chapter  5
22 Pages

THE CREATION OF A PROLETARIAT ON PERU'S COASTAL SUGAR PLANTATIONS: 1880–1920

WithBill Albert

In many parts of Latin America by the First World War the urban proletariat, although still small in size, had begun to make its collective voice heard through unions and political parties, as well as by various forms of direct action. Workers on Peru's coastal sugar estates suffered many of the same problems as other rural labourers, but during and immediately after the First World War, in a series of bitter strikes, they organised and fought the estate owners for higher wages and better conditions. For some months the Gildemeisters, owners of Casa Grande, had been replacing Peruvian employees with technicians brought from Germany. As technical change was biased toward increasingly large processing plants requiring a much greater volume of cane, there was, therefore, a substantial increase in the demand for field hands. From the early months of 1919, workers on the sugar estates were continually on the offensive, striking for and winning increased wages and improved conditions.