The history of Cuba - Part One

The aboriginal population from Cuba can be divided in 3 fundamental cultural complexes related with 3 peoples: the guanahatabeyes, inhabitants of the coasts of the occident of the island and they were distinguished for the employment of the shell for the making of their utensils and were fishermen and recolectores basically; the tainos, but early, they stood out in the pottery and constituted a mainly agricultural people and were extended for the whole country starting from the east; finally, the siboneyes that developed an intermediate culture. In general the cultural development of these people was very low and they didn't hardly leave tracks.

Cristofolo Colombo discovered Cuba on October 27, 1492, and gives it the name of Juana in the honour of the first-born son of Catholic Kings, in that first trip recognized the east of the island and in its second trip the southern coast traveled advancing a lot toward the occident, however, until its death he believed - or he wanted to believe - that Cuba was not an island but rather it was part of the continent. Sebastián Ocampo is owed the first complete turn-around of the island, carried out in 1509, although already from 1498 it was believed that it was an island as a result of a secret trip attributed to Alonso of Ojeda or Vicente Yañez Pinzón accompanied by Juan de la Cosa. Sebastián Ocampo's turn-aroud navigation cleared all the doubts about the insularity of Cuba and also clear the mystery halo that wrapped it, according to him -Ocampo - the indigenous population was peaceful, and exist good cultivation lands and good bays like those of Jagua (Cienfuegos) and Havana and this knowledge opened finally the route to the colonization of the island.

In 1510 the colonization of the island began with Diego Velazquez's expedition who founded in this year the village of Baracoa, in 1515 the expeditions of Pánfilo of Narváez and Juan of Grijalva had already conquered the scarce resistance of the natives of interior of the country and the villages of Trinidad, Sancti Spiritus and Havana were founded and later on Puerto Prince's villages (today Camaguey) and Santiago de Cuba, erected first capital by Diego Velázquez, first governor from Cuba until its death in 1524. Velázquez organized the first mining exploitations and he received the first black slaves taken to the island to substitute the work of the natural ones, of which were only for year 1540 some few hundred from an initial population estimated in around 120 000 inhabitants on 1500, exterminated by the bad treatments, the measles, the pock and other illnesses brought to America by Spaniards and for which didn't have the aboriginal natural defenses.

During the remaining years of the XVI century, Cuba is used as base for the conquest and colonization of the continent, this way in 1513 Juan Ponce de León discovers and it begins the exploration and conquest of Florida and in 1519 Hernán Cortés goes out of Havana with the enterprise of the conquest of Mexico, after which Havana becomes the natural point to supply the return fleets to Spain increasing its importance in the context of the New World. This century also was characterized by frequent attacks of pirates and corsairs - Havana was attacked in 1538 and 1555 and Santiago de Cuba in 1554 -, for the construction of the aqueduct of Havana and their elevation to the city range in 1592, the termination of the construction of the Castillo (Castle) del Morro, a fort that still dominates the entrance of the bay of Havana; and mainly for the creation of the sugar industry already at the end of century, what resulted in the beginning of the massive import of slaves from Africa.

Havana, transformed into the point of meeting of fleets that made the voyage between the American continent and the metropolis, progressed quickly and already in 1607 was designated the capital of the island officially. In this same year and with the purpose of strengthening the development of the oriental part of the island the Spanish Crown divided the country in two governments: Havana in the occident and Santiago de Cuba, in the oriental region.

Already from principles of XVII century the cultivation of the tobacco charges a great commercial importance but it has for strong regulations imposed by the Metropolis that penalizing with death to those who sold tobacco to foreigners. The establishment in this century of English, French and Dutch colonies in neighboring territories produced a worsening of the piracy with attacks to Santiago de Cuba in 1662 and Puerto Príncipe -in the center of the island - in 1688; already at the end of century, in 1697, the Treaty of Ryswick puts outside of law the bucanerism and it finishes in great measure with the attacks of pirates and buccaneers.

During the century XVIII was founded the University of Havana in 1728 and in 1733 Felipe V 's centralist politics subordinated Santiago de Cuba to Havana. The cultivation and industry of the tobacco continued being developed and the monopoly of the tobacco exercised by the Crown produced several rebellions of the vegueros in 1717, 1720 and 1723. In 1733 appears the first play of Cuban author, El Príncipe Jardinero y Fingido Cloridano, and in 1740 was created the Real Company of Trade, another company to monopolize the whole import and export trade in the island and that soon won a very bad reputation among the Cubans.

In January, 1762 King George III of England declared the war to Spain and in June of same year Englishs occupied Havana after several days of hard battle, and although they didn't extend the occupation to the rest of the island, the liberalization measures in the trade that they introduced was extended for the whole territory. Finally, in 1763 Spaniards and Englishmen agreed to exchange Florida - in hands of Spain - for Havana.

