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Zafra generally refers to the sugar cane harvest which in the Caribbean is January through May and in the Mediterranean September to October. The term zafra entered Spanish from Arabic, and is either from zāfar or zafariya meaning harvest time, or saʼifah meaning 'gathering time'.

The term zafra became known internationally during the 1960s when the Cuban government made the La Gran Zafra (The Great Zafra) a centrepiece of its economic policy and more importantly for notoriety of the term, the lead communication in its international relations campaign. Each year, the Cuban government urged its population to help make the zafra the biggest ever with schools closed and urban residents relocated to the countryside to assist with the harvest.

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