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Sat Jun 29, 2019, 08:33 PM

A 19th-century fortified line in Cuba is a lesson for Trump - walls divide but are not impenetrable

The history of the Trocha shows how barriers can split nations in damaging ways.

Yesterday · 11:30 pm
Alberto P Marti, The Conversation

Despite the US administration’s renewed interest in Cuba, including new travel restrictions, few have paid attention to a little-known, but telling, historical episode: the island’s 19th-century military Trocha. This massive fortified line was a Spanish attempt to contain the Cuban independence rebellion by splitting the island in half – and provides worrying lessons about the potential impact of US President Donald Trump’s “great, great wall” along the US-Mexico border.

The Cuban struggle for independence was a 30-year-long process that started in Eastern Cuba in 1868. That year, a handful of white landowners in the East of the island freed their slaves and took up arms against Spanish colonial rule. Until then, and despite the dissatisfaction with high taxation and their limited say in Spanish colonial affairs, Cuban elites had largely remained loyal to Spain.

Eighty years earlier, the 1791 revolution in neighbouring Haiti and the establishment of the first independent black republic there, had sent huge shock waves across the region. But with Haiti devastated by the war and no longer the world’s largest producer of cane sugar, the Cuban elite saw an opportunity to take Haiti’s economic place.

By the late 1860s, Cuba’s multi-million dollar sugar industry was producing nearly 40% of the world’s sugar cane. This economic miracle brought rapid development and political stability to the island. But there was a serious flaw: it was absolutely dependent on slave labour.


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