Cuba was officially “discovered” by Christopher Columbus on 27 October 1492. However, this is not to say that other did not inhabitate these lands before this time. In fact, aboriginal tribesmen had lived here for a considerable period of time before Columbus arrived – as can be evidenced by the cave drawings found all over the islands.
In 1510 Diego de Velazquez – the founder of Cuba – established the first Spanish settlement on Cuba: Santiago de Cuba; shortly thereafter to be followed by the establishment of another six initial founding settlement (Baracoa, Santiago, Bayamo, Camaguey, Sancti Spiritus, Trinidad and Batabano) – making seven initial settlements in all. Thereafter, Cuba became a popular stopping off point for Spanish ships sailing to Mexico – or from Mexico back home.
Havana, Cuba’s modern day capital, was established shortly after the initial seven founding settlements – in 1519. However, due (in part) to its distance from these seven settlements, it would not be until 1607 that Havana would become Cuba’s premier settlement.
Many foreign nations have tried to take Cuba away from the Spanish. Some more successfully than others! The first to try were the Brititsh, who captured Havana on 12 August 1762 (they would end up keeping it for eleven months).
Then, following American independence in 1776, Cuba would begin to flourish economically in response to its sugar exports and America’s willingness to buy it. To cater for the increase in demand for sugar, slaves started to arrive in Cuba in the early1800s. Cuban history is then taken over by a period known as the First War of Independence (between Spain and the inhabitants of the islands) – which lasted ten adurous years: between 10 October 1868 and 1878.
But those foreign invaiders kept coming, and in 1898 following an explosion of the US warship Maine, the Spanish-American war began. This war would be fairly short by notmal Cuba standards and would end on 12 December 1898.
In more modern times (1903), the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay would be opened – following the US withdrawal from governance of Cuba the year beforehand (1902). During the 1940s and 1950s several outbreaks of civil disobedience occurred which resulted in Fulgencio Batista’s 20-year dictatorship coming to an end on 1 January 1959 – toppled by a young man named Fidel Castro. In 1961 the now infamous “Bay of Pigs” affair occurred. Following on from the Bay of Pigs, in 1962 the Cuban Missile Crisis errupted (said to be the closest we have come to a Third World War). Finally, in 1997 Pope John Paul the Second visited Cuba on his first official visit to this communist island.