There is much to learn about Cuba.
The Caribbean island is alive with ethnic and cultural diversity born from a history of colonization and waves of immigrants from Spain, Africa and the Americas.
In the beginning, Arawak (also commonly known as Taino) Indians mainly inhabited the island.
Upon the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1492, however, these Indians were wiped out mostly by disease and by 1511 the Spaniards settled into Cuba and made Havana the connecting port to Spain.
Sugar became the main commodity for Cuba under Spanish rule, encouraging heightened numbers of African slaves that were brought on the island. Slavery was abolished in 1886 following the end of the Ten Year War against Spain.
Jose Marti, an avid poet and revolutionary, led the second attempt for Cuba’s independence in the late 19th century. The United States entered the battle in support of Cuba toward the end of the war in 1898, forging the relationship between the two countries.
Under the Treaty of Paris, the United States assumed dominant control over most of Cuba’s political and economic affairs.
U.S. intervention and military presence coupled with corruption began to add fire to the social unrest that was simmering on the surface. The Platt Amendment and the support for authoritarian rule under Machado and Cespedes prompted the Cubans overthrow U.S. backed regimes. Batista and the military, who still had very close ties to the U.S., became the rulers until the intervention of Fidel Castro.
With low unemployment levels, increased political corruption and national exploitation, students began to protest on the streets. These student led revolts (amongst them Fidel Castro from the Moncada Barracks revolt in Santiago) had a profound effect on Cuban society. Fidel Castro rose with his compadres Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos to successfully bring down the Batista government after years of guerrilla warfare in 1959.
Castro’s growing favor toward socialism created tensions between the U.S. An embargo was imposed on Cuba by the U.S. in 1960 followed by a succession of events such as the Bay of Pigs invasion and the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Cuba’s close relations with the Soviet Union and the U.S. embargo ultimately devastated the island in the 1990s with the collapse of communism. A major economic crisis rippled through the nation causing underproduction of everything, especially food. The 90s were deemed the “Special Period” by the Cuban government and became the impetus for a mass Cuban exodus.
The Mariel Boatlift along with the balsero crisis where over 100,000 Cubans abruptly left the island for the U.S. in search for a different life explains much of the dense Cuban population in Florida today.
Despite the terse political background between the U.S. and Cuba, a number of events have made travel to Cuba more accessible for Americans. The succession of Raul Castro and his vision to economically advance the island, the People-to-people license to promote cultural education, and the genuine mutual interest between Cubans and Americans have given travel agencies like ours a reason to exist.