Oil and Revolution in Cuba: Development, Nationalism, and the U.S. Energy Empire, 1902-1961
Painter, David S
Energy history is essential to understand modern Cuba and U.S.-Cuban relations. This dissertation demonstrates that Cuba's lack of hydrocarbon energy sources shaped the ambitions and limits of the Cuban nationalist project and the nature of U.S. influence in Cuba from the Republic's founding in 1902 through the Revolution's early years. The ecology, economics, and politics of energy were central to Cuba's economic (under-) development; the character of Cuban nationalism; the exercise and eclipse of U.S. power in Cuba; and the Revolution's origins, course, and outcome.This transnational study blends the sources and methods of economic, diplomatic, cultural, and environmental history, analyzing sources from archives in five countries, including Cuban, U.S., British, Mexican, and Venezuelan government documents; oil industry public-relations materials and trade journals; and the U.S. and Cuban popular and business press. Through them it traces how diverse Cuban and North American actors – diplomats, politicians, businessmen, oil workers, journalists, technocrats, revolutionaries, consumers – created and acted upon transnational discourses about energy, development, and independence in Cuba. Cubans across the political spectrum equated modernity with rising energy consumption and viewed oil in nationalist terms, believing that Nature had endowed the island with great, but unfulfilled, promise as an oil producer and that Cuba's oil industry should be developed for the nation's benefit.Cuban domestic politics, global oil economics, and the foreign policies of the U.S. and other oil powers encouraged private efforts to develop Cuba's oil industry in partnership with multinational oil firms. But Cuba confounded expectations by producing very little oil, exposing the contradictions in successive governments' economic programs and in Cuba's oil culture. These three factors then realigned in 1960 to favor the industry's nationalization, as revolutionary officials implemented an alternative vision of statist oil nationalism and economic development. A U.S. oil embargo sought to cripple Cuba's economy, but failed to overturn the Revolution, as Cuba became – reluctantly – dependent on Soviet oil. The Revolution is thus reinterpreted as both a culmination and a new beginning in modern Cuba's search for energy security, development, and true independence, and as a challenge to the U.S. energy empire in the greater Caribbean.
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