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May 21, 2024 30 mins

Andrew talk with Gare about the history of anarchist labor organizing in Cuba.

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Speaker 1 (00:01):
All media.

Speaker 2 (00:05):
Welcome to could happen here. We only show where things happen.
I'm Andrew Sage of the Future Channel Antrism, and I'm
joined by Garrison slo Hello. Nice. Recently, I've been researching
and writing on education and anarchism. Honestly, it's one of
my favorite topics to look into, and it's one of

the topics I think I'm most passionate about.

Speaker 3 (00:29):
Yeah, that's definitely a hot topic within this political fields,
a large, large variety of opinions.

Speaker 2 (00:36):
One might say, for sure, for sure, for sure, I mean,
consciousness does form the basis of revolution. And there's a
long history of anarchists struggle around education, whether it be
in terms of critiquing its role in social control and socialization,
or discussing news liberation, or talking about the inequalities of
the current education system, or the influenzer statist, capitalist and

religion ideologies, or the whole discussion around sex education. These
are all things that anarchists have looked into, discussed, and
so it's to you know, wrestle.

Speaker 3 (01:10):
With no It's interesting because anarchists have, like I believe,
the large number of people who are like, very like,
militantly like anti school but also have a really high
number of people who become teachers. So it's always kind
of interesting when you're ever at like an anarchist gathering,
you have like half the people are like school teachers,
the other half are like destroy the schools, which is

always just a little bit amusing.

Speaker 2 (01:36):
Yeah, for sure, for sure. So it's really I think
people have to deal with that sort of a tension.
Anarchists find themselves in those sort of tensions, but then
they also find themselves put themselves in those positions in
part because they see the potential of those positions, you know,
in s shape in the future. But I don't mean
to mislead anybody, this episode is only tangentially related to education, Okay. Yeah,

So basically in my research on education, I stumbled upon
this article called Anarchism in Education and early Republican Cuba
from eighteen ninety eight to nineteen twenty five, and also
found some other work on anarchist Cuba in general and
his all thanks to the scholarship of Kubin Schaffer, and
I mean for some time now eving meaning to dig

deeper into the history of anarchism in Cuba. There I say,
I think it's been forgotten, and so I took a
dive into it. I first started with Stephen J. Hush
and Lucian Vanda Wald's work in anarchism and syndicalism in
the colonial and post colonial world, and in my research
I also found the work of Sam Dorkov and Frank Finandists,

both of whom were apparently highly influential in the scholarship his,
the historical research and the present understanding of Cuban anarchism.
It's thanks to their research that we know what we know,
bringing all those different things together, all these different sources together.
So here we go, Achivamos, Let's discuss the history of

Cuban aicism, and our story begins in the early nineteenth century.
You know, the sun on colonial Cuba cast in a
long and heavy shadow across the vibrant streets of Havana,
the gentle salty breezes carried I'm trying a new thing.
I see a facial express I'm trying.

Speaker 3 (03:27):
I like it. I like it.

Speaker 2 (03:28):
I'm trying to set the same you know, I feel
feel those salty breezes carrying the scent of tobacco and
coffee and sugar cane. But let's not get too romantic.
You know, this was a plantation society where African slaves
remained in chains and toiled in the hot sun while
many of their contemporaries gained their freedom and plantition known
as navigated the web of politics and power. Cuba was

among the last countries to abolish slavery, and the Cuban aristocracy,
being uniquely loyal to the Spanish crown, was primarily responsible
for the persistence of that institution. You know, they were
dedicated to Spain long after much of Latin America had
won their independence, and despite the aristocrat's loyalty, there were

still whispers of liberation and revolution in corners of the city.
In eighteen fifty seven, just nearly two decades after the
French Traccal pair, Joseph Prudin declared himself an anarchist and
a mutualist. The first Prunonian Mutualist Society would be founded
in Cuba, marking the early beginnings of the organized labor

movement on the island. A decade later, in eighteen sixty five,
lecturers or readings places where political ideas we read in
cigar factories. They became very widespread, considering the predominance of
the tobacco industry, and in the same year, the first
strike threat would occur at a tobacco works in Havana,

