The Old Hershey, Cuba Community & Mill

Photo feature by Elio Delgado Valdes

HAVANA TIMES — Was Milton Hershey an idealist, a socialist or simply a person who knew how to run a business? The truth is that this US citizen didn’t act like most foreign businesspeople did in Cuba, exploiting their workers unconcerned with how miserably they lived.

In 1916, Milton Hershey came to Cuba in search of conditions for producing the sugar needed for his chocolate factories in the United States.

Near Santa Cruz del Norte, in what’s today Mayabeque Province, he bought a small mill that he expanded, and he later built a larger one. Eventually he would become the owner of several plants in Cuba, but he gave a name to the first one: Hershey.

At the Hershey mill, he applied his theory that people work best when they feel the most comfortable. Consequently he built homes for many of his workers, a health clinic, a pharmacy, a supermarket and all of the other amenities of an urban community – including a school, a school for orphans and children’s playground.

Hershey also built an electric railway — which still works today, running between Havana and Matanzas — to transport those workers who lived far from the mill and to transport sugar to the ports.

The community later changed its name to Camilo Cienfuegos, but there still exist vestiges of what was unquestionably an idea of social progress. One can see in this photo feature some of the houses of the time, now refurbished, as well as some of the mechanical devices used in the construction of that original community.

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One thought on “The Old Hershey, Cuba Community & Mill

  • As of April 2016 the Hershey sugar refinery structures are slowly being demolished. The large railway equipment maintenance building is still there, near the Calle 7 station platforms which is the start point for the interurban train to Jaruco.

    What will be the future of the Hershey Railway? Will it continue as a unique electric interurban railway serving the rural communities far from the Via Blanco highway? Will it serve daily commuters to jobs and appointments in Matanzas and Havana? Will it become a tourist train serving giant cruise ships like the Yukon and White Pass Railway? Can it do all three? Or will it disappear in the face of competition from improved roads and more automobiles for the average Cuban? Sadly that is what lead to the demise of the electric interurban railways in Canada and the USA by the end of the 50’s.

    As it reaches its 100 year anniversary there were posters in Hershey showing tourism attractions all along the line and possible enhancements at Casablanca Station outside Havana. Hopefully such investments in the line will come to pass.

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