Magnificent Metal Monday – Cuba’s Corrugated Metal

If you have ever traveled to the Caribbean, especially to some of the more impoverished islands, it is common to see homes resembling “sheds” versus sturdier structures. It’s not often I get “personal,” but having just returned from Cuba, I thought I would take a deeper “dive” into the history of corrugated iron, given its prevalence in island construction.

While most of my time was spent exploring Cuba’s underwater life, I got a glimpse of “life on land” while traveling from Camaguey to the port village of Jucaro (about a 3 hour drive). Mostly a rural area, it was easy to see the wide use of corrugated metal for the roofs and sometimes the siding.

It is easy to think of corrugated iron as an “ugly, tawdry substitute for proper building materials,” but believe it or not, this “maligned material” has a surprising and far reaching history. According to World Archaeology, the story of corrugated iron begins with “Henry Palmer of the London Dock Company who, in 1829, took out a patent for ‘indented or corrugated metallic sheets’.” When Walker’s patent ran out in 1843, competition flooded in and corrugated iron became a world-wide industrial material.

By the 1880s, manufacturers like Francis Morton and Co of Liverpool concentrated on the South and Central American market, supplying workers’ barracks and hospitals to the mining communities of Uruguay, Mexico and Peru and hurricane-proof buildings (they claimed) to the Caribbean (Source: World Archaeology).

Nearly 150 years later, metal sheeting is still prevalent as an widely used material for the following reasons: it is easily transported, lightweight, it can be erected by the unskilled, it can resist fire, helps to insulate a home, it is cost effective and can be sold when it has served its purpose.

A Brief Photo Tour of my “land Time” in Cuba

Ignacio Agramonte Airport

Photo Credit: Tara O.

Photo Credit: Tara O.

Photo Credit: Tara O.

Photo Credit: Tara O.

Photo Credit: Tara O.

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