leading successful negotiations for increased wages. In eighteen sixty six,
Havana based artisans would established the first evening school for workers,
lay in the Foundation for worker based Education. Between eighteen
sixty eight and eighteen seventy eight, conflicts would erupt into
violence as the sugar mill owner Carlos Manuel de Saspids

and his followers proclaimed independence, beginning the first of three
liberation wars that Cuba fought against Spain. The first aprison,
led by wealthy planters, would be known as the Ten Years' War,
and it would be followed by a second uprising, the
Little War from eighteen seventy nineteighteen eighty, and meanwhile, the
cubas anarchist movement would look to establish another workers school

and a newspaper. These efforts were led by cigar makers
Enrique Roig s de San Martin and Enrique Messonier. In Havana,
Groig San Martin founded this center of Instruction and Recreation.
Its purpose was to defend worker organizations and distribute anarchal
electivist literature from Spain. The doors of the center were

open to all Cubans, regardless of their social position, political leanings,
or color differences. Gregs and Martin also took the position
of editor at the newspaper El Obrero, co opting it
from the Democratic Republicans and turned into an explicitly anarchist newspaper.
The anarchists and tobacco industry were pioneering the emergent labour struggle,

boasted by the transportation of anarchist periodicals from Spain to
Cuba and the transmission of ideas by Spanish immigrant workers.
The first regional centers, clinics, secular schools, mutual aid associations
and free association of tobacco workers, typographers, carpenters, day laborers
and artisans were emerging thanks to the influence of Prudon's ideas.

While some in the labor movement were appreciate reformism and
collaboration with capitalist interests, the anarchists stood firm in their
rejection of submission to defeat of capital.

Speaker 1 (07:00):

Speaker 2 (07:00):
The Junta Central der Tisnos was founded to unite Cubas
workers in federations. In the same year, in the became
Massonia launched the Circulo de Travajadores or Workers Circle, which
was focused on educational and cultural activities. The Worker's Circle
became the largest labor organization in Cuba in the late
eighteen eighties. It hosted a secular school for five hundred

poor students to challenge Cuba's public and religious schools. It
held rallies for groups of workers, and it led anti
nationalist and anti racist education efforts. Anarchists will also challenge
in discrimination in labor and immigration policies. By eighteen eighty six,
Spain finally outlawed slavery, and the Cuban anarchists would attempt

to welcome Afrocubans into the labor organizations with mixed success,
and we'll get to that soon. In eighteen eighty seven,
Roigxamartin launched Al Productor, a weekly newspaper that would become
a must read for people of Cuba and to coordinated
to publication and the efforts of the various workers groups,
workers founded the Alianza Obrera or Workers Alliance. With the

founding of the Alliance and the sponsorship of another organization,
La Ferrac de Travadores de Cuba or FDC or Federation
of Cuban Workers. The first Congresso Obrero de Cuba will
be held in Havana. Majority of the members of the
FDC were tobacco workers, but members of other trades also participated,
like tailors and drivers and bakers and baromakers and dock workers.

So that's a lot of organizations and quick succession. So
to summarize, we have the Center for Instruction Recreation, the
newspapers El Peructor and e Obrero, the Junta Central de
Artsinos or Central Union of Artisans, El Seculo de Travajadores
or Workers Circle, the Alianza Oprera or Workers Alliance, and

La Ferracion de Travajadores de Cuba or FDC, which held
the first Congress so Obrero or Workers Congress in Cuba.
All these organized efforts would spark another strike. Remember the
first threat, which did not lead to a strike, took
place in eighteen sixty five, but this time it was different.
In July eighteen eighty eight, the tobacco workers call a

strike at the Henry Clay tobacco factory in Havana. The
Worker's Circle met and agreed to begin collecting donations to
support the workers out in the streets and sent delegates
to Key West in Florida to solicit aid from the
tobacco workers there. The Worker's Circle was very much involved
in a lot of these things because they actually had
a large headquarters that coordinated the offices of many workers associations.

