Front Cover
 Title Page
 Developments in tobacco agricu...
 Women's labor in tobacco
 Gender issues in focus

Group Title: Conference on Gender Issues in Farming Systems Research and Extenion, University of Florida, February 26 to March 1, 1986
Title: Gender issues in contemporary Cuban tobacco farming
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00081719/00001
 Material Information
Title: Gender issues in contemporary Cuban tobacco farming
Series Title: Conference on Gender Issues in Farming Systems Research and Extenion, University of Florida, February 26 to March 1, 1986
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: Stubbs, Jean
Publisher: University of Florida
Publication Date: 1986
Subject: Caribbean   ( lcsh )
Spatial Coverage: North America -- Cuba -- Caribbean
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00081719
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.

Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front Cover
    Title Page
        Title Page
        Page 1
    Developments in tobacco agriculture
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
    Women's labor in tobacco
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
    Gender issues in focus
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
        Page 23
        Page 24
        Page 25
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 28
        Page 29
        Page 30
Full Text

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Conference on






Paper presented at the Conference on Gender Issues in Farming Systems

Research and Extension sponsored by the Women in Agriculture Program

at the University of Florida, Gainesville, USA

February 26 March 1, 1986

rE:S.. -U^ -. T -,, A,.JJ,, ?,, TG3 .- : :N" '.:1

By Jean Stubbs

In the market economy of Zuth-century r-_ -rvolutionary Cuba, -uch

traditional farming had been disrupted by -ar-e-scale foreign and local
capital investment in sugar plantation agrf:jlture, land-extensive cattle-

ranching.and, to a -esser degree, tobacco, coffee and other sectors. By
no means, however,-had this ushered in any uniform agricultural moderniza-

tion. On the contrary, it had often served t: strengthen archaic forms
of production. With sigrnTicant-variations from sector to sector, it had

as its corollary, alongside modern farming units with salaried laborers,
a particularly intensive form of sharecrop!ing. Subsistence agriculture

was kept to a minimum-and a semi-peasantr/se i-proletariat fared small
plots of land on an intricate-system of la-d tenure and rent in kind,

while also at certain times of the year hs;ingto sell its labor power.

This was particularly true of tobacco, as 19th and 20th century local

and foreign capital -- with some notable exceptions -- preferred to use

credit and buying mechanisms rather than buy up land. The drive to capital

accumulation was sought rather through re-:i-g and subrenting and other

complex systems of sharecropping usually askedd on handing over cne third,

one quarter or one fifth'of the crop. A visibly exploitative form of male
labor in male-headed-hodueholds bore with it a whole sub-area of intensi-

fied women's participation in subs4-stencc ;:-duction and family reproduc-
tion crucial to family survival, plus the seasonal harvesting, sorting,

selecting and stemming of tobacco.'

The inner workingsof this essential" s.:-capitalist system of produc-

tion and both the continuity and break with the post-1959 transition to
new farming systems, whether state-run, collectively organized or

individually farmed, under socialist-oriented agricultural development
policies, are what this paper seeks to explore. It focuses on the extent
to which farming policies and systems, especially the new cooperative

farms, have or have not tackled gender issues in two eminently tobacco-
growing areas: San Luis (Vuelta Abajo) in Pinar del Rfo province and
Cabaiguan (Vuelta Arriba) in Sancti Spiritus province. It attempts to
highlight sig-nificant differences in history, land structure and organiza-
tion, and type of tobacco grown, all of which has had a bearing on past
and present gender patterns. It also attempts to show how overall policy
nas been successful in opening up new avenues for women but has equally

thrown up new challenges which will demand future policy action if women
are to consolidate their gains.

Developments in tobacco agriculture

It has been pointed out that the exceptional speed of the transition to
socialist forms of post-revolutionary agrarian organization reflected in
large measure an earlier process of agricultural development characterized

by specialized commercial farming in which the production for export of
cash crops (especially sugarcane) was predominant. Cuba's highly differen-

tiated agrarian class structure with a numerically large wage-earning prole-
tariat distinguished the prerevolutionary agrarian system from most, if not
all, other agrarian societies subsequently to experience transitions to
socialist agriculture. Of the "economically active" in agriculture, forestry

and fishing in the 1953 census, less than 30 percent were classified as far-
mers and livestock breeders and, of the remainder, some 60 percent were

classified as agricultural wage workers. This has to be qualified in that

the census procedures yielded statistically simplified rural occupational
structures which exaggerated clear-cut class boxes. It was the case, even

in sugar, Cuba's most modernized crop, that a significant semi-proletarian-
ization combined wage and non-wage labor in agriculture with a diversity

of non-agricultural work and that this, along with intensive cheap labor
and little technology, were factors holding back the successful develop-

ment of the newly formed state farms.

In tobacco, the fluidity between non-wagedor peasant and predominantly
waged forms of agricultural organization was accentuated. Tables I and II

highlight the.1945 size of farms, value of production and land tenure system

in tobacco in comparison to sugar and cattle, both extensively rather than

intensively farmed like tobacco. Tables III and IV reflect the patterns
for tobacco broken down to the provincial and municipal levels under study.

Table V reflects the predominance of tobacco in those areas and Table VI
unpaid and seasonal labor on farms.

Severat.points become obvious when comparing San Luis and Cabaiguin.
From Table Ill it can be seen that in San Luis the size of farms was
clustered fairly evenly in the 1.0-4.9, 5.0-9.9 and 10.0-24.9 brackets,

whereas in Cabaiguin the balance titled toward the larger, more in tune

with.the provincial figures for both Pinar del Rfo and Las Villas.
Table IV shows that in San Luis by far the greater number of farms were
sharecropped and were the smallest. In Both San Luis and Cabaiguan, farms
managed were few but by far larger.

