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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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Spanish Actor Javier Bardem Will Be Playing Cuban Entertainer Desi Arnaz in a New Movie and Fans Wish Hollywood Cast a Latino Instead

Entertainment

Spanish Actor Javier Bardem Will Be Playing Cuban Entertainer Desi Arnaz in a New Movie and Fans Wish Hollywood Cast a Latino Instead

Images via Getty

Recently, it was announced that Amazon studios will be producing a movie based on the lives of groundbreaking Old Hollywood power couple Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. According to reports, Nicole Kidman is set to play Ball while Spanish actor Javier Bardem will be playing Arnaz.

Seeing as Arnaz is widely viewed as one of the first Latino actors to achieve mainstream success in the United States, this news was positive for many. But for others, the news was less than ideal.

Some critics are lambasting the decision to cast Bardem as Arnaz, seeing that Bardem was born and raised in Spain, and is therefore not Latino.

One disgruntled Twitter user wrote: “I guess it’s really hard to find a Cuban actor so you have to hire a Spaniard…Whitewashing can happen to Latinos too.”

The criticism around Hollywood relying on Spanish actors and actresses to play Latino roles is not a new one. For years, Spanish actors like Antonio Banderas, Penelope Cruz, and Paz Vega have played Latino characters in American movies. The preponderance of this phenomenon have led some people to accuse Hollywood of “white washing” Latino characters by casting Spanish actors.

Antonio Banderas is one of the most famous examples of a Spanish actor who built his career off of playing Latinos.

He has played Latinos for so long that many people think he is, in fact, Latino. But when he was erroneously called a “person of color” by American publications when he was nominated for an Oscar in 2020, there was quiet the outcry in Spain.

Spanish publications condemned American media for having an “absurd obsession” with race, and not understanding that Spaniards are, in fact, white.

Publications wrote arguments like: “Banderas might pass as a Latino ‘person of color,’ to an Arkansas farmer, great-grandson of Germans, but never to a California delivery man born to Guatemalan immigrants.”

To some observers, it seems that Hollywood prefers casting Europeans as Latinos because Hollywood sees Europe as more “sophisticated” than Latinidad.

25-year-old Spaniard Juan Pedro Sánchez, summed up the problem on Twitter, saying: “A lot of people in Spain are bothered if others confuse them for Latin American because Spaniards see Latinos as people of color, and they don’t want to be associated with that.”

He went on to say: “What bothers me is not being considered a person of color, but that people ignore that Spain was a colonizer country. It erases that history.”

The bottom line is, fans are frustrated that Hollywood keeps looking to European actors to cast Latin American characters.

Study after study shows that there is still a stubborn lack of representation for Latinos onscreen. And when there is finally a role that puts a Latino character front and center, Hollywood prefers to hire a European actor over a Latino one.

Javier Bardem is an exceptionally talented actor and there’s no doubt that he will tackle the role of Desi Arnaz with creativity and dedication–but fans’ frustrations at the casting choice doesn’t have to do with Bardem’s acting capabilities. It has to do with the all of the ways that Latinos are discounted–including professionally.

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Trump Labels Cuba A State Sponsor Of Terrorism As His Own Supporters Face Similar Allegations

Things That Matter

Trump Labels Cuba A State Sponsor Of Terrorism As His Own Supporters Face Similar Allegations

Yander Zamora/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

In a move that is sure to complicate things for the incoming Biden administration, Trump has moved to put Cuba back on the list of nations that allegedly sponsor terrorism.

Obama had taken Cuba off of that list in 2015 and with four years to Cuba back on the list, many agree that Trump has simply put Cuba back on the list to make life difficult for President Biden.

The Trump administration has put Cuba back on the list of countries that “sponsor terrorism.”

With just days left in office, Trump has moved to label Cuba as a “state sponsor of terrorism” in a last-minute move that is sure to complicate things for the incoming Biden administration.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo justified the controversial move which reverses Barack Obama’s 2015 decision to remove Cuba from the list after more than three decades – by accusing Havana of “repeatedly providing support for acts of international terrorism in granting safe harbour to terrorists”.

Pompeo also alleged Cuba was engaging “in a range of malign behavior across the region”, highlighting its support for Venezuela’s authoritarian leader Nicolás Maduro who Trump has unsuccessfully tried to overthrow.

The controversial step places Cuba alongside Iran, North Korea and Syria as state sponsors of terror.

However, most officials agree that Trump’s claims about Cuba are bogus.

Many international observers – including U.S. allies – aren’t impressed by the administration’s claims that Cuba is sponsoring terrorism.

In an interview with The Guardian, Christopher Sabatini, a senior fellow for Latin America at Chatham House, said “These are trumped up charges. Terrorism as an international definition is committing acts of violence against unarmed civilians intended to frighten the population. Cuba doesn’t do that. Yes, it represses its own people – but so does Saudi Arabia.”

Groups that favor greater U.S. engagement with Cuba criticized the announcement.

“There is no compelling, factual basis to merit the designation,” according to Ric Herrero, executive director of the Cuba Study Group, a Washington DC-based organization that supports engagement with the island. “Instead it appears to be another shameless, last-ditch effort to hamstring the foreign policy of the incoming Biden administration and set the stage for the next election in Florida, all at the expense of the Cuban people and relations between our countries.”

Many observers agree that Trump’s move is simply a gift to party hardliners in Florida, and likely a deliberate attempt to make life difficult for the incoming Biden administration who may wish to end deténte with Cuba.

Of course, Cuban officials reacted angrily to the announcement.

After the announcement, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez tweeted: “We condemn the US announced hypocritical and cynical designation of #Cuba as a State sponsoring terrorism. The US political opportunism is recognized by those who are honestly concerned about the scourge of terrorism and its victims.”

Reversing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s action would require the Biden administration to certify to Congress that there has been a fundamental change in leadership in Cuba and that the government is not supporting acts of international terrorism, has not for the previous six months and will not do so in the future.

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