Friday, 21 September 2012

Sweetness & Power

by Sideny W. Mintz

All the time I was in Barrio Jauca, I felt as if we were on an island, floating in a sea of cane. My work there took me into the fields regularly, especially but not only during the harvest (zafra). At that time most of the work was still done by human effort alone, without machines; cutting “seed,” seeding, planting, cultivating, spreading fertilizer, ditching, irrigating, cutting, and loading cane— it had to be loaded and unloaded twice before being ground—were all manual tasks. I would sometimes stand by the line of cutters, who were working in intense heat and under great pressure, while the foreman stood (and the mayordomo rode) at their backs. If one had read about the history of Puerto Rico and of sugar, then the lowing of the animals, the shouts of the mayordomo, the grunting of the men as they swung their machetes, the sweat and dust and din easily conjured up an earlier island era. Only the sound of the whip was missing.