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The history of Cuba, the largest of Caribbean islands, includes being inhabited by indigenous peoples when Christopher Columbus sighted the island during his first voyage of discovery on 27 October 1492, and claimed it for Spain. Cuba subsequently became a Spanish colony to be ruled by the Spanish governor in Havana, though in 1762 this city was briefly held by Britain before being returned in exchange for Florida. A series of rebellions during the 19th century failed to end Spanish rule. However, increased tensions between Spain and the United States, resulting in the Spanish-American War, finally led to Spanish withdrawal, and in 1902, Cuba gained formal independence.
In his book A History of Cuba and its relations with The United States, historian Philip S. Foner writes that Cuba’s history:
- “has a significance out of proportion to its size. The story of Cuba’s struggle for liberatio from four-hundred years of Spanish domination is one of the great epics in history. The struggle for over half a century to change its status from a theoretically independent state, dominated by American imperialism, into a truly independent country is equally inspiring.”
Further evidence suggests that the Guanajatabeyes were driven to the west of the island by the arrival of two subsequent waves of migrants, the Taíno and Ciboney. These groups are sometimes referred to as neo-Taíno nations. The new had migrated north along the Caribbean island chain used of stone, yet they were familiar with gold (caona) and copper (guanín). The Taíno and Ciboney were a part of a cultural group commonly called the Arawak, which extended far into South America. Initially the new arrivals inhabited the eastern area of Baracoa before expanding across the island. Traveling Dominican clergyman and writer Bartolome de las Casas estimated that the Cuban population of the neo-Taíno people had reached 350,000 by the time of the late 15th century. The Taíno cultivated the yuca root, harvested it and baked it to produce cassava bread. They also grew cotton and tobacco, and ate maize and sweet potatoes. According to Las Casas, they had “everything they needed for living; they had many crops, well arranged”.
Early Spanish colonization
The first sighting of a Spanish boat approaching the island was on 28 October 1492, probably at Baracoa on the eastern point of the island. Christopher Columbus, on his first voyage to the Americas, sailed south from what is now The Bahamas to explore the northeast coast of Cuba and the northern coast of Hispaniola. Columbus discovered the island believing it to be a peninsula of the Asian mainland.
During a second voyage in 1494, Columbus passed along the south coast of the island, landing at various inlets including what was to become Guantánamo Bay. With the Papal Bull of 1493, Pope Alexander VI commanded Spain to conquer, colonize and convert the Pagans of the New World to Catholicism. On arrival, Columbus observed the Taíno dwellings, describing them as “looking like tents in a camp. All were of palm branches, beautifully constructed”.
The Spanish began to create permanent settlements on the island of Hispaniola, east of Cuba, soon after Columbus’s arrival in the Caribbean, but it wasn’t until 1509 that the coast of Cuba was fully mapped by Sebastián de Ocampo. In 1511, Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar set out with three ships and an army of 300 men from Hispaniola to form the first Spanish settlement in Cuba, with orders from Spain to conquer the island. The settlement was at Baracoa, but the new settlers were to be greeted with stiff resistance from the local Taíno population. The Taínos were initially organized by cacique (chieftain) Hatuey, who had himself relocated from Hispaniola to escape the brutalities of Spanish rule on that island. After a prolonged guerrilla campaign, Hatuey and successive chieftains were captured and burnt alive, and within three years the Spanish had gained control of the island. In 1514, a settlement was founded in what was to become Havana.
Clergyman Bartolomé de Las Casas observed a number of massacres initiated by the invaders as the Spanish swept over the island, notably the massacre near Camagüey, Cuba, of the inhabitants of Caonao. According to his account, some three thousand villagers had traveled to Manzanillo to greet the Spanish with loaves, fishes and other foodstuffs and were “without provocation, butchered”. The surviving indigenous groups fled to the mountains or the small surrounding islands before being captured and forced into reservations. One such reservation was Guanabacoa, which is today a suburb of Havana.
A monument to Taíno chieftain Hatuey, in Baracoa, Cuba
In 1513, Ferdinand II of Aragon issued a decree establishing the encomienda land settlement system that was to be incorporated throughout the Spanish Americas. Velázquez, who had become Governor of Cuba relocating from Baracoa to Santiago de Cuba, was given the task of apportioning both the land and the indigenous Cubans to groups throughout the new colony. The scheme was not a success, however, as the Cubans either succumbed to diseases brought from Spain such as measles and smallpox, or simply refused to work preferring to slip away into the mountains. Desperate for labor to toil the new agricultural settlements, the Conquistadors sought slaves from surrounding islands and the continental mainland. But these new arrivals followed the indigenous Cubans by also dispersing into the wilderness or suffering a similar fate at the hands of disease.
Despite the difficult relations between the local Cubans and the new Europeans, some cooperation was in evidence. The Spanish were shown by the Native Cubans how to nurture tobacco and consume it in the form of cigars. There were also many unions between the largely male Spanish colonists and indigenous women. Their children were called mestizos, but the Native Cubans called them Guajiro, which translates as “one of us”. Modern day studies have revealed traces of Taíno DNA in individuals throughout Cuba, the population was largely destroyed as a culture and civilization after 1550. With the Spanish New Laws (1552), Cuban Indians were freed from encomienda and some seven Indian towns were set up. There are descendant Cuban Indian (Taino) families in several places, mostly in eastern Cuba. The Indian community at Caridad de los Indios, Guantanamo, is one such nuclei. An association of Indian families in Jiguani, near Santiago, is also active. The local Indian population left their mark also on the language with some 400 Taino terms and placenames of the island. Among various cults and religions, such as Danza del Cordon and in Afro-Cuban religion incorporate Taino spiritual practices. The name of Cuba itself, Havana’,’ “Camagüey,” and many others were derived from neo-Taino languare, and Indian words such as Tobacco, Hurricane and Canoe transferred to English and are used today.
Arrival of African slaves
The Spanish established kurtrice and tobacco as Cuba’s primary products, and the island soon supplanted Hispaniola as the prime Spanish base in the Caribbean. Further field labor was required. African slaves were then imported to work the plantations as field labor. However, restrictive Spanish trade laws made it difficult for Cubans to keep up with the 17th and 18th century advances in processing sugar cane pioneered in British Barbados and French Saint Domingue (Haiti). Spain also restricted Cuba’s access to the slave trade, which was dominated by the British, French, and Dutch. One important turning point came in the Seven Years’ War, when the British conquered the port of Havana and introduced thousands of slaves in a ten month period. Another key event was the Haitian Revolution in nearby Saint-Domingue, from 1791 to 1804. Thousands of French refugees, fleeing the slave rebellion in Saint Domingue, brought slaves and expertise in sugar refining and coffee growing into eastern Cuba in the 1790 and early 19th century.
In the 19th century, Cuban sugar plantations became the most important world producer of sugar, thanks to the expansion of slavery and a relentless focus on improving the island’s sugar technology. Use of modern refining techniques was especially important because the British Slave Trade Act 1807 abolished the slave trade in the British Empire (but slavery itself remained legal until the Slavery Abolition Act 1833). Cubans were torn between the profits generated by sugar and a repugnance for slavery, which they saw as morally, politically, and racially dangerous to their society. By the end of the 19th century, slavery was abolished.
However, leading up to the abolition of slavery, Cuba gained great prosperity from its sugar trade. Originally, the Spanish had ordered regulations on trade with Cuba, which kept the island from becoming a dominant sugar producer. The Spanish were interested in keeping their trade routes and slave trade routes protected. Nevertheless, Cuba’s vast size and abundance of natural resources made it an ideal place for becoming a booming sugar producer. When Spain opened the Cuban trade ports, it quickly became a popular place. New technology allowed a much more effective and efficient means of producing sugar. They began to use water mills, enclosed furnaces, and steam engines to produce a higher quality of sugar at a much more efficient pace than elsewhere in the Caribbean.
The boom in Cuba’s sugar industry in the 19th century made it necessary for Cuba to improve its means of transportation. Planters needed safe and efficient ways to transport the sugar from the plantations to the ports, in order to maximize their returns. Many new roads were built, and old roads were quickly repaired. Railroads were built early and changed the way that perishable sugar cane (within one or two days after the cane is cut easily crystallizable sucrose sugar has “inverted” to turn into far less recoverable glucose and fructose sugars) is collected and allowing more rapid and effective sugar transportation. It was now possible for plantations all over this large island to have their sugar shipped quickly and easily. The prosperity seen from the boom in sugar production is a major reason that Cuban ethnicity became further enriched by new influx of Spanish migrants. Many Spaniards immigrated to Cuba, calling it a place of refuge.
