400 years of Cuban history begins here.
Cubas History 1492
Christopher Columbus discovered and documented the island of Cuba and the native Guanahatabeyes, Tainos, and Ciboneyes indians on his first voyage to the Americas in 1492. The three cultural indian tribes are believed to have inhabited Cuba for some 200 years before the arrival of the Spaniards. The Guanahatabeyes, Tainos, and Ciboneyes were hunters and gatherer of natural materials like unpolished stones. They created a variety of tools and artifacts by polishing stones and carving wood with stone tools.
They had no enemies and were therefore unused to combat. Their pathetic inability to resist the Spanish invaders made their eventual submission in the hands of the conquistadores. Soon, Diego Velazquez would be Cuba's conqueror and first Spanish governor.
In 1511, the Spanish began systematic conquest of the island. When Diego Velasquez and his 300 men landed for the conquest, they were greeted by a cloud of arrows. On February 2, 1512, Chief Hatuey was tied to a post after refusing to tell where the gold was. When offered a cross in order to die in the grace of God and go to heaven, Chief Hatuey scornfully replied, "If Christians go to heaven, I do not want to go to Heaven." Flames consumed the chief's body and the resistance of the Indians collapsed almost entirely. So began the colonization of Cuba. By 1515, Velasquez had established six small settlements that included Havana. This was still 105 years before the Pilgrims would land at Plymouth Rock in 1620, Amerigo Vespucci in particular.
The Havana settlement began in 1519, one of the best harbours in the world. Havana was the rendez-vous point for the twice a year Spanish fleets heading from the New World to Europe.
During 1555, Havana was properly garrisoned after a devastating pirate raid.
In 1589, forts were built on both sides of the harbour.
In 1628, Britain and France started to challenge Spain for control of the Caribbean.
In 1674, the Spaniards began walling the city of Havana, a project not completed until the 1790s.
1756-1763, during this time Spain joined the war against Britain. And Britain responded by sending an expedition of 15,000 regular and colonial soldiers from Canada to capture Cuba.
British occupation of Havana in June 1762 allowed Cuban planters to sell their goods on the open market. Under traditional Spanish rule, they sold their goods to the Spanish government, who set the prices and was their only legal customer. The government then sold the goods on the open market and kept the profits. The Cubans found it much more agreeable to sell their products to many buyers at competitive prices, and when the British and the Spanish traded Havana for Florida in 1763, Cuban businesses were forced back to the old oppressive system. Thus began the dream of Cuban independence. Before 1762 Cuban trade was a Spanish monopoly. The British opened Havana to world trade, and merchants flocked in. Havana blossomed overnight into an important metropolis.
In 1824, The U.S. feared a united Mexican-Colombian military to help liberate Puerto Rico and Cuba in 1824, the U.S. government (with the backing of England) issued threats to Mexico and Colombia, declaring that the U.S. would "not remain indifferent" to the freeing of Cuba. The threats worked. The expedition was stopped before it began. Simon Bolivar told a delegation of Cuban revolutionaries, "We cannot set at defying the American Government, in conjunction with that of England, on maintaining authority of the islands of Cuba and Puerto Rico." This Government desires no political change of that condition" said, Simon Bolivar.
By 1825, most of Spain's colonies in the new world had achieved their independence, and only Cuba and Puerto Rico remained.
In 1868 landowner Carlos Manuel de Cespedes gave the legendary 'Grito de Yara" (Cry of Yara) in which he freed his slaves and started the first war for Cuban independence, known as the Ten-Year War. Soon the Mambises, machete wielding farmers, followed and became a legitimate guerilla-style army, with many victories and popular support.
In 1878, The fact that the U.S. would sell the latest weapons to Spain, but not to the Cuban rebels, led to a stalemate known as the Pact of Zanjon. The Pact ended the war, providing a general amnesty to anyone who fought and freeing the black slaves who fought on either side. Many were disappointed with the Pact calling it a false promise that would never be kept. Their warnings would soon be true.
In 1880, the U.S. government expanded overseas wiping out Native American resistance in the West and building an offensive Navy to the south. U.S. investment in Cuba increased. Six percent of Cuban exports went to Spain, and a whopping eighty-six percent went to the U.S..
