Welcome to Bookmarker!

This is a personal project by @dellsystem. I built this to help me retain information from the books I'm reading.

Source code on GitHub (MIT license).

9

I remember how the cane cutters lived: in one-room shacks called bohios. Dirt floors, a pot in the middle of the room, no windows, no plumbing, no electricity. The only light was what came through the open doorway and filtered into the cracks between the thatched palm walls. They slept in hammacas. They were squatters, but the company tolerated it because they had to live somewhere during the harvest. The rest of the year—the dead time, they called it—they were desolajos. I don’t know what they did. Wandered the countryside looking for work and food, I guess. In the shantytown where the cane cutters lived—it’s called a batey—there were naked children running everywhere. None of those people had shoes, and their feet had hard shells of calloused skin around them. They cooked their meals outdoors, on mangrove charcoal. Got their water from a spigot at the edge of the cane fields. They had to carry their water in hand buckets, but the company let them take as much as they wanted. It was certainly a better deal than the mine workers got over in Nicaro. Those people were employees of the U.S. government, and they had to get their water from the river—the Levisa River—where they dumped the tailings from the nickel mine. The Nicaro workers drank from the river, bathed in the river, washed their clothes in the river. If you wash your bike in the Levisa River after it rains, it gets shiny clean. That’s a Cuban thing. I don’t know why, but it really works. After it rained, everybody was down there, boys and grown men wading into the river in their underwear, washing cars and bicycles.

—p.9 by Rachel Kushner 2 years, 7 months ago

I remember how the cane cutters lived: in one-room shacks called bohios. Dirt floors, a pot in the middle of the room, no windows, no plumbing, no electricity. The only light was what came through the open doorway and filtered into the cracks between the thatched palm walls. They slept in hammacas. They were squatters, but the company tolerated it because they had to live somewhere during the harvest. The rest of the year—the dead time, they called it—they were desolajos. I don’t know what they did. Wandered the countryside looking for work and food, I guess. In the shantytown where the cane cutters lived—it’s called a batey—there were naked children running everywhere. None of those people had shoes, and their feet had hard shells of calloused skin around them. They cooked their meals outdoors, on mangrove charcoal. Got their water from a spigot at the edge of the cane fields. They had to carry their water in hand buckets, but the company let them take as much as they wanted. It was certainly a better deal than the mine workers got over in Nicaro. Those people were employees of the U.S. government, and they had to get their water from the river—the Levisa River—where they dumped the tailings from the nickel mine. The Nicaro workers drank from the river, bathed in the river, washed their clothes in the river. If you wash your bike in the Levisa River after it rains, it gets shiny clean. That’s a Cuban thing. I don’t know why, but it really works. After it rained, everybody was down there, boys and grown men wading into the river in their underwear, washing cars and bicycles.

—p.9 by Rachel Kushner 2 years, 7 months ago
11

Dirt shacks, no running water—the way those people lived, it’s just how life was to me. I was a child. Mother didn’t like it, but Daddy reminded her that the company paid them higher wages than any Cuban-owned sugar operation. Mother thought it was just terrible the way the Cuban plantations did business. It broke her heart, the idea of a race of people exploiting their own kind. The cane cutters were all Jamaicans, of course—not a single one of them was Cuban—but I knew what she meant: native people taking advantage of other native people, brown against black, that kind of thing. She was proud of Daddy, proud of the fact that the United Fruit Company upheld a certain standard, paid better wages than they had to, just to be decent. She said she hoped it would influence the Cubans to treat their own kind a bit better.

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—p.11 by Rachel Kushner 2 years, 7 months ago

Dirt shacks, no running water—the way those people lived, it’s just how life was to me. I was a child. Mother didn’t like it, but Daddy reminded her that the company paid them higher wages than any Cuban-owned sugar operation. Mother thought it was just terrible the way the Cuban plantations did business. It broke her heart, the idea of a race of people exploiting their own kind. The cane cutters were all Jamaicans, of course—not a single one of them was Cuban—but I knew what she meant: native people taking advantage of other native people, brown against black, that kind of thing. She was proud of Daddy, proud of the fact that the United Fruit Company upheld a certain standard, paid better wages than they had to, just to be decent. She said she hoped it would influence the Cubans to treat their own kind a bit better.