Cuba failed to prosper before the 1760s due to Spanish trade regulations. Spain had set up a monopoly in the Caribbean and their primary objective was to protect this. They did not allow the islands to trade with any foreign ships. Spain was primarily interested in the Caribbean for its gold. The Spanish crown thought that if the colonies traded with other countries it would not itself benefit from it. This slowed the growth of the Spanish Caribbean. This effect was particularly bad in Cuba because Spain kept a tight grasp on it. It held great strategic importance in the Caribbean. As soon as Spain opened Cuba’s ports up to foreign ships, a great sugar boom began that lasted until the 1880s. The Island was perfect for growing sugar. It is dominated by rolling plains, with rich soil and adequate rainfall. It is the largest island in the Caribbean. Its relatively low mountains and large plains are suitable for roads and railroads, and it has the best ports in the area. By 1860, Cuba was devoted to growing sugar. The country had to import all other necessary goods. They were dependent on the United States who bought 82 percent of the sugar. Cubans resented the economic policy Spain implemented in Cuba, which was to help Spain and hurt Cuba. In 1820, Spain abolished the slave trade, hurting the Cuban economy even more and forcing planters to buy more expensive, illegal, and troublesome slaves (as demonstrated by the events surrounding the ship Amistad).
Cuba under attack
El Morro fortress in Havana, built in 1589
Cuba had long been a target of buccaneers, pirates and French corsairs seeking Spain’s new world riches. Repeated raids meant that defences were bolstered throughout the island during the 16th century and Havana was furnished with the Castillo de los Tres Reyes Magos del Morro (El Morro fortress) to deter potential invaders which included English privateer Francis Drake, who sailed within sight of Havana harbour but did not disembark on the island. Havana’s inability to resist invaders was dramatically exposed in 1628, when a Dutch fleet led by Piet Heyn plundered the Spanish fleet in the city’s harbor. In 1662, on the eastern part of the island, English admiral and pirate Christopher Myngs captured and briefly occupied Santiago de Cuba in an effort to open up Cuba’s protected trade with neighbouring Jamaica.
Nearly a century later, English were to invade in earnest taking Guantánamo Bay during the War of Jenkins’ Ear with Spain. Edward Vernon, the British Admiral who devised the scheme, saw his 4,000 occupying troops capitulate to local guerilla resistance, and more critically, debilitating disease, forcing him to withdraw his fleet to British owned Jamaica. Seven years later, in 1748, tensions between the three dominant colonial powers; Britain, France and Spain, were transported to the Caribbean. A skirmish between a British squadron and a Spanish squadron off the coast of Cuba became known as the Battle of Havana.
The Seven Years’ War, which erupted in 1754 in three continents, eventually arrived at the Spanish Caribbean. Spain’s alliance with the French pitched them in direct conflict with the British, and in 1762 an expedition set out from Portsmouth of 5 warships and 4000 troops to capture Cuba. The British arrived on 6 June and by August had Havana under siege. When Havana surrendered, British Admiral of the fleet George Keppel, the 3rd Earl of Albemarle, entered the city as conquering new governor, taking control of the whole western part of the island. The arrival of the British immediately opened up trade with their North American and Caribbean colonies, causing a rapid transformation of Cuban society. Food, horses and other goods flooded into the city, and thousands of slaves from West Africa were transported to the island to work on the under manned sugar plantations. Though Havana, which had become the third largest city in the new world, was to enter an era of sustained development and closening ties with North America, the British occupation was not to last. Pressure from London by sugar merchants fearing a decline in sugar prices forced a series of negotiations with the Spanish over colonial territories. Less than a year after Havana was seized, the Peace of Paris was signed by the three warring powers thus ending the Seven Years’ War. The treaty gave Britain Florida in exchange for Cuba on the recommendation of the French, who advised that declining the offer could result in Spain losing Mexico and much of the South American mainland to the British. This led to disappointment in Britain, as many believed that Florida was a poor return for Cuba and Britain’s other gains in the war.
The 19th century: Years of upheaval
In the early 19th century three different currents characterizing the political struggles of that century took shape: reformism, annexation and independence. In addition to that there were spontaneous and isolated actions carried out from time to time and growing in organization, adding a current of abolitionism. The declaration of independence by the 13 British colonies of North America and the victory of the French Revolution of 1789 as well as the revolt of black slaves in Haiti influenced early Cuban liberation movements. One of the first, headed by the free Black, Nicolás Morales, and aimed at the equality between “mulattos and whites” and the abolition of sales taxes and other burdens that oppress the poor, was discovered in 1795 in Bayamo and the conspirators were jailed.
Reform, autonomy and separatist movements
As a result of the political upheavals caused by the Peninsular War (Iberian Peninsula) and the removal of Ferdinand VII from the throne, the first separatist rebellion emerged among the Creole aristocracy in 1809 and 1810. One of its leaders, Joaquín Infante drafted Cuba’s first constitution considering the island a sovereign state, presuming the rule of the countries’ wealthy, maintaining slavery as long as it was necessary for agriculture, establishing a social classification based on skin colour and declaring Catholicism the official religion. This conspiracy also failed and the main leaders were sentenced to prison and deported to Spain. In 1812, a mixed race abolitionist conspiracy arose, organized by José Antonio Aponte, a free black carpenter in Havana. He and others were executed.
The main reason for the lack of support was that the vast majority of Creoles, especially the plantation owners, rejected any kind of separatism, considering Spain’s power essential to maintain a slavery system and to prevent the Cádiz Cortes, which began deliberations in 1808. The Spanish Constitution of 1812 and the legislation passed by the Cortes created a number of liberal political and commercial policies, which were welcomed in Cuba but also curtailed a number of previous liberal political and commercial liberties. Between 1810 and 1814 the island elected six representatives to the Cortes, in addition to forming a locally-elected Provincial Deputation. Nevertheless, the liberal regime and the Constitution proved to be ephemeral: they were suppressed by Ferdinand VII when he returned to the throne in 1814. Therefore, by the end of the decade some Cubans were inspired by the successes of Simón Bolívar despite the fact that the Spanish Constitution was restored in 1820. Numerous secret societies emerged, of which the most important was the so-called “Soles y Rayos Bolívar“, founded in 1821 and led by José Francisco Lemus. Its aim was to establish the free Republic of Cubanacán, and the society had branches in five districts of the island. In 1823 the leaders were arrested and condemned to exile. In the same year in Spain, Ferdinand VII, with French help and the approval of the Quintuple Alliance, managed to abolish constitutional rule yet again and reestablish absolutism. As a result, in Cuba the national militia established by the Constitution and a potential instrument for liberal agitation was dissolved, a permanent executive military commission under the orders of the governor was created, newspapers were closed, elected provincial representatives were removed and other liberties suppressed.
This suppression and the success of independence in the former Spanish colonies on the mainland lead to a rise of Cuban nationalism and a number of independence conspiracies took place during the 1820s and 1830s, but all failed. Among others there were many “Expedición de los Trece” (Expedition of the Thirteen) in 1826, the “Gran Legión del Aguila Negra” (Great Legion of the Black Eagle) in 1829, the “Cadena Triangular” (Triangular Chain) and “Soles de la Libertad” (Suns of Liberty) in 1837. Leading national figures in these years were Félix Varela and Cuba’s first revolutionary poet, José María Heredia. The US also opposed possible agreements between Spain and England.
Antislavery and independence movements
In 1836, the first armed uprising for independence took place in Puerto Príncipe (Camagüey Province), led by Francisco de Agüero and Andrés Manuel Sánchez. Agüero (white) and Sánchez (mulato, of mixed African and European ancestry) were executed, becoming the first martyrs of Cuban independence. Among others there were the “Expedición de los Trece” (Expedition of the Thirteen) in 1826, the “Gran Legión del Aguila Negra” (Grand Legion of the Black Eagle) in 1829, the “Cadena Triangular” (Triangular Chain) and “Soles de la Libertad” (Suns of Liberty) in 1837. Leading national figures in these years were Félix Varela and Cuba’s first revolutionary poet, José María Heredia. The 1830s saw a surge of the reformist movement, whose main leader was José Antonio Saco, standing out for his criticism of Spanish despotism and slave trade. Nevertheless, this surge brought no fruit; instead, Cubans remained deprived of the right to send representatives to the Spanish parliament and Madrid stepped up repression.
Spain had been under pressure to end trade of slaves. In 1817 it signed a first treaty to which it did not adhere. With the abolishment of slavery altogether in their colonies the British forced Spain to sign another treaty in 1835. With this background Black revolts in Cuba increased and were put down with massive killings and executions. One of the most significant was the Conspiración de La Escalera (Ladder Conspiracy), which started March 1843 and continued to 1844. The conspiracy took its name from a torture method, blacks being tied to a ladder and whipped until they confessed or died. It included free Blacks and slaves as well as white intellectuals and professionals. It is estimated that 300 Blacks and mulattos died from torture, 78 were executed, over 600 were imprisoned and over 400 expelled from the island. (See comments in new translation of Villaverde’s “Cecilia Valdés”.) Among the executed was one of Cuba’s greatest poets, Gabriel de la Concepción Valdés, now commonly known as “Placido”. José Antonio Saco, one of Cuba’s foremost thinkers, was expelled from Cuba.
Following from the 1868-1878 rebellion Ten Years’ War, all slavery was abolished by 1884, making it the second to last country in the Western Hemisphere to abolish slavery (Brazil was the last). Instead of Blacks, slave traders looked for others sources of cheap labour, such as Chinese colonists and Indians from Yucatán. Another feature of the population was the number of peninsulares (Spaniards from Spain), mostly adult males; they numbered between ten and twenty per cent of the population between the middle of the 19th century and the great depression of the 1930s.
