‘Don’t pour in any more sugar, it won’t fit!’

Israel García, alias ’El Nene’, former worker at the old Dos Rosas sugar mill. (Roma Díaz)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Roma Díaz, Varadero, 5 September 2020 — From the age of 15 he worked as a stevedore at the Dos Rosas sugar mill, “carrying sacks on his back,” says Israel García. El Nene, as they affectionately call him, keeps his memories fresh at 87, as if he had lived them a few days ago.

Today, the settlement around the old sugar mill, together with other houses built later, is part of the Humberto Álvarez Popular Council, where Israel García lives, a few kilometers from the tourist center of Varadero.

After working as a stevedore, Israel carried out other less strenuous jobs, as a consequence of the advances implemented in the mill. For example, he took care so that the sugar didn’t overflow the boilers: “I remember there were three quadrants. When they were full, they yelled at the workers: Don’t poor in any more sugar, it won’t fit!”

To help crystallize the sugar, they added alcohol to it. This made the crystals grow larger and stronger.

The factory and the cane fields belonged to a prestigious North American firm, and it was, by the value of its properties, the most important investment of Yankee capital in Cárdenas.

Israel García’s home in the Humberto Álvarez Popular Council, which includes the old sugar mill settlement. (Roma Diaz)

With the arrival of the Revolution, the mill was renamed Humberto Álvarez Abreu, in honor of a leading worker and it operated until 2002. On that date, it was “deactivated” as a result of the Strategic Program for the Restructuring of the Sugar Agroindustry, which, as with so many plans with extensive names on the island, would end up not fulfilling its objectives.

There is a certain indignation in El Nene’s tone of voice when he evokes the reasons for the closure of the plant, because, according to him, it was the only one that did not run on oil, and the sugar was finer than almost all the mills in the country. During those years the price of sugar fell worldwide and several sugar mills closed, including Dos Rosas.


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