A Timeline of the Cuban Revolution

Contagious Independence • 1776

America fights and wins independence, allowing them to trade with new countries and colonies. Cuba becomes a major trading partner, and this relationship with the freshly independent United States encourages Cuba to envision a future free from Spain.


Room for Sugar • 1789-1790

Cuban Soldiers

As French revolutionary ideals spread through the French colony of Haiti, slavery is abolished in the colony, thus ending Haiti's leadership in sugar production. Cuba quickly fills the gap, and by the 1820s becomes the world's leading sugar manufacturer. Cuba's economy prospers, sharpening Cubans' desire for independence.


Motherland Control • 1808

As Cuba flourishes, Spain finds itself engulfed in debt from past wars and colonial conflicts. To raise money, Spain looks to booming Cuba, taxing its residents twice as much as Spaniards to alleviate the country's debt.

Taxing the people only spurs dissent in Cuba. To control the burgeoning rebellious attitudes, Spain institutes Captain Generals with absolute power over the Cubans, often censoring rebels and only appointing leaders with allegiance to Spain.


Other Wars • 1860

Haiti and the Dominican Republic join a long list of Caribbean nations who fight for and win independence from colonial powers. Cuba and Puerto Rico remain Spain's only colonies in the region. Cuba is dubbed "the ever-faithful isle." To fund its military losses, Spain imposes exorbitant taxes on the Cuban people.


The Glorious Revolution • 1860

On October 10, 1868, Cuban plantation owner Carlos Manuel Cespedes frees his slaves and proclaims rebellion against Spain, igniting the Ten Years' War. By 1870, the goal of this rebellion becomes clear: Cuban independence and emancipation. Afro-Cubans in eastern Cuba support the effort, which remains isolated in eastern Cuba and does not spread to the richer, whiter, Western Cubans who still hold allegiance to Spain to protect their ability to use slave labor. The Ten Years' War ends in a stalemate with a peace treaty in which Spain promises — but never delivers — some autonomy to Cubans.

October 10 is still a national holiday in Cuba, holding the same significance as our July 4 holiday.


After the War • 1878-1895

After the unsuccessful Ten Years' War, Spain neglects the colony of Cuba. Roads and schools fall into disrepair, and the people grow increasingly poor and desperate.


A Desperate Situation • 1890-1895

In the early 1890s, the world economy enters a major recession. Spain raises taxes on American imports into Cuba and in turn, America raises tariffs on Spanish products enterting the United States from Cuba. The trade relationship between Cuba and the United States ends, devastating the Cuban people further. Cubans perceive their only remaining option to be revolt and seizure of their independence once and for all from Spain.

On February 24, 1895, Cuban revolutionaries in eastern Cuba proclaim Cuba's independence from Spain.


The Revolution • 1895

Jose Marti, beloved Cuban poet and idealist, and Generals Antonio Maceo and Maximo Gomez, veterans of the Ten Years' War, launch a new rebellion. Marti is killed within two weeks, and becomes a martyr to the revolution. He is still claimed by both the Communist party and the radical right as inspiration for a free Cuba.

Because the revolution is supported by the campesinos in the countryside, Spain institutes a policy of Reconcentración. Cubans outside of the fortified cities are given eight days to leave behind all property and 'concentrate' in city camps or be killed on sight. With no infrastructure in place to support the massive numbers of people, an estimated 200,000 Cubans, mostly women and children, die of starvation and disease. Photos of skeletal citizens horrify and galvanize the American populace.


The Play Begins • 1897

Becoming Cuba begins two years into the Cuban revolution. Guerilla warfare proves to benefit the Cuban rebels, and disease alone kills nearly 22% of Spanish military personnel sent to Cuba. A Cuban victory seems possible, but the United States still intervenes in 1897. Shortly after, in 1898, the United States signs the Treaty of Paris with Spain which forces Spain to surrender and grant Cuba independence.

— Meghan Mueller

Calixto García, a general of Cuban rebel forces with American Brigadier General William Ludlow (1898)

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