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Cuba is an island in the northern Caribbean where the Caribbean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Atlantic meet. It lies south of Florida and the Bahamas, and north of Jamaica. Havana is the most influential city and also its capital. Cuba is a significant island in the Caribbean with over 11 million inhabitants. Officially the name is “The Republic of Cuba”.

The island became independent in 1902

From the 15th-century onwards, Cuba was a colony of Spain. This lasted until the Spanish–American War of 1898. The island became independent in 1902. Afterwards, the Cuban government attempted to strengthen its democratic system. This culminated in the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, in 1952. Unrest and instability led to Batista’s demise in 1959 when the 26th of July Movement ousted him. Afterwards, the revolutionary, Fidel Castro, established a communist state on the island.

Fidel Castro

Castro came into power as the leader of The Communist Party. He was first  Prime Minister and later the President. Cuba is one of the few remaining socialist countries in the world. Consequently, the role of the Communist Party is enshrined in the Constitution. Independent observers continued to accuse the Cuban government of human rights abuses including arbitrary imprisonment.

Culturally, Cuba is a Latin American and multi-ethnic country. This is because the people, the culture and local customs have diverse origins. Some of these influences are Spanish colonialism, the African slave trade and the island´s complex relationship with the Soviet Union.

The export of tobacco, coffee, sugar, and skilled labour dominate the Cuban economy. Cuba ranks highly in metrics of national performance. Surprisingly, this includes both healthcare and education.

Spanish colonisation and rule (1492–1898)

Christopher Columbus landed on an island which named Guanahani, Bahamas in 1492. He ordered his ships to land on the northeastern Cuban coast.  Columbus claimed the island for the Kingdom of Spain.

In 1511, the first Spanish settlement was founded by Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar, at Baracoa. Within a century, the native people were virtually wiped out. Primarily, this was because they had no natural resistance to the diseases brought by the Spanish. For example, in 1529, a measles outbreak killed two-thirds of the people who had previously survived smallpox.

British  Cuba

Cuba developed more slowly than the rest of the Caribbean. The colony established an urbanised society which supported the Spanish colonial empire.

The Seven Years’ War commenced in 1754 across three continents. The war soon spread to the Spanish Caribbean. Spain’s alliance with the French put them into direct conflict with the British. In 1762, British warships set out from Portsmouth to capture Cuba. The British arrived on 6th June, and by August had Havana under siege. Havana surrendered. Subsequently, the Admiral of the British fleet, George Keppel, entered the city as the conquering new governor. Afterwards, the British immediately opened up trade with North American and the Caribbean colonies. This created a rapid society transformation. Britain agreed a deal with Spain. In later years, they swapped the island of Cuba for the American state of Florida.

After the Spanish–American War, Spain and the United States signed the Treaty of Paris, in 1898. Spain sold Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and Guam to the United States for the sum of US$ 20 million. Cuba gained formal independence from the US on 20th May 1902.


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