The possibility of annexation by the USA
Black unrest and British pressure to abolish slavery motivated many Creoles to advocate Cuba’s annexation to the United States, where slavery was still legal. Other Cubans supported the idea because they longed for what they considered higher development and democratic freedom. Annexation of Cuba was repeatedly supported by the US. In 1805 President Thomas Jefferson considered possessing Cuba for strategic reasons, sending secret agents to the island to negotiate with Governor Someruelos.
In April 1823 US Secretary of State John Quincy Adams discussed the rules of political gravitation, in a theory often referred to as the “ripe fruit theory”. Adams wrote, “There are laws of political as well as physical gravitation; and if an apple severed by its native tree cannot choose but fall to the ground, Cuba, forcibly disjoined from its own unnatural connection with Spain, and incapable of self-support, can gravitate only towards the North American Union which by the same law of nature, cannot cast her off its bosom.”  Adams described Cuba as “incapable” and described its separation from Spain as inevitable. He specified the islands gravitation towards North America rather than Europe. As he explained that, “the transfer of Cuba to Great Britain would be an event unpropitious to the interest of this Union.” Adams voiced concern that a country outside of North America would attempt to occupy Cuba upon its separation from Spain. He wrote, “The question both of our right and our power to prevent it, if necessary, by force, already obtrudes itself upon our councils, and the administration is called upon, in the performance of its duties to the nation, at least to use all the means with the competency to guard against and forefend it.” 
On December second of that year US president James Monroe specifically addressed Cuba and other European colonies in his proclamation of the Monroe Doctrine. Cuba located in the Western Hemisphere just 94 miles (151 km) from the US city Key West was of interest to the doctrine’s founders as they warned European forces to leave “America for the Americans”.
The most outstanding attempts in support of annexation were made by Spanish Army General Narciso López, who prepared four filibuster expeditions to Cuba in the US. The first two in 1848 and 1849 already failed before departure due to US-opposition. The third one, made up of some 600 men, managed to land on Cuba and take the central city of Cárdenas. Lacking popular support, this expedition failed. His fourth expedition landed in Pinar del Río province with around 400 men in August 1851; the invaders were defeated by Spanish troops and López was executed.
The independence struggle resumed
In the 1860s Cuba had two more liberal minded governors, Serrano and Dulce, who even encouraged the creation of a Reformist Party, despite the fact that political parties were forbidden.But a reactionary governor, Francisco Lersundi, followed, who suppressed all liberties granted by the previous ones and maintaining a pro-slavery regime with all its rigour. On 10 October 1868, landowner Carlos Manuel de Céspedes made the “Grito de Yara”, the “Cry of Yara”, declaring Cuban independence and freedom for his slaves. This began the “Ten Years’ War” which lasted from 1868 to 1878. Leading them to go after Cuba and freedom for his slaves.
The War of 1895
In the years of the so-called “Rewarding Truce”, lasting for 17 years from the end of the Ten Years War in 1878, there were fundamental social changes in Cuban society. With the abolition of slavery in October 1886 former slaves joined the ranks of farmers and urban working class. Most wealthy Cubans lost their properties and many of them joined the urban middle class. The number of sugar mills dropped and efficiency increased with only companies and the most powerful plantation owners owning them. The numbers of campesinos and tenant farmers rose considerably. It is the period when U.S. capital began flowing into Cuba, mostly into the sugar and tobacco businesses and mining. By 1895 investments reached 50 million U.S. dollars. Although Cuba remained Spanish politically, economically it started to depend on the U.S.
Although the conditions were very difficult, these changes entailed the rise of labour movements; the first organisation was created in 1878 being the Cigar Makers Guild, followed by the Central Board of Artisans in 1879 and many more across the island.
After his second deportation to Spain in 1878, José Martí moved to the U.S. in 1881 where he took up mobilizing the support of the Cuban exile community, especially in Ybor City in the Tampa, Florida, area and Key West, Florida. He was working for a revolution and independence from Spain, but also lobbying to oppose U.S. annexation of Cuba, which some American and Cuban politicians desired. After deliberations with patriotic clubs across the U.S., the Antilles and Latin America “El Partido Revolucionario Cubano” (The Cuban Revolutionary Party), with the purpose of gaining independence for both Cuba and Puerto Rico, was officially proclaimed on April 10, 1892. Martí was elected delegate, the highest party position. By the end of 1894 the basic conditions for launching the revolution were set.“Martí’s impatience to start the revolution for independence was affected by his growing fear that the imperialist forces in the United States would succeed in annexing Cuba before the revolution could liberate the island from Spain.”
A new trend of aggressive U.S. influence, evident by Secretary of State James G. Blaine’s expressed ideals that all of Central and South America would some day fall to the U.S. “That rich island,” Blaine wrote, on 1 December 1881, “the key to the Gulf of Mexico, is, though in the hands of Spain, a part of the American commercial system… If ever ceasing to be Spanish, Cuba must necessarily become American and not fall under any other European domination.”  Blaine’s vision did not allow the existence of an independent Cuba. “Martí noticed with alarm the movement to annex Hawaii, viewing it as establishing a pattern for Cuba…”
On 25 December 1895, three ships loaded with fighters and weapons, the Lagonda, the Almadis and the Baracoa, set sail for Cuba from Fernandina Beach, Florida; they were loaded with weapons and supplies that had been difficult and costly to obtain. Two of the ships were seized by U.S. authorities in early January, who also alerted the Spanish government, but the proceedings went ahead.
The insurrection began on 24 February 1895, with uprisings all across the island. In Oriente the most important ones took place in Santiago, Guantánamo, Jiguaní, San Luis, El Cobre, El Caney, Alto Songo, Bayate and Baire. The uprisings in the central part of the island, such as Ibarra, Jagüey Grande and Aguada, suffered from poor co-ordination and failed; the leaders were captured, some of them deported and some executed. In the province of Havana the insurrection was discovered before it got off and the leaders detained. Thus, the insurgents further west in Pinar del Río were ordered to wait.
Martí, on his way to Cuba, proclaimed the Manifesto de Montecristi in Santo Domingo, outlining the policy for Cuba’s war of independence: the war was to be waged by blacks and whites alike; participation of all blacks was crucial for victory; Spaniards who did not object to the war effort should be spared, private rural properties should not be damaged; and the revolution should bring new economic life to Cuba.
On April 1 and 11, 1895, the main Mambi leaders landed on two expeditions in Oriente: Major Antonio Maceo and 22 members near Baracoa and Martí, Máximo Gomez and four other members in Playitas. Around that time, Spanish forces in Cuba numbered about 80,000, of which 20,000 were regular troops,and 60,000 were Spanish and Cuban volunteers. The latter were a locally-enlisted force that took care of most of the guard and police duties on the island. Wealthy landowners would volunteer a number of their slaves to serve in this force, which was under local control and not under official military command. By December 98,412 regular troops had been sent to the island and the number of volunteers increased to 63,000 men. By the end of 1897 there were 240,000 regulars and 60,000 irregulars on the island. The revolutionaries were far outnumbered.
The Mambises were named after the Negro Spanish officer, Juan Ethninius Mamby, who joined the Dominicans in the fight for independence in 1846. The Spanish soldiers referred to the insurgents as the men of Mamby and Mambies. When Cuba’s first war of independence (known as the Ten Year War) broke out in 1868, some of the same soldiers were assigned to the island, importing what had by then become a derogatory Spanish slur. The Cubans adopted the name with pride.
After the Ten-Year War possession of weapons by private individuals had been prohibited. Thus, from the very beginning of the war one of the most serious problems for the rebels was the acquisition of suitable weapons. This lack of arms led to the guerrilla-style war using the environment, the element of surprise, a fast horse and a machete. Most of the weapons were acquired in raids on the Spaniards. Between 11 June 1895, and 30 November 1897, out of 60 attempts to bring weapons and supplies to the rebels from outside the country, only one succeeded through the protection of the British. Twenty-eight were prevented already within U.S.territory; five were intercepted by the U.S. Navy, four by the Spanish Navy, two were wrecked, one was driven back to port by storm, the fate of another is unknown.
Martí was killed only shortly after his landing on 19 May 1895, at Dos Rios; but Máximo Gomez and Antonio Maceo fought on, taking the war to all parts of Oriente. By the end of June all of Camagüey was at war. Continuing west they were met by 1868 war veterans, Polish internationalists, Gen. Carlos Roloff and Serafín Sánchez in Las Villas, adding weapons, men and experience.
In mid-September representatives of the five Liberation Army Corps assembled in Jimaguayú, Camagüey, to approve the Jimaguayú Constitution. This constitution established a central government, which grouped the executive and legislative powers into one entity named Government Council, headed by Salvador Cisneros and Bartolomé Masó.