1880, It was at this time that La Guerra Chiquita (The Little War) was fought. Led by Major Calixto Garcia, a well-known leader of the Ten-Year War, and Jose Maceo, the new struggle for independence was crushed within months.
1892 Marti devoted himself exclusively to the cause of Cuban independence, soliciting and receiving financial support from Cuban exiles in all walks of life, and organizing every detail of The Cuban Revolutionary Party. Marti united some of the surviving veterans of The Ten Year War, Antonio Maceo, Maximo Gomez, Calixto García and others. Under Marti's guidance, the rebels were organized into a cohesive, connected force that included a civilian government that would take over after the war.
By 1894, less than 20 percent of sugar mill owners in Cuba were Cubans, and more than 95 percent of all Cuban sugar exports went to the U.S.
At the end of March 1894, Marti began to push for immediate revolutionary action, writing letters to Maximo Gomez and Antonio Maceo. In a detailed and informative account of the conflict, titled: The Spanish-Cuban-American War and the Birth of American Imperialism, historian Philip S. Foner sheds light on his urgency, "Marti's impatience to start the revolution for independence was affected by his growing fear that the imperialist forces in the United Stat"s would succeed in annexing Cuba before the revolution could liberate the island from Spain." Marti had noticed a frightening new trend of aggressive U.S. "influence," evident by Secretary of State James G.
(Blaine's Philosophy), that all of Central and South America would some day fall to the U.S.
"That rich island," Blaine wrote on December 1 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 for a free and independent Cuba.
(Foner's written statements), "Marti noticed with alarm the movement to annex Hawaii, viewing it as establishing a pattern for Cuba....".
On January of 1895, Marti's revolutionary expedition was to set sail from Florida but the U.S. government confiscated three ships (the Amadis, the Lagonda & the Baracoa) loaded with weapons and supplies that had been difficult and costly to obtain. The U.S. promptly alerted the Spanish government. (till this day 01/08/08 the U.S. does and keeps doing the same to Cuban Americans)
Not to be dissuaded, on March 25 1895, Marti presented the Proclamation of Montecristi (Manifesto de Montecristi) which outlined the policy for Cuba's war of independence: By the end of March, Antonio Maceo returned to Cuba, ready to resume his vital role in Cuba's struggle for independence. On April 11 he was joined by Maximo Gomez, the military leader, and Jose Marti. They landed on the eastern shore of the island and joined bands of guerrilla forces that awaited their arrival.
Between June 11 1895 and November 30 1897, a total of sixty expeditions attempted to bring weapons and supplies to the rebels and only one succeeded. (28 attempts were hampered by the U.S. Treasury Department) (5 were prevented by the U.S. Navy Dept.) (4 were interrupted by the Spanish naval patrol) (2 were wrecked; one was driven back to port by storm) (Only 1 succeeded through the protection of the British, the fate of another is unknown.)
Cuba's second war of independence began in 1895.
On , May 19 1895, his first battle against the Spanish royalist army at Dos Rios, revolutionary icon Jose Julian Marti Perez was killed. The rebels tried, in vain, to recover his dead body, but were not able to do so. He was buried by Spanish soldiers on May 27 1895. Instead of squashing the spirit of revolution, Marti's death inspired the rebel cause and sent ripples of nationalism throughout the island.
Between 1895 - 1897, Spanish forces in Cuba numbered to 240,000 regulars and 60,000 irregulars on the island. The "Volunteers" were a locally prepared and assembled 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. "Numerically speaking, the Mambises didn't have a prayer".
The word "mambises" originated in Santo Domingo, after a brave Negro Spanish officer,Juan Ethninius Mamby, joined the Dominicans in the fight for independence in "846. 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 Cuban rebels adopted the name with pride.
April 1898 the U.S. entered the war. Maaximo Gomez had a column of 3,000 men. The rebels had 41 encounters with the 40,000 Spanish soldiers stationed south of Las Villas. In various battles, such as the battle of La Reforma, Gomez unquestionably defeated Weyler. The Spaniards were kept on the defensive, and the Mambises initiated every military operation in this area. One of the most dramatic victories for the Mambises was in Las Tunas, which had been re-named by the Spaniards as Victoria de Las Tunas, in memory of past Spanish victories during the Ten Year War. The town was guarded by over 1,000 well-armed-and-supplied men. On the morning of August 28 1877, General Calixto Garcia gave word to attack. On August 30, Spanish Lieutenant Mediavilla appeared carrying a white flag under orders of Commander Civera to discuss terms of surrender.
