Cuba has been discovered by Christopher Columbus on October, 27th of 1492 – when he was on his way to explore the seaway to India in by order of the Spanish Crown. At this point about 200’000 aborigines have been living on Cuba, which were wrongfully called ‹‹Indios›› by Columbus, as he thought he discovered an Indian island.
The Spain under Diego Velázquez started between 1511 and 1515 to colonize the country. Most of the aborigines have been killed and eliminated through war, compulsory labor or diseases, which have been brought here by the Spain. At this time, Santiago de Cuba was the capitol of the Spanish Colony.
1607 Havana became the political center of the island, through the relocation of the governor’s place. Within a view years the covered port of the capitol became the central intersection of the transatlantic trading. All the Spanish armadas used Havana as reloading point for their raw materials and goods.
The local cultivation of tobacco flourished for the first time during the 17th century. During the 18th century the strong economic boom got increased rapidly with the growing of sugar cane. African slaves have been brought here to cover the high demand of workers.
Havana has been conquered by the British troops in 1762 in the course of the worldwide colonization politics. Only one year later Cuba has been given back to Spain in peace, in exchange for Florida. This around one year during free-trade time, helped Cuba to obtain a positively economic boom and made sure, that the liberal economic mind persisted also under the renewed Spanish rule.
From 1794 on, the use of steam machines for sugar production increased significantly. Until 1840 Cuba was the world’s biggest producer of refined sugar.
Below the influences of the US-American civil war in 1865, when the north states conquered the slave-holding south states, slave trade also slowly disrupted in Cuba. At the same time a view Latin-American countries eked out their independency, so Cuba became the most important and later also only colony for the Spain – even the dissatisfaction of the locals against the colonial power became bigger at the same time as well.
Wars of independence
The 1st independence war of the Cubans against suppression and exploitation by the colonial power started in 1868. Carlos Manuel Céspedes, a plantation owner which ushered a new era when liberating his slaves, proclaimed in a speech the independency of Cuba and interjected Cuba as a republic in the ‹‹Grito de Yara›› (war cry of Yara).
After 10 years of costly fights the outnumbered Spain captured victory. The loss of the Cubans has been justified not only because of their short-hand but also because of the many conflicts within the rebel groups.
The 2nd independence war, under the direction of national hero José Martí, took place between 1895 - 1898. Again, the war didn’t bring victory to the Cubans, even they officially already won. Martí was killed in action on May, 19th 1895 and instantly became a hero and martyr of all Cubans. But neither the colonial power could capture a victory. At that time in 1898, when a withdrawal from Cuba was already discussed in Spain, the USA seized their chance of an invasion into the strategically very significant situated insular state.
Because of this, by the US activated Spanish-American war, the US have been granted with the victory over the colonial power. Instead of getting their independency, Cuba now belonged to the US.
Cuba’s pro Forma independency
Cuba became under the American military administration and the Americans saved themselves all the privileges on Cuba and invested extensive in the country.
After the withdrawal of the US-troops, Cuba got his pro Forma independency on May, 20th 1902. Tomás Estrada Palma became the first president of the republic. The US reserved themselves significant rights of intervention on the domestic policy with an essential constitutional amendment, the so called ‹‹Platt Amendment››. These would have been implemented in case the American interests or US-property on Cuba should be at a risk.
Through these constitutional amendments, Cuba wasn’t just only not provided with sovereignty it furthermore saved the American’s right to keep two military bases on Cuba.
Bahia Honda has been given back to Cuba in 1913, whereas the military base in Guantánamo is still taken by the US until today.
The US used the ‹‹Platt Amendment›› four times between 1906 and 1920 and intervened on Cuba to defend their interests. Havana became the Las Vegas of Latin America and gambling, prostitution and dealings of the American mafia became daily life. American and Cuban elites ruled the economy while the locals visibly destitute.
Cuba under the dictators Machado and Batista
In 1925 the communistic party of Cuba, the PCC, has been founded to present an organized opposition to Dictator Gerardo Machado, which came to the power in 1924. Machado won his election with generous support by different US-companies and represented an extremely nationalistic party, which did not shrink from killing or eviction of political opponents.