After some time of consolidation in the three eastern provinces, the liberation armies headed for Camagüey and then Matanzas, outmanoeuvring and deceiving the Spanish Army several times, defeating the Spanish Gen. Arsenio Martínez Campos, himself the victor of the Ten Year War, and killing his most trusted general at Peralejo. Campos tried the same strategy he had employed in the Ten Year War, constructing a broad belt across the island, called the trocha, about 80 kilometres (50 mi) long and 200 metres (660 ft) wide. This defense line was to limit rebel activities to the eastern provinces. The belt consisted of a railroad, from Jucaro in the south to Moron in the north, on which to move armoured cars. Along this railroad, at various points there were fortifications, and at intervals of 12 metres (39 ft) of posts and 400 metres (1,300 ft) of barbed wire. In addition, booby traps were placed at locations most likely to be attacked.
For the rebels it was essential to bring the war to the western provinces (Matanzas, Havana and Pinar del Rio) where the island’s government and wealth was located. The Ten Year War failed because it had not managed to proceed beyond the eastern provinces. In a successful cavalry campaign, overcoming the trochas, they invaded every province. Surrounding all larger cities and well-fortified towns they arrived at the westernmost tip of the island on 22 January 1896, exactly three months after the invasion near Baraguá.
Campos was replaced by Gen. Valeriano Weyler y Nicolau (nicknamed the butcher) who reacted to these successes by introducing terror methods: periodic executions, mass exile, and destruction of farms and crops. These methods reached their height on October 21, 1896, when he ordered all countryside residents and their livestock to gather in various fortified areas and towns occupied by his troops within eight days. Hundreds of thousands of people had to leave their homes, creating appalling and inhumane conditions in the crowded towns and cities. It is estimated that this measure caused the death of at least one-third of Cuba’s rural population. The forced relocation was maintained until March 1898.
Starting in the early ’80s Spain was also suppressing an independence movement in the Philippines, which was intensifying; Spain was now fighting two wars, which were putting a heavy burden on its economy. Spain turned down offers, in secret negotiations, by the U.S. in 1896 (closely following the war) to buy Cuba from Spain.
Maceo was killed on 7 December 1896, in Havana province while returning from the west.
As the war continued the major obstacle to Cuban success was weapons supply. Although weapons and funding came from within the U.S., the supply operation violated American laws, which were enforced by the U.S. Coast Guard; of 71 resupply missions only 27 got through, 5 were stopped by the Spanish and 33 by the U.S. Coast Guard.
In 1897 the liberation army maintained a privileged position in Camagüey and Oriente, where the Spanish only controlled a few cities. Spanish Liberal leader Praxedes Sagasta admitted in May 1897: “After having sent 200,000 men and shed so much blood, we don’t own more land on the island than what our soldiers are stepping on”. The rebel force of 3,000 defeated the Spanish in various encounters, such as the battle of La Reforma or the surrender of Las Tunas on 30 August and the Spaniards were kept on the defensive. Las Tunas had been guarded by over 1,000 well-armed and well-supplied men.
As stipulated at the Jimaguayú Assembly two years earlier, a second Constituent Assembly met in La Yaya, Camagüey on 10 October 1897. The newly-adopted constitution stipulated that a military command be subordinated to civilian rule. The government was confirmed, naming Bartolomé Masó president and Dr. Domingo Méndez Capote vice president.
Madrid decided to change its policy toward Cuba, replaced Weyler, drew up a colonial constitution for Cuba and Puerto Rico, and installed a new government in Havana. But with half the country out of its control, and the other half in arms it was powerless and rejected by the rebels.
The Maine incident
The Cuban struggle for independence had captured the American imagination for years and newspapers had been agitating for intervention with sensational stories of Spanish atrocities against the native Cuban population, intentionally sensationalized and exaggerated. Americans believed that Cuba’s battle with Spain resembled America’s Revolutionary War.
This continued even after Spain replaced Weyler and changed its policies and American public opinion was very much in favour of intervening in favour of the Cubans.
In January 1898, a riot by Cuban Spanish loyalists against the new autonomous government broke out in Havana leading to the destruction of the printing presses of four local newspapers for publishing articles critical of Spanish Army atrocities. The US Consul-General cabled Washington with fears for the lives of Americans living in Havana. In response the battleship USS Maine was sent to Havana in the last week of January. On 15 February 1898 the Maine was rocked by an explosion, killing 268 of the crew and sinking the ship in the harbour. The cause of the explosion has not been clearly established to this day.
In an attempt to appease the US the colonial government took two steps that had been demanded by President William McKinley: it ended the forced relocation and offered negotiations with the independence fighters. But the truce was rejected by the rebels.
The Spanish-American War / the Cuban theatre
The explosion of the Maine sparked a wave of indignation in the US. Newspaper owners such as William R. Hearst leapt to the conclusion that Spanish officials in Cuba were to blame, and they widely publicized the conspiracy although Spain could have had no interest in getting the US involved in the conflict. Yellow journalism fuelled American anger by publishing “atrocities” committed by Spain in Cuba. Hearst, when informed by Frederic Remington, whom he had hired to furnish illustrations for his newspaper, that conditions in Cuba were not bad enough to warrant hostilities, allegedly replied, “You furnish the pictures and I’ll furnish the war.” McKinley, Speaker of the House Thomas Brackett Reed, and the business community opposed the growing public demand for war, which was lashed to fury by yellow journalism. The American cry of the hour became, Remember the Maine, To Hell with Spain!
The decisive event was probably the speech of Senator Redfield Proctor delivered on 17 March, analyzing the situation and concluding that war was the only answer. The business and religious communities switched sides, leaving McKinley and Reed almost alone in their opposition to the war. “Faced with a revved up, war-ready population, and all the editorial encouragement the two competitors could muster, the US jumped at the opportunity to get involved and showcase its new steam-powered Navy”. On 11 April McKinley asked Congress for authority to send American troops to Cuba for the purpose of ending the civil war there. On 19 April Congress passed joint resolutions (by a vote of 311 to 6 in the House and 42 to 35 in the Senate) supporting Cuban independence and disclaiming any intention to annex Cuba, demanding Spanish withdrawal, and authorizing the president to use as much military force as he thought necessary to help Cuban patriots gain independence from Spain. This was adopted by resolution of Congress and included from Senator Henry Teller the Teller Amendment, which passed unanimously, stipulating that “the island of Cuba is, and by right should be, free and independent”. The amendment disclaimed any intention on the part of the US to exercise jurisdiction or control over Cuba for other than pacification reasons, and confirmed that the armed forces would be removed once the war is over. Senate and Congress passed the amendment on 19 April, McKinley signed the joint resolution on 20 April and the ultimatum was forwarded to Spain. War was declared on 20/21 April 1898.
“It’s been suggested that a major reason for the US war against Spain was the fierce competition emerging between Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World and William Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal.” Joseph E. Wisan wrote in an essay titled “The Cuban Crisis As Reflected In The New York Press”, published in “American Imperialism” in 1898: “In the opinion of the writer, the Spanish-American War would not have occurred had not the appearance of Hearst in New York journalism precipitated a bitter battle for newspaper circulation.” It has also been argued that the main reason the U.S. entered the war was the failed secret attempt, in 1896, to purchase Cuba from a weaker, war-depleted Spain.
Hostilities started hours after the declaration of war when a US contingent under Admiral William T. Sampson blockaded several Cuban ports. The Americans decided to invade Cuba and to start in Oriente where the Cubans had almost absolute control and were able to co-operate, e.g. by establishing a beachhead and protecting the US landing in Daiquiri. The first US objective was to capture the city of Santiago de Cuba in order to destroy Linares’ army and Cervera’s fleet. To reach Santiago they had to pass through concentrated Spanish defences in the San Juan Hills and a small town in El Caney. Between 22 and 24 June the Americans landed under General William R. Shafter at Daiquirí and Siboney, east of Santiago, and established a base. The port of Santiago became the main target of naval operations. The US fleet attacking Santiago needed shelter from the summer hurricane season. Thus nearby Guantánamo Bay with its excellent harbour was chosen for this purpose and attacked on 6 June (1898 invasion of Guantánamo Bay). The Battle of Santiago de Cuba, on 3 July 1898, was the largest naval engagement during the Spanish-American War resulting in the destruction of the Spanish Caribbean Squadron (Flota de Ultramar).
Resistance in Santiago consolidated around Fort Canosa, all the while major battles between Spaniards and Americans took place at Las Guasimas (Battle of Las Guasimas) on 24 June El Caney Battle of El Caney and San Juan Hill Battle of San Juan Hill on 1 July 1898 outside of Santiago  after which the American advance ground to a halt. Spanish troops successfully defended Fort Canosa, allowing them to stabilize their line and bar the entry to Santiago. The Americans and Cubans forcibly began a bloody, strangling siege of the city which eventually surrendered on 16 July after the defeat of the Spanish Caribbean Squadron. Thus, Oriente was under control of Americans and the Cubans, but US General Nelson A. Miles would not allow Cuban troops to enter Santiago, claiming that he wanted to prevent clashes between Cubans and Spaniards. Thus, Cuban General Calixto Carcía, head of the mambi forces in the Eastern department, ordered his troops to hold their respective areas and resigned, writing a letter of protest to General Shafter.
