Friday, February 04, 2005

History of Cuba

History of Cuba. This is a brief overview to the history of Cuba. It uses content from both the State Department and an old public domain copy of the Catholic Encyclopedia.

From the site:

Spanish settlers established the raising of cattle, sugarcane, and tobacco as Cuba's primary economic pursuits. As the native Indian population died out, African slaves were imported to work the ranches and plantations. Slavery was abolished in 1886.

The 1907 Catholic Encyclopedia wrote, "Cuba was discovered by Columbus during his first voyage, on the 28th of October, 1492. He took possession in the name of the Catholic monarchs of Spain, and named it Juana in honour of the Infante Don Juan. He again visited the island in 1494, and in 1502, and on each occasion explored part of the coast. He then believed that Cuba was part of the mainland, and it was not until 1508 that Sebastian Ocampo, by order of the king, circumnavigated it, and proved it to be an island. IN 1511, Captain Diego Velásquez, who had accompanied Columbus on his second voyage, was sent to Cuba to subjugate and colonize the island. He landed near Cape Maisí, the eastern extremity, and there was founded Baracoa, the first colony in Cuba. In 1514 Velásquez founded Trinidad and Santiago de Cuba on the south coast, Sancti Spiritus, Remedios, and Puerto Príncipe in the central portion; and, on the site of the present city of Batabanó, towards the western extremity of the south coast, San Cristóbal de la Habana; this last name, however, was given, in 1519, to a settlement existing on the present site of Havana. The same year Baracoa was raised to the dignity of a city and a bishopric, and was made the capital, as it continued to be until 1522, when both the capital and bishopric were transferred to Santiago de Cuba. Havana became the capital in 1552, and has remained so ever since."

"Upon the death of Ferdinand, 23 January, 1516, Velásquez changed the name of the island to Fernandina in honour of that monarch. Later, the name was changed to Santiago in honour of Spain's patron saint, and still later, to Ave María in honour of the Blessed virgin. During all these official changes, however, the island continued to be known by its original name of Cuba, given it by natives, and it has retained the name to the present day. The aborigines (Siboneys) whom the Spaniards found in Cuba, were a mild, timid, inoffensive people, entirely unable to resist the invaders of their country, or to endure the hardships imposed upon them. They lived under nine independent caciques or chiefs, and possessed a simple religion devoid of rites and ceremonies, but with a belief in a supreme being, and the immortality of the soul. They were reduced to slavery by the white settlers, among whom, however, the energetic and persevering Father Bartolomé de Las Casas, "The Protector of the Indians", as he was officially called, earned a high reputation in history by his philanthropic efforts. In 1524, the first cargo of negro slaves was landed in Cuba. Then began the iniquitous traffic in African slaves upon which corrupt officials fattened for many years thereafter. The negroes were subjected to great cruelties and hardships, their natural increase was checked, and their numbers had to be recruited by repeated importations. This traffic constantly increased, until at the beginning of the nineteenth century, slaves were being imported at the rate of over 10,000 per year."

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