Cubans - History and Cultural Relations

The earliest known settlers in Cuba, the Ciboney (1000 B . C .) were joined by Arawaks from A . D . 1100 to 1450. From Christopher Columbus's first landing in 1492 to U.S. troop landings in 1898 during the final stages of the war for Cuban independence, the island was integrated into the Spanish colonial structure, producing as major export crops sugarcane, coffee, and tobacco. The island also served as an administrative center for Spanish political and economic control of the region and was therefore a significant arena of international rivalry over Spanish control of the Western Hemisphere. Population growth and economic and political activity centered on the Havana environs, marginalizing authority and economic growth in the eastern regions and restraining opportunities there even in the postcolonial period. In the second half of the nineteenth century, the Spanish government proved incapable of resolving conflicts over its policies, resulting in the Ten Years War (1868-1878) and the war for Cuban independence, which began in 1895.

Between 1899 and 1902 the United States occupied Cuba and appointed military governors as administrators; the republic was not formally established until a president was elected in 1902. The Cuban constitutional convention reluctantly incorporated the Platt Amendment (to a U.S. army appropriation bill of March 1901), which became the legal justification for U.S. control of the naval base at Guantánamo, ownership of Cuban land, and intervention in Cuba's internal affairs until the abrogation of the amendment in 1934. Between 1934 and 1959 the Cuban economy strengthened its economic and political ties with the United States. Persistent national conflicts generated the formation of various opposition movements. After the success of the July 26th movement in 1959, Cuba built a socialist system; even after the collapse of socialism in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, Cuba's government continued to be a rather stalwart adherent.

Revolutionary Cuban society has attempted to eliminate traditional vestiges of both racism and sexism. With a heritage combining descendants of Spaniards and other western Europeans, African slaves, and Chinese indentured laborers and immigrants, Cuba's Latin African mulatto culture manifests fewer racial tensions than more racially separated societies. The revolutionary government continues to make structural attempts to fully integrate and empower women and Afro-Cubans and to publicly address the foundations of bias.

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