At the end of this century, in 1774, the population from Cuba belonged to 172 620 inhabitants: 96 440 whites, 31 847 black free and 44 333 black slaves that worked in 500 sugar factories. The production of sugar arrived for the year 1795 to the 14 000 tons.

The XIX century begins with a strong increment in the production of sugar that was already of 34 000 tons for year 1805, this period of the Napoleonics Wars took prosperity to Cuba in spite of the restrictive commercial measures imposed by the Crown. The first movement for the independence of the island was directed by Román de la Luz Silveira, between 1809 and 1810, but it was early discovered. In 1812 a rebellion of slaves leading for the liberate (free slave) José Antonio Aponte was drowned in blood, the shade of the Revolution of Haiti worried the white population from Cuba.

Cuba sent two deputies there to the Cortes of Cádiz and the Constitution elaborated it governed in the island between 1812 and 1814. In 1823 Fernando VII imposed again in Spain and their colonies the absolutism and with this it made worse the differences and opposition among Creoles and Spaniards that are made every time but clear. Of 1821 at 1836 the aspirations of freedom of the Cubans were guided toward the separatism or in favor of the liberal movements of the metropolis. This way in 1823 the Cuban poet José María Heredia and José Francisco Lemus organize the secret society ¨Soles y Rayos de Bolivar¨ wich objective was to take the independence to the island; for this year the politics of the United States toward Cuba is also clear in its secretary of State John Quincy Adams words who said: "Those islands (Cuba and Puerto Rico) they are natural appendixes of the continent of North America, and one of them (Cuba) almost can it turns of our costs, for a multitude of considerations it is becoming a momentous object for the political and commercial interests of the Union..."

In 1827 the census bring a population of 704 000 inhabitant: 311 000 whites, 286 000 black slaves and 106 000 black free and mestizos. There were also 1 000 ingenios (factories of sugar), 30 090 ranches, 5 534 vegas (farms) of tobacco and 2 067 plantations of coffee. The island was one of more rich regions of planet.

Among the years of 1823 and 1840 the differences of political and economic interests begins to develop in way every time but growing among the Spaniards ("peninsulares", born in Iberian Peninsule) and the Creoles (born in Cuba from Spanish or African ancestros), in 1830 Spain increases the taxes in damage of the Creoles and denies their access to the government, what doesn't in fact contribute to improve their dissatisfaction.

Already for the year 1842 the Official Census bring a population of 1 037 624 inhabitants reported: 448 291 whites, 152 838 black free and 436 495 black slaves. In this time the Cuban exports to United States were twice as much that to Spain and the sugar country properties had been increased until near 800 from some 400 for the year of 1790. In 1848 United States President, Polk, offers to Spain 100 millions of USD for Cuba, Spain refuses to sell the island.

Between 1845 and mainly up to 1855 the freedom movements was associated to the ideals of the annexation with United States, which even extended among many of the leaders of the first war of independence. Narciso López leading 3 annexionist expeditions in 1849, 1850 and 1851, captured in the last one and in front of the shooting platoon he screamed bravely. "My death won't change the destination of Cuba."

In 1852 the Spaniards discovered the "Conspiración de Vuelta Abajo (Pinar del Rio)" an annexionist conspiracy, some plotters are able to escape to United States but others are captured and in its majority condemned to death.

In 1853 was born in Havana José Martí who would become the Apostle of the Independence of Cuba with the time.

The dissatisfaction among Creoles for excessive taxes, the restrictions to free trade and their exclusion of the government continued in increase in the decades of the 50 ' and 60 ' of the XIX century and this would starting of War of Ten Years.

The War of Ten Years began October 10, 1868 with the Scream of Yara (Grito de Yara) given by Carlos Manuel de Cespedes, a rich and learned farmer of oriental region, and it extended until May of 1878 when was signed the Pact of the Zanjon among the Cuban and Spanish forces, pact that was refuted by the General Antonio Maceo in the well know "Protesta of Baragua" called himself and not accepted by other heroes of the war like General Calixto García. The war got rid fundamentally obviously in the oriental and central region of the island where the cane plantations and the economy suffered an enormous damage, being practically intact the occident of the country.

The war finished with promises on the part of Spain of reformations and a bigger autonomy for the island, in the following years almost all these promises were frustrated although the slavery was abolished finally in 1886. The human balance of the war:

Spain, ended up having an army of 160 000 men, the losses belonged to 40 000 soldiers dead, great part for illnesses like the yellow fever and the dysentery, common in those times

Cuba, ended up having a total of 25 000 soldiers, casuelties were 15 000 soldiers, in total the country had the loss of 200 000 human lives

Among August of 1879 and August of 1880 gets rid the call Tiny War shortly, leading by General Calixto García and begun in Santiago de Cuba, it began prematurely and was not successful

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