With American help Machados has been felt in 1933 and Fulgencio Batista became the new potentate and supreme commander of the army. Batista left his influence on the political power grow in the background, before he officially Cuban president became from 1940 – 1944. After losing the reelection in 1952, through a Military putsch he got back to the Cuban lead with US-American help. During these years he successively constructed a corrupted regime, under which it came to an elimination of the constitution, suppression of the opposition and to public shootings of regime opponents.
Under the lead of attorney-at-law Fidel Castro Ruz a guerilla troop committed an attack onto the Moncada-casern in Santiago de Cuba. Although the assault failed, this day is known as the day of the beginning of the revolution. The goals of this revolution were democracy, social reforms and the renovation of the constitution of 1940.
After he was arrested he went to the Exile in the US and later in Mexico. Here he met the Argentinean doctor Ernesto Che Guevara and together they started planning the fall of the Batista-Regime. 1956 both traveled back to Cuba together with other 80 guerilla fighters on their ship ‹‹Granma››. After acrimonious fights the revolutionists finally conquered the capitol Havana, whereupon Batista fled into the Exile in the US.
The social Republic
Cuba is a socialistic republic since 01.05.1961. The US answered first with a partial and later with a complete trade embargo, after Cuba introduced extensive land and agrarian reforms, which included the elimination of private large land holdings, the building of governmental firms and the ban of land holding by foreigners. This complete trade embargo is exists until today.
Through these trade sanctions, which have been supported by many western states, the young socialistic republic turned itself more and more to the socialistic states of Eastern Europe, specially the former USSR.
Bay of Pigs-Invasion & Cuba-Crisis
On April, 17th 1961 exile-Cubans, which have been supported by the US, failed with their famous Bay of Pig-Invasion. The fast Cuban victory fortified Fidel Castro’s anti-American position and accelerated further approaching of Cuba to the Soviet Union.
The cold war was about to escalate in 1962, when the Soviet Union stationed bombs on Cuba, as they felt threatened by the American missiles which were positioned at the Turkish-Soviet border. After a naval blockade for days and secret negotiations, the US ensured the depletion of the nuclear missiles in Turkey and the Soviets decaled their rockets from Cuba.
Cuban independency of the USSR
Between 1960 and 1989 the Cuban economic focused almost only on trading with the Eastern Bloc, first of all with the USSR. Therefore the Cuban Politics oriented themselves strongly by means of their Eastern-European partners.
This continuous growing dependency lead guided with the collapse of the Eastern Bloc in 1989 to the biggest economic crises since the beginning of the revolution. This stage is well known as the ‹‹Período espcecial en tiempos de paz››, (special period in times of peace) during which it came to catastrophic supply shortages of the habitants until 1995. When it came to violent agitation in Havana and the biggest mass flight initiated in August 1994, the crisis came to its climax.
Cuba managed to prevent a national insolvency through different free-enterprise reforms as well as the successful composition of the relationship with Hugo Chavez, state president of Venezuela.
In 2004 Cuba and Venezuela launched the ‹‹Bolivian alternative›› to the ALCA, the US-dominated economic community. Therefore Cuba supports Venezuela until today with the composition of its health and educational system with Cuban employees, while the Island receives a big volume of petroleum on preferential terms.
Cuba under Raúl Castro
Because of a heavy gastric disease Fidel Castro gave his authorities to his younger brother Raúl Castro in July 2006. In February 2008 Raúl Castro has been named officially president of the council of state and ministers, after Fidel declared officially his final withdrawal from his state departments.
During the same year, the three hurricanes Gustavo, Ike and Paloma as well as the world economic crises hit the island state seriously. Considerable crop failures, an extensive damage of the infrastructure as well as a strong recession of the touristic earnings as well as the foreign bank transfers of the Exile-Cubans had forced Raúl Castro to economic reforms. These reforms should keep the socialistic system and however make the free-enterprise elements indispensable. Different reforms should bring the long awaited economical ascent of the country. It remains to be seen how strong and in which direction this change will put into effect.
Anticipated change through Barack Obama
A significant improvement of the bilateral relationships with the US as well as a cancellation of the blocking politics could not been reached, even with the new US president Barack Obama.
Indeed he promised a significant improvement of the American-Cuban affairs at his accession. But so far there have only been slight amendments realized. Exile-Cubans living in the US enjoy better travel conditions as well as certain American groupings such as students or members of church organizations are allowed to travel to Cuba, even they couldn’t achieve radical and long awaited changes until now.