On January 24 1898, President William McKinley sent the USS Maine to Havana to "protect American lives and property." At 9:40 p.m. on February 15, while sitting on the harbor at Havana, a freak accident, or an act of sabotage, caused an explosion that sent 260 sailors to their deaths and the battleship Maine to the ocean floor.
By the time the U.S. entered the war in 1898, Spain was running for cover, and a Cuban victory was certain. The Spanish troops had been forced back into the urban areas, making them easy targets. The rebels controlled the countryside, and the Spaniards found it impossible to retreat. NOTE: By the time the U.S. entered the war against Spain in 1898, Cuban revolutionaries had been fighting vigorously for almost 3 years in what was meant to be Cuba's final war of independence.
The Battle of Santiago Bay, between the Spanish and U.S. naval forces, ended centuries of Spanish power in the Western hemisphere. 1,800 Spaniards died in the battle and two weeks later the Spanish forces in Santiago surrendered. In the Pacific, the aging Spanish fleet was no match for the new steam-powered American navy, and the war didn't last long.
On August 11 Spain accepted the peace terms, in which the U.S. received control of 4 new territories: Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines and Guam. The U.S. had also recently annexed Hawaii, Samoa and Wake Island. Although the treaty officially granted Cuba's independence, it was the U.S. flag, not the Cuban flag, that was raised over Havana, and during the surrender ceremonies in Santiago de Cuba, U.S. General William R. Shafter refused to allow Cuban General Calixto Garcia and his rebel forces to participate.
Spain received payment of $20 million for Guam, Puerto Rico and the Philippines.
After more than three years of total war, Cuba lay in ruins. The armies of Spain and Cuba had swept back and forth over the land, carrying ruin with the torch at every trip. What was missed by one army was destroyed by the other."
An American military government was immediately proclaimed in Cuba, with General John R. Brooke as commander. Marti's revolutionary government was never allowed to take control. Cubans were denied the long-anticipated satisfaction of parading their troops through the capital. After the Spanish flag was lowered, the U.S. flag was raised.
"Cuba cannot have true moral peace," wrote General Maximo Gomez in his diary on January 8 1899, "which is what the people need for their happiness and good fortune - under the transitional government. This transitional government was imposed by force by a foreign power and, therefore, is illegitimate and incompatible with the principles that the entire country has been upholding for so long and in the defense of which half of its sons have given their lives and all of its wealth has been consumed."
Cuba's first elections took place on June 16 1900. Guided by an electoral law based on U.S. Secretary of War Elihu Root's plan for a restricted vote, it was deemed that voters must be male, over twenty-one years of age, citizens of Cuba according to the terms of the Treaty of Paris, and they must fulfill at least one of three alternative requirements; be able to read and write; own property worth $250 in U.S. gold; or have served in the Cuban army prior to July 18 1898, with an honorable discharge.
Election results were a resounding defeat for annexationists. The Cuban National Party, made up of the revolutionary element, won the most votes in almost every city, and the Democratic Union Party, which represented Cuban moneyed interests and openly in favor of annexation to the U.S., lost in every election.
Cuba, the Platt Amendment proclaimed, "should make no treaty that would impair her sovereignty, she should contract no foreign debt whose interest could not be paid through ordinary revenues after defraying the current expenses of government." It allowed for U.S. military intervention to "preserve" Cuban independence or the "maintenance of a government adequate for the protection of life, liberty, and property."
Cuban leaders were outraged, but the U.S. government would not budge, announcing that the new republic would have to accept the Platt Amendment in order for the military to leave the island. On March 2 1901, the Platt Amendment was incorporated into Cuba's constitution.
The Cuban flag did not fly over Havana until May 20 1902, when Tomas Estrada Palma was sworn in as the first president of the new Republic. In 1903, a Permanent Treaty gave the U.S. responsibility for "internal tranquility" and formalized U.S. use of Guantanamo Bay, an issue that remains a sore spot for Cubans to this day.