Things That Matter

Here’s How Cuba’s Tumultuous History Forced A Cuban Diaspora That Changed The World

One of the most complicated histories of any Latin American country has to be that of Cuba. From its colonization to its decades-long dictator, Cuba has endured a painful and passionate battle with leadership. The people of Cuba, however, have been and remain the adoring champion of their country, regardless of who was at the helm. Here’s a look back at how the Cuba we know now came to be.

The colonization of Cuba by Christopher Columbus.

CREDIT: Instagram/#ChristopherColumbus

The Ciboney are the first people to inhabit the island of Cuba, and they are part of the indigenous group named Taíno from the Caribbean. In 1492 Christopher Columbus arrived in Cuba and claimed the island for Spain. In 2014, a DNA study conducted on the people living in Cuba showed that their genetic ancestry is made up of 72 percent European, 20 percent African and 8 percent Native American.


The Spanish conquest of Cuba follows.

CREDIT: Unsplash

Now that Spain has taken over Cuba, in 1510 the Spanish conquest begins under the leadership of Diego de Velazquez, who establishes Baracoa and other settlements.

The first African slaves arrive in Cuba in the 1520s.

CREDIT: Unsplash

Between 1526-1527, more than 600,000 Africans were forcibly taken to Cuba and thousands of them did not survive the journey over the Atlantic. According to Traces of the Trade, between the 1780s and the 1860s, the slave population increased from 39,000 to 400,000. The primary source of labor for the slaves was sugarcane and coffee crops.

British interference.

CREDIT: Unsplash

In 1763, a British force took hold of the Havana port and for a ten-month period brought in thousands of more slaves that would work the sugarcanes. The Brits eventually conceded and gave up Havana back to Spain.

The Ten Years War and end of slavery.

CREDIT: Instagram/@irector_2015

Cuban-born planters and other wealthy natives fought to gain control of Cuba from Spain between 1868–1878. The war ended when Spain promised that the natives would have more control over the land, which never honestly took shape. Those actions, however, led to the end of Slavery in 1886.

Author and activist Jose Marti started second fight for independence.

CREDIT: Instagram/@espoir_dina

Cuban activist Jose Marti led the second war of independence in 1895. Despite being killed during the battle with Spanish troops, Marti left behind volumes of writings. In one such piece titled “The Spanish Republic and the Cuban Revolution,” he wrote that Cubans had to be independent of Spain because Cuban people have a different culture than the Spanish. “Cubans do not live as Spaniards live…They are nourished by a different system of trade, have links with different countries, and express their happiness through quite contrary customs. There are no common aspirations or identical goals linking the two peoples, or beloved memories to unite them…Peoples are only united by ties of fraternity and love.”

The birth of the Communist Party quickly changed the political landscape of Cuba.

CREDIT: Wikipedia: Sergeant Fulgencio Batista

Diego Vicente Tejer founded the Socialist Party in Cuba in 1899, and would later join the Cuban National Party. This movement in Havana led to the formation of the Communist Party in 1925, which in turn led to Sergeant Fulgencio Batista leading a coup to overthrow the General and President of Cuba Gerardo Machado.

The rise of Fidel Castro marks a troubling change.

CREDIT: Wikipedia: Fidel Castro

In 1953, activist and law student Fidel Castro had one central target in mind. He teamed up with rebellion groups with the sole purpose to overthrow the Batista regime. His first attempt, however, would be unsuccessful.


Fidel and Che start plotting a bloody coup.

CREDIT: @CdVinEnglish / Twitter

After Castro’s failed attempt at overthrowing the government, he fled to Mexico. That is when he first met Argentine Marxist-Leninist Che Guevara in 1956. Castro liked Guevara’s approach and his duality as a doctor and a solider. In the book titled “Fidel: A Biography of Fidel Castro,” Castro said Guevara was more of an advanced revolutionary than he. Together they plotted to overthrow Batista, but this time with a small group and strategy.

Castro successfully overthrows the Batista regime.

