Tag Archives: Atlantic Ocean

History of Cane Sugar


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Myself

By T. V. Antony Raj
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Sugar is the universal name for a variety of sweet-tasting carbohydrates, derived from various sources. Sweetmeats, confectionaries, chocolates, alcoholic liqueurs, sweet beverages, etc. use sugar for sweetening.

The English word ‘sugar’ is derived from the Arabic word سكر sukkar, which came from the Persian شکر shekar, itself derived from Sanskrit शर्करा śarkarā, which originated from Tamil சர்க்கரை Sarkkarai. Thus, the etymology of the English word ‘sugar’, in a way, reflects the spread of sugar from India to the western world.

Rich Cohen in his article “Sugar Love” (A not so sweet story) published in the National Geographic says:

“In 1700 the average Englishman consumed 4 pounds a year. In 1800 the common man ate 18 pounds of sugar. In 1870 that same sweet-toothed bloke was eating 47 pounds annually. Was he satisfied? Of course not! By 1900 he was up to 100 pounds a year. In that span of 30 years, world production of cane and beet sugar exploded from 2.8 million tons a year to 13 million plus. Today the average American consumes 77 pounds of added sugar annually, or more than 22 teaspoons of added sugar a day.”

Sugarcane

Most plants have sugar, but only sugarcane and sugar beet are endowed with sufficient concentrations for efficient extraction. Around 80% of the world’s sugar is derived from sugarcane.

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Sugarcane crop
Sugarcane crop

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Sugarcane is any of several species of tall perennial true grass of the genus Saccharum, tribe Andropogoneae, native to the warm temperate to tropical regions of South Asia, and used for sugar production. They have stout jointed fibrous stalks that are rich in sugar. They grow six to 19 feet (two to six meters) tall. All sugar cane species interbreed and the major commercial cultivars are complex hybrids.

The crop has been cultivated in tropical climates in the Far East since ancient times.

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The island of New Guinea.
The island of New Guinea.

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Eight thousand years ago, sugar featured prominently in the food of the inhabitants of the island of New Guinea, the world’s second largest island, after Greenland. During sacred religious ceremonies, their priests sipped water sweetened with sugar from coconut shells.

The use of sugarcane spread gradually from island to island, and around 1000 BC reached the Asian mainland.

By 500 BC, the Indians were processing crystalline sugar from sugarcane. In India sugar was used as a medicine for headaches, stomach flutters, impotence, etc. The art of sugar refinement passed from master to apprentice and remained a secret science.

Sugar found its way to Persia around 600 AD and as luxury rulers entertained their guests with a variety of sweets. From there Arabs carried the knowledge and love for sugar. The Arabs perfected sugar refinement made it into an industry. “Wherever they went, the Arabs brought with them sugar, the product and the technology of its production,” wrote Sidney Mintz in Sweetness and Power. “Sugar, we are told, followed the Koran.”

From there sugar travelled with migrants and monks to China, Persia, northern Africa and eventually to Europe in the 11th century.

The first Europeans to know about sugar were the British and French crusaders that went east to wrest the Holy Land from the Arabs. Having their taste buds excited by sugar they returned with stories and memories of sweets. Unfortunately, they found the temperate climates in Europe unsuitable for cultivation of sugar cane, which needed tropical, rain-drenched fields to grow.

The sugar that reached the West through a trickle of Arab traders was rare and was classified as a spice. Due to its high cost only by the nobility consumed it.

With the spread of the Ottoman Empire in the 1400s, trade with the East became more difficult for the Europeans. To the Western elite who had fallen under the spell of sweets were propelled to develop new sources of sugar.

So, it was the age of exploration for the Europeans – the search for new territories around the world.

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Infante Henry, Duke of Viseu aka Henry the Navigator (March 4, 1394 – November 13, 1460). (Source: From the Polytriptych of St. Vincent in the National Museum of Ancient Art, Lisbon).
Infante Henry, Duke of Viseu aka Henry the Navigator (March 4, 1394 – November 13, 1460). (Source: From the Polytriptych of St. Vincent in the National Museum of Ancient Art, Lisbon).

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Infante Henry, Duke of Viseu (March 4, 1394 – November 13, 1460), the third child of King John I of Portugal, better known as Henry the Navigator, was an important figure in the early days of the Portuguese Empire and the Age of Discoveries in total. He was responsible for the early growth of European exploration and maritime trade with other continents.  In 1419, Portuguese sailors in the service of Infante D. Henrique claimed Madeira, an archipelago about 250 miles (400 km) north of Tenerife, Canary Islands, in the North Atlantic Ocean. In 1425, Infante Henry sent sugarcane with an early group of colonists who settled in Madeira.

Sugarcane found its way to other newly discovered Atlantic islands such as the Cape Verde Islands, and the Canaries.

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Christopher Columbus by Sebastiano del Piombo, 1519. (Metropolitan Museum of Art)
Christopher Columbus by Sebastiano del Piombo, 1519. (Metropolitan Museum of Art)

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In 1493, when Christopher Columbus set off on his second voyage to the New World, he too carried the cane. He planted the New World’s first sugarcane in Hispaniola.

From then on dawned the era of mass sugar production in the slave plantations in the Caribbean islands.

Within decades the Portuguese and the Spanish expanded sugar cane plantation to Puerto Rico, Trinidad, Cuba and Brazil. They cleared the rainforests for sugarcane plantations. The Portuguese turned Brazil into an early boom colony, with more than 100,000 slaves producing tons of sugar.

The harvested crop of sugarcane was crushed and ground and then pressed to extract the cane juice, which was thickened into a syrup by boiling. This produced sugar crystals, which were dried before storage. The raw sugar was piled in the holds of ships and carried to Europe for refining.