San Luis had the lucrative edge over Cabaiguin, however. Land yields

and the superior quality of export cigar wrapper tobacco grown there made

for double the value and income of farms, as :an be seen from Tables V
and VI. Table V also shows how cattle and su:-r were proportionately

more important in Cabaiguan. Table VI shows C-2e large proportion of

unpaid labor, especially in San Luis, where ::-=re was much greater crop


Catering specially to export and manufact --ng interests from the 19th

century on, each of the two areas produced strong tobacco interests.

.San Luis in particular had respected tobacco: growing families that made

up an influential agrarian bourgedisie working: fertile land on a patriarchal

system of local benefits.. Major farms, inc'l.ing the American Tobacco

subsidiary Cuban Land and Leaf and the Rodr-'-ez family El Corojo estate
operated through several farms in the area.-a-.most all with both share-
cropping families and wage laborers and ths'r own sorting sheds. Owners

and dealers operated exclusive.buying and selling rights on the crop and

were able to turn the National Tobacco Grovers' Association (founded 19421

.nto a powerful instrument of their own; e. counter organization was

the Sharecroppers and Tenant Farmers"Assoc'-i-an (1952), which attempted

to protect members against thbabuses of p-srzn dependent relationships.

The letting, subletting and sharftcrcppi'- f land is crucial to any

understanding of labor in the tobacco se:::-. It made gr:,-ers particularly

vulnerable all the way down the line-to lz-.::-ners, creditors, buyers and

the many middlemen and speculators. In Cai-'::;n many la-dow.;ners were
absentee or rmnaged far-removed parts cf :--r cattle e.:stes-and let cr
c t toco. 'esc--
shracrp5d cut the tobacco. -_San LL';-- "-'do.ersc-ra:teristically

:-s :f tir tth:: Cc 1- a-: -ahr2: : t the rest.

credit and pay chits. In this way, owners and managers bore little of

the risks of what was a highly delicate and seasonal plant. In San Luis,
where little else was grown, tobacco families were particularly sbscep-

tible to market changes. Wage laborers, even at peak harvest times, faced
migrant labor coming in from surrounding areas, undercutting already low

casual wage rates. In Cabaiguin, there were somewhat greater possibilities
in other agricultural and non-agricultural work but the area as a whole
was less prosperous.

The fluidity of the labor pattern emerged over and over again in life
histories of tobacco farmers in the two areas, and this was carried over
fn the post-revolutionary period. If land reform and the transition to

socialist agriculture in sugar had its complexities, In.tobacco it

had. even more.

A 1st Agrarian Reform Law of May 1959, substantially implemented by
summer 1960, set a ceiling on the size of private farms of approximately

400 hectares. Generally speaking, large plantation administration land
over and above this was taken over by the state while land that had been

parcelled out under the various farming systems was turned over to tenant
and subtenant farmers and sharecroppers. As private farmers in their own

right, they were grouped together under the National Association of Small
Farmers (ANAP) in May 1961. An accelerated rundown of production, property,

capital and services -- as well as overt hostility to what was an already
defined socialist process -- on the part of the middle agrarian bourgeoisie

largely motivated the 2nd Agrarian Reform Law of 1963, according to which a
ceiling of 67 hectares was left in private hands.

Roughly speaking, the first law affected some 70% of agricultural
land, of which 40% became state controlled and some 30% was placed in

the hands of a small peasantry, leaving a further 30% in the hands'of a
middle peasantry. This last was to all intents and purposes eliminated

under the 2nd Agrarian Reform Law. In the late '60s, the sale or rental
of private land to the state made the proportion of state to private

sector roughly 80% to 20% of agricultural land area, figures which still
hold true today. Eigures quoted for those working in agriculture at tha

time.were in the region of 400 000 laborers on state farms and some
250 000 ANAP members; today the figures are 7-00 000 and 180 000.

In practice, just as before the revolution, neither category of state

farm worker nor small farmer was as neat as may have appeared. Through
ANAP, individual small farmers were involved in mutual aid associations

and credit and service cooperativeslCCSs), which made a significant difference
in their relation to the traditional mode of peasant production. Conversely,

state farm workers often had small plots of their own syphoned off.

The vast proportion of state land was in the sugar sector, which had
overwhelmingly been a plantation economy. In other branches of agriculture,

where this had been less so, the proportion was markedly less. It has been at

its lowest in.tobacco, almost the inverse of national figures, with 25?
state and 80% private lahd; the prerevolutionary agrarian structure in
tobacco was the reason for that. Table.VII 'shows how predominant the non-
State sector has been'up,to the present day.

Again, there were variations in the two areas under study. In San Luis,

a substantial part of quality leaf production fell into state hands when
Cuban Land and Leaf and El Corojo lands went to make up the new Santiago

Rodriguez state tobacco farm. Also, the Patricio Lumumba experimental

tobacco farm was set up on what was previously scrub land but with good
soils and nearby water. In Cabaiguin, the tobacco that fell into state
hands was much more dispersed and often by default rather than because
it had been farmed by any large-scale enterprise before. Although various

state organizations grew tobacco over the years, it was never very suc-
cesfully and in 1983 was left entirely to the private sector.Table VIII
shows the 1984 distribution between private and state sectors in the two

areas in question.

