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 History

Coming from the very heart of the American continent, Indianfrom the Orinoco-Amazonas region, arrived the first inhabitants of the island. They called themselves Tainan and were more developed than the other two aborigines settlements: Guanahatabeyes and Siboneyes. Tainans were harvest people and hunters, their population was over 100 000 inhabitants.

On October 27,1492 Admiral Christopher Columbus commanding three caravels; La Niña, La Pinta y La Santamaria, landed at the eastern Bay of Bariay. By the end of 1510 the conquering expedition led by Diego Velazquez arrived and founded, in that very year, the villa of "Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion" in Baracoa.

The towns of San Salvador de Bayamo, Puerto Principe y Santiago de Cuba were founded in 1514. On the way towards the west of the archipelago new towns were established; La Santisima Trinidad, Sancti Spiritus and San Cristobal de La Habana, which was first built south of the current location and moved North in 1519, next to the Bay of Carenas (later called Bay of La Habana). Search and extraction of gold and other valuable minerals began from the early years of the conquest. Hard labour and diseases exhausted the indigenous population almost to extinction. Lines like tobacco and cattle raising boomed and due to the incorporation of sugar (16th Century) and coffee (on 1748) the slave trade began. The island's soil, virgin and fertile, granted a quick production growth to the Spaniards.

In August 1762 La Habana was seized by British troops who controlled the city for 11 months. This increased the freedom of commerce and doubled the amount of slaves in the western region. By the end of the 16th century Cuba became the leading producer of sugar cane in the world. In 1868 at the "La Demajagua" sugar mill, Carlos Manuel de Cespedes set his slaves free and summoned them to rise in arms against colonizers. From that day on the country suffered the "Ten Year War", which ended by the "Pacto del Zanjon". Jose Marti founded the Cuban Revolutionary Party in 1892. War recommenced on February 24, 1895. The Mambi Army marched in victory from one end of the island to the other, defeating a Spanish Army of more than 200 000 men. As a National Hero and martyr of the struggles for independence, Jose Marti fell in combat at Dos Rios on May 19, 1895. Lt. General of the mambi army, Antonio Maceo then carried out the invasion from East to West. Using the explosion of the frigate "Maine" off the coast of Havana as a basic excuse, the United States declared war on Spain in 1898 defeating a weakened army shortly after.

The Republic was established on May 20, 1902 but the intermeddling Platt Amendment soon restrained it. Julio Antonio Mella, leader of the university students, founded the Communist Party of Cuba in 1925. "Revolution of the 30's" was the name given by the people to the struggle against Machado's dictatorship. The assault on the Moncada garrison was carried out on July 26th, 1953 in Santiago de Cuba by a group of young men led by Fidel Castro. Despite its failure, this action motivated the National liberation movement. On December 2nd, 1956, 82 expeditionary men arrived from Mexico aboard the Granma yacht and landed at the southeast area of the country. At the head of this expedition was Fidel Castro, other members were Ernesto Che Guevara, Camilo Cienfuegos and Fidel's brother, Raul Castro. They went on towards the Sierra Maestra Mountains creating along the way the Rebel Army. During the years of 1956, '57 and '58 innumerable revolutionary blows in different regions and cities of the island began to weaken Batista's army.

On January 1st 1959, President Fulgencio Batista flew to Santo Domingo with his family abandoning Cuba, with him were 40 million dollars stolen from the public treasury prior to his departure. The Rebel Army troops commanded by Fidel Castro arrived victoriously in Havana on January 8th, 1959. The First Law of Agrarian Reform was promulgated on May 17th, 1959 returning land to the farmers. On October 28th, Commander Camilo Cienfuegos plane disappeared during flight from Camaguey to La Habana. The first Soviet ship loaded with oil arrived in April 1960 to Havana's harbour. Begging on July 5th, the United States imposed the current economical and commercial embargo on the island. At a public meeting on April 16th, 1961 the Commander in Chief Fidel Castro proclaimed the Socialist nature of the Cuban revolution. National Campaigns against Illiteracy were successfully carried out during 1961. Mercenary troops trained by the United States landed at the Bay of Pigs on April 17th, 1961 with the purpose of overthrowing the ruling Revolution. Three days later the invasion was overthrown.

Cuba was expelled from the OAS in 1962. The so-called October Crisis happened in October 1962 as a consequence of the Soviet nuclear weapons on the island, this has been touted as the closest that humanity has come to a nuclear war. Commander Ernesto Che Guevara was murdered by CIA agents at Valle Grande, Bolivia in 1967. In 1972 Cuba was accepted as a member of the economic community of the Socialist countries, known as CAME, which enabled development and trade. In a disordered manner, thousands of Cubans seeking political asylum entered the Embassy of Peru in Havana in 1980. Fidel Castro's government opened the Port of Mariel, in northwest Havana, for all those who wanted to migrate legally towards the United States. In 1982 UNESCO declared Old Havana as a site Patrimony of Humanity.

Between 1975 and 1984 almost half a million Cuban combatants took part in the war of Angola fulfilling an agreement signed by both countries. Cuban troops retreated in 1984. The UN Human Rights Commission presented on 1987 a resolution condemning Cuba for violating human rights. The disaster of the Socialist countries of Eastern Europe influenced the island's economy, creating an economic crisis. The UN approved a resolution that condemned the economic embargo by the United States against Cuba in 1992. Decree-law 140 issued by the State's Council in 1993 authorized the use of the USD throughout Cuba. In August 1994 a mass exodus began by "boat-people" on rafts: thousands of people left the island aboard homemade rafts encouraged by the United States immigration policy and guaranteed asylum to any Cuban Citizen arriving in US territorial waters. In that same year, Cuba was not allowed to attend the Caribbean Summit held in Miami.

In 1995 small private businesses were allowed in sectors such as Private restaurants, Taxis, etc. The European Community approved on that year a 19,5 million dollars program to finance public health. President William Clinton undersigned in 1996 the Helms-Burton Law, which effectively strengthened the blockade against Cuba, essentially meddling in the country's internal and external affairs. Months later the Cuban Parliament issued the Law 80 declaring "illegal" the Helms-Burton Law and defending the rights of Cuban people to choose their own destiny. In January 1998, Pope John Paul was officially invited to visit the island for five days he was met by the highest representatives of the government and heads of Churches. The Elian Gonzalez kidnap case by Miami relatives is the latest move designed to undermine the Cuban people.


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