Until the 15th and 16th centuries, sugar was classed with nutmeg and cardamom as a luxury spice enjoyed only by the wealthy upper classes.

The original British sugar island was Barbados found by a British captain on May 14, 1625. Tobacco and cotton were grown in the early years, but sugarcane overtook these two on the island as it did wherever it was planted in the Caribbean. Sadly, however, the fields got depleted, the water table drained within a century, and the ambitious planters had left Barbados in search of other island to exploit.

In the 17th century the British established large-scale sugar plantations in the West Indies. The price of sugar fell. Sugar changed from a luxury to a staple item. Since the fall in price made it affordable to the middle class and the poor, the demand for sugar increased.

But the sugar trade was tarnished by its colonial heritage of inhumanity and exploitation. Profits from the sugar trade helped build the British Empire. When the enslaved native population dwindled due to disease or war the planters replaced them with more slaves brought from the west coast of Africa with the expansion of the Atlantic slave trade.

By 1720 Jamaica became number one in the sugar market.

Until the slave trade was banned in Britain in 1807, more than half of the 11 million Africans shipped to the New World ended up on sugar plantations.

The slaves from Africa found the life hard. In the Caribbean millions died in the fields, pressing houses, or while trying to escape. Gradually the people in Europe came to know and understand the hardship of the slaves. While reformers preached abolition, housewives boycotted cane sugar produced by the slaves.

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François-Marie Arouet ( 1694 – 1778), known by his nom de plume Voltaire. French Enlightenment writer, historian and philosopher.
François-Marie Arouet ( 1694 – 1778), known by his nom de plume Voltaire. French Enlightenment writer, historian and philosopher.

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In 1759, a slave in Voltaire’s Candide, ou l’Optimisme, missing both a hand and a leg, explains his mutilation:

“When we work in the sugar mills and we catch our finger in the millstone, they cut off our hand; when we try to run away, they cut off a leg; both things have happened to me. It is at this price that you eat sugar in Europe.”

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William Johnson Fox (1786-1864) - an English religious and political orator .
William Johnson Fox (1786-1864) – an English religious and political orator .

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William Johnson Fox (March 1, 1786 – June 3, 1864), an English religious and political orator in An Address to the people of Great Britain on the propriety of abstaining from West Indian sugar and rum. [London], 1791 wrote:

“So necessarily connected are our consumption of the commodity, and the misery resulting from it, that in every pound of sugar used, (the produce of slaves imported from Africa) we may be considered as consuming two ounces of human fleshA French writer observes, ‘That he cannot look on a piece of sugar without conceiving it stained with spots of human blood.'”

Fox’s pamphlet was widely circulated, and helped promote the idea that sugar was contaminated with the blood and flesh of the suffering slaves who produced it. Nonetheless, production of sugar never stopped.

Current Production of Sugar

The use of sugar beet as a new source of production was developed in Germany in the early 19th century. By the end of the century, production of beet sugar had spread across Europe and beet had overtaken cane as the primary source of sugar there.

Sugarcane is indigenous to tropical South and Southeast Asia. Different species likely originated in different locations. Saccharum Barberi originated in India and Saccharum edule and Saccharum officinarum from New Guinea. Almost 70% of the sugar produced globally comes from Saccharum officinarum and hybrids of this species.

At present, Brazil and India are the world’s two largest sugar producers. For the past 40 years, these two countries have accounted for over half the world’s production of canesugar. The European Union is the third-largest sugar producer and accounts for around half the world’s production of beet sugar.

World sugar production (1,000 tonnes)

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Largest producers of raw sugar as percentage of world production, 2007-12

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Largest exporters of raw sugar as percentage of total exports by volume, 2007-12

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Fast facts: the sugar lowdown (Source: fairtrade.org.uk)

  • Sugar is one of the most valuable agricultural commodities. In 2011 its global export trade was worth $47bn, up from $10bn in 2000.
  • Of the total $47bn, $33.5bn of sugar exports are from developing countries and $12.2bn from developed countries.
  • The sugar industry supports the livelihoods of millions of people – not only smallholders and estate workers but also those working within the wider industry and family dependents. 
  • Around 160 million tonnes of sugar are produced every year. The largest producers are Brazil (22%), India (15%) and the European Union (10%).
  • More than 123 countries produce sugar worldwide, with 70% of the world’s sugar consumed in producer countries and only 30% traded on the international market.
  • About 80% of global production comes from sugarcane (which is grown in the tropics) and 20% comes from sugar beet (grown in temperate climates, including Europe).
  • The juice from both sugarcane and sugar beet is extracted and processed into raw sugar.
  • World consumption of sugar has grown at an average annual rate of 2.7% over the past 50 years. It is driven by rising incomes and populations in developing countries. 
  • The top five consumers of sugar use 51% of the world’s sugar. They include India, the EU-27, China, Brazil and the US.
  • Brazil plays an important role in the global sugar market, as the world’s largest sugar producer, the world’s major exporter and one of the highest per capita consumers, at around 55 kg a year. 

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The Tupamaros, Terrorists of Uruguay – Prelude


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.Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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Map of uruguay
Map of present-day Uruguay

 Guerrilla Warfare

Guerrilla war is a form of unconventional warfare in which members of an irregular military organization or a small group of armed civilians who rebel against the constituted government and carry out harassment and sabotage.

The Guerrillas use military tactics and mobility in concert with an overall political-military strategy to combat on a small-scale, a larger and less-mobile conventional military and police forces. The Guerrillas involve in petty hit-and-run tactics with constantly shifting attacks, ambushes, traps, sabotage, and terrorism.

