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However, since the majority of these were peasants and agricultural laborers, there was also a need to attract migrants from other more industrially developed countries. As a result, 30 percent came from France, 14 percent from the British Isles, and 10 percent from North America, most of who were artisans. Projects of white colonization continued to be promoted throughout the nineteenth century.

In the s, Cuba hoped to encourage white immigration from European countries with surplus populations—in particular the Canary Islands, Northern Europe, Switzerland, and Ireland. Such migration continued to be relatively slow. In , while 4, arrived from Spain and the Canaries, just came from France, 51 from Britain, and 44 from the rest of Europe. However, the growing North American presence was becoming felt, with 1, originating in the United States.

Not only was this through their labor, but also through their contribution to technological innovation, and more generally through the form taken by their interaction with Cuban society.

International Review of Social History volume 57 part 2 ()

I expected no favour such as staying and someone else leaving, so I was not surprised to receive my dismissal about two months after. In , Edward Smith a journeyman engineer employed by Stothart and Pitt in Bath complained of how little he earned, and how most of his wages went to pay for his lodgings, making it impossible for him to save.

The North American maquinista William Bisby had passed through a wide selection of jobs, for which he had traveled around the eastern seaboard of the United States, before continuing south to Cuba, prompted by the unstable prospects he had experienced back home. This led to a proletarianization of many engineering occupations. In the mid-nineteenth century emigration to countries such as Cuba—where maquinistas possessing versatile skills and technical initiative were required for the developing sugar industry—provided an attractive option.

Positions such as those in the sugar mills facilitated escape from the controlling atmosphere of the engineering workshop or factory to a context in which they were wholly in charge of the engineering work of the estate. And if in the interim I find a decent means of evading my commitment, I will advise you or it without delay, because in addition to the confidence that someone recommended by Mr K. Two years later, the same Diago was waiting for the arrival of another maquinista, sent by Kemble of the West Point Foundry to install some machines.

This was in replacement of a maquinista who they had contracted, from the same foundry, but who was unable to come. I have heard of them in Glasgow, and have known of men going, who have been engaged in Glasgow. However, Harvey and Co.

The interaction of engineering migrants with mid-nineteenth century Cuban society

Harvey and Co. It was not just employers who advertised. Engineering workers themselves used such newspapers as a means of advertising their skills, in the hope of obtaining a position: A Young Man wishes for a Situation to take charge of an Engine, and repairing of Machinery. No objection to the country.

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While there were many who traveled to Cuba intentionally, often with prearranged jobs, others arrived almost by accident, as they pursued their journeys from one job and place to another. Similarly, when the Drakes in Cuba bought a steamboat from the United States, with the intention of setting up a river service linking Sagua la Grande with the coastal ports, this had to be sent with a crew that included two maquinistas.

In , of the 4, who emigrated from the Port of Glasgow, only three were recorded as traveling directly to Cuba. In , only 61 Britons emigrated to the nonBritish West Indies as a whole, out of a total number of ,—all of them traveling from Glasgow or Liverpool. The following year, only 53 migrated, from Liverpool, Newport, and Glasgow, out of a total of , Not just maquinistas, but also other engineering-related workers arrived in Cuba along such paths. Robert Waugh was born in Durham, England, but migrated to the United States around , where he worked as a boiler maker in a New Orleans iron-work factory that constructed boilers and mills for sugar plantations throughout Louisiana and the Caribbean.

Those already established in the island provided a route in for others eager to work there, often seeking out opportunities for them, or employing them themselves if they had succeeded in saving the necessary capital to set up on their own. Joel Watts traveled to Cuba having been assured by Henry Elkins—who was already established on a sugar estate—that he would have secure employment there, possibly with Elkins himself, or at least arranged through him.

On his arrival the job that he thought was waiting for him proved not to exist, but he nevertheless found work in the foundry in Havana, although he continued to pressure Elkins to fulfill his promise. Others took advantage of the commercial networks, through which much of the machinery was being channeled.

Although Zellweger was not successful in helping him, Bisby managed to find employment without too much difficulty, carrying as he did a reference from the Providence Steam Engine Company, where he had been previously employed.

Henry Coit sent maquinistas to Cuba with letters of recommendation. In , three such presented themselves to Pedro Diago, who contracted one of them, a Mr Leonard, to inspect some of his newly installed machines, considering him to be very able. Since they were to be responsible for the equipment, and given the uncertainties of ocean travel, by traveling with it they ensured that once in Cuba they were not either waiting for the engine to arrive, nor themselves being waited for.

