Because everyone from veteran Cuba scholars to newly-interested students to my iPad-wielding grandma will be reading this blog, I figured that a timeline of major events in Cuban history, with an emphasis on events that pertain to U.S.-Cuba relations, would be a valuable addition. Whether this is a refresher or completely new information, hopefully it helps put all the other information this blog contains into context!
1492: Christopher Columbus lands in Cuba.
1511: The Spanish conquest of Cuba commences.
1526: The importation of African slaves begins.
1728: The University of Havana is founded. (Muchas gracias to the University for hosting us during our time in Havana!)
1868-1878: The Ten Years' War, or the first war of Cuban independence. It resulted in unmet promises from Spain for changes and a greater degree of autonomy.
1886: Slavery was finally abolished in Cuba.
1895: Struggles for Cuban independence resume, partially under the leadership of Jose Marti - an iconic writer and patriot for all of Latin America, but to his home of Cuba in particular.
March: What we in the U.S. know as the Spanish-American War and what Cubans call the Cuban War of Independence begins. U.S. involvement was sparked by the U.S.S. Maine blowing up in the Havana harbor, the cause of which is still undetermined. The war is so short that it becomes known as Theodore Roosevelt's "Splendid Little War"
December: The Spanish-American War / the Cuban War of Independence ends. The 1898 Treaty of Paris served as a peace agreement as well as transferred control of several previously-Spanish territories (including Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines) to the U.S.
March 1901: In the aftermath of the war, the Platt Amendment passes in the United States. This Amendment outlined stipulations for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Cuba and established a role for the U.S. in Cuba's affairs. The more infamous provisions state:
"That the government of Cuba consents that the United States may exercise the right to intervene for the preservation of Cuban independence, the maintenance of a government adequate for the protection of life, property, and individual liberty,"
"That to enable the United States to maintain the independence of Cuba, and to protect the people thereof, as well as for its own defense, the government of Cuba will sell or lease to the United States lands necessary for coaling or naval stations at certain specified points to be agreed upon with the President of the United States."
Thus, though the Platt Amendment purported to be protecting "Cuban independence," it allowed the U.S. to take actions to determine the nature of this new "independence."
1934: Many provisions of the Platt Amendment were repealed as a part of the "Good Neighbor Policy" - U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt's platform for hemispheric relations.
March 1952: Former Cuban president Batista seizes power in a military coup.
July 26th: Fidel Castro and others attack the Moncada Barracks in the city of Santiago de Cuba to protest Batista's seizure of power. Castro named his subsequent revolutionary movement 26th of July in commemoration of this event.
October 16: Fidel Castro makes his famous speech, "History Will Absolve Me" during his trial for his attacks.
November 1954: Batista disbands the Cuban parliament.
May 1955: Fidel and other survivors of the July 26th attack are granted amnesty by Batista and are released from prison. Fidel goes to Mexico with his brother Raul, future Revolutionary commander Camilo Cienfuegos and others. There, they meet future Revolutionary commander Ernesto "Che" Guevara, originally from Argentina.
December 2nd, 1956: The yacht Granma arrives in the Cuban Oriente province from Mexico with around eighty Cuban revolutionaries aboard. They begin their guerrilla fighting in the Sierra Maestra mountains.
1958: The U.S. suspends military aid to Cuban leader Fulgencio Batista as a reaction to his brutal tactics.
January 1st: Fulgencio Batista leaves the seat of power and flees Cuba as Fidel's revolutionaries enter Havana. As Cubans would say, the Revolution triumphed.
May 17th: Fidel signs the Agrarian Reform Act in Cuba, which gives land titles to 200,000 peasants, bans farmlands over 1,000 acres and prevents foreigners from being able to own land.
1960: A diplomatic tug-of-war ensues. Due to Cold War sentiments, U.S. refineries in Cuba refuse to refine Soviet oil. In response, Cuba nationalizes refineries of Shell, Texaco, and Esso. In response to this, the Congress in the U.S. scraps Cuba's remaining sugar quota. In response to this, Cuba nationalizes all companies and properties of the U.S. Later, Cuba also nationalized U.S. banks and the sugar forsaken by the U.S. was bought by the Soviet Union. In October, the United States enacts a partial trade embargo against Cuba, and Cuba responds by seizing more U.S.-owned properties.
The U.S. ceases diplomatic relations with Cuba, and a years-long exodus of Cubans (largely upper-class, businessmen, and professionals) to the U.S. begins. The U.S. expands its trade embargo.
April 15th: President Kennedy launches the Bay of Pigs operation, in which over one thousand Cuban exiles land at the Bay of Pigs, attempting to stir up counterrevolutionary sentiments. They were defeated in three days by Cuban forces.
November 30th: Operation Mongoose, a secret CIA project to assassinate Fidel Castro, is approved by President Kennedy.
October 14th, 1962: The Cuban Missile Crisis. U.S. planes flying over Cuba take photographs which show Soviet missile sites being constructed.
1976: A new Cuban constitution is enacted, wherein Cuba is officially declared a socialist state.
1990: The Special Period, a decade of hardship. What Fidel referred to as a "special period in a time of peace" begins as the Cuban economy is crippled due to the collapse of the Soviet Union. This period is marked by severe rationing and shortages, but also spurred world-renowned innovations in urban and organic agriculture.
October 1992: The Torricelli bill, passed by the U.S. Congress, banned ships trading with Cuba from visiting U.S. ports for six months after, and banned U.S. subsidiaries operating in other countries from investing in or trading with Cuba.
March 1996: The Helms-Burton Act, passed by U.S. Congress, strengthened the embargo against Cuba by expanding it to foreign companies that trade with Cuba.
November 2001: The U.S. exports food to Cuba for the first time in decades after the Cuban government requests aid in the aftermath of a hurricane.
February 2008: Fidel Castro steps down and his brother, Raul, comes to power. Several major reforms, such as lifting the prohibition of private ownership of mobile phones and computers, are made.