The word “guerrilla” is derived from the Spanish “guerra” meaning war. It was first used to describe Spanish-Portuguese irregulars who helped drive Napoleon’s French army from the Iberian Peninsula in the early 19th century. In correct Spanish usage, a male member of a guerrilla is a guerrillero, and if female a guerrillera.

The term “guerrilla” was used in English in 1809 to describe combatants. Since then, in most languages guerrilla denotes the specific style of warfare – any war fought by irregular (if not civilian) troops using hit and run tactics fighting their own or an invading government.

The strategy of the guerrilla is to wear down their enemy (the government), until the enemy can be defeated in conventional battle or subject the enemy (the government) to so much military and political pressure that it sues for peace.

Irregular wars existed long before the Peninsular war and several such wars can be seen in the campaigns of Alexander the Great and the Romans. The end of the Second World War brought an upsurge in Guerrilla Warfare.

After World War II, the Colonial powers weakened and many saw their opportunity to acquire power. Some were successful, as with the Viet Cong in the Vietnam War, while others, such as the communist guerrillas in Malaya met stiffer opposition from the British army in what was to become known as the “War of the Running Dogs.”

Even today, Guerrilla Warfare continues in many countries. The term “guerrilla” is gradually being replaced by the word “insurgent”, and its combating is termed COIN (Counterinsurgency).

Statue of Sun Tzu in Yurihama, Tottori, in Japan
Statue of Sun Tzu in Yurihama, Tottori, in Japan

The 5th century BC Chinese general Sun Tzu (544 BC – 496 BC), a high-ranking military general, strategist and tactician, was one of the first to write the theories of guerrilla warfare in his military treatise “The Art of War“.

Mao Zedong, First Chairman of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China
Mao Zedong, First Chairman of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China

The Art of War is often cited as having profoundly influenced Chairman Mao Zedong (Mao Tse-tung) to respond with guerrilla tactics in the mountains in 1928. Mao said:

“We must not belittle the saying in the book of Sun Wu Tzu, the great military expert of ancient China, ‘Know your enemy and know yourself and you can fight a thousand battles without disaster.‘”

Mao has shown that a Guerrilla army could succeed in taking control of a country against the regular opposition. Other Communist revolutions, copied and extended his theories.

Guerilla warfare of Che Guevara inspired other Guerrilla outfits including the Tupamaros in Uruguay, Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) and the Tamil insurgent outfits such as the LTTE in Sri Lanka, the various Naxalite groups in India that are mostly associated with the Communist Party of India (Maoist), the Kashmiri ultras funded by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan, and many other worldwide terror outfits.

The Urban Guerrilla Warfare

The use of guerrilla warfare in the city is not new. It is not a weapon used solely by the left. In Cyprus, General Grivas used this a form of guerrilla warfare to realize his dream of uniting a fascist Cyprus with a fascist Greece.

Since around 1968, urban guerrilla warfare has been used in Latin America, in Ireland, in Vietnam, in Northeast India, in Sri Lanka, etc., and emerged as a dominant form of armed struggle.

Tupamaros flag

A decisive factor was the emergence of the Uruguayan Tupamaros, the subject of this series of articles. Though the Tupamaros movement was squashed by outright military action, it set a standard for an intelligent violence unequaled in modern times except by the LTTE in Sri Lanka. Though there is no doubt about the flair, bravery and genius of the Tupamaros, there lingers doubts about their politics. The German strategist, Von Clausewitz, much admired by Lenin, wrote:

War is only the violent extension of politics; if the politics are wrong to start with, the war will probably go the same way.

Some scholars have contended that the Tupamaros should not be labeled as terrorists; instead they should be characterized as urban guerillas or merely organized criminals acting on behalf of the poor of Uruguay.

Writing in 1969, Marysa Gerassi claims, “The Tupamaros have achieved the first stages of their strategy without terrorism.” She says that the Tupamaros fought with the police only when they were forced to, and that they warned civilians before exploding their bombs.

Micahel Freeman in his book “The Consequences for Democracies Using Emergency Powers to Fight Terror”, wrote:

“Although the Tupamaros may have been ‘considerate’ in their attacks, violence in the form of bombings, kidnappings, and executions intended to frighten a population still constitutes terrorism. Importantly, recall that I do not define terrorism as violence directed only against civilian targets. Terrorists make no distinctions between the military and civilians; attacks on off-duty military personnel can terrorize as much as attacks on civilian targets. For example, the Tupamaros assassinated Emet Motto, a frigate captain, and Colonel Artigas Alvarez. the brother of the commander of the joint polite-army forces. These assassinations created a climate of terror in the security forces and may have led to their desire for a fast and vigorous response to fight terrorism.

This climate of fear was also prevalent in the civilian population. Alphonse Max, a Bulgarian writer of Flemish-German descent and General in Montevideo, wrote that, while in the early years, the Tupamaros

managed to retain an image of well-mannered, considerate, polite. friendly, humane and educated young men and women.., with the robbery at the Casino in Punta del Este and the shooting of policemen and innocent bystanders in ever-increasing numbers, the true picture emerged. The public saw the terrorists as cold-blooded, ruthless criminals, determined to achieve their objectives, however vague and contradictory by means of violence and terror and with utter disregard for the innocent lives they might take.”

The Tupamaros bombed military, police, business, and government buildings, kidnapped a variety of people, shot many policemen, and even searched policemen’s homes, taking their weapons and humiliating the officers in front of their families.

All of these actions made the Tupamaros terrorists. After 1968, the Tupamaros was much more aggressive in their attacks on the Uruguayan state, particularly President Pacheco’s government.