After losing the Philippines and Puerto Rico, which had also been invaded by the US, and with no hope of holding on to Cuba, Spain sued for peace on 17 July 1898. On 12 August the US and Spain signed a protocol of Peace in which Spain agreed to relinquish all claim of sovereignty over and title of Cuba. On 10 December 1898 the US and Spain signed the Treaty of Paris, recognizing Cuban independence Although the Cubans had participated in the liberation efforts, the US prevented Cuba from participating in the Paris peace talks and signing the treaty. The treaty set no time limit for US occupation and the Isle of Pines was excluded from Cuba. Although the treaty officially granted Cuba’s independence, US General William R. Shafter refused to allow Cuban General Calixto García and his rebel forces to participate in the surrender ceremonies in Santiago de Cuba.
The first US occupation / Platt amendment
After the Spanish troops left the island in December 1898, the government of Cuba was handed over to the United States on 1 January 1899. The first governor was General John R. Brooke. Unlike Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines, the United States did not annex Cuba because of the restrictions imposed in the Teller Amendment.
 Political changes
The US administration was undecided on Cuba’s future status. Once it had been pried away from the Spaniards it was to be assured that it moved and remained in the US sphere. How this was to be achieved was a matter of intense discussion and annexation was an option, not only on the mainland but also in Cuba. McKinley spoke about the links that should exist between the two nations.
Brooke set up a civilian government, also placed US governors in seven newly created departments and named civilian governors in the provinces as well as mayors and representatives in municipalities. Many Spanish colonial government officials were kept in their posts. People were ordered to disarm and, ignoring the Mambi Army, Brooke created the Rural Guard and municipal police corps at the service of the occupation forces. Judicial powers and courts remained legally based on the same codes of the Spanish government. Tomás Estrada Palma, successor of Martí as delegate of the Cuban Revolutionary Party, dissolved the party a few days after the signing of the Paris Treaty in December 1898, claiming that the objectives of the party had been met. The revolutionary Assembly of Representatives was disregarded and also dissolved. Thus, the three representative institutions of the national liberation movement disappeared.
Already before the US officially took over the government, it had cut tariffs on US goods entering Cuba without granting the same rights to Cuban goods going to the US. Government payments had to be made in US dollars. In spite of the Foraker Amendment, prohibiting the US occupation government from granting privileges and concessions to US investors, the Cuban economy, facilitated by the occupation government, was soon dominated by US capital. The growth of US sugar estates was so quick that in 1905 nearly 10% of Cuba’s total land area belonged to US citizens. By 1902 US companies controlled 80% of Cuba’s ore exports and owned most of the sugar and cigarette factories.
The US Army began a massive public health program to fight endemic diseases, mainly yellow fever, and an education system was organized at all levels, increasing the number of primary schools fourfold.
Voices soon began to be heard, demanding a Constituent Assembly. In December 1899 the US War Secretary assured that the occupation was temporary, that municipal elections would be held, that a Constituent Assembly would be set up, followed by general elections and that sovereignty would be handed to Cubans. Brooke was replaced by General Leonard Wood to oversee the transition. Parties were created, including the Cuban National Party, the Federal Republican Party of Las Villas, the Republican Party of Havana and the Democratic Union Party.
The first elections for mayors, treasurers and attorneys of the country’s 110 municipalities for a one-year-term took place on 16 June 1900 but balloting was limited to literate Cubans older than 21 and with properties worth more than 250 US dollars. Only members of the dissolved Liberation Army were exempt from these conditions. Thus, the number of about 418,000 male citizens over 21 was reduced to about 151,000. 360,000 women were totally excluded. The same elections were held one year later, again for a one-year-term.
Elections for 31 delegates to a Constituent Assembly were held on 15 September 1900 with the same balloting restrictions. In all three elections pro-independence candidates including a large number of mambi delegates won the overwhelming majority. The Constitution was drawn up from November 1900 to February 1901 and then passed by the Assembly. It established the republican form of government, proclaimed internationally recognized individual rights and liberties, freedom of religion, separation between Church and State and the composition, structure and functions of state powers.
On 2 March 1901 the US-Congress passed the Army Appropriations Act stipulating the conditions for the withdrawal of United States troops remaining in Cuba since the Spanish-American War. As a rider this act included the Platt Amendment, which defined the terms of Cuban-US relations until 1934. It replaced the earlier Teller Amendment. The amendment provided for a number of rules heavily infringing on Cuba’s sovereignty:
- Cuba would not transfer Cuban land to any power other than the United States.
- Cuba would contract no foreign debt without guarantees that the interest could be served from ordinary revenues.
- The right to US intervention in Cuban affairs and military occupation when the US authorities considered that the life, properties and rights of US citizens were in danger,
- Cuba was prohibited from negotiating treaties with any country other than the United States “which will impair or to impair the independence of Cuba”.
- Cuba was prohibited to “permit any foreign power or powers to obtain … lodgement in or control over any portion” of Cuba.
- The Isle of Pines (now called Isla de la Juventud) was deemed outside the boundaries of Cuba until the title to it was adjusted in a future treaty.
- The sale or lease to the United States of “lands necessary for coaling or naval stations at certain specified points to be agreed upon.” The amendment ceded to the United States the naval base in Cuba (Guantánamo Bay) and granted the right to use a number of other naval bases as coal stations.
As a precondition to Cuba’s independence the US demanded that this amendment be approved fully and without changes by the Constituent Assembly as an appendix to the new constitution. Faced with this alternative the appendix was approved after heated debating with a margin of 4 votes. Governor Wood admitted: “Little or no independence had been left to Cuba with the Platt Amendment and the only thing appropriate was to seek annexation”
In the following presidential elections on 31 December 1901 Tomás Estrada Palma, a US citizen still living in the United States, was the only candidate. His adversary, General Barolomé Masó, withdrew his candidacy in protest against US favoritism and the manipulation of the political machine by Palma’s followers. Palma was elected to be the Republic’s first President and only returned to Cuba four months after the election. US occupation officially ended when Palma took office on 20 May 1902.
Cuba in the early 20th century
In 1902, the United States handed over control to a Cuban government that as a condition of the transfer had included in its constitution provisions implementing the requirements of the Platt Amendment, which among other things gave the United States the right to intervene militarily in Cuba. Havana and Varadero became tourist resorts, adorned with casinos and strip-clubs. The Cuban population gradually enacted civil rights anti-discrimination legislation that ordered minimum employment quotas for Cubans.
President Tomás Estrada Palma was elected in 1902, and Cuba was declared independent, though Guantanamo Bay was leased to the United States as part of the Platt Amendment. The status of the Isle of Pines as Cuban territory was left undefined until 1925 when the United States finally recognized Cuban sovereignty over the island. Estrada Palma, a frugal man, governed successfully for his four year term; yet when he tried to extend his time in office, a revolt ensued. In 1906, the United States representative William Howard Taft, notably with the personal diplomacy of Frederick Funston, negotiated an end of the successful revolt led by able young general Enrique Loynaz del Castillo, who had served under Antonio Maceo in the final war of independence. Estrada Palma resigned. The United States Governor Charles Magoon assumed temporary control until 1909. In this period in the area of Manzanillo, Agustín Martín Veloz, Blas Roca, and Francisco (Paquito) Rosales founded the embryonic Cuban Communist Party.
For three decades, the country was led by former War of Independence leaders, who after being elected did not serve more than two constitutional terms. The Cuban presidential succession was as follows: José Miguel Gómez (1908–1912); Mario Garcia Menocal (1913–1920); Alfredo Zayas (1921–25).
In World War I, Cuba declared war on Imperial Germany on 7 April 1917, the day after the US entered the war. Despite being unable to send troops to fight in Europe, Cuba played a significant role as a base to protect the West Indies from U-Boat attacks. A draft law was instituted, and 25,000 Cuban troops raised, but the war ended before they could be sent into action.
After World War I
President Gerardo Machado was elected by popular vote in 1925, but he was constitutionally barred from reelection. Machado, who determined to modernize Cuba, set in motion several massive civil works projects such as the Central Highway, but at the end of his constitutional term held on to power. The United States, despite the Platt Amendment, decided not to interfere militarily. The communists of the PCC did very little to resist Machado in his dictator phase; however, practically everybody else did. In the late 1920s and early 1930s a number of Cuban action groups, including some Mambí, staged a series of uprisings that either failed or did not affect the capital. After much complex rebellion, Machado was asked to leave by the Cuban Army and senior Cuban civil leaders in 1933. After Machado was deposed there was a confused short interregnum.
About six months later still, in September 1933, there was a successful mutiny by enlisted soldiers and non-commissioned officers, taking the lower ranks of the Cuban Army to power. A key figure in the process was Fulgencio Batista, an army sergeant holding a key post as a telegraph officer. Batista, with his straight Taíno hair and very dark skin, often lightened in later photographs, was known as “El Mulato Lindo”. He was the first and only mulatto leader in Cuban history.
