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Late Victorian Holocausts: El Nino Famines and the Making of the third World (Mi

ke Davis)
In the philippines, the great drought struck HARDEST at the Western Visayas, esp
ecially the island of Negros, where explosive growth of sugar monoculture had di
spalced TRADITIONAL FOOD SELF-SUFFICIENCY. Just as the Philippines has been ofte
n described as a "Latin American Social Formation in East Asia", likewise the Oc
cidental province of Negros, whose population skyrocketed from 18,805 in 1855 to
308,272 in 1898, came to replicate most of the exploitative and unsustainable c
haracteristics of distant Carribean sugar colonies. Former Spanish colonial offi
cials and army officers, as well as wealthy mestizo merchants, used their politi
cal connections to wrest "through usury, terror, or purhcase" vast tracts of lan
d in Occidental's western plains from pioneering Panayan peasants who had first
cleared the tropical forests in the 1850's. They were replaced first by immigran
t sharecroppers, then by debt-bonded wage laborers. As Violeta Lopez Gonzaga has
exphasized, sugar inexorably BECAME AN ECOLOGY OF HUNGER.
Locust plagues, particularly devastating to rice crops, were the constant compan
iion to the long drought from 1876 to 1878. In the absence of any organized reli
ef effort by corrupt Spanish authorities, the astronomical rise in rice prices i
n conjunction with low sugar prices and high unemployment condemned large number
s of hacienday day-laborers and poor townspeople to starvation