CREDIT: Unsplash

In 1959, together with a 9,000-strong guerrilla army, Castro, Guevara and Castro’s brother Raúl, force Batista to not only give up his reign in Cuba but to flee. Castro then declares himself prime minister, his brother, Raúl, becomes his deputy and Guevara becomes third in command.

The ’60s usher in a trying time for the Cuban people.

CREDIT: Unsplashed

Cuba’s chaotic climate within its government led the U.S. to stop providing military aid, which certainly didn’t help Batista during Castro’s coup. These occurrences gave way to an unsettled relationship between the U.S. and Cuba. In 1961, the U.S. ended all diplomatic relations with Havana. The Bay of Pigs only made matters worse. Castro then proclaimed Cuba a communist state and began an allied relationship with Russia.

Cuba’s new leader cracks down on the country.

CREDIT: Unsplash

With Castro as the new leader, the lives of the Cuban people changed drastically and with devastating results.

The mass exodus.

CREDIT: Unsplash

On April 20, 1980, Castro directed anyone that wishes to leave the island, free to do so and can aboard the Mariel Boatlift. More than 125,000 Cubans left to the U.S., however, many of those on board were also prisoners who were released. According to History.com, of those 125,000 “more than 1,700 were jailed, and another 587 were detained until they could find sponsors.” Decades before, shortly after Castro took power, thousands of Cubans fled across the globe to escape a regime responsible for countless deaths and disappearances.

The capture, and international crisis, of Elian Gonzalez.

CREDIT: Wikipedia: Elian Gonzalez

In 1999, Elizabeth Brotons Rodríguez, her child Elian, and a few others fled Cuba on a boat to the U.S. The boat capsized, and she drowned. Elián and two others survived after fishers had rescued them. They arrived on U.S. soil where U.S. officials handed Elián over to his relatives in Miami. Elián’s father in Cuba, who was divorced from his mother, wanted his son back. U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno ordered Elián to return to his father, but the relatives in Miami did not give him up. Federal agents had to enter their home and forcefully get Elián away from his relatives. Elián became a symbol of Cubans wishing to leave Cuba and Castro’s dictatorship to force his people to live under his rule. Years later, as an adult, Elián said in an interview that he never regretted leaving the U.S. for Cuba, but that one day he would like to return “to give my love to the American people”.

Cuban exiles and immigrants take their culture to free socities around the world.

CREDIT: Instagram/@gloriaestefan

Aside from Cuba’s infamous leaders such as Marti and Castro, Cuba has many other famous Cubans including artist Gloria Estefan, her husband Emilio Estefan. Also, singer Celia Cruz, actor Andy García, baseball player Jose Canseco, and artist Pitbull. There are many Cubans responsible for taking their culture and introducing the sounds of salsa and the taste of sofrito far and wide in the world.

Cuban cuisine makes a splash internationally.

CREDIT: Instagram/@cuballama

Cuban sandwiches are probably the most instantly recognized of Cuban foods, but have you ever tried ropa vieja? Shredded beef, white rice, green olives, avocados, and tostones, it’s the best.

Fidel hands the country over to his brother Raúl continuing the Castro dynasty on the island.

CREDIT: Unsplash

In 2006, Fidel’s brother Raúl Castro takes over presidential duties of Cuba after Fidel recovers from his medical issues. It wasn’t for another two years that Fidel officially resigned and that his brother took over as appointed President by the National Assembly.

Obama visits Cuba opening relations after decades of strained relations.

CREDIT: Unsplash

In 2014, the U.S. and Cuba began diplomatic talks and re-established their new relationship. Two years later, for the first time in 88 years, a U.S. president visited Cuba. President Barack Obama visited the country for three days.

Cuba re-opens its door to the U.S.

CREDIT: Unsplash

While some travel restrictions initially applied between the U.S. and Cuba, the country opened its door to American tourists for the first time in decades.

The death of Fidel Castro was celebrated by Cuban exiles around the world.

CREDIT: Instagram/@federico.miceli.9

On No. 25, 2016, Fidel Castro succumbed to his death at the age of 90. In 2018, a new era began in Cuba with the announcement of new president Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, who was hand-picked by Raúl Castro, furthering the Castro regime. Fidel’s death was welcomed news in Cuabn exile communities aroud the world hoping for a return to democracy and freedom in Cuba.