In addition to the school I mentioned, they found it,
they had their fingers, and a lot of the associations
and solidarity efforts had taken place. By eighteen eighty nine,
they founded yet another school, teaching over one hundred men
at night and eight hundred children during the day, and
agent to the establishment of new schools across the island.
And also in eighteen eighty nine, those same tobacco wh
beers in Key West called their own general strike due

to poor working conditions, low wages, and starck living conditions.
And guess what, they stood in solidarity with the Cuban workers,
and the Cuban workers stood in solidarity with them. The Workers'
Alliance also connected with workers organizations in Florida and foster
solidarity between workers in Florida and Cuba. In addition to
Key West, strikes would also break out in Tampa and

Yubor City. Despite some violence and the expulsion of the
strike leaders. The strike in Florida ended in early eighteen
ninety with a triumph for Florida's tobacco workers as the
owners acceded to the demands for a pay increase. On
May first International Workers Day, over three thousand workers marched
through Havana, and in this time the workers' circle was

continuously expanding. But within this year also came tragedy, as
in August Enrique Roic San Martin died at the age
of forty six, and the last of the three conflicts
against Spain would be the Cuban War of Independence, which
raised from eighteen ninety five to eighteen ninety eight. Anarchists
in Cuba, New York, and Spain debated support for Cuba's

independent struggle, but despite concerns, most anarchists did support independence,
seen it as an anti colonial fight against Spanish imperialism
and an opportunity to transform the island along anarchist principles.
Figures like Jose Garcia, Rafael Serra, and Idrian del Valle
promoted anarchist internationalism while also seek in Cuban national liberation.

The final three months that conflict escalated with US involvement
becoming known as the Spanish American War, and following Spain's defeat,
the US briefly occupied Cuba with the promise of greater
autonomy in the future. Of course, we all know how
that promise turned out with repeated interventions. Kim crowan anarchist

opposition the US occupiers over who the Cuban education system
and introduced a new model influenced by American principles emphasized
in liberal arts, manual instruction, and civic education to republicanize
the children of Cuba and promote democracy. In spite of
some reforms, the Cuban education system still suffered corruption, inadequate

and infrastructure, and overcrowded classrooms. In eighteen ninety nine, just
a year after independence, the Workers' Alliance organized a mason's strike,
which extended into the construction trade and also led to
several arrests and the overall repression of the anarchists. This
is a persistent theme, of course.

Speaker 3 (12:40):
Yes, I mean it's interesting how in a lot of
the political stuff we learned about Cuba it's more based
on the socialist and more communist struggles of the twentieth century.
And I knew that there were anarchists active before that
and even during that time period as well. But there
is a lot of this that seems to be not

nearly as talked about are emphasized as the later, more
socialist leaning struggles that came.

Speaker 2 (13:12):
And you'll notice that, you know, in places where the
Marxists won, basically any of the pre Marxist victory history
of anarchists involvements tends to be diminished or we've raised entirely.

Speaker 1 (13:29):

Speaker 3 (13:30):
Yeah, like in literally every in every struggle all across
the world where that's happened. That does seem to be
the case.

Speaker 2 (13:37):
Exactly exactly when I found this information and my mind
was blowing, you know, I had no idea all of
this was going on. Yeah, the fact that from as
early as Prudon's lifetime there were anarchists in Cuba organizing associations,
I mean, come.

Speaker 3 (13:54):
On, yeah, in like the eighteen fifties, and it gets.

Speaker 2 (13:59):
Bigger, A lot more takes place. I haven't even really
breached in the other twentieth century yet, that's when things really
kick off.

Speaker 3 (14:05):
Let's get to that after this message from our sponsors.
All right, we are we are back. Let's let's return
to Andrew's discussion of anarchism in Cuba.

Speaker 2 (14:26):
Yes so so. Also in eighteen ninety nine, some new
anarchist projects drops onto the scene. You know, you had
the Liga Heneral de Travadores or General League of Workers,
which emerged with the back in the Missonia, and another
anarchist Ramon Rivero eve Rivero, and also the publication Tierra
which is founded by anarchists Abelardo Savedra and Francisco Gonzale Sola,

and the publication El Nuevo Ideal was also founded, but
it only lasted a couple of years. Notably, it loudly
who is the US's plans for Anix and Cuba? And
the introduction of the plat Amendment to the Cuban Constitution
which would provide pretense for US intervention in the future.
The plat Amendment was really that point in the Cuban

Constitution that would justify US in thesion and involvement for
years to come. Here's a little easter egg, a little
fun factor will came you. In fact, you could call
him a run in Cameo for the anarchists worldwide, a
familiar face because he showed up in Havana in this year,

and he also showed up in Egypt during their anarchist struggle.
For those who remember that episode, any ideas.

