In 1835 a blow was struck on Cuba when Spain
finally ended the slave trade. This, however didn't end slavery, just the trade
of slavery, meaning slavery continued in Cuba until 1886. This ending of slavery
came with numerous rebellions, including the Ten Years' War, which took place
from 1868 to 1878. With the end of slavery much of the economy collapsed as the
country's labor force was freed and there were no workers who could do the job
at such low costs.
At the end of the 1800s Cuba was at a crossroads. Their economy
was falling apart and becoming more dependent on the
United States, their largest importer, while political freedom from
Spain was growing more popular. Between 1895 and 1898 numerous ships
sailed from the U.S. to Cuba in order to take the island over. These ships primarily
consisted of Cubans who either sought independence from Spain or union with the
United States, while both the U.S. and Spanish governments attempted to and did
take a large number of these ships.
Many of these attacks, along with domestic rebels succeeded, primarily in the eastern
part of the island as they took much land, but the Spanish
continued to hold the central and western parts of the island. As these battles
escalated and Havana became hostile, the U.S.
sent the USS Maine to the Havana harbor to protect U.S. citizens. In February of
1898 the ship was sunk (although the actual cause of the sinking is still unknown)
and war broke out between the United States and Spain.
war was short lived as by July 1898 it ended with the United States taking the Philippines and Puerto Rico, while giving
Cuba independence, however no time frame was set for this freedom and
in the meantime the U.S. was to oversee the island. The first elections in Cuba
took place in 1900, but who was allowed to vote was severely limited by age and
wealth. A vote the following year elected a U.S. citizen, Tomas Estrada Palma, who
wasn't even living in Cuba. He took the presidency and U.S. occupation officially
ended, although its influence was ever present.
Cuba remained fairly stable through the early twentieth century,
but in 1933 the people were being angered by the government and demanded more and
quicker social changes. These protests led to the election of Fulgencio Batista
in 1940, a communist. From this point into the 1950s communist and more liberal
leaning candidate continued to hold power, but corruption also blossomed in the
government and across the island as a whole. With much debate surrounding the 1952
election, Batista took power in a coup, then won an election. Despite his questionable
methods, Cuba at the time became one of the richest countries in the world.
Despite the great improvement in healthcare and education in Cuba,
the large middle class wanted greater improvements and, with the help of newspapers,
grew tiresome of their government. Fidel Castro attempted to overthrown Batista
legally in 1953, but after that failed he turned to military tactics, increasing
this attitude after meeting Che Guevara in Mexico when Castro was exiled there.
In Mexico, Castro organized what later became known as the
26th of July Movement.
Castro and his men (82 of them) sailed to Cuba in December
1956, but most were killed upon arrival. Castro and only about a dozen others escaped
to the mountains where they began their guerilla war, which essentially began as
a class war in the mountains and small towns on the island. This momentum continued
until 1959 when Batista left office and Castro took over.
Castro's power encouraged thousands of Cubans to leave
the island, many of whom moved to the United States.
Castro them quickly outlawed political parties and restricted many of the people's
rights, while also vastly improving education and healthcare. The U.S. recognized
Castro and attempted to open relations with him; however Castro blamed the U.S.
for various things and refused to work with the U.S. government. This relationship
eventually ended in 1961, with an embargo of Cuban goods in 1962.
During this time, in April of 1961 the U.S.
trained Cuban exiles in the U.S. in order to invade and war
with Castro and his governmental forces. This attack, known as the Bay of Pigs invasion
only lasted three days as the Cuban exiles stood on real chance of taking over the
This was followed by the embargo of Cuban goods and the Cuba
Missile Crisis, which took place in 1962. It seems Castro was interested in firing
the Soviet nuclear missiles stationed in Cuba, however the Soviets decided to negotiate;
the Soviets removed their nuclear missiles from Cuba and the
U.S. removed theirs from Turkey.
Since the early 1960s Cuba has continued on its course of improving
numerous social injustices, while also becoming more politically restrictive. They
have gotten involved in numerous communist movements throughout the world, most
of which failed. They have also been embargoed by a number of countries, hurting
their economy. Their saving grace during much of this time was the Soviet Union,
who became their major trading partner until 1991.
After the collapse of Cuba's largest trading partner, the
Soviet Union, in 1991, Cuba struggled economically as their incomes dramatically
fell and standards of living plummeting, leading to food shortages. Despite this,
Cuba managed to make it through this time by opening up to international tourism
and improving relations with numerous countries, primarily European countries. This
industry has given Cuba enough funds and resources to maintain their current economic
In 2006 Fidel Castro fell ill and in 2007 he handed power over to his brother, Raul
Castro. Raul seems to be leading the country in much the same way as his brother