The town of Hershey, Cuba began with a dictator and ended with one. One was considered a model of industry and progressive ideals, while the other is generally remembered for crimes against humanity, the story of Hershey, Cuba begins and ends with the story of powerful men who each controlled the destiny of this town. Neither were elected; both had total control. The story of Hershey, Cuba is a story of transition from imperialistic capitalism to communism, and of how little difference there truly was between the two.
Hershey’s relationship with his Cuban town continued to grow, and he invested heavily in its prosperity in order to ensure his supply of sugar. However, events beyond his control began to reveal that Cuba was slipping away from him. The Revolution of 1933 and the General Strike of 1935 are just two examples of the rising power of the workers, which ultimately led to the creation of the Cuban Communist Party and the rise to power of Hershey, Cuba’s second dictator, Fidel Castro. When Castro took control, sugar mills such as Hershey were nationalized and Milton’s benevolent reign over the town came to an end. While Castro’s record as a dictator is well documented, there is little to indicate if his controversial policies extended into Hershey, Cuba. The town (and mill) did experience a name change to Cienfuegos Mill and Refinery Complex. (Newman)
During the Castro era, sugar has had a bumpy road. At times, the Castro government has lauded sugar as a mainstay of the economy. At others, focus has shifted away from sugar production. The fate of the mill, and ultimately the town, was sealed in 2002. Cuba’s current economic course is to move away from being a provider of raw agricultural resources, and to move towards becoming a major provider of medical training, as well as becoming a major tourist destination. (Ritter 251) In one swift decision, Cuba’s leader shut down about half of its sugar mills, ending over three hundred years of dependency upon sugar, even though Cuba was the fourth largest exporter of sugar in the world. (Newman) The closing of the Hershey mill leaves the fate of the town uncertain.
The electric trains Hershey built still run (and still say Hershey, despite the name change of the town), and there is some speculation the area will become a tourist destination, but that seems difficult to believe – that a communist nation would choose to immortalize one of the few remaining traces of American capitalism (or imperialism, depending upon your point of view) remaining. Either way, it is unlikely the town will ever thrive as its sister city does – unless Cuba decides to build a Chocolate World Theme Park, too.
“Central Hershey.” The Louisiana Planter and Sugar Manufacturer (1920): 108-111. http://books.google.com/books?id=NcXmAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false.
Coe, Sophie D Coe and Michael D. The True History of Chocolate, 3rd Edition. London: Thames & Hudson Ltd., 2013.
D’Antonio, Michael. Hershey: Milton S. Hershey’s Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2006. Book.
Milton Hershey’s Cuba. Dir. Ric Morris. 2013. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qo7Q5XpYrcQ.
Newman, Lucia. “Cuba Kisses Sugar Goodbye as a Main Export.” 10 August 2002. CNN.com/World. http://www.cnn.com/2002/WORLD/americas/08/10/cuba.sugar/index.html. 12 March 2015.
Ritter, Archibald R. M. “Cuba’s Economic Reorientation.” Mauricio A. Font, ed. with Scott Larson. Cuba: In Transition? Pathways to Renewal, Long-Term Development and Global Reintegration. New York: Bildner Center for Western Hemisphere Studies, The Graduate Center, The City University of New York, n.d. 3-25. http://cubaproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/cubaintransitionbook.pdf.
Steinecke, Julia. “Hershey Sugar Mill – Bittersweet Death of a Small Town in Cuba.” 16 January 2006. Havana Journal. http://havanajournal.com/travel/entry/hersey_sugar_mill_bittersweet_death_of_a_small_town_in_cuba/. 12 March 2015.
Winpenny, Thomas R. “Milton S. Hershey Ventures into Cuban Sugar.” Pennsylvania History Fall 1995: 491-502.