"The Only Invasion That We Would Welcome with Open Arms": Vegetable Invasions in Revolutionary Cuba, from Farmers' Markets to Food Science, 198086

Saturday, January 5, 2019: 3:50 PM
Salon 3 (Palmer House Hilton)
Alexis Baldacci, University of Florida
This paper examines the social and political implications of the rise and fall of the Mercado Libre Campesino [free peasant market] in revolutionary Cuba. In a dramatic reversal of the policies that governed the command economy and severely limited the ability of individuals to work autonomously from the state and profit from their work, revolutionary leadership introduced farmers’ markets on a trial basis in the spring of 1980. State spokesmen framed this initiative not as a return to pre-revolutionary patterns of distribution and consumption, but instead as a step forward within socialism, explaining that this expansion of the consumer landscape was made possible by the progress that the revolution had made in promoting a socialist consciousness among its citizens, including small farmers. As both peasants and farmers’ markets had been made new by the revolution, so too had agriculture itself. Consumer magazines celebrated developments in agricultural production through the lenses of science and modernity to explicitly cast these advances as the results of revolutionary investment and progress, triumphs to be held up alongside those famously made in education and healthcare almost two decades before. Yet just six years later, these markets were closed as part of a sweeping wave of reforms known as the “Rectification of Errors Campaign,” which sought to reverse the market liberalization that had improved standards in living in Cuba while at the same time undermining classless egalitarianism. In explaining the decision to reverse the market reforms, Fidel Castro pointed to the questionable ideological and political loyalty of Cuban peasant farmers and others who were accused of enriching themselves in these new markets.