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—p.11 by Rachel Kushner 2 years, 7 months ago
14

In Daddy’s office at company headquarters there was a big map of Oriente. Oriente was where we lived, and it was Cuba’s largest, poorest, blackest province. It has the best climate and most fertile land for growing sugarcane. Castro has it all divided up now, I don’t know why; another cockeyed thing like changing the name of our town, Preston, to “Guatemala”—which makes no sense at all. Back then the entire eastern half of the island was all one province, Oriente. On the map in Daddy’s office, United Fruit’s property was marked in green. Practically the whole map was green—330,000 acres of arable land—with one small area of gray that wasn’t ours marked “owned by others.” People have no idea, the scale of things. Fourteen thousand cane cutters. Eight hundred fifty railcars. Our own machine shops, to repair every part in the mill. Our own airstrip. Two company DC-3s, a Lockheed Lodestar and Daddy’s Cessna Bobcat, which he used for hedgehopping—surveying land or popping over to Banes, the other company mill town thirty miles away. We had our own fleet of sugar boats that went back and forth to Boston. You could sit in the Pan-American Club, which had a bank of panoramic windows perched out over the water like the prow of an ocean liner, and watch the boats coming in and being loaded with bags of raw sugar. During cutting season, our mill processed fifteen million pounds of sugar a day.

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—p.14 by Rachel Kushner 2 years, 7 months ago

In Daddy’s office at company headquarters there was a big map of Oriente. Oriente was where we lived, and it was Cuba’s largest, poorest, blackest province. It has the best climate and most fertile land for growing sugarcane. Castro has it all divided up now, I don’t know why; another cockeyed thing like changing the name of our town, Preston, to “Guatemala”—which makes no sense at all. Back then the entire eastern half of the island was all one province, Oriente. On the map in Daddy’s office, United Fruit’s property was marked in green. Practically the whole map was green—330,000 acres of arable land—with one small area of gray that wasn’t ours marked “owned by others.” People have no idea, the scale of things. Fourteen thousand cane cutters. Eight hundred fifty railcars. Our own machine shops, to repair every part in the mill. Our own airstrip. Two company DC-3s, a Lockheed Lodestar and Daddy’s Cessna Bobcat, which he used for hedgehopping—surveying land or popping over to Banes, the other company mill town thirty miles away. We had our own fleet of sugar boats that went back and forth to Boston. You could sit in the Pan-American Club, which had a bank of panoramic windows perched out over the water like the prow of an ocean liner, and watch the boats coming in and being loaded with bags of raw sugar. During cutting season, our mill processed fifteen million pounds of sugar a day.

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—p.14 by Rachel Kushner 2 years, 7 months ago
15

The cane cutters were always paid their wages at the end of the season. Before the terrible thing that happened to him, Mr. Flamm, the paymaster, calculated their earnings in a giant ledger book. The workers lined up along the road, and Mr. Flamm unzipped a green leather moneybag and doled out pesos. The moneybag had a big lock on it at the end of the zipper, and the company logo embossed on the front. As each worker received his pay, Mr. Flamm crossed him off the list. He had the workers sign next to their names that they’d received their earnings in full. These guys were mostly from Jamaica. They spoke the king’s English, but practically none of them could sign their name. They were supposed to just put a check next to it instead. Some of them didn’t have last names, just nicknames. Hatch Allain stood by to make sure there was no monkey business. It was all handled in cash. They were paid straight cash, minus whatever they’d charged at the company store, the almacén. If they’d drawn off their pay, it was recorded in the ledger book. The company let them draw off their wages so they could eat before payday. None of them owned cars or mules, and they had to do their shopping in Preston. For a while, the company paid them at the end of each workday, but Daddy said it was better to hold off and pay them at the end of the season. The reason was that some of those guys who came over from Jamaica to cut the cane found out they didn’t like it so much. They deserted, never paid the company for their boat passage from Kingston. Cutting cane is brutal, brutal work, some of the hardest work in the world. Bending over all day long under broiling sun, hitting the cane with a flat-blade machete. Leaves so sharp they’ll slice you to ribbons. People get sunstroke; there were heart attacks in our fields. They have to work fast because the sugar starts to turn. The acid content rises and it ferments if the cane sits for more than a few hours. The workers cut the cane and stripped it of leaves. Tied it into bundles and loaded the bundles onto oxcarts, and from oxcarts onto cane cars, which were shunted straight into the mill for processing. It was an eighteen-hour workday, with maybe four hours of sleep. Those guys were up before dawn, and after dark they worked by the light of oil pots. If you pay people at the very end of cutting season, they stick around and finish the job.