The Uruguyan Economist Arturo C. Porzecanski wrote:

“[after 1968] the Tupamaros began applying the full range of guerrilla tactics in accordance with their strategic scheme. Robberies of money and arms became a monthly and then a weekly event; political kidnapping was launched and repeatedly applied; propaganda actions were initiated and continued until, by the end of 1969, the existence of the urban guerrilla organization could escape no one and ‘Tupamaro’ became a household word.”

The Tupamaros became the role model for urban guerrillas in Europe and in Asia.

José Mujica

José Mujica - president of Uruguay
José Mujica – president of Uruguay

Do you know that José Mujica, the current president of Uruguay used to rob banks when he was young?

José Mujica was Minister of Livestock, Agriculture, and Fisheries from 2005 to 2008 and a Senator afterwards. As the candidate of the Broad Front, Mujica won the 2009 presidential election and took office as president of Uruguay on March 1, 2010. Hailed as “the world’s ‘poorest’ president”, due to his austere lifestyle, José Mujica donates around 90 percent of his $12,000 (£7,500) monthly salary to charities that benefit poor people and small entrepreneurs.

 

Next   Part 1: The Beginnings

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A Short History of Uruguay – Part 2


. .Myself By T.V. Antony Raj .

The Rt. Hon. Viscount William Carr Beresford (National Portrait Gallery, London.)
The Rt. Hon. Viscount William Carr Beresford (National Portrait Gallery, London.)

In early 19th century, the British, Spanish, Portuguese and other colonial forces fought for dominance in the Platine region. In 1806 and 1807, as part of the Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815), the British army attempted to seize Buenos Aires and Montevideo.

In April 1806, Admiral Hope Popham, without the express permission of the British government, launched an excursion with General William Beresford leading around 1,500 soldiers. The modest British troops landed near Quilmes on June 17, 1806. With Spanish forces tied up in the Napoleonic Wars in Europe, the resistance was limited to untrained and poorly organized militia.

After overcoming limited resistance by untrained and poorly organized militia, the British troop advanced towards Buenos Aires. The Spanish viceroy Marquis Rafael de Sobremonte fled from Buones Aires to Córdoba with the city’s treasure, an act designed to protect the crown’s finances. But many in the town viewed his act as a betrayal and cowardice.

Ten days after disembarking, Beresford captured Buenos Aires on June 17, 1806, and hoisted the British flag above the fort on Plaza de Mayo. Then, he sent news of the British triumph to London which reached there ten weeks later. The Times on September 13, 1806, declared in a triumphant article: “Buenos Aires at this moment forms part of the British Empire.

General Beresford, proclaimed governor of the newly conquered territories, announced that he would allow the city to function as before. He offered full British protection to people “of all class” that swear loyalty to “His Majesty’s Government”. Some of the city elite, 58 in number, responded to Beresford’s call to sign allegiance to King George III. Some of them even hoped that the British would support the liberation of the region from Spain. However, Beresford, unsure exactly how to deal with the current situation decided to wait for reinforcements and instructions from London.

During this lull period the city’s 50,000 inhabitants realized the inconsequential size of the British force that invaded them. Driven by shame a counterattacking force of influential Spanish figures conspired to recruit and arm volunteer fighters.

Juan Martín de Pueyrredón, 6th Supreme Director of the United Provinces of the Río de la Plata (Art by Rafael del Villar)
Juan Martín de Pueyrredón, 6th Supreme Director of the United Provinces of the Río de la Plata (Art by Rafael del Villar)

An Argentine tradesman, Juan Martín de Pueyrredón, did not believe that the British would help them become independent of Spain. He went to Montevideo and got an interview with governor Pascual Ruiz Huidobro. Huidobro authorized him to organize a resistance. Pueyrredón returned to Buenos Aires and secretly assembled a militia  composed of a ludicrous mix of Spanish soldiers, native Criollos, indigenous villagers, and black slaves at the Perdriel ranch outside the city.

At the end on July 1806, the British uncovered the plot. On August 1, 1806, General Beresford sent troops to attack Pueyrredón at his camp 20 km northwest of the city centre and easily dispersed the militia. Pueyrredón escaped to Colonia del Sacramento and joined Santiago de Liniers, a French emigrant serving as a naval officer for the Spanish.  Liniers recruited fighters from Montevideo.

A few days later, Pueyrredón’S ragtag militia joined the forces arriving from Colonia led by Santiago de Liniers.

Santiago de Liniers (Naval Museum of Madrid)
Santiago de Liniers (Naval Museum of Madrid)

On August 10, 1806, with an ever growing militia force Liniers sent a message to General Beresford, giving him 15 minutes to surrender or face “total destruction”.

“The high estimation of Your Excellency’s honour, the generosity of Spain, and the horror that the destruction of man inspires in humanity drives me to send Your Excellency this warning so that, given the danger you find yourself in, you advise me within precisely 15 minutes whether you are prepared to lead your troops to total destruction or surrender to a powerful enemy.”

General Beresford responded that he would defend himself “until prudent, to avoid whatever calamity may befall the people.”

Two days later, after being overwhelmed in ferocious street fighting, and having retreated back to the fort, Beresford raised a white flag.

William Gavin, a British soldier wrote about the British capitulation in his diary of the invasion, which is one of the few first-hand accounts that exist in English:

“Our position was commanded by the enemy, who occupied the tops of the houses and the great church… we were picked off at pleasure. After a conference between the General and an Aide-de-Camp of Liniers, we surrendered to the greatest set of ragamuffins ever collected together.”

After the reconquest of Buenos Aires Viceroy Sobremonte was stripped of his title, the city’s treasure that he took away was confiscated, and he was barred from entering the city.

Santiago de Liniers was hailed as a hero and was appointed as military general. Liniers, to repel future attacks, immediately set about forming a more organised and professional military force.