Prime beneficiaries of land redistribution in the private sector,

tobacco growers were the ones to pioneer peasant societies and credit and

service cooperatives in the early years, contributing largely to the 346
agricultural societies and 587 credit and service cooperatives in 1963,
grouping together farmers for the collective use of curing sheds, irriga-

tion and machinery, credit and supplies. The overall number of societies

tad dropped to'136 by 1967, to 41 by 1971, although the number of credit
and service cooperatives in general ,had grown to 1119 in.all.

The drop in the number of societies has to be seen in the context of an

initial flight from sugar and tobacco, for the market dependency they had
signified in the past. This trend was reversed in 1963 in sugar, which was

redefined as a necessary foreign-exchange earner for future economic invest-
ment and diversification. The resulting prioritization of sugar and its state

farm model affected policy and other facilities in other areas of production
and the larger private sectors within them. The all-out effort for a

record 1970 sugar harvest particularly highlighted this: the 1969-70
tobacco harvest, for example, was but 44%.of the 1965-66 harvest and in

itself.pointed to the need for a reevaluaticn cf a-ricult-ral policy and
small farming.

Both the 1971 and 1977 ANAP Congresses were i-strumental in this res-

pect. The 1971 Congress initiated a period of greater state attention to
other branches of agriculture. The years 1971-.5 ~~re defined-as- a period

of "tobacco recuperation'r, as both private an: state sectors brought
tobacco back up' to previous levels. In these nr. subsequent years,rcch atten-

-ion has been paid to cropcosiing and'pricing aed tobacco agrotechnology.

An initial price reform acted as-:a major ircetus when private small
farmers had found it more remunerative to harvest staple produce often:;
in short:supply for local consumption, market-:g both to the state and a
highly lucrative black market. Farm research stations- (San Luis and Cabai-
guin each have one in their area) and technological institutes specializ-

ing in tobacco have placed an emphasis on new, improved Cuban strains of
tobacco, soil improvement, irrigation, fertilizer and pesticides, new
methods of curing and technification where p:-sible. T-hre are cn;cing

cooperation projects with C-ad-dT Mexico and 3-ugaria, for example, though
none grows such specialized cigar tobacco as Cuba, and this has proved a

-:ajor drawback to the introduction of modern te-hnology beyond tractors ahd
the like.

The application of technical kaawhov- has :-Een fazi:. stated in t'e private

sector by generally improved educational st-::--ds rural areasts. ay
P; A;,AP mcinbers have a Sth-grade eda:.c z -' hyt: -it;y

,cL iv. ist ove unt. Til:: lattc r i .' t .. : ; ..:..- :;- ... .

such as the 51use told which dcit : "-:: ".- .

since been kept under control, such that the volume and quality of leaf

in recent years have been excellent.

To offset such natural occurrences'.as flooding and drought, whose
costs had been effectively absorbed by the state on cancelling farmers'

debts on loans, crop insurance has been introduced. And, since the 1977
ANAP Congress came out for-a pronounced pooling of private land and

resources in agricultural production cooperatives (CPAs), these have
received a strong state boost. In effect a more organized variant of the
earlier moves to pool private holdings in collective production units

owned and managed by the farmers forming their membership, there are
today over 200 tobacco CPAs, accounting for some 50% of private tobacco
land. With yields that have in some cases doubled and tripled, theirs is

an impressive record in comparison with both individual private and
state sectors, but one that has not been without its problems. Of a total
of 138 tobacco CPAs whose 1985 financial standing has been analyzed to

date, 51 -- the majority of which were in Pinar del Rfo -- reported net
losses. The reasons, as we shall see, are manifold, and apply to .similarly

non-profitable state farms; but one core problem, of essential interest
here, is labor.

Women's labor in tobacco

The otherwise very complete 1946 Agricultural Census has no breakdown
for women and is symptomatic of Cuban statistics as a whole when it comes
to extracting information on women's work. From the 1953 Population Census
a figure of less than 2% of those working in agriculture were quoted a

women, the vast majority as wage labor rather than unwaged family labor.


Figures such as these have been taken to poinc to the low involvement

of Cuban women in prerevolutionary agriculture and explained in terms
of the market economy of 20th century prerevolutionary Cuba, in which

much traditional farming had been disrupted by large-scale foreign.and

local capital investment in sugarcane plantation agriculture, land-

extensive cattle-ranching and, to a lesser degree, tobacco and other

crops, creating that large class of landless laborers, generating a sur-

plus of rural labor and keeping subsistence agriculture and the work of

women to a minimum. Just as it is more accurate to look at a semi-

peasantry/semi-proletariat, so it is important to probe that whole area

of intensified women's participation in the area of subsistence production
and family survival, plus the seasonal harvesting and sorting. It can

be deduced, for example, that a sizable part of the temporary paid and
permanentt unpaid labor in tobacco in Table VI would have been women)
and that a great deal more women would not.have been'included in census


While mitigated, it is clear that this whole subarea of women's work
not only continued after the Revolution but continued not to be recog-

nized, least of all in official statistics. Hence, over the intercensal

period of 1970-81, unpaid family labor supposedly dropped from 3.9%.to

0.2% of the total EAP, from 1.2% to 0.0% for women. By the 1980s, less
than 10% of the agricultural EAP were women. Agriculture was eminently

male run, with a high seasonal and casual female labor component,

Factors such as increasing technification and mechanization on the

state farms often meant a changing demand for labor, geared to new skills

that were not always easy for women to acquire; an initial separation

of agricultural work away from the domestic unit posed the classical


separation between "work" and the home; and improved rural living stan-

dards.as a result of overall development policy often meat less:economic
pressure on women to supplement family income and alternate avenues of

work opening up. This produced three observable trends for women: 1) to
seek work other than in agriculture, 2) to work on a casual, paid or un-

paid basis in agriculture and 3) to shake off field work and run the home.