When John Pearce was sent out as maquinista for the mines at El Cobre, he accompanied the engine, waiting with it in Swansea so as to sail together.

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Frederick Huth and Co. Lewis, who was to work on the line that Arrieta was building. Lewis traveled with the machinery, also from Swansea. In the s, it could take two months for a ship to travel from Britain to Cuba. However, transport was improving, especially if the traveler was prepared to play with the possibilities opened up by the growing network of routes.

When David Turnbull traveled to Cuba in , he prudently decided not to take the nominally more direct route from England, cutting the journey time in half by traveling first to Nova Scotia, then to the United States, and from there to Havana. By the s many more routes had been opened up, making travel to Cuba considerably easier. However, although New York could be reached from Havana in just five days by steamer, in the s a letter could still take four weeks to travel from Britain to Cuba.

Skilled migrants such as the maquinistas—who were not only somewhat better off but were often contracted by wealthy planters or engineering companies—are likely to have had a rather more pleasant experience. While those who traveled first to the United States before migrating to Cuba might have shared some of the traumatic experience characteristic of that journey, those who traveled directly to the island would not have had to put up with such cramped conditions, since the numbers following this route were far smaller.

They might have experienced complication due to bad weather and most tried to travel before or after the hurricane season to minimize the risk of shipwreck , but the journey seems generally to have been a much more relaxed affair.

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For the maquinistas, weathered to the urban environment in which most had worked before traveling to Cuba, the sea journey would have been their first taste of the exotic new experiences that awaited them. It gradually became more distinct and soon we could see the high hills. Covered with verdure of the richest Coloring. However, as Alexander Humboldt remarked, the effects of these changes can only be really observed among the native population, for foreigners, who go there from Europe and North America, must suffer from the general influence of the climate, and they will continue to suffer even though the streets were as carefully cleaned as could be desired.

The sea-shore has such an influence, that even natives of the island who reside in the country, far from the coast, are subject to attacks with the yellow fever when they visit Havana. It was the single biggest killer, causing 37 percent of all deaths in Havana in However, this was by no means constant throughout the year. At none of these places is Yellow Fever so prevalent nor so fatal as it is here in Cuba. A large proportion of yellow fever cases were of foreigners, generally those who had newly arrived: foreign sailors alone accounted for 15 percent of all cases in Havana in Although their recovery rate appears to have been better than the native population, they were far more likely to succumb to disease in the first place—and not only in Havana.

There are countless such cases, most of which have the tragedy of occurring shortly after the arrival of the migrant concerned. The British maquinista George Whish died of yellow fever in Havana in January an unusual winter case , before he could reach the estate on which he was to work. The Spanish authorities maintained strict immigration rules that, while often bent in the observance, at least on paper had to be adhered to. All foreigners on arrival, and before disembarkation, had to present their passports to the local officials, along with valid visas issued by the Spanish consular representatives in whichever country they were coming from.

This would entitle them to a boleta de desembarco. Then they had to present themselves, within the first twenty-four hours, in the governmental offices. This was if they were white. If colored, they had to remain on board unless they were naturals of Spanish possessions coming to reside in Cuba, in which case they could land only if security were paid on their behalf.

It was necessary for those who wished to live in Cuba longer than three months to domicile themselves. Although technically this should have been granted without any payment involved, a charge was often made as the authorities took advantage not only of the ignorance of many of the migrants, but also of the fact that they were often bound for very well-paid jobs. For many this was only two pesos, but cases were reported of migrants being forced to pay as much as seventeen pesos for the privilege.

The census figures merely give an impression of quantity and geographical distribution, since the maquinistas were prone to seasonal movement, and there is no guarantee all those working in the island will have been recorded. That there appears to be an absence of maquinistas in Sagua la Grande in , despite this being an important sugar-producing district, suggests the inaccuracy of the figures, and relevance of the date of data collection.


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  • If occurring outside the grinding season, it is likely that this would boost the numbers recorded in the cities rather than the rural districts where the plantations were located. However, 89 percent of the total came from just five countries: France, United States, British Isles, Germany, and Italy, in that order see figure 2. The importance of maquinistas is immediately apparent, with 22 percent of all migrants working in this trade. Some 71 percent of all workers settling in the island were related to the industrial process, and more than half of these were maquinistas. While the three largest national groups French, North American, and British were more working class than any other national group, the French differed from the other two.

    Whereas around half of the British and North Americans were maquinistas,88 this occupation was relatively unimportant among the French, where other skilled working-class occupations were far more prevalent. This is true to expectations given the origins of the machinery being imported into Cuba. By the mids considerably fewer maquinistas were applying for domicile in the island.