Speaker 3 (15:41):
Too to try to think of this time period who
at this.

Speaker 2 (15:45):
Point, at this point you could call him mister worldwide,
the anarchist, mister worldwide.

Speaker 3 (15:50):
Yeah, I don't think so. I think I'll only make
a fool of myself.

Speaker 2 (15:56):
Yeah, the one and only Erico Malchester, right than Cuba.

Speaker 3 (16:00):
Oh okay, okay, that makes sense, that makes sense. Yeah, yeah, yeah, okay.

Speaker 2 (16:05):
Yeah, mister will White. Of course, it didn't take long
before he was barred from speaking in public and he
very quickly had to leave Cuba, but he was there,
he did show up and let me reach the you know,
the turn of the century. Right just after the turn
of the century, on May twentieth, nineteen oh two, the
First Republic of Cuba was inaugurated with the recognition of

the US, but despite the survey opposition, the US retained
influence over Cuba with that plat amendment. With independence, many
Cubans aspired to build a more Egalityian nation. The Cuban
anarchists continued to struggle even as they were becoming dissillusioned
by the continued prioritization of individual profits of a society

well being, the oppression of labor, and the terrible educational systems.
They had their first truly general strike in nineteen oh two,
known as the Apprentice Strike, but it was suppressed and
field and with its failure, leading figures in the Lega
Heneral de Tabadores like Missonnier and Rivero Yirverro, retired from

the labor struggle. A year later, in nineteen oh three,
anarchists organized in the sugar industry, which was met with
a violent response from the owners, including the murder of
two prominent anarchist figures, Casanias and Buntero. The year before
the US recognition of Cuban independence in nineteen oh one,
just across the pond in Spain, Francisco Ferrero had founded

his first modern school. Ferrer is an icon in the
sphere of anarchist education for his pioneer and efforts. As
anarchists in Cuba condemn public schools for their condition pedagogy,
patriotic indoctrination, and lack of critical thinking. They were inspired
by they alternative education rooted in rationalism and free inquiry
that was introduced by Ferrer.

Speaker 3 (17:53):
At this point, is there like a decent bit of
communication between the anarchists in Spain and the anarchists in Cuba,
Because also, if you've been mentioning, sounds very like reminiscent
of some of like the anarchosyndicalist models that would grow
to more prominence in Spain in the coming decades. Oh yeah,
for sure in this field, yeah, it feels very very similar.

Speaker 2 (18:11):
There was a very large Spanish immigrant community in Cuba
at the time of Spanish workers, and that would actually
end up biting the anarchist movement in the but later
on and you know, you'll see how. Yeah, there was
a lot of there was a lot of cross pollination
between the Spanish anarchists and the Cuban anarchists. That makes

sense in many cases they were both Spanish and Cuba.

Speaker 3 (18:35):

Speaker 2 (18:36):
And so when for pop Star with this school in
Barcelona and in other places in Spain, I mean, the
Cuban anarchists had already been organized in education before, as
their program had always sought to raise consciousness and prepare
for social revolution. But Ferrer offered that extra dose of inspiration.
You know, his modern schools introduced things like free play
and individual liberty and really inspired the founding of educational

experiments across Europe, Asia and the Americas. In nineteen oh five,
Rovino Vilar opened for that co educational primary and secondary
school in Havana, following for ours principles of free in
Korean individual liberty. In nineteen oh six, the CEES School
was established in Regular, embracing the advanced pedagogical perspective methods

of these Spanish anarchist schools. And that very same year,
nineteen oh six, the US intervened in Cuba again. You know,
they can't even let a decade go by of independence
before they say, nap, we're stepping in, you know. So
of course in response, strikes breakout in Havana, Siego de'a Villa,
and Santiago de Cuba anyway, So that's going on, and

