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History of Cuba



plantation agriculture, mining, and the export of sugar, coffee, and tobacco to Europe and later to North America. The work was done primarily by African slaves brought to the island.

The small land-owning elite of Spanish settlers held social and economic powers supported by a population of Spaniards born on the island (Criollos), other Europeans, and African-descended slaves. The population in 1817 was 630,980, of which 291,021 were white, 115,691 free black, and 224,268 black slaves.

Independence wars

In the 1820s, when the rest of Spain's empire in Latin America rebelled and formed independent states, Cuba remained loyal. Although there was agitation for independence, the Spanish Crown gave Cuba the motto La Siempre Fidelísima Isla ("The Always Most Faithful Island"). This loyalty was due partly to Cuban settlers' dependence on Spain for trade, their desire for protection from pirates and against a slave rebellion, and partly because they feared the rising power of the United States more than they disliked Spanish rule.

Ten Years' War

Independence from Spain was the motive for a rebellion in 1868 led by Carlos Manuel de Céspedes. De Céspedes, a sugar planter, freed his slaves to fight with him for a free Cuba. On 27 December 1868, he issued a decree condemning slavery in theory but accepting it in practice and declaring free any slaves whose masters present them for military service. The 1868 rebellion resulted in a prolonged conflict known as the Ten Years' War.

Two thousand Cuban Chinese joined the rebels. There is a monument in Havana that honours the Cuban Chinese who fell in the war, on which is inscribed: There was not one Cuban Chinese deserter, not one Cuban Chinese traitor.

The United States declined to recognize the new Cuban government, although many European and Latin American nations did so. In 1878, the Pact of Zanjón ended the conflict, with Spain promising greater autonomy to