History of Cuba

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The history of Cuba, the largest of Caribbean islands, includes being inhabited by indigenous peoples when Christopher Columbus sighted the island during his first voyage of discovery on 27 October 1492, and claimed it for Spain. Cuba subsequently became a Spanish colony to be ruled by the Spanish governor in Havana, though in 1762 this city was briefly held by Britain before being returned in exchange for Florida. A series of rebellions during the 19th century failed to end Spanish rule. However, increased tensions between Spain and the United States, resulting in the Spanish-American War, finally led to Spanish withdrawal, and in 1902, Cuba gained formal independence.

In his book A History of Cuba and its relations with The United States, historian Philip S. Foner writes that Cuba's history:

Further evidence suggests that the Guanajatabeyes were driven to the west of the island by the arrival of two subsequent waves of migrants, the Taíno and Ciboney. These groups are sometimes referred to as neo-Taíno nations.[2] The new had migrated north along the Caribbean island chain used of stone, yet they were familiar with gold (caona) and copper (guanín). The Taíno and Ciboney were a part of a cultural group commonly called the Arawak, which extended far into South America. Initially the new arrivals inhabited the eastern area of Baracoa before expanding across the island. Traveling Dominican clergyman and writer Bartolome de las Casas estimated that the Cuban population of the neo-Taíno people had reached 350,000 by the time of the late 15th century. The Taíno cultivated the yuca root, harvested it and baked it to produce cassava bread. They also grew cotton and tobacco, and ate maize and sweet potatoes. According to Las Casas, they had "everything they needed for living; they had many crops, well arranged".[3]

Early Spanish colonization

The first sighting of a Spanish boat approaching the island was on 28 October 1492, probably at Baracoa on the eastern point of the island.[2] Christopher Columbus, on his first voyage to the Americas, sailed south from what is now The Bahamas to explore the northeast coast of Cuba and the northern coast of Hispaniola. Columbus discovered the island believing it to be a peninsula of the Asian mainland.[4][5]

During a second voyage in 1494, Columbus passed along the south coast of the island, landing at various inlets including what was to become Guantánamo Bay. With the Papal Bull of 1493, Pope Alexander VI commanded Spain to conquer, colonize and convert the Pagans of the New World to Catholicism.[6] On arrival, Columbus observed the Taíno dwellings, describing them as “looking like tents in a camp. All were of palm branches, beautifully constructed”.[7]

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