In late 1806, as part of the Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815), the British army invaded the Río de la Plata Estuary to avenge Spain’s recapture of Buenos Aires from them. The 10,000-member British force captured and occupied Montevideo for a brief period from February to July 1807, when it left and moved against Buenos Aires, where it was soundly defeated.

In 1807, Juan Martín de Pueyrredón, was sent as a representative of Buenos Aires to Spain. He returned in 1809 to Buenos Aires, to participate in the Independentist movement. The May Revolution of 1810 gave birth to the first local government junta and he was appointed governor of Córdoba. In 1812, he became the leader of the independent forces and a member of the short-lived First Triumvirate. From 1812 to 1815, he was exiled in San Luis.

In 1808, Spanish prestige weakened when Napoleon invaded Spain and installed his brother Joseph on the throne. The Cabildo of Montevideo, that remained nominally loyal to Ferdinand VII as the king of Spain, created an autonomous junta.

Montevideo’s military commander, Javier Elío, eventually persuaded the Spanish central junta to accept his control at Montevideo as independent of Buenos Aires.

In 1810 criollos (those born in America of Spanish parents) from Buenos Aires took the reins of government in that city and unseated the Spanish viceroy.

Independence struggle (1811–30)

Banda Oriental, or more fully Banda Oriental del Uruguay, was the name of the South American territories east of the Uruguay River and north of Río de la Plata, coinciding approximately with the modern nation of Uruguay, the modern Brazilian State of Rio Grande do Sul and some parts of Santa Catarina. It was the easternmost strip of land of the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata.

The population of the Banda Oriental was politically divided. The countryside favored recognizing Elío’s junta in Buenos Aires; the authorities in Montevideo wanted to retain a nominal allegiance to the Spanish king.

Artigas at the Citadel - a drawing by Juan Manuel Blanes (June 8, 1830 – April 15, 1901)
Artigas at the Citadel – a drawing by Juan Manuel Blanes (June 8, 1830 – April 15, 1901)

In 1811, José Gervasio Artigas, now a national hero of Uruguay, launched a successful revolution against the Spanish authorities and defeated them on May 18 at the Battle of Las Piedras.

In 1813, the new government in Buenos Aires convened a constituent assembly where Artigas emerged as a champion of federalism, demanding political and economic autonomy for each area, and for the Banda Oriental in particular. The assembly refused to seat the delegates from the Banda Oriental however, and Buenos Aires pursued a system based on unitary centralism. As a result, Artigas broke with Buenos Aires and besieged Montevideo, taking the city in early 1815.

When the troops from Buenos Aires withdrew, the Banda Oriental appointed its first autonomous government.

Artigas organized the Federal League under his protection, consisting of six provinces, four of which later became part of Argentina.

In 1816 a force of 10,000 Portuguese troops invaded the Banda Oriental from Brazil and took Montevideo in January 1817.

After nearly four more years of struggle Portuguese Brazil annexed the Banda Oriental as a province under the name of “Cisplatina“. Argentina claimed Montevideo first, but Brazil annexed it in 1821.

Juan Antonio Lavalleja (Source: biografiasyvidas.com)
Juan Antonio Lavalleja (Source: biografiasyvidas.com)

The Brazilian Empire became independent from Portugal in 1822. In response to the annexation, the Thirty-Three Orientals, led by Juan Antonio Lavalleja, declared independence on 25 August 1825 supported by the United Provinces of the Río de la Plata (present-day Argentina). This led to the 500-day-long Cisplatine War. Neither side gained the upper hand.

In 1828 the Treaty of Montevideo, fostered by the United Kingdom, gave birth to Uruguay as an independent state. The nation’s first constitution was adopted on July 18, 1830.

 Previous – A Short History of Uruguay – Part 1

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A Short History of Uruguay – Part 1


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.Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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While researching for a forthcoming series of articles on the Tupamaros, the urban guerrillas of Uruguay, I gathered many interesting extraneous materials about Uruguay, in South America. Here is my attempt at composing a short history of the formative years of that nation.

Map of uruguay
Map of present-day Uruguay

Uruguay, officially the Oriental Republic of Uruguay (Spanish: República Oriental del Uruguay), is a country in the southeastern region of South America. It is bordered by Argentina to its west and Brazil to its north and east, with the Atlantic Ocean to the south and southeast.

With an area of about 176,000 square kilometers (68,000 sq. miles), Uruguay is geographically the second-smallest nation in South America after Suriname.  As of July 2013, Uruguay is home to an estimated 3.3 million people of whom 1.8 million live in the metropolitan area of its capital and largest city, Montevideo.

When compared with other Latin American countries, no significant vestiges of civilizations existed in the regions of contemporary Uruguay before the arrival of European settlers. Fossilized remnants dating back 10,000 years have been found in the north of the country, belonging to the Catalan and Cuareim cultures. They were probably hunters and gatherers. More people arrived in the region 4,000 years ago belonging the Charrúa, a small tribe driven south by the Guaraní of Paraguay and the Tupí-Guaraní indigenous to regions in Brazil. Other, lesser indigenous groups in Uruguay included the Yaro, Chaná, and Bohane.

In the early sixteenth century, Spanish seamen were searching for the strait that linked the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans. In 1516, Juan Díaz de Solís, a 16th century navigator and explorer, navigating in the name of Spain, inadvertently entered the Río de la Plata and discovered the region. The Charrúa Indians attacked the ship as soon as it arrived and killed everyone in the party except for one boy, rescued a decade later by Sebastian Cabot, an Englishman in the service of Spain.

In 1520, Ferdinand Magellan, a Portuguese captain, cast anchor in a bay of the Río de la Plata at the site that would become Montevideo.

