History of Cuba

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On October 27, 1492, the island of Cuba was sighted by Christopher Columbus in his first and most famous voyage to the Americas. Spain took control from a series of Neo-Taino chiefdoms in 1511.

Over three hundred years later, in 1868, a Creole farmer, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, started a revolution for independence from Spain. Spain put down the insurgency after a ten-year struggle.

Under Spanish rule, Cuba relied on slavery longer than all nations in the Western Hemisphere except Brazil. Cuba had a slave trade from 1521 to 1886. In 1880, the Spanish Cortes approved the abolition law, which provided for an eight-year period of patronato (tutelage) for all slaves liberated according to the law. This only amounted to indentured servitude [Who says?] as slaves were required to spend those eight years working for their masters at no charge. On October 7, 1884, slavery was finally abolished in Cuba by a Royal Decree that also made the patronato illegal.[1] In 1893, Cuba granted equal rights to all.

Revolt against Spain

Cuban natives revolted against Spanish rule fighting for 10 years from 1868 to 1878. Discontent again came to a head when on February 23, 1895 constitutional guarantees were suspended. Open revolt ensued which led to stringent, but unsuccessful measures taken by the Spanish to stop the rebellion. The Spanish had 200,000 men on the island to keep order.[2] After initial Spanish efforts to stop the fighting by fencing in the insurgent areas with barbed wire and entrenchments didn't work, General Valeriano Weyler established what are now known as concentration camps, where noncombatants were swept up from their homes and confined under abominable conditions. Americans were shocked to hear of the loss of life at these camps through disease or starvation. America demanded that Weyler be recalled. Spain acquiesced in October 1897, but tensions between the two countries still ran high.

Columbia (the American people) reaches out to help oppressed Cuba in 1897 while Uncle Sam (the US Government) is blind. Judge Feb. 6, 1897

When the USS Maine blew up while docked in Havana Harbor in Cuba on February 15, 1898, Spain was not blamed for the explosion but was blamed for its cruelty to the people, and the U.S. demanded reforms. Spain stalled and the United States declared the war, with Congress stating:

Whereas the abhorrent conditions which have existed for more than three years in the island of Cuba, so near our own borders, have shocked the moral sense of the people of the United States, have been a disgrace to Christian civilization, culminating, as they have, in the destruction of a United States battle ship, with 266 of its officers and crew, while on a friendly visit in the harbor of Havana, and cannot longer be endured ...
Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives ... That the people of the island of Cuba are and of right ought to be free.

Spanish American War

The Spanish American War began on April 25, 1898. Spain's defeat led to Spain relinquishing Cuba to United States jurisdiction on December 10, 1898 at the Treaty of Paris.[3]

  • The result was Cuba's freedom, under temporary U.S. occupation. Treaty of Paris

Early Republic

Tomás Estrada Palma Cuba's first elected president took office in 1902. Tomas Estrada Palma was reelected in 1906, but this time against violent opposition by the Liberals. US troops were not needed put down the Liberal revolt, since the military leaders of the successful revolt [2], negotiated nominally with William H. Taft and Robert Bacon [3] but in reality with US General Frederick Funston who had also been a Mambi, took their “borrowed” horses and went home. Soon Estrada Palma resigned, against the wishes of Roosevelt, and another American government was established in Cuba under Charles Magoon.[4]

In 1908, U.S. intervention ended when José Miguel Gómez was elected President, but the U.S. retained its Platt Amendment right to intervene in Cuban affairs.

1912 Race War

In 1912 Partido Independiente de Color attempted to establish a separate black republic in Oriente Province. Perhaps because the group lacked sufficient weaponry the main tactic was to set businesses and private residences on fire.[5] The movement was a failure and General Monteagudo suppressed the rebels with considerable bloodshed. Historians differ on the interpretation of this circumstance. Some view it as suppression of Black rights, others as an attempt at racial cleansing and secession on part of the Black activists. The level of blood shed,according to some contemporary accounts, was far less than some present academics sustain.[6]

World War I

During WW I elected president Mario Menocal, a Cuban War of Independence hero, was serving his disputed second term after his military victory over the Liberales in the Chambelona War. Contemporary accounts mention putative links between Liberales and Germany, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson declined to intervene in the Chambelona conflict which can, although it is not a popular view in Liberal circles, be considered part of WW I. At that time the New York Times was carrying reports that suggested German U-boat resupply from Cuba.