The 1940 constitution
In 1940, Cuba had free and fair elections. Batista, endorsed by Communists, won the election. Communists attacked the anti-Batista opposition, saying that Ramón Grau and others were “fascists”, “reactionaries”, and “Trotskyists”. The 1940 Constitution, which Julia E. Sweig describes as extraordinarily progressivist, was adopted by Batista administration. Batista was voted out of office in 1944 elections.
Batista was succeeded by Dr. Ramón Grau San Martín in 1944, a populist physician, who had briefly held the presidency in the 1933 revolutionary process. President Grau made a deal with labor union to continue Batista’s pro-labour policies. Grau’s administration coincided with the end of World War II, and he inherited an economic boom as sugar production and prices rose. He inaugurated a program of public works and school construction. Social security benefits were increased, and economic development and agricultural production were encouraged. But increased prosperity brought increased corruption. Nepotism and favoritism flourished, and urban violence, a legacy of the early 1930s, reappeared now with tragic proportions. The country was also steadily gaining a reputation as a base for organized crime, with the Havana Conference of 1946 seeing leading Mafia mobsters descend upon the city.
Grau was followed by Carlos Prío Socarrás, also elected democratically, but whose government was tainted by increasing corruption and violent incidents among political factions. Around the same time Fidel Castro had become a public figure at the University of Havana. Eduardo Chibás was the leader of the Partido Ortodoxo (Orthodox Party), a liberal democratic group, who was widely expected to win in 1952 on an anticorruption platform. Chibás committed suicide before he could run for the presidency, and the opposition was left without its major leader.
Taking advantage of the opportunity, Batista, who was running for president in the 1952 elections, but was only expected to get a small minority of votes, seized power in an almost bloodless coup three months before the election was to take place. President Prío did nothing to stop the coup, and was forced to leave the island. Due to the corruption of the past two administrations, the general public reaction to the coup was somewhat accepting at first. However, Batista soon encountered stiff opposition when he temporarily suspended the balloting and the constitution, and attempted to rule by decree. Elections were held in 1953 and Batista was elected. Opposition parties mounted a blistering campaign, and continued to do so, using the Cuban free press during all of Batista’s tenure in office. Although Batista was intent on lining his pockets, Cuba did flourish economically during his regime.
Cuba’s wages were among the world’s highest. According to International Labor Organization, the average industrial salary in Cuba was the world’s 8th highest in 1958. The average agricultural wages were higher than in Denmark, West Germany, Belgium, or France. Although a third of the population still lived in poverty, Cuba was one of the five most developed countries in Latin America. Only 44% of the population was rural.
Gross domestic product per capita was already about equal to Italy and significantly higher than that of countries such as Japan, although 1/6 of the US. According to the United Nations at the time, “one feature of the Cuban social structure is a large middle class”. Eight-hour day had been established in 1933, long before other countries. Cuba had a months’s paid holiday, nine days’ sick leave with pay, six weeks’ holiday before and after childbirth.
Cuba had Latin America’s highest per capita consumption rates of meat, vegetables, cereals, automobiles, telephones and radios.:186 Televisions per capita was the fifth highest in the world. Despite small size, it had the world’s 8th highest number of radio stations (160). According to the United Nations, Cubans read 58 daily newspapers during the late 1950s, only behind three much more populous countries: Brazil, Argentina and Mexico. People migrated to Havana at fast pace. Havana was the world’s fourth most expensive city. Havana had more cinemas than New York.
Cuba had one of the highest numbers of doctors per capita – more than in the United Kingdom. The mortality rate was the third lowest in the world. According to the World Health Organization, the island had the lowest infant mortality rate of Latin America and the 13th lowest in the world – better than in France, Belgium, West Germany, Israel, Japan, Austria, Italy, Spain, and Portugal. Cuba had the highest rates of education spending in Latin America. Cuba had the 4th highest literacy in the region at almost 80% according to the United Nations, higher than in Spain. Economy could not always keep up with demand. Cuba had already the highest telephone penetration in Latin America – but thousands were still waiting, which caused frustration.
However, United States was the frame of reference, not Latin America. Cubans travelled to America, read American newspapers, listened to American radio, watched American television, and were attracted to American culture. Middle class Cubans dreamed of American economy and the gap between Cuba and the US increasingly frustrated many in the mid-1950. The middle class became increasingly dissatisfied with the administration, while labour unions supported Batista until the very end.
There were large income disparities that were a result of the fact that Cuba’s unionized workers enjoyed perhaps the largest privileges in Latin America. Cuban labour unions had established limitations on mechanization and the bans on dismissals. The labour union privileges were obtained in large measure “at the cost of the unemployed and the peasants”.
Cuba’s labour regulations caused economic stagnation. Hugh Thomas asserts that “militant unions succeded in maintaining the position of unionized workers and, consequently, made it difficult for capital to improve efficiency.” Between 1933 and 1958, Cuba increased economic regulation enormously. The regulation led to declining investment. World Bank also complained that the Batista administration raised tax burden without assessing its impact. Unemployment was large. Many graduates could not find jobs. Cuban gross domestic product grew at only 1% annual rate during 1950-1958.[78 The Cuban revolution
Fidel Castro, a young lawyer from a rich family, who was running for a seat in the Chamber of Representatives for the Partido Ortodoxo, circulated a petition to depose Batista’s government on the grounds that it had illegitimately suspended the electoral process. However, the petition was not acted upon by the courts. On 26 July 1953 Castro led a historic attack on the Moncada Barracks near Santiago de Cuba, but failed. Many soldiers were killed by Castro’s forces. Castro was captured, tried and sentenced to 15 years in prison. However, he was released by the Batista government in 1956, when amnesty was given to many political prisoners, including the ones that assaulted the Moncada barracks. Castro subsequently went into exile in Mexico where he met Ernesto “Che” Guevara. While in Mexico, he organized the 26th of July Movement with the goal of overthrowing Batista. A group of 82 men sailed to Cuba on board the yacht Granma, landing in the eastern part of the island in December 1956. Despite a pre-landing rising in Santiago by Frank Pais and his followers of the urban pro-Castro movement, most of Castro’s men were promptly killed, dispersed or taken prisoner by Batista’s forces.
Castro managed to escape to the Sierra Maestra mountains with about 12-17 effectives, aided by the urban and rural opposition, including Celia Sanchez and the bandits of Cresencio Perez’s family, he began a guerrilla campaign against the regime. Castro’s main forces supported by numerous poorly armed escopeteros, and with support from the well armed fighters of the Frank Pais urban organization who at times went to the mountains the rebel army grew more and more effective. The country was soon driven to chaos conducted in the cities by diverse groups of the anti-Batista resistance and notably a bloodily crushed rising by the Batista Navy personnel in Cienfuegos. At the same time, rival guerrilla groups in the Escambray Mountains also grew more and more effective. Castro attempted to arrange a general strike in 1958, but did not get support from Communists or labor unions.[page needed]
United States imposed trade restrictions on the Batista administration and sent an envoy which attempted to persuade Batista to leave the country voluntarily. The middle class was dissatisfied with the unemployment and wanted to restore the 1940 constitution. Batista fled on 1 January 1959.
Castro took over. Within months of taking control, Castro moved to consolidate power by brutally marginalizing other resistance groups and figures and imprisoning and executing opponents and former supporters. As the revolution became more radical and continued its persecution of those who did not agree with its direction, hundreds of thousands of Cubans fled the island.
Fidel Castro quickly purged political opponents from the administration. Loyalty to Castro became the primary criteria for all appointments. Groups such as labour unions were made illegal.[page needed]
By the end of 1960, all opposition newspaper had been closed down and all radio and television stations were in state control.:189 Teachers and professors were purged.:189 The Communist Party strengthened its one-party rule, with Castro as the supreme leader.:189 Moderates were arrested.:189 Fidel’s brother Raul Castro became the army chief.:189 In September 1960, the neighborhood watch systems known as committees for the defense of the revolution (CDR) were created.:189
In July 1961, two years after the 1959 Revolution, the Integrated Revolutionary Organizations (IRO) was formed by the merger of Fidel Castro’s 26th of July Movement, the Popular Socialist Party led by Blas Roca and the Revolutionary Directory March 13th led by Faure Chomón. On March 26, 1962 the IRO became the United Party of the Cuban Socialist Revolution (PURSC) which, in turn, became the Communist Party of Cuba on October 3, 1965 with Castro as First Secretary. The Communist party remains the only recognized political party in Cuba. Other parties, though not illegal, are unable to campaign or conduct any activities on the island that could be deemed counter-revolutionary.
 Break with the United States
The US recognized the Castro government on 7 January only six days after Batista fled Cuba. President Eisenhower sent a new ambassador, Philip Bonsal, to replace Earl Smith, who had been close to Batista. The Eisenhower administration, in agreement with the US media and the Congress (Republicans and Democrats alike), did this with the assumption that “Cuba must remain in the US sphere of influence”. If Castro accepted these parameters, he would be allowed to stay in power. Otherwise he would be overthrown.
