A reflection on Cuba’s first 467 years, before the arrival of totalitarian darkness

Independence Day in Havana, Cuba on May 20, 1902

On Cuba’s Independence Day, Notes from the Cuban Exile Quarter reflects on nearly a half-century of Cuban history, before the arrival of totalitarian darkness.

Cuba Independence Day 2023: A reflection on the first 467 years

 Before the arrival of the totalitarian darkness

One hundred and twenty one years ago today at noon the flag of the United States was brought down and the Cuban flag raised over Havana as Cuba became an independent republic. However, when looking at Cuba one should look back over the first 467 years and where it is situated today to gain greater understanding of the unfolding tragedy.

Cuba is just 90 miles south of the United States with a population of approximately 11 million people. It is 780 miles long and has a land area of 40,369 square miles and is the largest island in the Caribbean and 17th-largest island in the world by land area.

Columbus’s second stop in the New World was on October 28, 1492 when he landed in Cuba. (The first place he landed on October 12 was the Bahamas). Cuba was a Spanish colony from Columbus’s landing in 1492 until 1898 when Spain lost Cuba in the Spanish-American War.

Cubans engaged in two protracted wars of independence. The first was the 10 Years War that took place between 1868 and 1878 and the second took place between 1895 and 1898 ending with U.S. intervention and a 4-year occupation that ended on May 20, 1902. Cuba’s first president was a Cuban exile named Tomas Estrada de Palma.

There are many important figures and entities that emerge in the 19th century but for the sake of brevity will mention Father Felix Varela, Jose Marti, Antonio Maceo, Maximo Gomez and the Bacardi family.

Father Varela was a catholic priest who is said to “have taught the Cubans how to think” and entertained ideas of independence that led to his exile to the United States.

Antonio Maceo and Maximo Gomez were Cuban generals that played important roles in both wars of independence. Antonio Maceo was of a mixed racial background: part Spanish and part African.

Maximo Gomez, was an experienced military man of Dominican origin who oversaw the overall military campaign in the second war of independence and of the three previously mentioned was the only one who survived the war to see the arrival of the Republic.

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1 thought on “A reflection on Cuba’s first 467 years, before the arrival of totalitarian darkness”

  1. Totalitarian darkness did not come from nothing or out of nowhere. It never does. What was indispensable to it was already in place, like it always is. That was not Fidel Castro’s doing or fault; he simply used it.

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