the island of Cuba - or Cubanacán ("the central place") -
was inhabited in the 16th century by a number of ethnic
groups. Especially the agricultural people taíno, also
called arauaco and ciboney. Columbus arrived in Cuba on
October 27, 1492, but it was not until 1509 that Europeans
found that it was an island and not a mainland. In 1511,
Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar initiated the conquest of the ear
and it was completed in 1514 with the defeat of Hatuey's and
Guam's local forces. At that time, there was an indigenous
population of about 100,000.
A mid-16th-century document describes the island as tall
and mountainous with small rivers, but rich in gold and
fish. From this island, the Spanish conquistadores
embarked on their conquests to the rest of the Caribbean,
Mexico and Central America. In parallel, as early as 1511,
colonists from Santo Domingo initiated the extraction of
Cuban gold. This was a short-term economic boom, which was
probably mainly due to the extermination of the indigenous
population. At this time, there were very few African slaves
on the island whose economy was more or less stalled. It did
not recover until the end of the 16th century, when sugar
production took off.
The exploitation of skins and copper as well as
shipbuilding in the 17th century led to greater variation in
the island's economic activity, and its economic center
gradually shifted from Santiago de Cuba in the east to
Habana, which was already an important port city in the
mid-17th century. During the 18th and 19th centuries, a
total of 1 million slaves were imported from Africa for work
on the tobacco and sugar cane plantations. During this
period, some Chinese and other Asian populations also
settled on the island. From the 18th century, sugar
production completely dominated the island economy. In 1840,
the slave laborers in the sugar cane plantations and on the
sugar mills made up 77% of the island's total labor force.
There is evidence of the existence of so-called
palenques- communities of slaves who were stripped of
their masters - who had many similarities to, for example,
quilombos in Brazil. Slavery was first abolished in
1886, after the "ten-year war" and after pressure from
War of independence
As in other parts of Latin America, the struggle for
independence in Cuba began as early as the early 19th
century, but unlike the rest of Latin America which sought
independence from the Spanish crown in 1810-20, this did not
succeed in Cuba. Spain in 1818 strengthened its military
presence on the island, liberalized trade and allowed, inter
alia, the export of sugar to the United States. In this way,
the zeal of local citizenship for independence was
neutralized. In 1868 there was a major revolt against the
Spaniards, which was only fought after 10 years of fighting.
In 1895, the Second War of Independence began under the
leadership of the poets José Martí, Antonio Maceo and Máximo
Gómez. When the victory of 1898 was imminent, the United
States declared war on Spain and landed at Guantanamo, Cuba.
The United States tormented the liberation movement and
ruled Cuba from 1899-1902 when a constitution was passed
that included a supplement - the so-called "Plat Amendment"
- that gave the United States the right to intervene
militarily in the country and gave it supremacy over
Guantánamo naval base for a 99 year period. The United
States continues to occupy Guantánamo.
The United States on a number of occasions used its
"right" to invade Cuba, and The Marineswas for long
periods at the beginning of the century fixed fixtures in
Cuban society. US domination continued until the Cuban
Revolution in 1959, and was not merely military. The United
States obtained control of the sugar plantations, oil
refining, mines, electricity production, telephone system,
railways, banking and accounted for 70% of foreign trade.
Apart from Puerto Rico and Panama, Cuba was the country in
Latin America most strongly dominated by the United States.
In the early 1930's, when the country was hit hard by the
world crisis, a left-wing nationalist movement emerged. A
popular uprising in 1933 brought down the dictator Machado.
He was replaced by Grau San Martín, who tried to implement a
popular and anti-imperialist program, but he was forced to
resign after North American pressure. During this period,
Colonel Fulgencio Batista supported the United States. He
came to play a key role during this period characterized by
turbulence, corruption and gangsterism. On March 10, 1952,
Batista conducted a coup d'état and embarked on a despotic
regime that cost 20,000 Cubans lives.