Some Cubans flew combat for France notable Captain Francisco Terry Sanchez and Lieutenant Santiago Campuzano [7]

Cuba shipped considerable sugar to Britain, via smuggling which avoided U-boat attack by the subterfuge of shipping sugar to Sweden (this operation was managed by Cuban Ambassador Carlos Garcia Velez, General Calixto Garcia's eldest surviving son). During the unsuccessful revolt (the Chambelona War) against the Menocal government in 1917, the government attributed this in part to pro-German sentiment on part of the "Liberales." However, this was not proven to most historians' satisfaction. The Menocal government declared war on Germany very soon after the U.S. did, and as a result the Mexican government broke off relations with Cuba

Alfredo Zayas y Alfonso (1861 - 1934) was a Cuban lawyer, poet and political figure. He served as prosecutor, judge, mayor of Havana, Senator 1905, President of the Senate 1906, Vice-President 1908-13 and President of Cuba and elected president served from May 20, 1921 to May 20, 1925.

Cuba 1924-1933

by a Cuban artist in the nineties.

Gerardo Machado, at first an elected president took power in 1924. Machado was a Cuban nationalist and his regime had considerable local support despite its violent suppression of critics. However, it was during this period that Soviet intrusion into Cuban affairs began with the arrival in Cuba of Fabio Grobart. During Machado's tenure, Cubans gained greater control over their own economy and major national development projects were undertaken. His hold on power was weakened, by the lowering demand of exported agricultural produce due to the Great Depression, the attacks first by War of Independence Veterans (lead by Independence general and ex-president Mario G. Menocal and others; however, they were defeated in 1931 primarily due to informants (said by some to have included the Cuban communist party) and the employment of government aviation. The principal encounters were Ceja del Negro[8] in Western Cuba and Gibara[9] in Eastern Cuba. After the defeat of the old Independence fighters other groups formed covert terrorist organizations principally the ABC [10]

Then during a general strike in which the communist party took the side of Machado [11] the Senior elements of the Cuban army forced Machado into exile and installed Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, son of Cuba's founding father, as President. In September, 4th-5th 1933) however, a second coup (led by sergeants, most notably Fulgencio Batista) overthrew Céspedes leading to the formation of the first Ramón Grau San Martín government. This government lasted just 100 days, but engineered radical liberal changes in Cuban society and a rejection of the Platt amendment.

Cuba 1933-1940

This is commonly considered to the time of Fulgencio Batista's dictatorship, in which he suppressed most opposition; however the Cuban communist party arrived a modus vivendi, with his government.


In 1940 after a series of de facto presidents more or less under his control since 1933, Fulgencio Batista ran for presidency and won. A year later, Batista's administration formally took Cuba into World War II as a U.S. ally, declaring war on Japan on December 9, 1941, then on Germany and Italy on December 11, 1941. At the end of his term in 1944, Batista stepped down and Ramón Grau San Martin was elected to succeed him.

While Cuba, although supplying vast quantities of sugar, and strategic manganese metal, was not greatly involved combat in WWII; although, U.S. air bases were established, Cuban freighters were sunk, a German spy was discovered and executed, and a German submarine was sunk by the Cuban Navy. During WWII the Nazis counterfeited vast sums of U.S, currency which was sent via the Dozenberg group to Cuba and other parts of Latin America; Soviet directions to the Cuban communist party, seem to have been sent via radio from Switzerland by the Alexander Foote Network [12]

A second elected president Antonio Prio Socarras took office in 1948.

