Title of Course: Black History 301: The History of Cuba

Instructor: Mba Mbulu

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Class #9: Economic Strangulation

Read the Essay below. Be able to answer and expound on the following questions.

(1) What was Spain's major objective in Cuba, and how did the Cuban people react?
(2) What effect did the collapse of the Spanish empire have on Cuba?
(3) Why did the United States keep Mexico and Venezuela from helping Cuba gain its independence from Spain?
(4) What role did sugar play in the alienation of Cubans from Spain?

Class #9 Essay [Audio Version]

Spain's immediate and most driving objective was to profit from its discovery of the "new world." The enslavement and extermination of the natives were early steps in Spain's drive for profits. These were followed by attempts to control the production and sale of products. In 1586, in Cuba, this meant regulating the sale of money crops, including tobacco. By 1614, Cuba's entire tobacco crop had to be shipped to Spain. In 1715, a monopoly known as the Factoria had been granted the right to purchase all of Cuba's tobacco at a fixed price and then sell it to the highest bidder. In 1740, the same type of monopoly controlled all of Cuba's imports and exports, and before 1800 Span had ended all trade between Cuba and other countries. Enforcements such as these, followed by Cuba's conversion into a one crop (sugar) economy, debilitated and alienated Cuba's working and entrepreneurial classes.

Then Spain's colonial empire began to collapse. In 1794, Toussaint L'Ouverture drove the Spanish out of Haiti. In 1811, Argentina and Venezuela declared their independence, and were quickly followed by Peru, Nicaragua, Honduras, Costa Rica, Guatemala and El Salvador. By 1824, the only two colonies still controlled by Spain in the Americas were Cuba and Puerto Rico. When Mexico and Venezuela made known their plans to support the Cuban struggle for independence, the United States made it clear that it would defend Spain against any such move. The United States, of course, was itself planning to take Cuba away from Spain.

Having lost so much, Spain was more intent than ever on squeezing as much as it could out of Cuba. Having already ended all commercial ventures between Cuba and the United States, Spain began to increase taxes, impose rules that favored Spain's commercial interests and reduce the voice of Cubans in the management of the colony. The key, of course, was sugar. In 1775, Cuba produced only 4,700 tons of sugar. In the early 1800s, a mere ten years after the revolution in Haiti had begun, Cuba's sugar production had increased to 38,000 tons. By 1840, the number of sugar haciendas had doubled and, in the 1850s, production had increased to 350,000 tons. Spain had changed Cuba from a small farm centric agrarian economy to a big business centric one crop economy. This meant more slaves, less economic freedom and fewer liberties for all Cubans. A sense of hostility toward Spain was added to Cuba's feeling of alienation from Spain. Independence, many Cubans concluded, was the answer to their problems.

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