It’s not difficult to understand why a nation would want to undertake the colonization of a country like Cuba. At the time of its discovery, Christopher Columbus believed that there was gold to be found in Cuba. King Ferdinand, the Spanish monarch, immediately acted on this belief. It was one of the important reasons for the colonization of Cuba. To ensure that Cuba remained within his jurisdiction, the king ordered steps to begin the island’s colonization. Further, the Spanish colony of Hispaniola had begun to grow crowded and indigenous workers were scarce. This further heightened Spain’s interest in Cuba.
Up until 1510, due to rebellious uprisings in Hispaniola the governor of Cuba, Diego Columbus, (the son of Christopher Columbus) was unable to establish permanent settlements on the island. Therefore, a Spanish veteran soldier named Diego Velazquez was assigned to carry out the assignment.
With that, the colonization of Cuba began in the summer of 1510.
A greater part of the resistance that Velazquez faced was from the forces led by Hatuey, a Taíno chief who lived on the island of Hispaniola in the early sixteenth century. Hatuey led a group of natives against the Spaniards, waging a guerilla campaign against Velazquez, but was caught and tied to a stake and burned alive.
Velazquez created the first settlement by establishing the town of Cuba in 1511. By the year 1515, he had established a number of other settlements, which included towns like Santiago de Cuba and Havana.
Cuba witnessed bloody atrocities where Spanish troops massacred civilians and destroyed entire villages at times. The aboriginal population was exposed to European diseases, and by 1555 slavery, malnutrition, suicide and overwork had drastically reduced the native population. This caused the Spanish to rely on the Africans, who had been brought, to continue work on their plantations and mines. The island was also exposed to frequent attacks by pirates and rival enemy powers, due to its vulnerable location in the Caribbean Sea.
Under these circumstances, it was surprising that Cuba still prospered in the 16th and 17th century. Although there were strict restrictions against commercial trade, illicit businesses were still operated by the colonists. At the end of the Seven Years’ War in 1763, the British captured Havana. After this, the Cuban policies were liberalized to accommodate and encourage commerce and agriculture. By 1817, there was a definite increase in Cuba’s population and in the following year, all other trade restrictions were purged.
However, the 19th century saw the Spanish rule turn authoritarian. This sparked an independence struggle by the colonists. A black slave rebellion was crushed in 1844. The Spanish-American General Narciso Lopez was put to death during the 1848-51 annexation of the island to the U.S.
Finally, victory was proclaimed when revolutionaries, who were led by Carlos Manuel de Cespedes, declared Cuba independent in 1868. Ten years later, a peace treaty was created by Spain and Cuba. The years 1886 and 1893 saw the abolishment of slavery and the declaration of equality between blacks and whites.