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cuba history .org - History of Cuban Nation

Development and Civilization Stage

At the beginning of the XVII century, the Island of Cuba, that had about 30 000 inhabitants in that moment, was divided in two governments, one in Havana and another in Santiago de Cuba, although the capital settled down in the first one.

Already at the beginning of the XVIII century the all lands were distributed almost in the whole Island, particularly the Westerners and those of the big savannas, but they stayed unproductive and uninhabited. The economic activity grew and it was diversified with the development of the cultivation of the tobacco and the production of sugar cane (1713 - 1720).

The new factories or trapiches were located in the vicinities of the urban centers. In 1740 the Real Company of Trade of Havana was established, the privilege of the control and conduction of the tobacco, sugar them and the trade of Cuba to Spain was granted, like part of the metropolitan control.

A Sugar Mill: Trapiches

The development of the cities and villages were markedly unequal. Havana ended up being by the middle of century, the third city and the first port of the New World with a port and commercial active and bustling life. In 1728 the Real and Papal University of San Gerónimo of Havana and San José's school is founded, that next to the convents of Belén and San Francisco, they impart the teaching in the capital and San Basilio el Magno's Seminar in Santiago de Cuba.

Gradually new towns settled down, in general far from the coasts and the primitive villages grew, where it began to show a more suitable lifestyle and to be practiced frequent amusements, from the games and dances until the bullfights and the “altares de la cruz” altars. About religious activity that, one of the most important things of the social life, it would be architectural important prints, for example: Santa Clara's magnificent Convent.

In this stage, the first social fights in the history of Cuba start to be observed like consequence of the monopolistic measures taken by the Crown accentuated now by the called “Government-licensed tobacconist's” that prohibited the sale from the product to individuals, it placed the price arbitrarily and it established the quantities to buy.

When exploding Seven years’ war, France vs. England, Spain would attack in favor of the first one. This struggle served as scenario so the English forces guided the biggest armada that had crossed Atlantic under the guiding of Sir Jorge Pockock with the objective of taking Havana.

The inefficacy of the Spanish maximum authorities in the defense of the city contrasted with the combative disposition of the Creoles, expressed mainly in José Antonio Gómez figure, valiant captain of militia of the near village of Guanabacoa, dead as a consequence of the combats, and the dead of the Spanish captain don Luís de Velasco when defending the Morro Castle.

August 12 of 1762, the capitulation of the city was signed, the following day the British troops entered triumphant. This occupation lasted eleven months. July 6 of 1763 the Cuba’s government took possession of the country political situation, on behalf of the king of Spain, the lieutenant general Ambrosio de Funes y Villalpando, Count of Ricla. In exchange for the strategic position, the Peninsula of Florida was given to Great Britain.

El Morro in Santiago de Cuba

In the very short period of two year, in Havana the fortresses of El Morro, La Fuerza and La Punta are reconstructed; La Cabaña, Atarés and El Príncipe are built; the bunkers of La Chorrera and Cojímar and La Muralla are modernized. Toward 1774, the system was completed with the amplification of the castles of San Severino in Matanzas and El Morro in Santiago de Cuba.

The foreign trade of the Island was enlarged, at the same time that it improved the interior communications and new towns were fomented as Pinar del Río and Jaruco. Other measures were guided to renovate the governmental management, particularly with the creation of the Intendency and of The Rents Management.

Havana increased the pavimentación and it began the illumination of the streets, it prepared sanitary measures, and it began the construction of the first Havanan walk, La Alameda de Paula; of the first theater, El Principal; and of El Palacio de los Capitanes Generals.

La Alameda de Paula

In this context the first population census (1774) was made which threw the existence about 171 620 inhabitants in Cuba.

Another series of international events contributed to the prosperity of the Island. The first of them, the war of independence of the Thirteen English Colonies of North America, during the one which Spain - participant of the conflict - it approved the trade between Cuba and the rebelled colonists. The importance of this close market would show later few years, during the wars of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Empire, in which Spain was involved with serious damage for its colonial communications.

In those circumstances the trade was authorized with the "neutrals" - United States - and the economy of the Island grew vertiginously, supported in the favorable joint that for the prices of the sugar and the coffe created the revolution of the slaves in neighboring Haiti. The Creole farmers got rich and their splendid power was materialized in institutions that, as the Economic Society of Friends of the Country and the Real Consulate, they channeled their influence in the colonial government.

Led by Francisco de Arango y Parreño, these Creole potentates knew how to take out good party of the political situation unstable and, once restored the Bourbon dynasty in 1814, they obtained important concessions like the freedom of the trade, the desestanco of the tobacco and the possibility of legally securing their agrarian possessions.