In 1535, Don Pedro de Mendoza y Luján (c. 1487 – June 23, 1537), a Spanish conquistador, soldier and explorer, sailed up the Río de la Plata and founded Buenos Aires on February 2, 1536 as Ciudad de Nuestra Señora Santa María del Buen Ayre (literally “City of Our Lady Saint Mary of the Fair Winds”) after Our Lady of Bonaria, Patroness Saint of Sardinia.

Mendoza founded a settlement in what is today the San Telmo district of Buenos Aires, south of the city center.

Other expeditions reconnoitered the territory and its rivers.

Early colonizers were disappointed to find no gold or silver in the region. In 1603 Hernando Arias de Saavedra, the first Spanish governor of the Río de la Plata region, discovered the rich, well-irrigated pastures in the area and introduced the first cattle and horses which became a source of wealth in the region – a different kind of wealth. However, English and Portuguese inhabitants of the region, initiated an indiscriminate slaughter of cattle to get leather.

In 1624, the Spanish founded their first permanent settlement at Soriano on the Río Negro. Uruguay then became a zone of contention between the Spanish and the Portuguese empires.

In 1680, the Portuguese, expanded Brazil’s frontier by founding Colonia del Sacramento on the Río de la Plata. Seeking to limit Portugal’s expansion, Spain increased colonization of the region.

About 40 years later, in 1726, the Spanish monarch ordered construction of Fuerte de San José, a military fort at present-day Montevideo and founded San Felipe de Montevideo on this site making it the port and station of the Spanish fleet in the South Atlantic. The new settlement included families from Buenos Aires and the Canary Islands to whom the Spanish crown distributed plots and farms and later large haciendas in the interior. Authorities were appointed, and a cabildo (town council) was formed.

Montevideo is on a bay with a natural harbor suitable for large oceangoing vessels. This geographic advantage over Buenos Aires soon developed Montevideo into an important commercial center when salted beef began to be used to feed ship crews. This became the base of the future rivalry between the two cities. In 1776, establishment of the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata with Buenos Aires as its capital aggravated this rivalry. Montevideo was authorized to trade directly with Spain instead of through Buenos Aires.

With the introduction of the slave trade to the southern part of the continent, Montevideo became a major commercial port of entry for slaves. Between the mid-eighteenth and the early nineteenth century, thousands of slaves were brought into Uruguay. Since livestock raising, the major economic activity in the region, was not labour intensive and the requirements of labour met by steadily increasing immigrants coming from Europe, the use for slaves in Uruguay itself was relatively low.

Because the region acted as a natural buffer region separating Spanish and Portuguese possessions, the Spanish to consolidate occupation of the territory, established new settlements throughout the eighteenth century. To combat smuggling, protect ranchers, and contain Indians, the Spanish formed a rural patrol force called the Blandengues Corps.

The Battle for Buenos Aires

Map of the Río de la Plata, between Argentina and Uruguay in South America.
Map of the Río de la Plata, between Argentina and Uruguay in South America.

In the mid 1770s, the British government had an idea of spawning a presence in ‘Hispanic America’ in the resource-rich region of the Río de la Plata for commercial benefits. They envisaged to weaken the Spanish empire by their presence in the region, and  prevent any French plans to do the same. High-level officials in London identified Buenos Aires as a strategic site to control the Río de la Plata estuary. With prevailing consensus at that time, the British thought the local populace would welcome British rule over the Spanish crown.

Next  A Short History of Uruguay – Part 2

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Sugar – Part 1: History of Cane sugar


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Myself

By T. V. Antony Raj
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Sugar is the universal name for a variety of sweet-tasting carbohydrates, derived from various sources. Sweetmeats, confectionaries, chocolates, alcoholic liqueurs, sweet beverages, etc. use sugar for sweetening.

The English word ‘sugar’ is derived from the Arabic word سكر sukkar, which came from the Persian شکر  shekar, itself derived from Sanskrit शर्करा śarkarā, which originated from Tamil சர்க்கரை Sarkkarai. Thus, the etymology of the English word ‘sugar’, in a way, reflects the spread of sugar from India to the western world.

Rich Cohen in his article “Sugar Love” (A not so sweet story) published in the National Geographic says:

“In 1700 the average Englishman consumed 4 pounds a year. In 1800 the common man ate 18 pounds of sugar. In 1870 that same sweet-toothed bloke was eating 47 pounds annually. Was he satisfied? Of course not! By 1900 he was up to 100 pounds a year. In that span of 30 years, world production of cane and beet sugar exploded from 2.8 million tons a year to 13 million plus. Today the average American consumes 77 pounds of added sugar annually, or more than 22 teaspoons of added sugar a day.”

Sugarcane

Most plants have sugar, but only sugarcane and sugar beet have sufficient concentrations for efficient extraction. Around 80% of the world’s sugar is derived from sugarcane.

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Sugarcane crop
Sugarcane crop

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Sugarcane is any of several species of tall perennial true grass of the genus Saccharum, tribe Andropogoneae, native to the warm temperate to tropical regions of South Asia, and used for sugar production. They have stout jointed fibrous stalks that are rich in sugar. They grow six to 19 feet (two to six meters) tall. All sugar cane species interbreed and the major commercial cultivars are complex hybrids.

The crop has been cultivated in tropical climates in the Far East since ancient times.

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The island of New Guinea.
The island of New Guinea.

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Eight thousand years ago, sugar featured prominently in the food of the inhabitants of the island of New Guinea, the world’s second largest island, after Greenland. During sacred religious ceremonies, their priests sipped water sweetened with sugar from coconut shells.

The use of sugarcane spread gradually from island to island, and around 1000 BC reached the Asian mainland.