Among the opponents of Batista there were many who wanted to accommodate the US. Castro belonged to a faction who, to the astonishment of Eisenhower and many North Americans, was repulsed by US domination and paternalism. Castro did not forgive the US supply of arms to Batista during the revolution. On 5 June 1958, he wrote: “The Americans are going to pay dearly for what they are doing. When the war is over, I’ll start a much longer and bigger war of my own: the war I’m going to fight against them. That will be my true destiny.” (The US had stopped supplies to Batista in March 1958, but left its Military Advisory Group in Cuba). Thus, Castro had no intention to bow to the US. “Even though he did not have a clear blueprint of the Cuba he wanted to create, Castro dreamed of a sweeping revolution that would uproot his country’s oppressive socioeconomic structure and of a Cuba that would be free of the United States”.
At the same meeting Roy R. Rubottom, Jr., Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, summarized the evolution of Cuba–United States relations since January: “The period from January to March might be characterized as the honeymoon period of the Castro government. In April a downward trend in US-Cuban relations had been evident…In June we had reached the decision that it was not possible to achieve our objectives with Castro in power and had agreed to undertake the program referred to by Mr. Merchant. In July and August we had been busy drawing up a program to replace Castro. However some US companies reported to us during this time that they were making some progress in negotiations, a factor that caused us to slow the implementation of our program. The hope expressed by these companies did not materialize. October was a period of clarification… On 31 October in agreement with Central Intelligence Agency, the Department had recommended to the President approval of a program along the lines referred to by Mr. Merchant. The approved program authorized us to support elements in Cuba opposed to the Castro government while making Castro’s downfall seem to be the result of his own mistakes.” “It was probably as part of this program that Cuban exiles mounted sea borne raids against Cuba from US territory and that unidentified planes attacked economic targets on the island, leading the US to warn Washington that the population was “becoming aroused” against the United States”. In January 1960, CIA Chief Allen Dulles proposed to sabotage sugar refineries on Cuba. Eisenhower considered such undertakings timely and felt that more ambitious programs should be implemented. In his view “it was probably now the time to move against Castro in a positive and aggressive way which went beyond pure harassment”. He asked the CIA to develop an enlarged program which was presented in March 1960. This program led to the invasion in the Bay of Pigs. In February 1960, the French ship La Coubre was blown up in Havana Harbor as it unloaded munitions, killing dozens.
Relations between the United States and Cuba deteriorated rapidly as the Cuban government, in reaction to the refusal of Royal Dutch Shell, Standard Oil and Texaco to refine petroleum from the Soviet Union in Cuban refineries under their control, took control of those refineries in July 1960. The Eisenhower administration promoted a boycott of Cuba by oil companies, to which Cuba responded by nationalizing the refineries in August 1960. Both sides continued to escalate the dispute. Cuba expropriated more US-owned properties, notably those belonging to the International Telephone and Telegraph Company (ITT) and the United Fruit Company.
In the Castro government’s first agrarian reform law, on 17 May 1959, it sought to limit the size of land holdings, and to distribute that land to small farmers in “Vital Minimum” tracts.
The US broke diplomatic relations on 3 January 1961 and imposed the US embargo against Cuba on 3 February 1962.
The Organization of American States, under pressure from the United States, suspended Cuba’s membership in the body on 22 January 1962, and the US Government banned all US-Cuban trade a couple of weeks later on 7 February. The Kennedy administration extended this on 8 February 1963 making travel, financial and commercial transactions by US citizens to Cuba illegal.
In April 2009 Barack Obama expressed his intention to relax the existing travel restrictions by making it legal for Americans to travel to Cuba.
The embargo is still in effect as of 2008[update], although some humanitarian trade in food and medicines is now allowed. At first, the embargo did not extend to other countries and Cuba traded with most European, Asian and Latin American countries and especially Canada. But now the United States pressures other nations and US companies with foreign subsidiaries to restrict trade with Cuba. Also, the Helms-Burton Act of 1996 makes it very difficult for companies doing business with Cuba to also do business in the United States, forcing internationals to choose between the two.
 Bay of Pigs invasion
The Bay of Pigs Invasion (known as La Batalla de Girón in Cuba), was an unsuccessful attempt by a U.S.-trained force of Cuban exiles to invade southern Cuba with support from U.S. government armed forces to overthrow the Cuban government of Fidel Castro. The plan was launched in April 1961, less than three months after John F. Kennedy assumed the presidency in the United States. The Cuban armed forces, trained and equipped by Eastern Bloc nations, defeated the exile combatants in three days. The strained Cuban-American relations were exacerbated the following year by the Cuban Missile Crisis.
 The Cuban missile crisis
Tensions between the two governments peaked again during the October 1962 Cuban missile crisis. The United States had a much larger arsenal of long-range nuclear weapons than the Soviet Union, as well as medium-range ballistic missiles (MRBMs) in Turkey, whereas the Soviet Union had a large stockpile of medium-range nuclear weapons which were primarily located in Europe. Cuba agreed to let the Soviets secretly place SS-4 Sandal and SS-5 Skean MRBMs on their territory. Reports from inside Cuba to exile sources questioned the need for large amounts of ice going to rural areas, which led to the discovery of the missiles, confirmed by Lockheed U-2 photos. The United States responded by establishing a cordon in international waters to stop Soviet ships from bringing in more missiles (designated a quarantine rather than a blockade to avoid issues with international law). At the same time, Castro was getting a little too extreme for the liking of Moscow, so at the last moment the Soviets called back their ships. In addition, they agreed to remove the missiles already there in exchange for an agreement that the United States would not invade Cuba. Only after the fall of the Soviet Union was it revealed that another part of the agreement was the removal of US missiles from Turkey. It also turned out that some submarines that the US Navy blocked were carrying nuclear missiles and that communication with Moscow was tenuous, effectively leaving the decision of firing the missiles at the discretion of the captains of those submarines. In addition, following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Russian government revealed that FROGs (Free Rocket Over Ground) armed with nuclear warheads and Ilyushin Il-28 Beagle bombers armed with nuclear bombs had also been deployed in Cuba.
 Military build-Up
In the 1961 New Year’s Day parade, the Communist administration exhibited Soviet tanks and other weapons. The Revolution, by 1982, had created the second largest armed forces in Latin America, second only to Brazil, though it was thought not to have the ability to invade another nation (apart from perhaps small Caribbean nations).
Military Units to Aid Production or UMAP’s (Unidades Militares para la Ayuda de Producción) (forced labor concentration camps) were established in 1965 as a way to eliminate alleged “bourgeois” and “counter-revolutionary” values in the Cuban population. In July 1968 the name “UMAP” was erased and paperwork associated with the UMAP was destroyed. The camps continued as “Military Units”.
By 1970s the standard of living was “extremely spartan” and discontent was rife. Castro changed economic policies in the first half of 1970s. In the 1970s unemployment reappeared as problem. The solution was criminalize unemployment with 1971 Anti-Loafing Law; unemployed would be put into jail.:194 One alternative was to go fight Soviet-supported wars in Africa.:194
In any given year, there were about 20,000 dissidents held and tortured under inhuman prison conditions.:194 Homosexuals were imprisoned in internment camps in the 1960s, where they were subject to medical-political “reeducation“. The Black Book of Communism estimates that 15,000-17,000 people were executed.
The establishment of a socialist system in Cuba led to the fleeing of many hundreds of thousands of upper- and middle-class Cubans to the United States and other countries since Castro’s rise to power.
By 1961, thousands of Cubans had fled Cuba for the United States. On 22 March an exile council was formed. After defeating the Communist regime, the council planned to form a provisional government in which José Miró Cardona (who had become a noted leader in the civil opposition to President Fulgencio Batista) would have served as the temporary president until elections.
From 1959 through 1993, some 1.2 million Cubans (about 10% of the current population) left the island for the United States, often by sea in small boats and fragile rafts. In the early years a number of those who could claim dual Spanish-Cuban citizenship left for Spain. Over time a number of Cuban Jews were allowed to emigrate to Israel after quiet negotiations; the majority of the 10,000 or so Jews who were in Cuba in 1959 have left. After the collapse of the Soviet Union many Cubans now reside in a diverse number of countries, some ending up in countries of the European Union. A large number of Cubans live in Mexico and Canada.
One major exception to the embargo was made on 6 November 1965 when Cuba and the United States formally agreed to start an airlift for Cubans who wanted to go to the United States. The first of these so-called Freedom Flights left Cuba on 1 December 1965 and by 1971 over 250,000 Cubans had flown to the United States. In 1980, another 125,000 came to US during six-months period in the Mariel boat lift, some of them criminals and people with psychiatric diagnoses. It was discovered that the Cuban government was using the event to rid Cuba of the unwanted segments of its society. Currently, there is an immigration lottery allowing 20,000 Cubans seeking political asylum to go to the United States legally every year.
The closest points between Key West and Cuba are at a distance of ninety-four statue miles apart. The ocean separating the two destinations is known for its changing currents and high concentrations of sharks. Volusia County of Florida neighbors the Atlantic Ocean and is considered the “Shark Capital of the World”. Nonetheless, a thousand or more Cuban natives take the risk of traveling by small raft or boat to Key West, the southern most part of the continental US.