In tobacco all three were highly evident.

From research conducted in San Luis and Cabaiguin, it was clear that
women had been central to what was mainly small-scale tobacco production.
Historically, the domestic division of labor had been fairly complete

in that men saw to agricultural production in the wider sense while
rarely taking on any major aspect of servicing the family and household,

whether in the form of washing, cooking, cleaning, caring for the-children

fetching and carrying water, picking tubers, grinding corn or feeding

the chickens and pigs for family consumption.

If this had not been considered work by the census enumerators, it

certainly had by peasant families, both men and women alike. The wider

societal myth of women in the home was very much qualified by the recog-
nition that woman's work was crucial, although within socially defined

categories of what that work was. The more her unpaid labor could be
squeezed, the greater the surplus that could be extracted of sharecropping

families and male wage labor, thereby abandoning any notion of a 'livable'
family wage. The same applied to child labor, which helps explain why

large families were prevalent

The general pattern was that girls and boys started their working
lives from aged seven on, the boys in the fields with their fathers and

the girls around the house with their mothers. At the height of the-har-

vest, when extra labor was essential, girls' and women's work also invol-

ved cooking for the field hands. The poorer the peasant family, the greater

the need to fall back on family labor, in which case women and girls

would also be out in the fields planting, weeding, pruning and harvesting
the tobacco.

The kind of tobacco determined to a large extent the kind and amount of

work the women did. The cigar wrapper of San Luis, for example, has tradiu

tionally been harvested by leaf in baskets and the leaves then threaded

together to be strung on poles to dry. This came to be seen almost exclu-

sively as women's work: the latter in particular was in the shade, with

needle and thread. The dark filler tobacco of Cabaiguan was stickier from

the black resin and tougher. It was traditionally harvested by knife in

stalks of four leaves at a time and hung over the outstretched arm until
full, then to be transferred to poles. Heavy work, this, along with

field labor in general, came to be traditionally considered unsuitable for
women. Neither did this tobacco need to be threaded, as it was hung straight

on poles. in the barns.

There were also variations in the seasonal sorting of tobacco in the
initial months after harvesting, in which both municipalities provided tem-

porary employment for thousands of women. The better quality wrapper tobacco
of San Luis demanded greater classification into grades and therefore more

skilled and better paid personnel, employing oa average 100-300 in each
sorting shed in peak periods. The more select the farm, the more select

this, the almost only rural form of paid labor for women. But there were

many sorting sheds where the economic necessity of tobacco families was
such that women and girls from ten up would accept pittance rates for long

hours .at this kind of work. In Cabaiguin, conditions and pay in the sor-

ting sheds.were on the whole worse and, given the lesser intensity of

growing and the concentration of larger sorting sheds of up to 1000 in
towns, often involved covering extensive distances before actually begin-

ning Sfft.

With the agrarian reform and rural development policies, the land peas-
ant families worked was their own, the family wage was effectively upped,

children were in school, and, despite, explicit government policies to'

the contrary, that old societal definition of women servicing the home and

family was to a certain extent reinforced, especially with a falling back

uf tobacco in the '60s and dwindling numbers both in the fields and the

stieds. The "tobacco recuperation" of the '70s, the FMC-ANAP volunteer

brigades and regularized payroll work for women in harvesting and sorting
through the state enterprise CUBATABACO have since helped redress this

trend, as have the cooperatives.

The cooperatives marked a definite policy departure as far as women
were concerned. Under the initial agrarian reform of 1959, there had been

female heads of household accorded land titles but they proved to be the

exception rather than the rule and often on paper rather than in practice

in that a man would take on farm production responsibilities. Over the
longer term, the Revolution's wider agricultural development policy

opened up new horizons for farm-women, also specially catered to by a 15

combined effort on the part of ANAP"and the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC).

With the new cooperatives, however, for the first time in Cuban agrarian

history, a specific agricultural policy prescription for women was spelt

out, to the effect that they were to be encouraged to join cooperatives
in their own right and have identical statutory rights to any other coopera-

tive farmer.

The result in less than a decade has been quite startling. On the
initial flush of forming the cooperatives, over a third of cooperative

farmers by 1979 were women. In 1983, a peak year for the cooper-:ive move-
ment, the figure had dropped to 27%, although in absolute terms the num-

ber of women had more than quadrupled. Today, both absolute and relative
figures have dropped, leaving a figure of 25% of women cooperative mem-

bers, 12% of women on cooperative executive committees. Even so, while
moderate in scale, this sudden visibility of women had fast outstripped
.te state agricultural sector in statistical terms, in that women still

only accounted for 14.4% of that sector's work force, 6% of executive posts.

Tobacco areas were among those to show the higher percentages of women
coop farmers. The CPAs have brought with them a marked increase in the

visibility of women in comparison with the rest of the private sector.
In the San Luis and Cabaiguan areas, all tobacco farmers are now in CPAs

cr CCSs, and the 24% of women in CPAs compares with 1.6% in the CCSs in
the former, 38% with 25% in the latter. For the state farms in San Luis,

the figure is 16%, still lower than the CPAs. In all three, the figures
exclude the considerable seasonal labor of women, which at the height of

the harvest .can run into hundreds. For this, women are contracted from
CUBATABACO and mobilized among the local non-working women and from :other

sectors of production.