anarchists are also organized and speaking tours. In nineteen oh eight,
anarchists formed the group ed ucaciondale Prevenir or Education of
the Future in Regular, which sought to established modern schools
across the island. The LGA Heneral de Tarbahadories also got
involved in the group's efforts. Unfortunately, internal conflicts and financial

difficulties undermined the initial wave of anarchist schools in this time. Meanwhile,
private school options, particularly of the religious variety, were proliferated
across Cuba. Eventually, in nineteen oh nine, Ferrero was arrested
and executed by Spanish authorities, which actually triggered a protest
in Cuba and also triggered resistance elsewhere in the world

that would simultaneously seek to advocate his ideas further and
of course to honor his memory. Turning out into the
nineteen tens, it was a very eventful period. Let's just say,
you know, the Mexican Revolution was oc current which inspired
Cuba's workers and peasants. The Mexican Revolution was a current
and that inspired Cuba's workers and peasants. There was actually,

just as there was cross pollination between Spanish anarchists and
Cuban anarchists, there was cross pollination between Cuban anarchists and
Mexican anarchists, you know, anarchists. Ricardo fues Magon, a Titanic
figure in Mexican Revolution, actually had a stand in a
relationship with the Cuban paper Tierra, as the paper was
critical of the Mexican dictator at the time Portfyrio DS. So,

while the guns of the revolutionary Emiliano Zapata were firing
in Mexico, tobacco workers, teamsters and bakers were striking in Cuba.
In nineteen twelve, a congress was formed in Crusius with
the aim to create an island wide labor federation. But
another significant event occurred in nineteen twelve. You see, all

this time, Africubans will play in significant roles in the
island's labor movements, particularly through strikes such as the eighteen
ninety nine Mason strike and the sugar workers struggles. Despite this,
they were dealing with a lot of political and cultural
persecution and faced high literacy rates, job discrimination, and disenfranchisement

due to literacy and property requirements for voting. Naturally, after
Cubans who wanted to fight against this, so they formed
their own political party, the Independent Party of Color or PC,
and the government quickly outlawed it, which triggered several violent
attacks on PIC supporter meetings throughout nineteen twelve. It was

essentially a race riot, and it killed as many as
six thousand Afrocubans and resulted in another nine hundred thrown
in jail and charged with rebellion, and in this time
the anarchist response was weaker than it could have been.
Writers like Adrian del Vallier and Eugenio Leante pressed the

importance of education and the good upbringing of children to
root out the racist attitudes that led to the massacre.
Writers like Adrian de la Vali and Eugenio Leante pressed
the importance of education and the importance of a good
upbringing of children to root out the racial attitudes. The
racist attitudes that led to the massacre, as those attitutes

are still present a mere generation after ablition. The anarchists were,
as will be consistent of the principles, critical of the
PIC's political approach of bourgeois elections, but they did admire
Africuban culture and recognize their contributions to workers the Berish movements.
But as far as I can tell, they didn't do

much else beyond education to combat racist attitudes, likely feeling
powerless to prevent the violence in nineteen twelve due to
their own repression by the state. And of course it
is a binary of Africubans and anarchists, as there were
Africubans in the anarchist movement, including program figures like Rafael
Sarah who remained active into the nineteen forties, the printer

Pablo Gueira, and Marcarito Iglesias, who is the black anarchist
leader of the Manufacturers Union in the nineteen twenties. Still,
despite this overlap, the anarchists still couldn't shake their perception
as white and foreigners, which.

Speaker 3 (24:06):
Is still a dynamic at play today with anarchists, as
people didn't free anarchists all as like white teenagers, I
guess and will often discount the presence of black anarchists
and other anarchists or people of color.

