, he “saw sugar being consumed all around me.” In this article I argue that there was nothing inevitable about what Mintz saw Puerto Rican workers eating. I situate their food habits within the longer history of US colonialism and the immediate context of the New Deal and Second World War. In the 1930s and 1940s, people living in the US island territories became prodigious consumers of sweets as they ate their way through the trade surpluses brought by colonial inequality and wartime limitations. They ate sweets alongside locally produced subsistence crops. Rather than treating food producers and consumers as distinct groups, I suggest that we reconsider working-class food histories in order to foreground the questions of power, empire, and capitalism originally raised by Mintz.

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