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cuba history .org - History of Cuban Nation

Sugar Boom

Cuba failed to prosper before the 1760s due to Spanish trade regulations. Spain had set up a monopoly in the Caribbean and their primary objective was to protect this. They did not allow the islands to trade with any foreign ships.

Spain was primarily interested in the Caribbean for its gold. The Spanish crown thought that if the colonies traded with other countries it would not itself benefit from it. This slowed the growth of the Spanish Caribbean. This effect was particularly bad in Cuba because Spain kept a tight grasp on it. It held great strategic importance in the Caribbean.

Spain also restricted Cuba's access to the slave trade, which was dominated by the British, French, and Dutch. One important turning point came in the Seven Years' War, when the British conquered the port of Havana and introduced thousands of slaves in a ten month period.

As soon as Spain opened Cuba's ports up to foreign ships, a great sugar boom began that lasted until the 1880s. The Island was perfect for growing sugar. It is dominated by rolling plains, with rich soil, and adequate rainfall.

Another key event was the Haitian Revolution in nearby Saint-Domingue, from 1791 to 1804. Thousands of French refugees, fleeing the slave rebellion in Saint Domingue, brought slaves and expertise in sugar refining and coffee growing into eastern Cuba in the 1790 and early 1800s.

In the 1800s, Cuban sugar plantations became the most important world producer of sugar, thanks to the expansion of slavery and a relentless focus on improving the island's sugar technology. Use of modern refining techniques was especially important because the British abolished the slave trade in 1807 and, after 1815, began forcing other countries to follow suit.

Cubans were torn between the profits generated by sugar and a repugnance for slavery, which they saw as morally, politically, and racially dangerous to their society. By the end of the nineteenth century, slavery was abolished.

However, leading up to the abolition of slavery, Cuba gained great prosperity from its sugar trade. Originally, the Spanish had ordered regulations on trade with Cuba, which kept the island from becoming a dominant sugar producer.

The Spanish were interested in keeping their trade routes and slave trade routes protected. Nevertheless, Cuba's vast size and abundance of natural resources made it an ideal place for becoming a booming sugar producer. When Spain opened the Cuban trade ports, it quickly became a popular place.

New technology allowed a much more effective and efficient means of producing sugar. They began to use water mills, enclosed furnaces, and steam engines to produce a higher quality of sugar at a much more efficient pace than elsewhere in the Caribbean.

The boom in Cuba's sugar industry in the nineteenth century made it necessary for Cuba to improve its means of transportation. Planters needed safe and efficient ways to transport the sugar from the plantations to the ports, in order to maximize their returns.

Many new roads were built, and old roads were quickly repaired. Railroads were built early and changed the way that perishable sugar cane (within one or two days after the cane is cut easily crystallizable sucrose sugar has "inverted" to turn into far less recoverable glucose and fructose sugars) is collected and allowing more rapid and effective sugar transportation.

It was now possible for plantations all over this large island to have their sugar shipped quickly and easily. The prosperity seen from the boom in sugar production is a major reason that Cuban ethnicity became further enriched by new influx of Spanish migrants. Many Spaniards immigrated to Cuba, calling it a place of refuge.