Speaker 2 (24:23):
Yeah, I'm a bit of at a loss as to
what I could say, like from this arm chair position,
that they could have done differently in nineteen twelve. Sure,
they definitely could have stepped up in tried with what
to defend those communities and to start with those communities
and solidarity. But at the same time, i wasn't there

in nineteen twelve, so I'm not sure how things played out.
But I do think that while the heart is in
the right place with education to root out racist attitudes,
you know, consciouness reasons one thing which you really do
have to, you know, put yourself on the line when
it comes to defending marginalized groups, especially if you come

in from opposition of relative privilege being white, don't be
in Spanish in you know, recently post colonial Cuba, barely
even post colonial Cuba, you know.

Speaker 3 (25:21):
Yeah, I mean I'm in the same position as you
here or even further, possessing an inability to try to
critique from the twenty first century. But do you know
what I do feel comfortable in calling? Is this next
ad break? All right, we're back. Let's return to our

discussion of anarchism in Cuba in the nineteen tenths.

Speaker 2 (25:55):
So nineteen thirteen, as we was speaking of the repression
of the anarchist movement, the third President of Cuba would
step up, that is, General Mario Garcia Menocal, and during
his reign, the government would ramp up the repression of
the anarchists with the parson of anti anarchist laws and

the closure of anarchist organizations. There were crackdowns against the
radical activities from nineteen fourteen on and the suspension of
the Tierra publication and the deportation of many anarchists. Because
in spite of the oppression, the anarchist movement began to
recover by nineteen seventeen, with the Centro Obrero or Worker's

Center being established in Havana, lead into a resurgence of
anarchist education and organized activity. Between nineteen eighteen and nineteen
nineteen four, general strikes a breakout in Havana, and the
US sent a flotilla in response to the disorder. The
government suspended constitutional guarantees, deported even more anarchists, and closed
the Centro Obrero. Around this time, you also had the

anarcho naturists, which I really didn't know where to fit
into all of this, so I'll just put them here
to give.

Speaker 3 (27:07):
You the oppression naturists.

Speaker 2 (27:10):
Yeah, yeah, So let's take this as like a breath
of fresh air from all of the repression and against
anarchists by the state. You had the anarquo naturists.

Speaker 3 (27:18):
That's what I haven't heard before. Are these like old
timey green anarchists? I guess.

Speaker 2 (27:25):
No, okay, I act you to be the judge of that.
I'll let you be the judge of that.

Speaker 3 (27:28):
It's like actual naturist philosophy. Yes, ah, oh weird.

Speaker 2 (27:34):
Yes. The naturist movement was developed in Europe and North
America during the late nineteenth for the early twentieth centuries,
and it focused on alternative poestonal health and lifestyle practices
such as adopted vegetarianism, exercise, nudism, and small village life
to combat the effects of industrial mass society.

Speaker 3 (27:55):
Okay, so there is like little tidbits of like anarcopaic
of like what would become anarcho primitivism in here, but
it's definitely not like a one to one overlap.

Speaker 2 (28:06):
Yeah, yeah, especially not in Cuba. In Cuba, the anarchists
aimed to shift the naturist movements focus away from primarily
individual health concerns to an emphasis on social emancipiatory themes.
So in nineteen ten you had lectures on nuterismo, and
although it didn't have the broader emaansipiatory dimensions initially, later

in the decade the movement would gains momentum and the
Nature's Association would expand to establish branches across Cuba and
even Tampa, Florida.

Speaker 3 (28:39):
Huh Okay.

Speaker 2 (28:40):
Now, anacar naturism in Cuba wasn't too big on the
nudism aspect of the naturism, but they did emphasize the
vegetarian self sufficiency against the reliance and capitalism, and so
to learn and teach alternative medicine to help people deal
with the health problems brought about by factory and field
work and toxic living conditions. Okay, I know the anical

nature has actually lasted well into the nineteen fifties, so
good for them. But let's get back into the timeline.
If you know anything about history, you know what significant
event takes place in Russia in nineteen seventeen. The Russian
Revolution would reverberate across the landscape of workers struggles for

decades to come. In the next episode, we'll see how
the Bolsheviks rise would shape the anarchist movement in Cuba
leading up to the rise of Castro, as well as
how anarchists have endured since then. Until then, It could
happen here, and this is Androism all out to all
the people face.

Speaker 1 (29:53):
It could happen here. As a production of cool Zone Media.
For more podcasts from cooal Zone Media, visitor website cool
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