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—p.15 by Rachel Kushner 2 years, 7 months ago

The cane cutters were always paid their wages at the end of the season. Before the terrible thing that happened to him, Mr. Flamm, the paymaster, calculated their earnings in a giant ledger book. The workers lined up along the road, and Mr. Flamm unzipped a green leather moneybag and doled out pesos. The moneybag had a big lock on it at the end of the zipper, and the company logo embossed on the front. As each worker received his pay, Mr. Flamm crossed him off the list. He had the workers sign next to their names that they’d received their earnings in full. These guys were mostly from Jamaica. They spoke the king’s English, but practically none of them could sign their name. They were supposed to just put a check next to it instead. Some of them didn’t have last names, just nicknames. Hatch Allain stood by to make sure there was no monkey business. It was all handled in cash. They were paid straight cash, minus whatever they’d charged at the company store, the almacén. If they’d drawn off their pay, it was recorded in the ledger book. The company let them draw off their wages so they could eat before payday. None of them owned cars or mules, and they had to do their shopping in Preston. For a while, the company paid them at the end of each workday, but Daddy said it was better to hold off and pay them at the end of the season. The reason was that some of those guys who came over from Jamaica to cut the cane found out they didn’t like it so much. They deserted, never paid the company for their boat passage from Kingston. Cutting cane is brutal, brutal work, some of the hardest work in the world. Bending over all day long under broiling sun, hitting the cane with a flat-blade machete. Leaves so sharp they’ll slice you to ribbons. People get sunstroke; there were heart attacks in our fields. They have to work fast because the sugar starts to turn. The acid content rises and it ferments if the cane sits for more than a few hours. The workers cut the cane and stripped it of leaves. Tied it into bundles and loaded the bundles onto oxcarts, and from oxcarts onto cane cars, which were shunted straight into the mill for processing. It was an eighteen-hour workday, with maybe four hours of sleep. Those guys were up before dawn, and after dark they worked by the light of oil pots. If you pay people at the very end of cutting season, they stick around and finish the job.

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—p.15 by Rachel Kushner 2 years, 7 months ago
24

Months before the fire started, Daddy had begun to suspect that some of the cane cutters were rebel sympathizers. He had Rev. Crim reporting on the workers. And you might call it racist, especially nowadays, but it was reasonable to assume that anybody black—whether they were Cuban, Haitian, Jamaican—was trouble. Two months before the fire was set, one of the cane cutters had gone into Mr. Flamm’s office to see him. He wanted chits so he could draw off his pay and get credit at the almacén. But he’d already overdrawn what he would make for the whole cutting season. Some of these guys were foolish about that. They’d get chits to buy appliances at the company store and turn around and sell them in Mayarí for a quarter of what they were worth, just to have the money. Spend it on rotgut or lottery tickets. By the time payday rolled around they had nothing coming. They were working like dogs for no pay, just to get out of debt with the company. This cane cutter and Mr. Flamm had an argument. Mr. Flamm wouldn’t give him any store credit and tried to show him the books and explain why, but the guy wasn’t having any of it. What a shame. There is no reason to bring a machete into company headquarters. Mr. Flamm was a little teeny man in his wire-framed glasses. If only somebody had stopped the guy before he went in carrying that machete. After that, Hatch said no blacks in the offices. Mr. Flamm bled to death right there in the accounting office. That’s not politics, it’s mental illness. There were lots of cane cutters, thousands of them, and as I said, they barely had names. They came over on boats from Kingston and lived in these hovels. The one who killed Mr. Flamm ran off. I don’t know if they ever caught him.

