Discovery of the Island

When Christopher Columbus arrived in Cuba on October 27, 1492 and their ships traveled forty days through the north eastern coast of the island, it was observed, the highlights of the exuberant nature, the presence of peaceful and innocent people who offered cotton, yarn and small pieces of gold for trinkets. Two years later, to explore the southern coast of Cuba during his second voyage, the admiral would realize the diversity of the indigenous people, as the natives of the eastern region who accompanied him, could not get along with the people of the west. Indeed, the population of the island had begun four millennia before the arrival of various migration flows: the first probably from northern continent through Florida and subsequent arrivals in successive waves from the mouth of the Orinoco along the arc of the Antilles.


Colonial Era and brief occupation of the English

The conquest of the island for Spain nearly two decades after the first voyage of Columbus, as part of the occupation that radiated to various Caribbean lands begins. In a few years the Spanish founded the first towns such as Havana, Santiago de Cuba, Camaguey and other small human concentrations. Economic activity was based on the work of the Indians, given to settlers by the Crown through the system of “encomiendas”, a kind of personal concession, whereby the settler undertook to clothe, feed and Christianize the native in exchange to have the right to make them work for them. The dominant economic sector in the early years of the colony was mining, specifically gold mining activity in which Indians and black slaves were used. Before this inevitable development, the Taino and Ciboney were unable to adapt to the new situation which caused there death, as in most of the territories conquered by the Spaniards. Thanks to its strategic location, Havana quickly consolidated as major port freight traffic, attracting pirates and private business men. The rapid exhaustion of the gold mines and the drastic reduction of the population converted to livestock in the main source of wealth in Cuba. A lack of gold, salted meat and skins would be almost exclusive to the few settlers of the island and would be incorporated into the channels of commerce of goods for the Spanish empire. In the sixteenth century the most important activity was livestock on large farms called herds. Sugarcane was introduced, resulting in the first “geniuses”. It was the cultivation of sugar cane which caused the introduction of African slaves from the year 1595. In the seventeenth century a number of circumstances made Cuba the largest producer of sugar in the world. In 1762 the island was occupied by the English for a short time of 10 months, prompting a large importation of slaves and laying the groundwork for a new policy that would continue liberalizing the Spanish. At that time Cuba was the largest black population colony.



Independence movements

With the independence movements in other Latin American countries, Cubans fought to negotiate with the crown, settling for some concessions on free trade with other countries. However, this situation reinforced the national consciousness, and in 1868, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes a proclaimed republic, granting freedom to slaves. This war lasted 10 years and ended with the Spanish victory, signing peace in Zanjón in 1878. Two years later, slavery was abolished. However, the troubled situation and problems continued and in 1892 José Martí founded the Cuban Revolutionary Party, reconciling the interests of social classes and social forces. In 1895 Martí ordered the start of the war that lasted three years. General Weyler was sent to suppress the movement but failed. The situation worsened by what the United States, with strong interests in the island, intervened militarily, annihilating the Spanish fleet, and occupied territories by signing the Treaty of Paris (1898), by which the United States gave Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines.


The dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista

Over the next forty years of the twentieth century, various military and civilian governments, characterized by corruption, causing deterioration of the political system followed. In 1925 General Machado takes the power and keeps the regime in a repressive state. The problems are widespread on the island, and the price of sugarcane in international markets dropped significantly; the cities make a general strike. Later the communist party that is fighting against Machado, are trying to adopt urgent social measures. This period lasts a short time as Colonel Fulgencio Batista who controls the politicians, decides to take power of Cuba in 1940, where he remains for four years until he was defeated in an election. However, in 1952, Batista again rose to power after a military coup under the government mismanagement, launching a harsh dictatorship that would last until 1959, with the arrival of Fidel Castro Rus, Ernesto “Che “Guevara, Raúl Castro, Camilo Cienfuegos and other guerrillas who began their conquest from Sierra Maestra.


The Cuban revolution and socialism

The first attempt by Fidel Castro to overthrow Batista was in 1953, but without success. Exiled in Mexico and in the company of Che Guevara and Raul Castro Rus. Castro prepares to assault the island, landing in 1956 in the province of Oriente. From the Sierra Maestra he began guerrilla attacks that culminated after three years, with the flight of Batista and Fidel’s triumphant entry into Havana. An interim head of the state was appointed “Manuel Urrutia” and in 1960 Cuba confiscated American property without compensation. This started the crisis between Cuba and U.S.A. and the United States imposed an embargo, which continues to this day. The economy of the island has suffered severe crisis, especially after the demise of the Soviet Union. The politics of Fidel Castro, seen by some as undemocratic and by others as heroic resistance. During the last few years Cuba has opened to new ways of thinking with the economic crisis: Private people are now allowed to do certain business and it is possible for a Cuban to sell their properties and cars.

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