Cuba Early History

By | November 15, 2021

First settlers and arrival of Columbus

The presence of man in Cuba dates back to approximately 6,000 BC, when Paleolithic hunters moved from to the mouth of the Mississippi and through Florida and also using the Bahamas route, they arrived in Cuba after the giant sloth. (Megalocnus rodens). [3]

Later, four other migrations were carried out, the last being in the 15th century. According to Bartolomé de las Casas, these last aborigines were Taínos, coming from the coast of Venezuela and were more advanced than their predecessors, practicing the agriculture of corn and yucca, as well as pottery. Its wooden houses and palm guano -the bohíos- grouped in small aboriginal villages, would constitute for several centuries a fundamental element of the habitat of the Cuban peasantry.

The 27 of October of 1492 Christopher Columbus arrived in Cuba possibly land from the current Watling Island in the Bahamas. At present, there is still debate about the exact place that the admiral called Puerto de Mares, since there is no consensus on whether he disembarked at Gibara or Bariay. [4] Columbus had enthusiastically set out in search of the island that the natives called “Colba” (Cuba), convinced that it was Cipango.

He baptized the island with the name of “Juana” in honor of Juan de Aragón y Castilla who still lived and was the heir to the crown of the Catholic Monarchs sponsoring the trip.

Colonial society

Diego Velázquez, one of the richest settlers in Hispaniola, was in charge of colonizing Cuban territory, beginning the conquest in 1510 with a prolonged reconnaissance and conquest operation, plagued by bloody incidents. Alerted about the outrages committed by the Spanish in the neighboring islands, the aborigines of the eastern region of Cuba resisted the Hispanic invasion, led by Yahatuey or Hatuey, a fugitive cacique from the Dominican Republic, who was finally arrested and burned alive as a lesson.

With the foundation of Our Lady of the Assumption of Baracoa, in 1512, the Spanish undertook the establishment of seven towns with the aim of controlling the conquered territory – Bayamo (1513), the Holy Trinity, Sancti Spíritus and San Cristóbal de La Habana (1514), Camaguey (1515) – until concluding with Santiago de Cuba (1515), designated seat of government.

As a country located in Caribbean according to Ehotelat, Cuba did not escape the attacks of corsairs and pirates. The names of Jacques de Sores, Francis Drake and Henry Morgan kept the island’s residents on the warpath for more than a century.

To safeguard trade, Spain decided to organize large fleets that would have the port of Havana as a mandatory stopover point, strategically located at the beginning of the Gulf Stream. The periodic influx of merchants and travelers, as well as the resources destined to finance the construction and defense of the fortifications that, like the Castillo del Morro, garrisoned Havana’s bay, would become a very important source of income for Cuba.

At the beginning of the 17th century, Cuba, which at that time had about 30,000 residents, was divided into two governments, one in Havana and the other in Santiago de Cuba, although the capital was established there. Although slowly, economic activity grew and diversified with the development of tobacco cultivation and the production of cane sugar.

From 1790 In just thirty years, more African slaves were introduced into Cuba than in the previous century and a half. With a population that in 1841 already exceeded one and a half million residents, the Island harbored a highly polarized society; Between an oligarchy of Creole landowners and great Spanish merchants and the great slave masses, the dissimilar middle layers subsisted, made up of free blacks and mulattoes and the humble whites of the countryside and cities, the latter increasingly reluctant to carry out manual work considered humiliating. and typical of slaves. Slavery constituted an important source of social instability, not only because of the frequent manifestations of rebellion by slaves – both individually and in groups – but also because the repudiation of this institution gave rise to conspiracies with abolitionist purposes.

Among these are the one headed by the free black José Antonio Aponte, aborted in Havana in 1812, and the well-known Conspiracy of the Stairs (1844), which originated a bloody repression. In the latter, many slaves, free blacks and mulattoes lost their lives, among whom was the poet Gabriel de la Concepción Valdés, (Plácido).

The cautious reformism promoted by Arango and the wealthy creoles found continuity in an equally reformist liberalism embodied by José Antonio Saco, José de la Luz y Caballero and other prestigious intellectuals linked to the Cuban sector of the large landowners.

In addition, another political trend developed that pinned its hopes of solving Cuban problems on annexation to the United States. In this attitude a sector of the slave owners converged so much that they saw in the incorporation of Cuba into the North American Union as a guarantee for the survival of slavery. Narciso López, a general of Venezuelan origin, directed his efforts in this last direction. After having served for many years in the Spanish army, he became involved in conspiratorial annexation activities.

Under the coinciding influence of the emancipatory feat on the continent and the constitutional three-year period in Spain, Masonic lodges and secret societies proliferated on the Island. Two important conspiracies were aborted at this stage, that of the Suns and Rays of Bolívar (1823), in which the poet José María Heredia participated – the summit of Cuban literary romanticism – and later that of the Great Black Eagle Legion encouraged from Mexico.

Cuba Early History