Despite overall policy prescriptions, criteria as regards membership
differed enormously from cooperative to cooperative in tobacco.On one of

the older cooperatives in Cabaiguan, it was found that both men and

women had automatically been made members on pooling their land and

membership numbers were fairly equal for the sexes. In Pinar del Rio

this was notably not the case, as-no women were quoted as land contribu-

tors. In Cabaiguin, recent figures had even been inflated for women for

retirement purposes. Among the women who had not been considered land

contributors, strict criteria of stability in agriculture often went

against them. In all cooperatives, there are both active and non-active

members of both sexes. Among the men, the non-active are usually retired.

amongg the women, there were found anomalous cases of "landed" women mem-

bers who neither worked in the fields nor were active in cooperative

business and women who worked substantially in agricultural production

but were not landed and whose membership had not been recognized.

The lower percentage of women members in San Luis is to be explained
largely In terms of its more urbanized nature, providing varying other

job possibilities both in tobacco and in general. One recently formed

cooperative found that there were simply no women who could join, except

the new young graduate accountant from the area. Wives of cooperative

farmers were already on the CUBATABACO payroll as paid workers and would

be hired back out to the cooperative during the harvest time. Other wives

were older or with young children and would only work during peak harvest

periods. Grown daughters were often working for the state sector in educa-

tion, health and'the like, at least until marriage and small children in-

terrupted work. Even then, San Luis differed from Cabaiguin in having day-

care facilities more accessible.

Women's work on the cooperative varied considerably. In the dark

filler tobacco area of Cabaiguin, where women had traditionally been less
involved in tobacco as such, women might be organized into support-brigades..

in non-tobacco activities: root and other vegetables, etc., for local
consumption and sale to the state, although this was by no means obliga-

tory and some women took a pride in working the tobacco. In San Luis,

other crop production was less, women had traditionally worked more in

tobacco, and this division of field labor was not marked. Interestingly,

when Cabaiguan cooperatives last year experimented with Burley tobacco,
the women were particularly pleased to be able to work picking and thread-

ing the leaves. One cooperative had even organized taking the tobacco to
the women in their homes to be threaded on their front porches. Women

who had retired from the fields or had other family commitments were all

zble to help out and earn themselves some money. ..

So far, there is little concept of household servicing being as much

part of the collective accumulation of wealth, except in semi-conscious

fashion over issues such as eating facilities. Few cooperatives organized

collective lunch for members, only for outside seasonal workers. Women

cooking lunch for those hands had that recognized as paid labor; those
cooking for family members did not. One male accountant ventured to say

that collective lunch facilities were "costly" to the cooperative,

while at the same time lamenting that women's responsibilities in the home

worked against their stability in field labor. On that cooperative, 50%
almost of total membership was reported as women. Of that 50% only 19%

actually worked in the fields, and of that 19%, only 38% worked at all

regularly, that is, 7% of the total reported female membership. Correspon-

dingly, women worked only 11% the total number of days worked in the year

and took a corresponding 11% of annual profits.


Women don't like the fields, was the general comment in the context
of what was clearly hard agricultural work under the hot sun; and in the

Caba.iguan area one option for the women was to take in sewing for a

nearby garment factory, which could be done at home. One important way

younger women are coming back to work on the cooperatives is in techni-

cal capacity, as the accoantaht.or agronomist, a trend which is notide-

able "overall in tobacco areas, where almost a third of agronomists

and technicians are women. Hope for the future would seem to be pinned

very much on technification.

Gender issues in focus

Special technical and advisory services from the state to the tobacco

sector, both state and private, plus the recent land.concentration in
the form of cooperatives, with a centralization of resources and produc-

tion,has reaped bumper harvests in recent years. Similarly, tobacco areas

have reaped the benefits of a state investment program in social as much

as economic spheres, with a considerable injection of self-help. However,
in the two areas under consideration, not a single state farm had been

profitable and now cooperatives, especially in Pinar del Rfo are:

showing negative annual returns. Highly labor intensive and with little

possibilities as yet for mechanization, there are evident problems of

economies of scale and economic efficiency. Only to a certain extent has

it been'possible to concentrate land in the more crop intensive areas of

Pinar del Rfo where there is a veritable mosaic of state, cooperative

and individual private farms, all with land interspersed. There, the ex-

change of plots between state and cooperative farms is now an imperative.

A traditionally small farm product with a high unpaid labor component,
tobacco is currently undergoing the transition from a household to coopera-

tive farm. unit in which all crop labor, as in the state farms, is econo-
mically computed and remunerated under a socialist rather than a capita-

list system, whereby there are applied minimum guarantees and wages for
workers. This has significantly raised labor costs and affected end-of-

year profits, a trend also observed in state enterprises.

Interestingly, bank statistics show a lower positive end-of-year balance
on credits for the cooperative farmer than for the individual small farmer

(140 pesos against 1 510, some 9%, for the 1983-84 harvest). The only approx-
imate indicator available that can serve as a point of comparison, this

bank statistic is in itself highly problematical, concealing as it does the

real distribution of income in both types of economy: In the individual

small farm; all income is registered under the farm owner or representative,

not taking into account the work of family members and others in the produc-

tion process. In the case of the cooperative, the farmer's income is that
which is received for work put in individually, with advance daily pay,

social security and other facilities, including in the case of women paid

maternity leave, as well as sickness and similar benefits; and there may
be two or more cooperative farmers in a single family.

Other factors also have a bearing, such as the inevitable outlay

in any new investment, inefficiencies in organizing and running a new kind
of production unit that requires technification and new skills, and where

there can be the temptation to accept over-ambitious production targets,

especially as the cooperative grows and the average number of cooperative

farmers drops, as has been the trend over the last few years. It is to

be noted that, in the case of sugar, which is much less a small farm prod-
uct, has a much lower female labor input, and admits mechanization and
economies of scale, the figure for cooperative and individual farmer is

much more on a par (734 pesos against 886, some 83%, for 1983-84).

