History of Cuba

A history of Cuba.

Christopher Columbus discovered Cuba on October 27, 1492, and named it Juana in honor of the first born of the Catholic Kings. On that first voyage he surveyed the east part of the island and on his second voyage he traveled along the southern coast advancing far to the west.

However, until his death he believed (or wanted to believe) that Cuba was not an island but was part of the continent. Sebastián Ocampo is believed to be the first person to complete the circumnavigation of the island, carried out in 1509 although already since 1498 it was believed that Cuba was an island as a result of a secret trip attributed to Alonso de Ojeda or Vicente Yañez Pinzón accompanied by Juan de la Cosa.

The circumnavigation by Sebastián Ocampo cleared all doubts about the insularity of Cuba and also cleared the mystery that surrounded it. According to Ocampo, the indigenous population was peaceful, there was good farmland and good bays like Jagua (Cienfuegos) and Havana. This knowledge finally opened the way to the colonization of the island.

The first inhabitants of the island were the Siboneyes and Tainos who lived off hunting and gathering. The culture of these aboriginals was very primitive. They were known to perform rituals, had religious symbols and a very peaceful life. With the arrival of the Spaniards the aboriginals were dying because of the inhumane working conditions.

As the aboriginals were disappearing, Spain brought in black slaves, primarily from Africa. This union of Spaniards with Africans would give rise to a new social class which would become known as Creoles which, with the passing of time, would be today’s Cubans.

Hence the very Cuban expression: “aquí el que no tiene de congo lo tiene de carabalí”
which loosely translates to: “here the one who does not have something of Congo has of Carabali”; to indicate that most Cubans are of African origin.


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