Batista's March 10th 1952 coup

In 1952, Batista again ran for office, when it became apparent to Batista that he could not win, he staged a coup, whereby he again took office. In 1954, due to United States pressure, Batista agreed to hold elections, however ex-President Grau, withdrew from the race amid allegations that Batista was rigging the elections. In April 1956, Batista gave orders for Ramon Barquin to become General and Chief of the Army, however Barquin had already planned another coup to overthrow Batista. The coup was overthrown, and the officers were sentenced to the maximum terms allowed by Cuban Martial Law. Barquin was sentenced to solitary confinement for 8 years.

Communist Revolution

In 1956, a party of rebels led by Fidel Castro, landed in a yacht from Mexico and tried to start an armed resistance movement. In Mexico, the army was strengthened by the cooperation of Ernesto Che Guevara, who later became one of the most important people in the Cuban revolution. Throughout 1957 and 1958, opposition to Batista grew. However, during this process overt communists in the 26-July movement (such Ernesto Guevara, Raul Castro and Vilma Espin), employed a process of infiltration, false accusations, betrayals and executions that eliminated many non-communist insurgents.[13] In response to Batista's plea to purchase better arms from the U.S. in order to root out the insurgents in the mountains, the United States government imposed an arms embargo on the Cuban government on March 14, 1958. Later in 1958, the rebels achieve significant victories, and Batista fled the country. Castro’s rebel forces entered the capital on January 8, 1959. As soon as the rebel troops loyal to Castro reached Havana the masked purges of non-communist rebels were again implemented,[14] and following that rural armed resistance to Castro, sometimes called War Against the Bandits became apparent.[15] Shortly after Dr. Manuel Leo Urrutia assumed power, to be followed by the February election of Castro to Prime Minister. Later in April, seeking to end the embargo as the new government had taken over, Castro, then despite his radical background and Spanish loyalist roots, played the role of a staunch United States supporter, flew to the United States to meet with President Eisenhower, however rather than meet with Castro, Eisenhower decided to play in a golf match.[16] He did meet with then vice president Richard Nixon who reported that Castro probably was naive or a \a communist.[17] The action marked the beginning of deteriorating relations between the two countries. In 1960, Castro officially declared Cuba communist. They argued that the missiles were fair ground due to the United States having placed missiles in Turkey in a previous year. The high-pressure controversy that resulted quickly subsided when both sides withdrew.[18]

The USSR provided $11 million in aid per day to Cuba, which, in turn, served as a Soviet client state to advance revolution in Nicaragua and El Salvador. [4]

Further reading

  • Dosal, Paul J. Cuba Libre: A Brief History of Cuba (2006)
  • Fursenko, Aleksandr and Naftali, Timothy. "One Hell of a Gamble": Khruschev, Castro and Kennedy, 1958-1964. (1997. 420 pp.
  • Gott, Richard. Cuba A New History (2nd ed. 2005), 384pp standard liberal history; focus on 1960 to present
  • Hernández, José M. Cuba and the United States: Intervention and Militarism, 1868-1933. (1993). 288 pp.
  • Horowitz, Irving Louis, and Jaime Suchlicki, eds. Cuban Communism (11th ed. 2003), 735pp; conservative editors, multiple perspective
  • Morley, Morris H. and McGillian, Chris. Unfinished Business: America and Cuba after the Cold War, 1989-2001. (2002). 253 pp.
  • Nofi, Albert A. The Spanish-American War, 1898. (1996). 352 pp.
  • Offner, John L. An Unwanted War: The Diplomacy of the United

States and Spain over Cuba, 1895-1898. (1992). 306 pp.

  • Pérez, Louis A., Jr. The War of 1898: The United States and Cuba in History and Historiography. (1998). 192pp. leftist excerpt and text search; full text online
  • Quirk, Robert E. Fidel Castro (1995), the best scholarly biography, excerpt and text search
  • Ratliff, William E., ed. The $elling of Fidel Castro: The Media and the Cuban Revolution. (1987). 198


  • Staten, Clifford L. The History of Cuba (2005), standard scholarly history excerpt and text search
  • Thomas, Hugh. Cuba or the Pursuit of Freedom (1998) conservative, reliable and accurate
  • Triay, Victor Andres. Fleeing Castro: Operation Pedro Pan and the Cuban Children's Program. (1998). 126 pp.