READ: 25 Odd Facts About Cuba To Know Before You Visit

Share this story with all of your friends by tapping that little share button below!

Trump Administration Just Deported 120 Cubans On A Single Plane

Things That Matter

Trump Administration Just Deported 120 Cubans On A Single Plane

@JusticiaLealtv / Twitter

We can’t imagine what the energy or conversations might have felt like on the ICE plane that deported 120 Cuban immigrants in one fell swoop. Many of the deportees had reportedly passed credible fear interviews, during which they showed proof of the violence and persecution they would face if they were sent back. This deportation is one of the largest deportation missions of Cuban immigrants in years. 

While Trump is the current president allowing for deportation, President Barack Obama is responsible for removing deportation protections from Cuban nationals, an agreement signed during his last days in office.

“South Florida should be up in arms,” immigration attorney, Randy McGrorty said.

Credit: Catholic Legal Services Archdiocese of Miami, Inc. / Facebook

One of his clients is a Cuban national who sought asylum in the U.S. through the Mexico border. McGrorty told The Miami Herald that his client was on that flight to Havana, but an eleventh-hour paperwork glitch allowed him to be removed from the plane. In a statement, ICE said that “ten special response team operators” were assigned to the flight given “the charter flight’s high number of removals” in order to “ensure adequate mission security onboard the flight.”

The majority of those on the flight didn’t have assigned attorneys.

Credit: @Power1051 / Twitter

The Miami Herald cites “ICE sources” who have said that the majority of those on the flight had passed credible fear interviews. Those interviews are simply the first entry point to being granted permission to apply for asylum, but it doesn’t mean they’re granted asylum. We can’t predict if they would have been deported had they been given attorneys. We don’t know whether the deported group were made up of recent migrants or long-time residents.

President Obama signed the “Joint Agreement” during his last week in office that requires Cuba to accept all deported Cuban nationals.

Credit: @Niketa2007 / Twitter

Word for word, the document says, “The United States of America shall return to the Republic of Cuba, and the Republic of Cuba shall receive back all Cuban nationals who … are found by the competent authorities of the United States to have tried to irregularly enter or remain in that country in violation of United States law.” Effectively, it ended the “wet foot, dry foot” policy that allowed Cubans to be granted protections the moment they were on U.S. land. Those Cubans had the opportunity to gain legal residency.

Before the “Joint Agreement,” Cuba had a history of rejecting deportees from America, forcing the U.S. to fly the deportees back.

Credit: @albertodelacruz / Twitter

The ICE statement continues to explain that, “the large removal charter is made all the more significant given Cuba’s longstanding status with respect to accepting the return of Cuban nationals ordered removed from the United States and abiding by key provisions of the U.S.-Cuba Joint Statement. Cuba has a long history of being deemed an uncooperative country.”

As the U.S. relations with Cuba have changed, Cuba continues to remain a communist Castro regime.

Credit: @velvethehammer / Twitter

Fidel may have perished, but the regime remains strong. “Let’s see what happens to them upon arrival,” McGrorty told The Miami Herald. “Are they going to have access to employment, a place to live? Are they going to have benefits that the other Cubans have? Are they going to face persecution?” Cuba has historically rejected accepting its nationals back because of their public criticism against Castro, or even because they’re age might be a burden on the country’s healthcare. 

More than 37,000 Cubans in the U.S. have been given orders of removal.

Credit: @noticias24 / Twitter

Several attorneys confided in The Miami Herald on the basis of anonymity to raise awareness for a settled community in the U.S. facing persecution. Their clients have lived in South Florida for decades, remaining in compliance with their attendance orders from ICE, and, today, are sitting in detention centers awaiting a decision from Cuba on whether it will accept them back. Cuba can take as long as 90 days to make that decision, given that “The Joint Agreement” only applies to those Cuban nationals that immigrate after the January 12, 2017 accord. 

Cubans make up the largest number of asylum seekers right now.