By 500 BC, the Indians were processing crystalline sugar from sugarcane. In India sugar is used as a medicine for headaches, stomach flutters, impotence, etc. The art of sugar refinement passed from master to apprentice and remained a secret science. From there sugar travelled with migrants and monks to China, Persia, northern Africa and eventually to Europe in the 11th century.

Sugar found its way to Persia around 600 AD and as luxury rulers entertained their guests with a variety of sweets. From there the Arabs carried the knowledge and love of sugar, perfected sugar refinement and made it into an industry. “Wherever they went, the Arabs brought with them sugar, the product and the technology of its production,” wrote Sidney Mintz in Sweetness and Power. “Sugar, we are told, followed the Koran.”

The first Europeans to know about sugar were the British and French Crusaders that went east to wrest the Holy Land from the Arabs. Having their taste buds excited by sugar the Crusaders returned with stories and memories of sweets. Unfortunately, they found the temperate climates in Europe unsuitable for cultivation of sugar cane, which needed tropical, rain-drenched fields to grow.

The sugar that reached the West through a trickle of Arab traders was rare and was classified as a spice. Due to its high cost only by the nobility consumed it.

With the spread of the Ottoman Empire in the 1400s, trade with the East became more difficult for the Europeans. To the Western elite who had fallen under the spell of sweets were propelled to develop new sources of sugar.

So, it was the age of exploration for the Europeans – the search for new territories around the world.

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Infante Henry, Duke of Viseu aka Henry the Navigator (March 4, 1394 – November 13, 1460). (Source: From the Polytriptych of St. Vincent in the National Museum of Ancient Art, Lisbon).
Infante Henry, Duke of Viseu aka Henry the Navigator (March 4, 1394 – November 13, 1460). (Source: From the Polytriptych of St. Vincent in the National Museum of Ancient Art, Lisbon).

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Infante Henry, Duke of Viseu (March 4, 1394 – November 13, 1460), the third child of King John I of Portugal, better known as Henry the Navigator, was an important figure in the early days of the Portuguese Empire and the Age of Discoveries in total. He was responsible for the early growth of European exploration and maritime trade with other continents.  In 1419, Portuguese sailors in the service of Infante D. Henrique claimed Madeira, an archipelago about 250 miles (400 km) north of Tenerife, Canary Islands, in the North Atlantic Ocean. In 1425, Infante Henry sent sugarcane with an early group of colonists who settled in Madeira.

Sugarcane found its way to other newly discovered Atlantic islands such as the Cape Verde Islands, and the Canaries.

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Christopher Columbus by Sebastiano del Piombo, 1519. (Metropolitan Museum of Art)
Christopher Columbus by Sebastiano del Piombo, 1519. (Metropolitan Museum of Art)

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In 1493, when Christopher Columbus set off on his second voyage to the New World, he too carried the cane. He planted the New World’s first sugarcane in Hispaniola.

From then on dawned the era of mass sugar production in the slave plantations in the Caribbean islands.

Within decades the Portuguese and the Spanish expanded sugar cane plantation to Puerto Rico, Trinidad, Cuba and Brazil. They cleared the rainforests for sugarcane plantations. The Portuguese turned Brazil into an early boom colony, with more than 100,000 slaves producing tons of sugar.

The harvested crop of sugarcane was crushed and ground and then pressed to extract the cane juice, which was thickened into a syrup by boiling. This produced sugar crystals, which were dried before storage. The raw sugar was piled in the holds of ships and carried to Europe for refining.

Until the 15th and 16th centuries, sugar was classed with nutmeg and cardamom as a luxury spice enjoyed only by the wealthy upper classes.

The original British sugar island was Barbados found by a British captain on May 14, 1625. Tobacco and cotton were grown in the early years, but sugarcane overtook these two on the island as it did wherever it was planted in the Caribbean. Sadly, however, the fields got depleted, the water table drained within a century, and the ambitious planters had left Barbados in search of other island to exploit.

In the 17th century the British established large-scale sugar plantations in the West Indies. The price of sugar fell. Sugar changed from a luxury to a staple item. Since the fall in price made it affordable to the middle class and the poor, the demand for sugar increased.

But the sugar trade was tarnished by its colonial heritage of inhumanity and exploitation. Profits from the sugar trade helped build the British Empire. When the enslaved native population dwindled due to disease or war the planters replaced them with more slaves brought from the west coast of Africa with the expansion of the Atlantic slave trade.

By 1720 Jamaica became number one in the sugar market.

Until the slave trade was banned in Britain in 1807, more than half of the 11 million Africans shipped to the New World ended up on sugar plantations.

The slaves from Africa found the life hard. In the Caribbean millions died in the fields, pressing houses, or while trying to escape. Gradually the people in Europe came to know and understand the hardship of the slaves. While reformers preached abolition, housewives boycotted cane sugar produced by the slaves.

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François-Marie Arouet ( 1694 – 1778), known by his nom de plume Voltaire. French Enlightenment writer, historian and philosopher.
François-Marie Arouet ( 1694 – 1778), known by his nom de plume Voltaire. French Enlightenment writer, historian and philosopher.

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In 1759, a slave in Voltaire’s Candide, ou l’Optimisme, missing both a hand and a leg, explains his mutilation:

“When we work in the sugar mills and we catch our finger in the millstone, they cut off our hand; when we try to run away, they cut off a leg; both things have happened to me. It is at this price that you eat sugar in Europe.”

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William Johnson Fox (1786-1864) - an English religious and political orator .
William Johnson Fox (1786-1864) – an English religious and political orator .

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William Johnson Fox (March 1, 1786 – June 3, 1864), an English religious and political orator in An Address to the people of Great Britain on the propriety of abstaining from West Indian sugar and rum. [London], 1791 wrote:

“So necessarily connected are our consumption of the commodity, and the misery resulting from it, that in every pound of sugar used, (the produce of slaves imported from Africa) we may be considered as consuming two ounces of human fleshA French writer observes, ‘That he cannot look on a piece of sugar without conceiving it stained with spots of human blood.'”