  1. J.A. Sierra. Abolition of Slavery - History of Cuba Abolition of Slavery in Cuba (English). Retrieved on 2007-08-14.
  2. Encyclopedia of Military History, Dupuy & Dupuy, 1979, Pg 908
  3. "...the island is, upon its evacuation by Spain, to be occupied by the United States" [1]
  4. http://library.thinkquest.org/18355/charles_magoon.html
  5. # ^ Sources include Portuondo Linares, Serafin 1950 Los Independientes de Color. Historia del Partido Independiente de Color. Direccion de Cultura. Havana. (Fermoselle Lopez, Rafael 1974. Politica y Color in Cuba, La Guerrita de 1912.) Ediciones Geminis Montevideo. Other sources give peripheral mention to burning of property at that time there are the physical acts of arson, in intent and action indistimguishable from the recent Balkan ethnic cleansing. Take for example the incident a La Maya (Fermoselle pp. 243-245) where the town was Take for example the incident a La Maya (Portuondo pp. 243-245) where the town was burned including houses bought by Mambi "de color" using their pensions. Officially the PIC wanted merely an armed protest to remove La Ley Morua. However, Fermoselle ( p. 199) has a cryptic sentence at the end of his book."Seria interesante saber si el PIC fue influido por ideas nationalistas generadas en otras islas del Caribe." However, there it the famous letter of Evaristo Estenoz "Todo hombre de color que no mate instaneamente al cobarde agresor que lo veje en un establecimineto publico, es un miserable indigno de ser hombre, que deshonra a su patria y a su raza" (Portuondo p. 56)
  6. Ferrer, Horacio (Preface by Miguel Ángel Carbonell) 1950 Con el rifle al hombro. El Siglo XX Havana.
  7. This matter and the errors in Wikipedia on topic are discussed in tne Aerodrome Forum http://www.theaerodrome.com/forum/other-wwi-aviation/35187-cuban-pilots-france.html#post373719
  8. Time staff, 1931 War for Machado. Time Aug, 24 1931 http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,752982,00.html?promoid=googlep
  9. Time staff, 1931 Gibara Time Aug, 31 1931 http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,929773,00.html This account is somewhat superficial, and avoids mentioning that this expedition, which had been funded and planned by the mainly conservative menocalist "Junta de New York," had been in essence hijacked by marxist activists who proved more adept at betrayal and take over than at military strategy. The leftist leadership refused to follow the advice of Menocalist veteran Manuel Balan whose forces included a young Cornelio Rojas "the man with the hat" who would die so bravely in front of Che Guevara's execution squads in January 1959
  10. Dutcher, Rodney (NEA) 1933 Machado Fights Terrorists With Terror To Hold Iron-Handed Foes: of "ABC” Copy Gangster Methods to Rid Island of Despot Who Has Ruled Since-1924 Syracuse Herald Friday evening, April 28, 1933. Front Page “Terrorism has been met "with terrorism in this unique outbreak waged mostly by students and young Intellectuals who brand Machado as a tyrant. On one side is the "ABC," secret terrorist, organization that has copied the methods of gangsters in the fine art of assassination. On the other side are Machado's strong-armed and equally, ruthless secret police. Murder has followed murder in a series of spectacular killings. The Law of Flight Typical were assassinations of Dr. Clemente Vasquez Bella, president of the Cuban Senate and political ally of Machedo, and Capt. Miguel Calvo former head of the secret police Both were slain on busy thoroughfares, in daylight, by men who dashed past in autos firing shot guns. Many members, or suspected members of the "ABC" have been slain by the secret police in equally ruthless manner. Often, those killings have been defended on the ground that the victims preferred death to capture, though the evidence. In many cases Is not convincing. One police official alone is accused of 40 official