Credit: @JusticiaLealTV / Twitter

Venezuelans and Nicaraguans take the second and third place in asylum-seeking. Compared to Trump’s first year in office, there have been 4.5x as many Cubans deported so far this year. It doesn’t matter how long Cuban nationals have been in the U.S. If they have a criminal record, they are likely going to be deported, and, now, suddenly, Cuba may actually accept them.

READ: More Cubans Are Being Detained And Deported One Year After ‘Wet Foot, Dry Foot’ Was Eliminated

Cuban Professional Ballet Dancers Are Paid $30 Per Month, That’s The Same Amount Doctors Are Paid On The Island

Culture

Cuban Professional Ballet Dancers Are Paid $30 Per Month, That’s The Same Amount Doctors Are Paid On The Island

There are a lot of beautiful things that come to mind when you think of Cuba. Cuisine, art, history… rum. But few know that the small island in the Caribean is also home to one of the most celebrated arts in the world. As it turns out, when it comes to dancem the Cuban Ballet Company brings pretty much world-class standard to the art of ballet. 

So next time you want to impress a hottie with your worldly knowledge, maybe throw a few of our obscure facts out and watch them swoon over your smarts.

1. It was founded in 1948.

Instagram / @balletnacionaldecubaoficial

The official founding date of the Cuban Ballet Company is October 28, 1948. 

2. The official school for the company is the Cuban National Ballet School.

Instagram / @balletnacionaldecubaoficial

While the Cuban National Ballet School isn’t technically the Cuban Ballet Company, the two are pretty much intertwined. It means that students from the School can usually take it for granted that once they graduate, they can begin dancing for the Company.

3. The Cuban Ballet Company was founded by a husband and wife duo.

Instagram / @balletnacionaldecubaoficial

Prima ballerina Alicia Alonso and her husband, Alberto, were the founders for “Ballet Alicia Alonso.” Two years later, the two also established “Alicia Alonso Academy of Ballet.” By 1956, the pair saw their businesses transformed into the Cuban Ballet Company and Cuban National Ballet School, respectively. It’s worth noting that while the two of them founded the Company and School, Alicia Alonso has been the real driving force behind them.

4. Dancers in the company earn $30 a month.

Instagram / @balletnacionaldecubaoficial

Since it’s a communist regime, Cuban doctors and skilled workers earn the same amount.

5. The National Ballet School provides courses for international students.

Instagram / @balletnacionaldecubaoficial

This is a must-know for any of you who want to study ballet professionally. The International Dance Program is directed by Alicia Alonso herself! 

6. The Cuban Ballet Company incorporates Latin American culture into its dance techniques.

Instagram / @balletnacionaldecubaoficial

Apparently, the Cuban dance form draws from its Ibero-America, Caribbean roots.

7. Unlike a lot of other countries, both the Cuban Ballet Company and the National Ballet School are funded by the state.

Instagram / @balletnacionaldecubaoficial 

And it has been since 1959 when Fidel Castro took control of Cuba.

8. That being said, the Company and School weren’t always so talented.

Instagram / @balletnacionaldecubaoficial 

Despite the fact that the two were regarded as highly artistic and talented cohorts, they struggled for money during their early years. Before 1959, they had to make ends meet without any assistance from the state.

9. Over the years, the Cuban Ballet Company has performed the likes of “Giselle,” “The Swan Lake,” and “Coppélia.”

Instagram / @balletnacionaldecubaoficial

In doing so, the Company both choreographed and performed completely new versions of these classics. Impressive, no?

10. Students for the National Ballet School are handpicked by the Ballet itself.

Instagram / @balletnacionaldecubaoficial

Talent scouts travel the country searching for new talent, searching for gifted students in over 14 provinces.

11. The School follows strict criteria when it seeks new students.

Instagram / @balletnacionaldecubaoficial 

Gifted students are usually trained from childhood. In order to be eligible, these kids must have good musicality, the right body proportions, and the ability to follow simple steps.

12. The National Ballet School doesn’t just teach dance.

Instagram / @balletnacionaldecubaoficial

Once students have been accepted into the School, they typically dance from 7 am to 1:30 pm. Afterward, they then learn the French language, piano, how to read music, folklore, and a whole array of different dances.

