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The island of Cuba has been inhabited for the last several thousand years by Amerindian peoples called the Taino and Ciboney. The Taino were known to be mostly farmers while the Ciboney were hunter-gatherers. The name Cuba in fact is derived from the Taino word cubanacan, which means "a central placeĒ. Christopher Columbus sighted the island during his foremost sail of discovery on 24 October 1492, and at once laid claim it for Spain.

Spain owned the island of Cuba for 388 years, governed by the governor of Havana. It had an economic base of plantation farming and main exportations of sugar, coffee and tobacco to European Community and down the road to North America. Brits took over the island in 1762, but delivered it to Spain the following year. Like most of the Spanish Empire, a modest land-owning elite of colonists had all the social and economic force. They were serviced by a population of modest farmers, laborers and slaves.

Many architectural masterpieces built in the period of Spanish rule still stand nowadays. An excellent illustration is the Catedral de San Cristobal, Havana. During the 1820s, when the rest of Spainís empire in South America arose and seceeded, Cuba remained loyal, although a few pushed for independence. Partly because concerns of a slave uprising (as had happened in Haiti) if the Spanish withdrew, partly because the prosperity of Cuban settlers counted on their exportation trade to Europe, and partly because Cuba feared the developing power of the United States more than they disliked Spanish colonial reign.

Due to the fact that Cuba is a slight 90 miles from the United States has had a profound influence on the lands development. Politicians in the south plotted the islandís annexation as a means of bolstering the pro-slavery forces in the U.S. throughout the early 1900ís. In 1848 a pro-annexationist rebellion was foiled after several failed invasion atemps from Florida turned up fruitless. After that the United States sought to buy Cuba from Spain but was always turned down.

Rural poverty in Spain led to a real Spanish expatriation to Cuba. Among those inbound were the parents of Fidel Castro. During the 1890s pro-independence upheaval vivified, fueled by resentment of the limitations imposed on Cuban trade by Spain and hostility to Spainís progressively tyrannous and bungling governance of Cuba. On 15 July 1895 revolt broke out and the independence party, led by Tomas Estrada Palma and the poet Jose Marti, proclaimed Cuba an independent republic. Marti was killed not long thereafter and has become Cubaís unquestioned national hero.

This brief paper canít possibly address the huge chronicle that is Cuba. I have numbered a few excellent books at the conclusion of this web page. You can get them all at Amazon or your local bookshop.

Cuba: A New History by Richard Gott

The Cuba Reader: History, Culture, Politics (Latin America Readers) by Aviva Chomsky, Barry Carr, and Pamela Maria Smorkaloff

This is Cuba: An Outlaw Culture Survives by Ben Corbett

Inside Cuba by Julio Cesar Perez Hernandez, Angelika Taschen, and Giani Bosso

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