Based on periodic ethgraphic fieldwork over a span of fifteen years, Martinez shows how impoverished plantation dwellers find ways of coping with the alienation that would be expected while laboring to produce goods for the richer countries. Despite living in dire poverty, these workers live in a thoroughly commodified social environment. Ritual, eroticism, electronic media, household adornment, payday-weekend binging are ways even chronically poor plantation residents dream beyond reality. Yet plantation residents' efforts to live decently and escape from the dead hand of necessity also deepen existing divisions of ethnic identity and status. As the divide between haves and have-ts worsens as a result of neoliberal reform and the decline of sugar in international markets, this book reveals on an intensely human scale the coarsening of the social fabric of this and other communities of the world's poorer nations.
Samuel Martinez, Associate Professor of Anthropology and Latin American and Caribbean Studies at the University of Connecticut, is the author of Peripheral Migrants: Haitians and Dominican Republic Sugar Plantations (University of Tennessee Press, 1996).