Fox’s pamphlet was widely circulated, and helped promote the idea that sugar was contaminated with the blood and flesh of the suffering slaves who produced it. Nonetheless, production of sugar never stopped.

Current Production of Sugar

The use of sugar beet as a new source of production was developed in Germany in the early 19th century. By the end of the century, production of beet sugar had spread across Europe and beet had overtaken cane as the primary source of sugar there.

Sugarcane is indigenous to tropical South and Southeast Asia. Different species likely originated in different locations. Saccharum Barberi originated in India and Saccharum edule and Saccharum officinarum from New Guinea. Almost 70% of the sugar produced globally comes from Saccharum officinarum and hybrids of this species.

At present, Brazil and India are the world’s two largest sugar producers. For the past 40 years, these two countries have accounted for over half the world’s production of canesugar. The European Union is the third-largest sugar producer and accounts for around half the world’s production of beet sugar.

World sugar production (1,000 tonnes)

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Largest producers of raw sugar as percentage of world production, 2007-12

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Largest exporters of raw sugar as percentage of total exports by volume, 2007-12

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Fast facts: the sugar lowdown (Source: fairtrade.org.uk)

  • Sugar is one of the most valuable agricultural commodities. In 2011 its global export trade was worth $47bn, up from $10bn in 2000.
  • Of the total $47bn, $33.5bn of sugar exports are from developing countries and $12.2bn from developed countries.
  • The sugar industry supports the livelihoods of millions of people – not only smallholders and estate workers but also those working within the wider industry and family dependents. 
  • Around 160 million tonnes of sugar are produced every year. The largest producers are Brazil (22%), India (15%) and the European Union (10%).
  • More than 123 countries produce sugar worldwide, with 70% of the world’s sugar consumed in producer countries and only 30% traded on the international market.
  • About 80% of global production comes from sugarcane (which is grown in the tropics) and 20% comes from sugar beet (grown in temperate climates, including Europe).
  • The juice from both sugarcane and sugar beet is extracted and processed into raw sugar.
  • World consumption of sugar has grown at an average annual rate of 2.7% over the past 50 years. It is driven by rising incomes and populations in developing countries. 
  • The top five consumers of sugar use 51% of the world’s sugar. They include India, the EU-27, China, Brazil and the US.
  • Brazil plays an important role in the global sugar market, as the world’s largest sugar producer, the world’s major exporter and one of the highest per capita consumers, at around 55 kg a year. 

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Next → Sugar – Part 2: The Different Avatars of Sugar

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Sandy: Third Most-Active Hurricane of 19 Named Storms in the Atlantic Basin.


It was a year with a greater number of named storms than normal. While numbers were high, not many storms hit the U.S.; however, the ones that did were devastating.

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It was a year with a greater number of named storms than normal. While numbers were high, not many storms hit the U.S.; however, the ones that did were devastating. AccuWeather broadcaster Valerie Smock has more.

The end of the 2012 hurricane season left an impression, as historic Sandy wreaked immense damage in the Northeast.

Photos: 2012 Hurricane Season
Link: 2012 Atlantic Hurricane Season Wallpaper

2012 tied 1887, 1995, 2010 and 2011 as the third most-active year on record in the Atlantic, with a total of 19 named storms in the Atlantic Basin. A normal hurricane season has around 12 storms, with around six hurricanes and close to three major hurricanes. The most active hurricane season was 2005, with 28 named storms, including Hurricane Katrina.

Category 5 = 0
Category 4 = 0
Category 3 = 1
Category 2 = 3
Category 1 = 6
Tropical storm = 9
Number of land-falling storms on the U.S.: 4

Highest category: Michael, Category 3
No major hurricane (Category 3 or higher) has hit U.S. since 2005.

Lowest pressure in a hurricane: Sandy, 940 mb

Highest wind: Michael, 115mph

Earliest storm: Alberto, May 19

Latest storm: Sandy, Oct. 29

Costliest storm: Sandy, according to The New York Times

Longest duration: Nadine, 24 days

Shortest duration: Joyce, 3 days

2012 Hurricane Stats

Name Dates Max Wind (MPH) Pressure (mb)
T.S. Alberto May 19-22 60 995
T.S. Beryl May 26-30 70 992
H. Chris June 19-22 75 987
T.S. Debby June 23-27 60 990
H. Ernesto Aug. 1-10 95 980
T.S. Florence Aug. 3-6 60 1002
H. Gordon Aug. 15-20 110 1004
T.S. Helene Aug. 9-18 45 965
H. Isaac Aug. 21- Sept. 1 80 968
T.S. Joyce Aug. 22-24 40 1006
H. Kirk Aug. 28-Sept. 2 105 970
H. Leslie Aug. 30- Sept. 11 75 968
H. Michael Sept. 3-11 115 964
H. Nadine Sept. 11-Oct 4 90 978
T.S. Oscar Oct. 3-5 50 997
TS Patty Oct 11-13 45 1005
H. Rafael Oct. 12-17 90 969
H. Sandy Oct. 22-29 110 940
T.S. Tony Oct. 22-25 50 1000

Storm Cost

Storm Deaths Cost
T.S. Beryl 4 $148 million
T.S. Debby 7 $308 million
H. Ernesto 12 $117 million
H. Isaac 41 $2 billion
H. Rafael 1 $2 million
H. Sandy 253 more than $70 billion, according to the New York Times

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The statistics come from the National Hurricane Center.

Re-posted from AccuWeather.com (December 03, 2012)

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