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—p.24 by Rachel Kushner 2 years, 7 months ago

Months before the fire started, Daddy had begun to suspect that some of the cane cutters were rebel sympathizers. He had Rev. Crim reporting on the workers. And you might call it racist, especially nowadays, but it was reasonable to assume that anybody black—whether they were Cuban, Haitian, Jamaican—was trouble. Two months before the fire was set, one of the cane cutters had gone into Mr. Flamm’s office to see him. He wanted chits so he could draw off his pay and get credit at the almacén. But he’d already overdrawn what he would make for the whole cutting season. Some of these guys were foolish about that. They’d get chits to buy appliances at the company store and turn around and sell them in Mayarí for a quarter of what they were worth, just to have the money. Spend it on rotgut or lottery tickets. By the time payday rolled around they had nothing coming. They were working like dogs for no pay, just to get out of debt with the company. This cane cutter and Mr. Flamm had an argument. Mr. Flamm wouldn’t give him any store credit and tried to show him the books and explain why, but the guy wasn’t having any of it. What a shame. There is no reason to bring a machete into company headquarters. Mr. Flamm was a little teeny man in his wire-framed glasses. If only somebody had stopped the guy before he went in carrying that machete. After that, Hatch said no blacks in the offices. Mr. Flamm bled to death right there in the accounting office. That’s not politics, it’s mental illness. There were lots of cane cutters, thousands of them, and as I said, they barely had names. They came over on boats from Kingston and lived in these hovels. The one who killed Mr. Flamm ran off. I don’t know if they ever caught him.

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—p.24 by Rachel Kushner 2 years, 7 months ago
29

The company never had operations in Haiti. Daddy said it wasn’t the right political climate for business. In Cuba, we Americans had our traditions, our own world. The company had a set of arrangements with Batista, annual payments, and in return there were no taxes, no tariffs, and we didn’t have to bother with the labor unions or any labor laws. We exported raw sugar, and nobody raised a stink. We sent our sugar up to Boston for processing, to the Revere Sugar Refinery. Batista came to our house. He and Daddy got along fine. I don’t know that they were friends exactly, but they had an understanding.

I’m sure you know the slaves had a revolution in Haiti. A hundred years before slavery was abolished in Cuba, slaves were running the show over there. But instead of voting in a real government, those guys ran buck wild. Put jeweled crowns on their heads and acted like crazed despots, strutting around with white babies on pikes. But what can you expect of a revolution that began with the pounding of African drums, slaves communicating by voodoo? Bloody mayhem is what. Freed slaves running amok in generals’ coats with all the medals and the gold epaulets, and nude from the waist down. They gave themselves ridiculous titles: Chevalier, Viceroy, Generalissimo. The whole thing seems like a bad fever dream. French landowners wallowing in the squalor of their own destroyed estates, lying under the open taps in their own wine cellars, drinking themselves sick. I think they were happy to finally own nothing. Rule no one. Burned mansions, burned crops—the slaves in Haiti torched everything. Of course, slavery is terrible, and as I said, cutting cane is brutal, brutal work. But the slaves were forced, and that’s the difference. On some of the plantations the masters made them wear tin face masks so they wouldn’t eat the cane. Can you imagine? We let them eat the cane, I mean not as a policy, but nobody had to wear any mask. I’m sure it cost more to make those masks than to lose a few stalks of cane.

