Cuban history

Brief history of Cuba summarized

A brief brushstroke to the history of Cuba summarized.

Cuba in its beginnings

The first European to arrive in Cuba was Christopher Columbus in 1492. At that time the indigenous people lived from agriculture. They grew cassava, corn and yams. They also smoked tobacco.

In 1511 Diego Velásquez conquered the island of Cuba and founded several settlements including Havana. The natives devastated by European diseases, to which they had no resistance. Beginning in 1526, the Spanish imported African slaves to Cuba.

At the end of the 18th century, Cuba prospered from the cultivation and export of sugar. The plantations were worked by a large number of slaves. However, in the 19th century there was a growing independence movement.

Cuba’s fight for independence began in 1868 when a landowner named Carlos Manuel de Céspedes freed his slaves. Thus began the Ten Years’ War. It ended in failure in 1878. Then, in 1886, slavery was abolished in Cuba.

The Second War of Independence began in 1895. In 1898 the US went to war with Spain. US forces invaded Cuba and Spain surrendered soon after. The peace treaty made Spain renounce all rights to Cuba.

However, after the war, Cuba was occupied by US forces for almost 4 years. They left in 1902, and Cuba became nominally independent, but was actually dominated by the United States.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the majority of the Cuban population remained very poor despite efforts to modernize the country. In 1924 Gerardo Machado was elected president of Cuba. The constitution barred him from more than one term, but when his term ended in 1928 Machado clung to power.

However, Machado was overthrown in 1933. After a period of unrest, Cuba obtained a new democratic constitution and elections were held.

In 1952 Fulgencio Batista staged a coup in Cuba and became its dictator. At that time, compared to other Latin American countries, Cuba was prosperous and its population had a relatively high standard of living. Literacy rates were high and health care was relatively good. Education in Cuba was of a high level. Cuba was known for its writers.

Communist Cuba

Then, in 1959, Fidel Castro led a revolution in Cuba. However, Castro did not bring freedom to Cuba. Instead, he became a dictator. Castro introduced a repressive communist regime. Independent unions became illegal and all political dissent was crushed.

However, the lesson of history is that socialism does not work. The Cuban economy stagnated during the 1960s and 1970s. Meanwhile, Cuba became a satellite of the Soviet Union. Many people fled communism. Many Cubans escaped to the United States. Many more died trying. (Many people drowned trying to cross the sea).

Meanwhile, relations with the US deteriorated and in 1961 1,400 CIA-trained Cuban émigrés were sent to invade Cuba. They landed at the Bay of Pigs, but the invasion ended in total failure. In 1962 the United States imposed a blockade on Cuba.

In addition, Cuba was economically dependent on the USSR. When the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, the situation in communist Cuba became desperate. The living conditions of ordinary people in Cuba worsened even more. They suffered food shortages.

So Castro was forced to allow free enterprise. He also opened Cuba to tourism. Then, in 2008, Fidel Castro resigned. Meanwhile, in 1998 the Pope visited Cuba for the first time.

Today Cuba remains a dictatorship. However, the end of an era came in 2014, when the US and Cuba normalized their relations. The current population of Cuba is 11 million inhabitants.

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