13. It takes eight years to graduate from the National Ballet School.

Instagram / @balletnacionaldecubaoficial 

So, if you ever get the chance to see the Cuban Ballet Company, know that they’ve worked very hard to get where they are today!

14. The National Ballet School turns out 40 students per year.

Instagram / @balletnacionaldecubaoficial

Imagine graduating from your school, knowing there are only 39 other students graduating at the same time as you. Wild.

15. The Cuban Ballet Company has created more than 600 works.

Instagram / @balletnacionaldecubaoficial

And it’s also performed in more 60 countries worldwide. Having the Cuban Ballet Company on your resume is seen as a huge plus if you’re a ballet dancer, as it’s pretty much considered to be the top echelon of ballet training and professionalism. 

16. On its 50th anniversary, the Ballet and Alicia Alonso were awarded Lazaro Pena Order.

Instagram / @balletnacionaldecubaoficial

Given to the Alonso by Castro himself, this is the highest civil decoration that is given in Cuba.

17. While the Ballet is highly regarded in Cuba, that doesn’t mean it hasn’t had its defections.

Instagram / @balletnacionaldecubaoficial

The Cuban Ballet Company traveled to the US for the first time in 2003. It was during this time that five members defected, as they sought to join American ballet troupes instead.

18. Believe it or not, but Alicia Alonso still directs The Nutcracker at the Valencia Main Theatre.

Instagram / @balletnacionaldecubaoficial

She’s literally 98 years old, almost blind, and is still the general director of the Ballet. What. A. Woman. Granted, while there have been calls to have someone else take over, Alonso keeps on with her work. Chances are, she’s never really been held back by the fact that she’s almost blind – Alonso has been working with an eye condition throughout her entire life. 

19. The Cuban Ballet Company performs to cheering crowds.

Instagram / @balletnacionaldecubaoficial

Everyone knows Cubans know how to tur up. And it’s the same when the dancers perform. This is largely due to the fact that the arts are highly regarded in Cuba. 

20. A documentary was made about the Cuban Ballet Company.

PBS / Mirror Dance

Well, sort of. “Mirror Dance” follows the lives of Cuban-born identical twins, Ramona and Margarita de Saá, as they navigate their roles in the Ballet and international politics. In fact, Ramona is currently the director of the Escuela Nacional de Ballet in Cuba.

21. Did we mention that the Cuban Ballet Company founder Alicia Alonso is a Prima Ballerina Assoluta?

Instagram / @balletnacionaldecubaoficial

For those of you who need to brush up on your ballet terms, “Prima Ballerina Assoluta” is a rare title awarded to ballet dancers who have had a prestigious international career, or have given exceptional service to a particular ballet company. While there’s no universal procedure for awarding the title, usually a ballet company, government or head of state is responsible for recognizing the efforts of the ballet dancer in question. And Alicia Alonso? She’s had such a long, storied ballet career, it’s undeniable that she epitomizes the role of a Prima Ballerina Assoluta.

22. The Cuban Ballet Company’s principal venue can be found in Havana.

Instagram / @balletnacionaldecubaoficial

The Great Theatre of Havana is where a lot of the Company’s performances can be seen. As much as it’s a huge effort to have to travel to Havana to see the Company in action, we can imagine that their familiarity with the stage must make their performances that much more amazing!

23. The Cuban Ballet Company is known as the “Ballet Nacional de Cuba” in Spanish.

Instagram / @balletnacionaldecubaoficial

It makes sense, really, since it’s the top tier ballet company in Cuba.

24. The founder of the Cuban Ballet Company was still dancing into her 70s.

Instagram / @balletnacionaldecubaoficial

Alicia Alonso gave her last performance in 1993 when she was 72.

25. Some of the very first dancers at the Cuban National Ballet School include Ernesto Alvarez, Sadaise Arencibia, Elier Bourzac, and Joel Carreno.

Instagram / @balletnacionaldecubaoficial

If you couldn’t guess, these dancers are a very big deal when it comes to ballet.

Which fact surprised you the most? Let us know on our Facebook page – you can find it by clicking on the logo at the top of the page.