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Hispanic History

Cuba is the largest and westernmost island of the West Indies. It is located 90 miles south of the United States across the Florida Straits. It lies on the paths of sea voyages to all countries bordered by the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. The archipelago of the Republic of Cuba is consisted of Cuba, the main island, Isla de la Juventud, the second largest island and many other islands. The 2007 population of Cuba is approximately 11,416,987. Historical Background The first inhabitants of Cuba were Indian tribes called Arawak who arrived at Cuba in two waves.

The first group who reached the country was the sub-Tainos in about AD 900. They were ruled by caciques, or tribal chiefs, and they grew cassava, maize, beans, sweet potatoes, yucca, tomatoes and pineapples to survive. The second group was called Tainos who reached Cuba from the nearby island of Hispanola in the 15th century. Christopher Columbus discovered the island on October 27, 1492 and promptly conquered the Indians. Many of the inhabitants died due to disease and brutal treatment from the conquerors.

Progressively, sugar cultivation and processing dominate the economy, connecting Cuba to the world market. Over two centuries, hundreds of thousands of African were imported to work as slaves. These slaves contributed to the growth of the sugar industry. By 1650, the population of slaves started to outnumber the population of the indigenous inhabitants. African slaves counted 5000 while the indigenous counted to only 2000. In order to break free from Spain, Cubans launch several minor rebellions and conspiracies. These were common in the 19th century but they did not succeed until 1898.

Also in the 19th century, the tie of Cuba with the United Stated had been growing. US offered to buy Cuba from Spain twice but turned down. There were also talks of annexation with the US but some reformers, called autonomists, “wanted Cuba to be able to control its internal affairs” without breaking away from the Spanish rule. The separatists, on the other hand, wanted absolute independence from Spain and the United States. With the desire to seek for social reforms, Carlos Manuel de Cespedes launched a revolt known as the Ten Years’ War (1868 – 1878).

The rebels were initially asking for “effective representation, freedom of association and speech, tax reform, racial equality, and Cuban participation in the island’s administration,” but this rebellion soon become devoted to gaining total independence from Spain. The United States started to intervene with Cuban affairs with this war as well as with the War of Independence (1895 – 1898). The leaders of the independence movement were Jose Marti, Maximo Gomez and Antonio Maceo. Cuba was ceded to the United States at the conclusion of the Spanish-American War in 1898.

In the Treaty of Paris, US and Spain negotiated leaving Cuba under control of the US. The US occupation remained until May 20, 1902 but still exercise extensive political influence of Cuba because of the Platt Amendment included in the Cuban constitution. Corruption, incompetence and increasing American control of the economy become prevalent during the next five decades. The authorities had minimal legitimacy, and the political competition was not shaped by the democratic values. There was a significant increase in poverty and unemployment especially in the rural areas.

An era of democracy was initiated as a young mulatto sergeant named Fulgencio Batista take control of the government and ran the county until 1944. This democratic period lasted until 1952 which was also governed by presidents Ramon Grau San Martin and Carlos Prio Socarras. The authoritarian rule was restored by a coup by Batista. In the 1950s, revolutionary movements emerged and Batista was removed from power by Fidel Castro’s guerillas in 1959 which was led By Che Guevarra and Camilo Cienfuegos. The middle class support the nationalist and popular revolution.

Laws were reformed and changes of the character of society were carried on. The US political and economic interests were challenged by the system and military and economic assistance from the Soviet Union started. This incident led one million Cubans to leave home. The diplomatic relations between Washington and Havana broke in 1961. The state of affairs was more impaired after the Bay of Pigs invasion on April 17, 1961 and the Cuban Missile Crisis the following October. 40 nuclear missiles were installed by Moscow on Cuban soil. These missiles were also removed by the Soviets as President Kennedy guaranteed not to invade the country.

Cuba was suspended from the Organization of American States in 1962. Contemporary Domestic Condition Pressure between the two countries intensified as 125,000 Cubans migrated from the port of Mariel in 1980 seeking political refuge in the United States. Between 1980 and 1985, Castro improved the seemingly arduous living by allowing farmers markets to supply rations to urban areas. In 1086, Castro declared that farmers were earning unjustly in the open markets and a new policy was implemented called Rectification Process. This new regulation prioritized exportation rather than the production of goods for local consumption.

The government also required “voluntary work” among Cuban citizens and it advocated the “evils of a material world. ” Two events made a dent in the foundation of Cuba in 1989. The first one involved General Arnaldo Ochoa Sanchez, a recognized hero and the architect of Cuban victories in Angola. He was charged with drug smuggling and was executed after a brief trial. The second event was the announcement of the Soviet not to count on the yearly subsidies that it had formerly granted Cuba. During the mid-1980’s, the economy of Cuba stumbled and it got worse sharply into 1993.

In order to comply with its trade liability with the Eastern European countries, Cuba had to import sugar from Brazil and other Caribbean countries. Debt began to accumulate as they borrowed money from capitalist countries. Money was started to be diverted from social programs to the debts. From 1989 to 1992, the price of the country’s imports increased from 16 to 40 percent, while the cost of its exports dropped by 20 percent for sugar and 28 percent for nickel. In 1992, the trade embargo outside US companies was broadened because of the Cuba Democracy Act that was authored by the US senator Robert Torricelli.

This was intended to bring down Castro as soon as possible. The Cuban economy reached its critical level. Cuban peso plummeted against foreign currency which led Castro to permit Cubans to spend dollars in 1993. With this, the revolution’s theory of even distribution of wealth was dismantled. Cuba greatly suffered social unrest. Blackouts became frequent because of the shortage of oil supplies. Lack of food became widespread and the mobility was difficult. Hospitals and other health services lacked medicine, hospital bed sheets and food.

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