To pursue our point further, it is important to note how today Cabaigugn

cooperatives are more profitable than Pinar del Rio cooperatives. Table xt

shows average land size, membership and profit margins for tobacco
areas. In Sancti.Spfritus, coops are less dependent on tobacco and the

profitability edge comes from the more extensively farmed and more mecha-

nized cattle and sugar, whereas Pinar del Rio relies much more exclusively
on. highly labor intensive and specialized tobacco.

One Pinar del R{o state farm manager quoted major outlays as 1) labor
costs, 2) fertilizer and pesticide and 3) cheesecloth (the farm grew

shade tobacco), in that order. The labor costs often involved bringing in

labor from other areas, having to pay transport, accommodation and food

costs, in addition to guaranteeing higher salaries in other walks of life.

Attempts have been made to select maximum productivity workers and to

organize smaller manageable plots on a piece-rate basis, yet it is still
argued that crop prices need to be revised again if growing is to be

profitable on such a scale, especially when the exporting and manufacturing

side to tobacco are making a profit.

Crop pricing is again under state review and, in the case of the coopera-

tive sector, where major initial debts have been incurred, those debts are

also being subject to state reconsideration. One possibility is a straight

cancellation of the debt if further strides are to be made.

.It.may be argued that this is essential at :nis point in ti.-e for th:.

suocesspf the cooperatives, which are conceived not only as an economic
but also a social form of organization. They are seen as another step
forward in the humanization of work in rural C.ba, which comes of a more

rational and equitable social system as much as straight technical advance.
Cooperatives have to prove themselves from both a productive and social
point of view and, while some of the older (male) farmers might show a

little disheartened in the process and even casist (and again Pinar del

Rfo is proving to have the highest desertion rate -- 6% of membership

as against only 1% in Sancti Spfritus and a national average of 3% ),

women and younger generations in particular want to hold onto the wider

benefits and not turn the clock back. The crucial problem of retention in

agriculture so necessary to the country depends now on the level of attrac-

tion in rural areas and that in turn involves a challenge to many tradi-
tional areas of life.

With strong policies and support for women at this juncture, -it can be

argued that cooperatives provide the structure best catering to

women's needs in the productive and reproductive process, helping them

out of a subordinate and hence underestimated position in regard to both.

Women are now coming forward and questioning mcre, with marked generational

differences, At the 1984 FMC Congress, cooperative farmwomen delegates

raised the obstacles for women in cooperative farming, the need for atten-

tion on this front, and the difference it made once women were involved in

the decision-making process, a theme taken up in general at the 1986

Party Congress.

The paradox for Cuba is that the separation of the productive and

reproductive process characteristic of capitalism is being effected in

tobacco in a period of socialist transition. T"2 challenge is that, precisely


because .it is socialist, the forces at play are geared much more in

favor of those involved from the base up, women included.

TABLE I SLd of tzra -nd value of 9rod.cit;on 31. :ugar a..d c.jitc. .4

Sa of wmn
All sies
LJU to u.4
From 0.5 to 0.9
Frora 1.0 to 4.9
From 5.0 to 9.9
From 10.0 to 24.9
hr.n 23.0 to 49.9
From 50.0 to 74.9
From 75.0 to 99.9
Frano 100.0 to 449.9
From 500.0 to 9)9.9
Frm IC00.0 to 4999.9
5000.0 or more

Tal vnlu of.
firm ..auws.oa. $ FPn.s r-.e
331,835.212 34,437
56.156 17
214.286 102
12,013.328 6.76
21,482.401 9.163
56.933.281 3,274
47.723,801 3.609
22.456.907 867
13.545,467 327
82.097;.403 0
31.,9 I.46 57
34.357.156 32
8.978210 8

44r '44 F


So.jr s o)t aInflo
Sr.an' C.en o
.s r'eod vslu. O3 parrmort Vd vlu
42,470 138.167239 97.573 69.476.465
S 3.066 626 78.185
60 6,644 884 50286
2.797 514.497 14.177 1204.391
5,711 1.969,218 17596 2,408,087
14,622 11.202.785 30.987 8.239.698
9.322 17.208.615 16.083 8.316,374
3.199 8.391,029 5.620 5.157.800
1.483 5.753,088 2.691 3,424.663
4.,3j 46.193,023 7.294 20212,6 0
6'.0 1.159772 1,023 10.-,3.747
262 22jnS.5a6 5;3 7,S23.023
26 6,178,916 74 1,598.571

Source: Taken from Table 47, Memoris del Ceoro Ae incs Nac al 194L Ministerio de Agricultura, RepOblica do
Cuba. Havana, 1951, pp. 967 ff.

TABLE II Land tenure of farms and value of prod u.ica for tobacco, sugar and catd, 1945
Souare of Inolme
otal ne of Toecoe 4W Caert
T"0 *d la t term pro. Firms rl Vau-* Fm respw e Valrs Fa rmerts Value S
All kinds of tenure 331.885.242 34.437 33.34z~4-' 42.470 138.167.239 97.573 69.476.465
Ladowner 85.843376 6.730 6,45-S.25 10.C8 22.307.752 29.605 28.469.077
Manger 50.777,150 726 I,C5395: 2,418 26,030,487 5,668 14,139,164
ti.an farmer 126.564..)4 8.895 7.,: .'" 2. -'3 72.125.4o3 30.940 20.222.477
Sub:enant far=.cr 13.89(.74 1.347 -: .: .. 7-3992 05 4.930 1,'99.347
Shrac.:npper 45.527-!'0 15,320 I7.. -- 3S 3,635.65t 13.7i 3.7?5.836
Squatter 6.520.472 533 .! -: 5 186,399 6.622 751.732
Others 2,b6,334 163 tI:-;: :: 1,482132 1,003 352.795
Source: Taken from Table 43. Memorial del Ccnso A-cLi Nac Inal 1946, Ministerlo de Asgriultura, Re-
public de Cuba. Havana. 1951, pp. 980 f.

