In his book, Rice in the Time of Sugar: The Political Economy of Food in Cuba (UNC Press, 2019), Louis A. Pérez, Jr. explores how Cuba’s dependency on the sugar economy also made the island’s population dependent on food imports like rice. Despite efforts to diversify agricultural production and produce rice domestically, U.S. rice producers consistently resisted Cuban efforts to rid them of a primary market for American rice throughout the twentieth century. Struggles over rice production and consumption, Pérez argues, were a previously ignored but important factor in explaining Batista’s inability to rule in the 1950s. The Cuban revolutionaries also promoted self-sufficiency but were unable to produce a critical food staple like rice. To this day, Cuba continues to import rice, but mostly from Asia, because of the U.S. embargo. Yet Pérez notes, however, that U.S. rice interests still stake out Cuba and wait to pour their products into the Cuban market.
Sharika Crawford is an associate professor of history at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis and the author of The Last Turtlemen of the Caribbean: Waterscapes of Labor, Conservation, and Boundary Making (University of North Carolina Press, 2020).