—p.29 by Rachel Kushner 2 years, 7 months ago

The company never had operations in Haiti. Daddy said it wasn’t the right political climate for business. In Cuba, we Americans had our traditions, our own world. The company had a set of arrangements with Batista, annual payments, and in return there were no taxes, no tariffs, and we didn’t have to bother with the labor unions or any labor laws. We exported raw sugar, and nobody raised a stink. We sent our sugar up to Boston for processing, to the Revere Sugar Refinery. Batista came to our house. He and Daddy got along fine. I don’t know that they were friends exactly, but they had an understanding.

I’m sure you know the slaves had a revolution in Haiti. A hundred years before slavery was abolished in Cuba, slaves were running the show over there. But instead of voting in a real government, those guys ran buck wild. Put jeweled crowns on their heads and acted like crazed despots, strutting around with white babies on pikes. But what can you expect of a revolution that began with the pounding of African drums, slaves communicating by voodoo? Bloody mayhem is what. Freed slaves running amok in generals’ coats with all the medals and the gold epaulets, and nude from the waist down. They gave themselves ridiculous titles: Chevalier, Viceroy, Generalissimo. The whole thing seems like a bad fever dream. French landowners wallowing in the squalor of their own destroyed estates, lying under the open taps in their own wine cellars, drinking themselves sick. I think they were happy to finally own nothing. Rule no one. Burned mansions, burned crops—the slaves in Haiti torched everything. Of course, slavery is terrible, and as I said, cutting cane is brutal, brutal work. But the slaves were forced, and that’s the difference. On some of the plantations the masters made them wear tin face masks so they wouldn’t eat the cane. Can you imagine? We let them eat the cane, I mean not as a policy, but nobody had to wear any mask. I’m sure it cost more to make those masks than to lose a few stalks of cane.

—p.29 by Rachel Kushner 2 years, 7 months ago
30

Maybe we should have seen it coming. It takes a while to put things together. You can’t always do it while it’s happening to you. A week before the fire started, the rebels closed down the main highway east of Las Tunas. That meant they had control of Oriente, so much of which was owned by Americans. Us, and the American government, who ran the Nicaro nickel mine. Batista was persona non grata with the Cubans, and we were caught in the middle. Fidel and Raúl, these were local boys, and I think Daddy was hoping he could reason with them. But after the embargo on U.S. sales of military planes to Cuba, that was in March of ’57, Batista put pressure on Daddy to convince John Foster Dulles—Mr. Dulles was a friend of Daddy’s and a stockholder and his brother Allen was on the company’s board—to find a loophole and get a sale of bombers through. Daddy did that, he spoke to Mr. Dulles, and they set up a pretty crazy scheme. Later, Mr. Dulles told Congress that the Cubans had received the wrong shipment—before the embargo—and the new shipment was simply making good on an old arms deal. Batista got his B-26 bombers. This was in the late fall of 1957. Del disappeared at Christmas that year. It was almost a month later, January 1958, when they torched our cane fields. Batista had been strafing the rebels with his American planes, and the rebels were furious. This is why they attacked us, because of the American bombers. Daddy’s deal with Batista wrecked Daddy’s deal with the rebels. These guys who started the fires, most of them had been United Fruit employees. We were the biggest employer in the whole region. The worst part was that Daddy’s oldest son was up in the mountains, getting bombed by American planes that Daddy had helped Batista to buy.

—p.30 by Rachel Kushner 2 years, 7 months ago

Maybe we should have seen it coming. It takes a while to put things together. You can’t always do it while it’s happening to you. A week before the fire started, the rebels closed down the main highway east of Las Tunas. That meant they had control of Oriente, so much of which was owned by Americans. Us, and the American government, who ran the Nicaro nickel mine. Batista was persona non grata with the Cubans, and we were caught in the middle. Fidel and Raúl, these were local boys, and I think Daddy was hoping he could reason with them. But after the embargo on U.S. sales of military planes to Cuba, that was in March of ’57, Batista put pressure on Daddy to convince John Foster Dulles—Mr. Dulles was a friend of Daddy’s and a stockholder and his brother Allen was on the company’s board—to find a loophole and get a sale of bombers through. Daddy did that, he spoke to Mr. Dulles, and they set up a pretty crazy scheme. Later, Mr. Dulles told Congress that the Cubans had received the wrong shipment—before the embargo—and the new shipment was simply making good on an old arms deal. Batista got his B-26 bombers. This was in the late fall of 1957. Del disappeared at Christmas that year. It was almost a month later, January 1958, when they torched our cane fields. Batista had been strafing the rebels with his American planes, and the rebels were furious. This is why they attacked us, because of the American bombers. Daddy’s deal with Batista wrecked Daddy’s deal with the rebels. These guys who started the fires, most of them had been United Fruit employees. We were the biggest employer in the whole region. The worst part was that Daddy’s oldest son was up in the mountains, getting bombed by American planes that Daddy had helped Batista to buy.