 Cuban involvement in third world conflicts
From the very beginning the Cuban Revolution defined itself as internationalist and focused on the whole world. Thus, out of this idealism and also as a strategy for survival, already one year after the victory of revolution on Cuba the country took on civil and military assignments in the southern hemisphere. Although still a third world country itself Cuba supported African, Central American and Asian countries in the field of military, health and education. These “overseas adventures” not only irritated the USA but quite often were a “major headache” for the Kremlin.
Quite the contrary was the case on the African continent, where Cuba garnered a number of successes in supporting 17 liberation movements or leftist governments, e. g. Ethiopia, Guinea-Bissau and Mozambique. Among these countries Angola takes an exceptional position.
Fidel Castro was a friend of the Marxist-Leninist dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam, whose Marxist-Leninist regime murdered millions during the Red Terror and was later convicted of genocide and crimes against humanity. Castro backed Mengistu Haile Mariam even when the latter had a war with the Somalian Marxist-Leninist dictator Siad Barre. Castro described said to Erich Honecker, communist dictator of East Germany, that Siad Barre was “above all a chauvinist”.
Already in 1961 in its first mission Cuba supported the FLN in Algeria against France. Shortly after Algerian independence Morocco started a border dispute in October 1963 in which Cuba sent troops to help Algeria (see: Sand War ). From a Memorandum of 20 October 1963 by Major Raúl Castro it can be seen, that great importance was attached to the decent behaviour of the troops and good relations giving strict instructions on conduct.
In 1965 Cuba supported a rebellion of adherents of Lumumba (Simba Rebellion) in Congo-Leopoldville (today Democratic Republic of the Congo). Among the insurgents was also Laurent-Désiré Kabila who, 30 years later, would overthrow long-time dictator Mobutu. This secret Cuban mission turned out to be a complete failure.
In the 1970s and 1980s Cuba stepped up its military presence abroad, especially in Africa. It had up to 50,000 men stationed in Angola, 24,000 in Ethiopia and hundreds in other countries. Cuban forces played a key role in the Ogaden War 1977/78 between Ethiopia and Somalia and kept a substantial garrison stationed in Ethiopia. In the Mozambican Civil War beginning in 1977 and in Congo-Brazzaville (today Republic of the Congo) Cubans acted as advisors. Congo-Brazzaville acted as a supply base for the Angola mission.
Cuba’s involvement in Angola began in the 1960s when relations were established with the leftist Movement for the Popular Liberation of Angola (MPLA). The MPLA was one of three organisations struggling to liberate Angola from Portugal, the other two being UNITA and the FNLA. In August and October 1975, South African Defence Forces (SADF) invaded Angola in support of the UNITA and FNLA. On 5 November 1975, without consulting the USSR, the Cuban government opted for an all out intervention with combat troops (Operation Carlota) in support of the MPLA. In 1987-1988, South Africa again sent military forces to Angola to stop an advance of Angolan government forces (FAPLA) against UNITA leading to the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale, and again, without consulting the USSR, Cuba stepped in.
Cuba directly participated in the negotiations between Angola and South Africa. On 22 December 1988 Angola, Cuba and South Africa signed the Tripartite Accord in New York arranging for the retreat of South Africa, the withdrawal of Cuban troops within 30 months and the implementation of the 10-year old UN Security Council Resolution 435 for the independence of Namibia. The Cuban intervention, for a short time, turned Cuba into a “global player” in the midst of the Cold War. It ended with the independence of Namibia and sounded the bell for the decline of the Apartheid regime in South Africa. The withdrawal of the Cubans ended 13 years of military presence in Angola. At the same time they removed their troops from Pointe Noire Republic of the Congo and Ethiopia.
 Cooperation between Cuban and Soviet intelligence services
As early as September 1959, Valdim Kotchergin (or Kochergin), a KGB agent, was seen in Cuba. Jorge Luis Vasquez, a Cuban who was imprisoned in East Germany, states that the Stasi trained the personnel of the Cuban Interior Ministry(MINIT). The relationship between the Soviet Union‘s KGB and the Cuban Intelligence Directorate was complex and marked by times of extremely close cooperation and times of extreme competition. The Soviet Union saw the new revolutionary government in Cuba as an excellent proxy agent in areas of the world where Soviet involvement was not popular on a local level. Nikolai Leninov, the KGB Chief in Mexico City, was one of the first Soviet officials to recognize Fidel Castro‘s potential as a revolutionary and urged the Soviet Union to strengthen ties with the new Cuban leader. The USSR saw Cuba as having far more appeal with new revolutionary movements, western intellectuals, and members of the New Left with Cuba’s perceived David and Goliath struggle against US imperialism. Shortly after the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1963, 1,500 DI agents, including Che Guevara, were invited to the USSR for intensive training in intelligence operations.
 Cuba after the Soviet Union
Starting from the mid-1980s and the collapse of Soviet Union, Cuba experienced a crisis referred to as the “Special Period“. In 2008, Fidel Castro transferred power to his brother, Raúl Castro. Cuba remains one of the few socialist states in the world. Although contacts between Cubans and foreign visitors were made legal in 1997, extensive censorship has isolated it from the rest of the world.
When the Soviet Union broke up in late 1991, a major boost to Cuba’s economy was lost, leaving it essentially paralyzed because of the economy’s narrow basis, focused on just a few products with just a few buyers. Also, supplies (including oil) almost dried up. Over 80% of Cuba’s trade was lost and living conditions worsened. A “Special Period in Peacetime” was declared, which included cutbacks on transport and electricity and even food rationing. In response, the United States tightened up its trade embargo, hoping it would lead to Castro’s downfall. But Castro tapped into a pre-revolutionary source of income and opened the country to tourism, entering into several joint ventures with foreign companies for hotel, agricultural and industrial projects. As a result, the use of US dollars was legalized in 1994, with special stores being opened which only sold in dollars. There were two separate economies, dollar-economy and the peso-economy, creating a social split in the island because those in the dollar-economy made much more money (as in the tourist-industry). However, in October 2004, the Cuban government announced an end to this policy: from November US dollars would no longer be legal tender in Cuba, but would instead be exchanged for convertible pesos (since April 2005 at the exchange rate of $1.08) with a 10% tax payable to the state on the exchange of US dollars cash — though not on other forms of exchange.
A Canadian Medical Association Journal paper states that “The famine in Cuba during the Special Period was caused by political and economic factors similar to the ones that caused a famine in North Korea in the mid-1990s. Both countries were run by authoritarian regimes that denied ordinary people the food to which they were entitled when the public food distribution collapsed; priority was given to the elite classes and the military.” The government did not accept American donations of food, medicines and cash until 1993.
Cubans had to resort to eating anything they could find. In the Havana zoo, the peacocks, the buffalo and even the rhea were reported to have disappeared. Cuban domestic cats disappeared from streets to dinner tables.
Extreme shortages of food and other goods as well as electrical blackouts led to a brief period of unrest, including numerous anti-government protests and widespread increases in crime. In response, the Cuban Communist party government formed hundreds of “rapid-action brigades” to confront protesters. According to the Communist Party daily, Granma, “delinquents and anti-social elements who try to create disorder and an atmosphere of mistrust and impunity in our society will receive a crushing reply from the people.”
Thousands of Cubans protested in Havana and chanted “Libertad!” during the Maleconazo uprising on August 5, 1994. The regime’s security forces dispersed them soon. A paper published in the Journal of Democracy states this was the closest that the Cuban opposition could come to asserting itself decisively.
In 1997, a group led by Vladimiro Roca, a decorated veteran of the Angolan war and the son of the founder of the Cuban Communist Party, sent a petition, entitled La Patria es de Todos (“the homeland belongs to all”) to the Cuban general assembly requesting democratic and human rights reforms. As a result, Roca and his three associates were sentenced to jail, from which they were eventually released.
In 2001, a group of activists collected thousands of signatures for the Varela Project, a petition requesting a referendum on the island’s political process was openly supported by former US president Jimmy Carter during his historic 2002 visit to Cuba. The petition gathered sufficient signatures, but was rejected on an alleged technicality. Instead, a plebiscite was held in which it was formally proclaimed that Castro’s brand of socialism would be perpetual.
In 2003, Castro cracked down on independent journalists and other dissidents, which became known as the “Black Spring“. The government imprisoned 75 dissident thinkers, including 29 journalists, librarians, human rights activists and democracy activists, on the basis that they were acting as agents of the United States by accepting aid from the US government.
In 2006 Fidel Castro took ill and moved out of the public light and into a hospital, and in 2007 Raul Castro became Acting President. In a letter dated 18 February 2008, Castro announced that he would not accept the positions of president and commander in chief at the 24 February 2008 National Assembly meetings, saying “I will not aspire nor accept—I repeat I will not aspire or accept—the post of President of the Council of State and Commander in Chief.” See Fidel Castro
the edn@copyright Dr Iwan suwandy 2010