Dance of the Millions

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Dance of the Millions

Dance of the Millions is the phrase used to describe the boom-and-bust prosperity associated with the rapid rise and collapse of sugar prices in Cuba at the conclusion of World War I. The war stimulated an unprecedented demand for Cuban sugar and great business growth in Cuba from 1914 through the conflict's end. The U.S. price of sugar was fixed at 5.5 cents per pound during the war, which allowed for substantial profits and encouraged rapid expansion of sugar cultivation and speculation in Cuban land and other businesses. Although the entire economy expanded rapidly, speculators and investors also incurred heavy debts in their rush to join the rising prosperity. When price controls ended after the war, prices soared, driven upward by widespread speculation. Sugar reached a peak of 22.5 cents per pound in the United States by May 1920. By this time, however, European beet sugar had resumed production and the shortage of sugar that had stimulated the initial rise in prices no longer existed. Once it became apparent that there was a surplus of sugar, prices plummeted to less than 4 cents per pound by December 1920. The collapse of sugar prices caused widespread financial and business failure.

A similar surge in foreign investment and speculation in Colombia in the 1920s has also been called the Dance of the Millions by some writers.

See alsoSugar Industry .


Hugh Thomas, Cuba: The Pursuit of Freedom (1971), pp. 525-563, provides a detailed description of the Cuban sugar boom of 1912–1920, and Robert F. Smith, The United States and Cuba: Business and Diplomacy, 1917–1960 (1960), describes its relation to the U.S. economy. See also Leland Hamilton Jenks, Our Cuban Colony: A Study in Sugar (1928). Vernon Lee Fluharty, Dance of the Millions: Military Rule and the Social Revolution in Colombia, 1930–1956 (1957), pp. 30-35, describes the Colombian Dance of the Millions.

Additional Bibliography

Ayala, César J. American Sugar Kingdom: The Plantation Economy of the Spanish Caribbean, 1898–1934. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999.

Dye, Alan. Cuban Sugar in the Age of Mass Production: Technology and the Economics of the Sugar Central, 1899–1929. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1998.

Santamaría García, Antonio. Sin azucar no hay país: La industria azucarera y la economía cubana (1919–1939). Sevilla: Secretariado de Publicaciones de la Universidad de Sevilla: Diputación de Sevilla, Servicio de Archivo y Publicaciones; Madrid: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Escuela de Estudios His-pano-Americanos, 2001.

                             Ralph lee Woodward Jr.