—p.30 by Rachel Kushner 2 years, 7 months ago
50

[...] Everly asked where they were from.

“Hmm. Let’s see. Tela, Limón, Buenos Aires,” Val said, counting on her fingers, “Bogotá, Panama City—”

“Our father built the port in Limón,” Pamela said. “Last year we were in Bolivia. But then troublemakers started rioting.”

“Daddy tried to help the government,” Val added.

“But the troublemakers ended up taking over, and all the good people had to get out of there fast.”

“And now we get here and there’s practically a revolution.”

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—p.50 by Rachel Kushner 2 years, 7 months ago

[...] Everly asked where they were from.

“Hmm. Let’s see. Tela, Limón, Buenos Aires,” Val said, counting on her fingers, “Bogotá, Panama City—”

“Our father built the port in Limón,” Pamela said. “Last year we were in Bolivia. But then troublemakers started rioting.”

“Daddy tried to help the government,” Val added.

“But the troublemakers ended up taking over, and all the good people had to get out of there fast.”

“And now we get here and there’s practically a revolution.”

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—p.50 by Rachel Kushner 2 years, 7 months ago
117

“You let your servants cook native in the house?” Mrs. Billings asked.

“Well, I mean, they can cook what they want to feed themselves,” Mrs. Lederer said, “as long as they serve proper meals to us.”

Mrs. Billings said there was no place for garlic and boiled yucca in her house. She’d trained her staff to cook reasonable American dishes, and now all she had to do was train them to eat reasonable-sized portions. She said her servants ate enormous piles of food.

The others listening concurred, and Mrs. Lederer asked how it could be that none of the servants were a bit fat, while she and Mr. Lederer were constantly on reduction diets.

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—p.117 by Rachel Kushner 2 years, 7 months ago

“You let your servants cook native in the house?” Mrs. Billings asked.

“Well, I mean, they can cook what they want to feed themselves,” Mrs. Lederer said, “as long as they serve proper meals to us.”

Mrs. Billings said there was no place for garlic and boiled yucca in her house. She’d trained her staff to cook reasonable American dishes, and now all she had to do was train them to eat reasonable-sized portions. She said her servants ate enormous piles of food.

The others listening concurred, and Mrs. Lederer asked how it could be that none of the servants were a bit fat, while she and Mr. Lederer were constantly on reduction diets.

You must be logged in to see the comments.

—p.117 by Rachel Kushner 2 years, 7 months ago
117

The brochure had included a list of difficult questions Americans should be prepared to answer when traveling in uncivilized countries. If you are a democracy, why do whites and blacks eat at separate lunch counters? The brochure didn’t propose an answer, as if the answer was obvious, and the issue was only that a person should expect the question. Mr. Mackey said it was a trick question, and that all you had to say was that democracy had to do with separate branches of government, checks and balances and voting.

—p.117 by Rachel Kushner 2 years, 7 months ago

The brochure had included a list of difficult questions Americans should be prepared to answer when traveling in uncivilized countries. If you are a democracy, why do whites and blacks eat at separate lunch counters? The brochure didn’t propose an answer, as if the answer was obvious, and the issue was only that a person should expect the question. Mr. Mackey said it was a trick question, and that all you had to say was that democracy had to do with separate branches of government, checks and balances and voting.

—p.117 by Rachel Kushner 2 years, 7 months ago