A story of pre-Castro Cuba

For many years, I loved hearing stories of pre-Castro Cuba. I was 12 when I left Cuba but I had a lot to learn about that wonderful place, One of those stories was about a man named Milton Hershey and a town named Hershey, Cuba:

The town dates to 1916, when Milton S. Hershey, the American chocolate baron, visited Cuba for the first time and decided to buy sugar plantations and mills on the island to supply his growing chocolate empire in Pennsylvania. On land east of Havana, he built a large sugar refinery and an adjoining village — a model town like his creation in Hershey, Pa. — to house his workers and their families.

He named the place Hershey.

The village would come to include about 160 homes — the most elegant made of stone, the more modest of wooden planks — built along a grid of streets and each with tidy yards and front porches in the style common in the growing suburbs of the United States. It also had a public school, a medical clinic, shops, a movie theater, a golf course, social clubs and a baseball stadium where a Hershey-sponsored team played its home games, residents said.

The factory became one of the most productive sugar refineries in the country, if not in all of Latin America, and the village was the envy of surrounding towns, which lacked the standard of living that Mr. Hershey bestowed on his namesake settlement.

This town was unique, but there were in fact U.S. employers in pre-Castro Cuba who took very good care of their employees.

For example, my uncle was a draftsman for a U.S. company that operated in his town. He came out of school and was hired by the company. He worked there for almost 10 years until this plant was expropriated in the early 1960s. I don’t know whatever happened to my uncle’s employer but he clearly got a raw deal from the communists. After all, all he ever did in Cuba was to obey the law, pay taxes, and create jobs.

Mr. Hershey died in 1948 and the town became another sugar refinery community in Cuba. It was actually a very profitable and efficient sugar refinery.    Most of all, it was a good place to work!

P.S. You can listen to my show (Canto Talk).