assassinations. Police have also defended killings on the ground that the ley de fuga (law of flight) recognized the right of an officer to shoot an escaping prisoner. But, according to witnesses, prisoners have been released told to flee and then shot down they ran. Bombing has been common. Incendiary fires have destroyed much property. Great numbers of political prisoners have been jailed. President Machado, whose life has been threatened many times, is heavily guarded by soldiers and machine gun crews in his palace. He rides to and from his country estate in a bullet-proof auto, under escort of soldiers armed with rifles and machine guns. NEXT: Cuba economic distress and America's vast stake on the Island
  11. Argote-Freyre, Frank, 2006 Fulgencio Batista: Volume 1, From Revolutionary to Strongman. Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, New Jersey ISBN 978-0813537010 p. 50 and later explained by the communists themselves in: Massón Sena, Caridad 2004 (accessed 6-9-07) Dos visiones sobre el nacionalismo y las alianzas: Mella y Villena. Centro de Investigación y Desarrollo de la Cultura Cubana “Juan Marinello”. La Habana, Cuba. “ Según explicara Fabio Grobart a posteriori: “ Esta miopía política se reflejó también en una errónea conclusión que los dirigentes del Partido sacaron, de la justa apreciación de que sustituir a Machado por un gobierno de la oposición burgués-terrateniente significaba dejar a Cuba en su estado de semicolonia y a las masas populares en la misma miseria y esclavitud y que únicamente un gobierno de trabajadores podía producir los cambios radicales que el país necesitaba /.../Dicha a conclusión fue profundamente falsa por ser mecánica, por no basarse en un análisis correcto del desarrollo dialéctico de la situación y, esencialmente, por no tener en cuenta que las masas revolucionarias, enardecidas por la victoria sobre Machado y orientadas en su acción por una justa política de su vanguardia marxista-leninista, sí podría asegurar los cambios profundos, es decir, la realización del programa agrario-antimperialista, por el cual abogaba y luchaba desde su fundación el Partido Comunista.(22)” Reference 22 is Fabio Grobart, 1985, p. 93, This author also refers in this regard to Leonel Soto, 1977, vol. II, p. 8
  12. Dallin, David J 1955 Soviet espionage, Yale University Press New Haven ASIN B0007DVJ8M pp. 394 and 198-203
  13. Alvarez, Jose 2008 Principio y Fin del Mito Fidelista. Trafford Publishing, Victoria, BC Canada ISBN-10 1425154042 ISBN 978-1425154042 https://www.amazon.com/Principio-fin-del-mito-fidelista/dp/1425154042 This is the most up to date description of the crucial role that the non-communist militia of Frank Pais played in the "War Against Batista." Without Frank Pais there would not have been a "Fidel Castro." This book describes in detail and with dispassionate analysis how Frank Pais supported the Castro effort and how he was betrayed, and killed. It is a sad and only too real description of the hijacking of the resistance against Batista by communist activists including Castro himself
  14. e.g. Matos, Huber, 2002. Como llego la Noche. Tusquet Editores, SA, Barcelona. ISBN 8483109441
  15. Encinosa, Enrique G. l989 La Guerra Olvidada Un Libro Historico De Los Combatientes Anticastristas En Cuba (1960-1966). Editorial SIBI, Miami
  16. Thomas E. Bogenschild (1998). Dr. Castro's Princeton Visit, April 20-21, 1959 (English). Princeton. Retrieved on 2007-08-14.
  17. Horowitz, Irving Louis, and Jaime Suchlicki (Editors) 2003 Cuban Communism 1958-2001 Transaction Publishers, Edison NJ ISBN-10 0765805200 ISBN 978-0765805201 p. 88 “In it I stated flatly that I was convinced Castro was "either incredibly naive about Communism or under Communist discipline" and that we would have to ...”
  18. Jim Hershberg (Spring 1995). Anatomy of a Controversey (English). The National Security Archive - George Washington University. Retrieved on 2007-08-14.