TABLE II Tobacco farms coding to size and err-ri r. 1945
Nowtlr # far.* et cook eilse pol
atams a% w esU **t" swo t" noa d
Cuba 159.958 1148 77n 29.170 30.335 48.79 23.901 8,517 3853 10.433 1.442 780 114
Pirar del Rio pro. 23.030 117 68 3.997 .S- ? 8.667 2.303 575 258 647 121 108 20
San Luis mun. 981 5 7 297 :62 293 67 8 1 22 2 I I
Las Villas pro. 40,182 361 375 6.4 12.i 6,64 2.268 1065 2.552 313 130 19
Cabailun man. 2.073 5 558 3:7 7C1 264 60 23 61 3 1
Sourer: Compiled usin figures from Table VIll. Mncori del Cano Agricola Nacional 1946. Miitterio de Agri-
cultura. Repuiblica de Cuba. Havana. 1951. ;p. i if.

TABLE IV No of tobacco farm and area worked der various knds of land tenure, 1945

Pinar del Rfo prove.
San Luis mun.
Las Villa prove.
Cabaiguin nm.

Tow On, laod are
of 1m teauem)
159.958 9.077.08
23.030 968.835
981 25.109
40.182 2.033.190
2.073 43969

fams Tanl wo-
48702 2.9' 64
3.373 .:'' E
141 3.352
11.546 C63.5
504 13.::1

Ferms worked by .
VMaM Tonsta ILuia- mubtar fatme
No. N o. tot
la." Tom w a Nm. fur- TOal me futm aM
9,342 2.320.445 45 04 2,713.130 6387 21.521
616 00.452 4912 225.804 1,C48 21.410
24 4.491 99 10.54 31 562
1.94 3,375.636 I5 it0 972.794 2.676 64.730
25 4.674 653 18,09 109 1.430

Per.s worked by
!oms. Odom MOl
N o tam TmO M m.m o lo a Nof. fanns TOl are N. tmas Tfaol re
Cuba 33,064 552.079 13.718 244339 2.=07 72.14 636 25210
Pinar del Rio prove. 12.559 189.209 3; 2.36 99 21.32 99 2.628
San Luis mun. 617 5.71 52 212 17 37 1 54
Las Villas prov. 7,166 110.692 635 7.136 349 8.218 107 10.857
Cabaigun mun. 772 6.240 3 26 4 185 1 20
Source: Compiled using figures from Table IX. hlMeor del Ceno Agricola Nacional 1946. Ministerio de
Agriculture. Rcpdbica de Cuba, Havana. 11.. -. 408 ff.

TABLE V Vala of fars productioe for tobacco, s t- and cards according o territory, 1945

P nar del Rio prove.
Sa Luis mun.
La Villas prove.
Cesuiguda mun.

TOW Ib I s

3321 85242

Soeurs of lIceom
Toe- Suiw Come
Fm mam l FV Iream mepw Voh $ Farmnnpo.rt Vl. $s
34.437 33 !4.' 4:.470 138.167239 97.573 69.476.465
17.387 IS :' :'22 4.377.146 14.458 3.74.949
1.387 42j :2 471 97.496 312 84.739
13 1 3 1..' :'2 :4.916 32.726.$32 29379 16392.066
1,380 2.:;.:99 614 280979 1,384 976.015

TABLE VI Al farmsa an pedom na dy tebe farm eo* ordlo to territory, loeams, number of worer and ages paid
Nweew number of wrlkers
w *ad thwed PidW
Sd mm Tdl m tem ,emM All yar Prt er Al yemr me P r TY Sr mgs
Cuba All farms 15958 331885.247 331.724 20,561 53,693 423.690 109.443,34
Tobacco 22,750 40.755,323 R.5 64.395 4.994 24965 279.153 71,503.93
Pina: All farms 23,030 37.510.Ct5 57.35 969 4.919 35.1"5 7296.130
dcl Rio Tob .-i 12.116 21.61.249 : 4 27.572 561 1.072 15.93: 2.05135
Sar. Luis All farms 941 4.173.069 2.479 59 259 3.421 67,831
Tobacco 816 3936.406 -4J 2.131 57 ..205 3.194 636.35
Las All farms 40,182 77,479.694 S3,999 5,914 11.500 78.79 21362236
Villas Tobacco 8.032 14227.421 63.6 20.348 772 901 3,056 916,936
Cabaigula All farms 2073 4.247.944 4.172 125 325 2.230 416.063
Tobacco ,154 2.703.314 T.1S 2,582 23 202 897 201.359
Source: Taken from Table 54. Memorsa del Caose A~IoiA Natloeal 1946. Minuterto de Agricultur. Reptblica de Cuba.
Havana. 1951, p. 1186 (t.

