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Ice Cream and Early 20th Century Cuba

Ice cream vender, Havana, Cuba circa 1910 (Library of Congress)  
The picture of the ice cream vender above reminds me of the some 22,000 Jamaicans who migrated to Cuba between 1911 and 1921. Many went there to take jobs on sugar plantations. Large numbers of Haitians also traveled there during the same period, many of them on the United Fruit Company’s “Great White Fleet,” a line of steamships that carried bananas, sugar, cacao, and passengers between the principal ports of the United States, the West Indies, and Latin America. In addition to steamship passage, black workers could and did travel by rail and other means of transportation; indeed, improved access to transportation contributed to the mobility of black immigrants throughout the Caribbean basin. Wherever they went, these migrants took the Marcus Garvey’s United Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) with them. West Indian, American, and Canadian immigrants in Cuba established fifty-two UNIA branches near black immigrant communities in Santiago de Cuba, Guantanamo, Camaguey, Cepedes, and Oriente de Cuba. Only the state of Louisiana had more branches of the UNIA in one geographic region than did Cuba. The UNIA in Cuba and elsewhere served as the migrant’s civic association, social club, and much more.



Immigrant Entrepreneurs and Ice Cream

Feeding the Revolution in Havana, Cuba Part 2