This essay reviews the political and economic history of Cuba from the beginnings of Spanish colonization in 1511 to the present day. Spain founded Havana in 1519 and turned the city into its primary port in the Caribbean. For two centuries, starting in the 1530s, the Spanish operated annual convoys (flotas) of ships, loaded with Peruvian and Mexican silver and gold, from Havana to Seville. 

 

             I begin this essay by discussing the links between Spanish silver and French and British pirates in the Caribbean (1520s-1720s). During the 16th century, Spain produced sugar cane in its new colonies of Hispaniola and Cuba. But the production of slave-based sugar in the Caribbean migrated to British Barbados (17thcentury) and to British Jamaica and French Saint-Domingue (18th century). The sugar boom in Cuba began only in the 19th century. The second section of this essay analyzes this shifting pattern of slave-based sugar production in the Caribbean between the 1520s and the 1890s.

             In the third part of the essay, I look into political and economic change in Cuba between 1868 and 1958. I investigate the roles of Cuban nationalists, Spanish colonists, and American interventionists in the formation of the Cuban Republic (1868-1902), the interplay between Cuban political instability and American intervention (1902-1940), the rise and fall of Fulgencio Batista (1940-1958), and the Cuban revolution (1953-1958).

             I end this essay by discussing conflict and adjustment in Cuba since 1959 under the revolutionary governments of Fidel and Raúl Castro. I look at the decade of nationalization and consolidation (1959-1968), the period of Soviet subsidies and

domination (1969-1990), the Special Period of austerity (1991-1998) and tourism-led economic recovery (1999-2005), and the beginnings of economic reform under the leadership of Raúl Castro (2006-present). I append a time line, a bibliography, and a description of the sites that I visited in Cuba.

Arawak Amerindian, Vera Cruz, Jamaica, buccaneers, Morgan, Santiago de Cuba, Ship-based Aboard Le Ponant, Stanford,  Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough, Gran Parque Natural Montemar, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, Bay of Pigs, Cienfuegos, Punta Frances, Isla de la Juventud, Havana, Cuba Family Adventure Land-based, Matanzas, Trinidad, Neighborhood Projects, Performance Groups, Airplane-based, Artemisa Province and Havana I Aboard a TCS and Starquest Expeditions Jet