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1. This is a revised version of an earlier paper, "Rural Tobacco Women in
Cuba: San Luis and Cabaiguan, 1940-1980," presented to the 17th Annual
Conference of Caribbean Historians in Havana, April 1985. There is also
considerable overlap with a more general paper, "Women on the Agenda:
the Case of Rural Cuba," jointly presented with Mavis Alvarez of the
Cuban National Association of Small Farmers (ANAP) at the 45th Americanists
Congress in Bogota, July 1985. The tobacco research was facilitated by an
American Social Science Research Council postdoctoral award and coopera-
tion in Cuba from the National Association of Small Farmers, Ministry
of Agriculture, Physical Planning Institute; CUBATABACO, national and
local archives, libraries and museums, but most of all the tobacco-
growing families who opened up their lives and homes to me on field trips.

2. Readers are referred to the author's Tobacco on the Periphery: A Case
Study in Cuban Labour History, 1860-1958, Cambridge University Press,

3. My thoughts on this have been stimulated by the no-w considerable body-of
research on Third World, especially Caribbean and Latin American women,
the work of Carmen Diana Deere and Magdalena Le6n in particular, although
!:have seen little on women in tobacco.
4. Brian Poilitt's work in this respect is interesting. "The Transition to
Socialist Agriculture in Cuba: Some Salient Features," IDS Bulletin 1983,
!I A mboe recent overview.

5. Tables for 1945 include Las Villas province, to which Cabaiguan belonged.
Under the new 1975 political administrative division of the country, Las
Villas was divided into several provinces, one of which was Sancti Spfri-
tus, which included Cabaiguan. Tables for the post 1975 period quote
Sancti Spfritus province, but there is clearly no point of comparison.
Pinar del Rfo province was left unchanged.

6. A considerable body of information on the two areas can be found in Cuba
Contemporinea, 1944.

7. A history of those struggles can be found in Jose Mayo. Dos decades de
lucha contra el latifundismo, Havana, 1980.

8. Rogelio Concepci6n Pirez' Historia de Cabaiguin (3 vols), unpublished
(1970) provided much background information, as did Sancti Spiritus and
Pinar del Rfo, Oriente, 1978.
9. A good overview of agrarian reform can be found in Jose Acosta. "La
- revoluci6n agraria en Cuba y el desarrollo econ6mico," Economfa y Desar-
rollo, No. 17, May-June 1973, and in Iliana Rojas Requena, Mariana
Ravenet Ramfrez and Jorge Hern5ndez Martfnez. "Desarrollo y relaciones
de classes en la estructura agraria en Cuba" ih EstudibS'sobre la estruc-
tura de.slases y el desarrollo rural en Cuba, Havana, 1983.

10. This point comes out clearly in a highly informative work by Adelfo
Martfi Barrios, himself once a Pinar del Rfo tobacco grower and now a
key ANAP figure. La ANAP, 20 afos de trabajo, Havana, 1982. ANAP also
has many other internal studies of its own.

11. Policy on this was spelt out in theses and resolutions to the 1st and
2nd Party Congresses (1975 and 1980). A good overview of policy and
progress is to be found in Fidel Castro's speeches at the close of the
5th and 6th ANAP Congresses of 1977 and 1982. Since then, several studies
have charted the progress of the cooperative movement. Orlando G6mez,
De la finca individual a la cooperative agropecuaria, Havana, 1983, is
a journalistic account. Oscar Trinchet Vera's La cooperative de la
tierra en el agro cubano, Havana, 1984, is the most comprehensive to
date, although it has no breakdown by crop or on women. A good introduc-
tory cross-country analysis including Cuba can be found in Carmen Diana
Deere. "Agrarian Reform and the Peasantry: The Transition to Socialism
in the Third World," presented at the Seminar on the Problems of Transi-
tion in Small Peripheral Economies, Managua, 1984, and "Rural Women and
State Policy: the Latin American Agrarian Reform Experience," mimeo.

12. Participant observation and open-ended interviewing were complemented by
the compilation of statistical data from the individual cooperative up,
given that most aggregate figures have no breakdown for women.

13. These were volunteer brigades organized jointly by the Federation of
Cuban Women (FMC) and ANAP, especially during the years when many men
were mobilized militarily or for harvest periods at a time. By the
late '70s their work was more regularized and the women formed
remunerated production brigades. Today the volunteer brigades are almost
in abeyance.

L.. Women are employed all the year round, either in the sorting sheds or
other forms of tobacco production. If for any -reas6n work is not
available, they are guaranteed 40% of salary. CUBATABACO has also invested
in improving conditions in the sorting sheds and has upped piece-rates
for women!s work.
15. Little has been written on rural Cuban women as such, although there is
a wide literature on women-in general. Readers might refer more parti-
cularly to Isabel Largufa and John Dumoulin, Hacia una ciencia de la
liberaci6n de la mujer, Havana,.1984, and "La mujer en el desarrollo:
estrategia y experiencia de la Revolucidn cubana," Casa de las Americas,
No. 149, March-April 1985. The FMC has detailed Congress documents and
reports, working papers and studies of its own, in which reference can be
found to the early schools and brigades. A short overview of women in
sugar can be found in Niurka Perez Rojas. "Women in the Sugar Agroindus-
try," Granma Weekly Review, January 12, 1985.

16. Given that the private sector is an aging sector, cooperatives found
substantial numbers retiring on pensions when they were introduced for
the cooperative sector, along with other social security benefits in
the early '80s. This applied particularly to women and :helps account
for the drop in percentage female membership. Another factor is that
more recent figures apply more strictly to women workers, ie active
rather than passive members.

17. Women are in the majority (51.6%) in higher agricultural studies for the
20-24 age group.

18. National Bank of Cuba. Cr4dito al sector campesino y cooperative, 1984,
quotes the balance of money reimbursed to the farmer on sales against
repayment of bUnk loans.

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