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cuba history .org - History of Cuban Nation


After finishing with the rebellion of Hatuey, Diego Velázuez was determined to begin the conquest and colonization of the rest of the island. And with that purpose he organized his men in groups wich some Indians were incorporated, to use them in the hardest works, as making roads among the dense forests, to load on their backs weapons and tools, and to look for foods.

At the end of 1510, two groups departed from Baracoa: one toward the Indian region of Maniabón (to the north of Holguín) and another toward Bayamo.

Once conquered by the Spaniards the regions of Baracoa, Bayamo and Maniabón, these onces undertook the occupation of the rest of the Cuban territory.

With the foundation of Nuestra Señora de la Asunción of Baracoa in the Oriente of Cuba, in 1511, the Spaniards undertook the establishment of seven villages with the objective of controlling the conquered territory – San Salvador de Bayamo (1513), La Santísima Trinidad, Sancti Spíritus and San Cristóbal de La Havana (1514), Puerto del Principe (1515) - until concluding with Santiago de Cuba (1515), designated the government's headquarters. From these establishments that changed its primitive location mostly, the conquerors began the exploitation of the resources of the Island.

Christianize Aborigine Working

The economic activity was sustained in the work of the natives, delivered them to the colonists for the kingdom by means of the system of "commands", a kind of a granting personal, revocable and not transferable, through which the colonist committed to dress, to feed and to Christianize the aborigine in exchange for the right of making him work in benefit of the prevailing goverment. The dominant economic line in these first years of the colony was the mining, specifically the extraction of gold, activity in which commended Indians were used as well as some black slaves that were integrated from very early to the ethnic conglomerate that centuries later it would constitute the Cuban town.

The quick exhaustion of the gold-bearing sands and the population's drastic reduction in value - included the Spaniards, enlisted in great number in the successive expeditions for the conquest of the continent - transformed to the cattle raising into the principal source of wealth of the Oriente of Cuba and the country in general. For lack of gold, the salted meat and the leathers would be the almost exclusive goods with which the scarce colonists of the Island could incorporate themselves to the commercial circuits of the nascent Spanish empire.

Conceived under mercantilist rigid principles, the imperial trade would be developed as a closed monopoly that managed the Casa de Contratación of Seville, what didn't take in wake the jealous appetites of other European nations.

Corsairs and filibusters French, Dutch and Englishmen razed Caribbean, they captured ships and they plundered cities and towns.

To repel to these attacks the Crown had set two plans in motion, both very favorable for Havana capital, the first one was the System of Fleets or Unique Port, by means of which all the crafts of the Western India (Spanish America) had to leave together to Spain from the Carenas Port formerly (the bay of Havana), what developed a commercial peak without precedents in the city with its population growth and the diversification of its commercial activity for the creation of new jobs.

The second plan was directed to fortify the city, which already had as precedent the construction in 1538 of the second fortress of America and it was named Castillo de la Real Fuerza, at the same time like years later years the bay was protected by fortresses such as El Morro and La Punta.

The Orient of Cuba didn't escape from those attack of pirate: The construction of the Castillo de El Morro in Santiago de Cuba, the Jagua Fortresses, La Cabaña, Atares y El Principe were necessity because of these incidents.

The periodic affluence of merchandisers and traveling, as well as the resources dedicated to finance the construction and defense of the fortifications that, as the Castle of El Morro, guarded the Havanan bay, they would transform into an important source of income for Cuba.

The opinions continue divided among those who affirm it was useful to bring the "civilization" to America and those that when qualifying the event like crash of cultures, asseverate that the annihilation of the indigenous populations and the spoliation of the natural resources has been a high cost, to the point of causing an irreparable damage to this continent where passionate people live, of hot blood and Indian heart, for fortune preserved in other nations where contrary to Cuba the original towns outlived.