Cuba was once ruled by Spain. They obtained their independence in 1902. In the wake of that independence, they were economically hamstrung and blighted by corrupt governments.
Congress in the United States passed the Platt Amendment which granted the US the right to use military intervention to protect Cuban interests. This maneuver led to the USA trying to dictate what Cuba was allowed to do.
President after president failed to create a truly free and prosperous Cuba and the people were disheartened. Corruption overran everything else. As Cuba attempted to gain their sea legs the USA promptly cut them off. The then US Ambassador, Sumner Wells, made a deal with Fulgencio Batista who become president in 1940.
Batista made the people of Cuba hopeful once more. He ushered in a progressive type of governance whereby the Cuban Communist Party was allowed to join the government. That proved to be his undoing.
A young attorney by the name of Fidel Castro was waiting in the wings. He had previously tried to overthrow Batista’s government but did not quite complete the job. He promised to create anything but a Marxist type of government stating that “…Our political philosophy is representative democracy and social justice in a well-planned economy.” However, that was short-lived.
Fidel and his cronies called Cuba a “..brothel of the western hemisphere…”. I was born a few years after the 1959 Fidel Castro Coup in Cuba. It changed Cuba and the world forever. Prior to that, Cuba was one of the most progressive and successful countries in Latin America.
Cuba then was ranked third for life expectancy, second for car ownership and telephones, first for television sets per household, eleventh for the number of doctors, fourth for their literacy rate, and fifth per capita for income. The middle class was thriving. That came to a screeching halt when Fidel Castro took the reins.
Pre-1959 Cuba had top-notch hotels and restaurants, and beautiful beaches, and her people were prosperous and happy. Rich jetsetters, socialites, celebrities, and debutantes found Cuba a fertile hunting ground for all forms of fun and frivolity. Frank Sinatra, Ava Gardner, Dean Martin, Ernest Hemingway, and any number of American mobsters frequented this paradise.
Cuba set the stage for Las Vegas to evolve. Myer Lansky and Santo Trafficante found Cuba an attractive place to do business. Doing business in Cuba allowed them to evade investigation in the US and to build up their organized crime families that traded in sex, gambling, and drugs.
The United States was heavily invested in Cuba. They controlled 90% of the coal mines in Cuba, 80% of their public utilities, 50% of their railway system, 40% of the sugar, and made up 25% of their total bank deposits. The Cuban people had become drunk on their investments. The young people in Cuba listened to American music, drove American-made cars, were taught English in school, watched Hollywood movies, developed a national interest in Baseball, and wore American fashion.
Sugar was Cuba’s number one industry. It provided for their vibrant tourist industry and supplemented their state revenues. However, it was only a four-month season and those who worked it were unemployed for the remainder of the year.
Outside of the major cities, there was rampant poverty and unemployment. People in these rural communities were largely hungry and malnourished. Many had no healthcare or education. As such, illiteracy was commonplace.
In the mid-to-late 1950s, Sugar was waning and Cuba had no other industry aside from tourism, and all it entailed could replace that. The Cuban people felt the pain of this dwindling industry and poverty became more pronounced. This cracked open the door to allow Fidel Castro in.
When Castro took over governance in Cuba he nationalized all foreign assets, raised taxes on all US imports, and made trade deals with Russia. Dwight D. Eisenhower, the president, dramatically cut the Cuban sugar quota, froze all Cuban assets in the United States, and cut off ties with Cuba that included imposing an embargo on trade.
In the wake of that came the Bay of Pigs (1961) and a complete embargo against trade in Cuba and the Cuban Missile Crisis (1962). All were tragic failures for the United States and economically bad for the state of Cuba.
In 1965 Castro states that the Cuban people can migrate to the United States unfettered. Lyndon B. Johnson, then president, open our borders to allow all migrants with families in the USA to become preferential residents. Over two hundred seventy thousand partake.
President Jimmy Carter in 1977 embarked upon establishing an open line of communication with Castro. This allowed the US to co-host an embassy with Switzerland in Cuba and them the same in Washington, DC.
The Mariel Boatlift occurred in the 1980s. Thousands of Cubans fled Cuba for the United States and elsewhere. This lasted six months. One hundred twenty-five thousand more Cubans came to America during that timeframe. Most are in Miami, Florida.
President Regan spearheaded Radio Marti in 1981 and it came to fruition in 1985. American radio stations broadcast news and entertainment to Cuba. Cuba took a distinct dislike to this and suspended immigration to America and disallows visits from Cuban residents in the United States to Cuba.
“Wet foot, dry foot” was ushered in in the mid-1990s by President Clinton. Guantanamo Bay is used as a holding port for all Cubans rescued at Sea. Those that make it to the shore of the United States can stay and obtain permanent residency after one year.
Fidel Castro aligns Cuba with Hugo Chavez of Venezuela in 2000 in order to obtain oil for Cuba. In 2008 Fidel transfers his presidential powers to his brother Raul.
When President Obama took office he softened our national stance against Cuba allowing Cuban-Americans to send money to Cuba and permitting US citizens to travel freely to Cuba for educational and religious purposes. He did not remove the embargo.
2011 thru 2013 the people of Cuba were allowed to buy automobiles property. President Obama and Raul Castro attempted to open diplomatic communication in 2014. President went to Cuba in 2016. Both governments agreed to resume commercial flights between the USA and Cuba. This was a first in nearly fifty years!
President Trump in 2017 strengthened his resolve that unless Cuba released all political prisoners there would be no dialogue. Travel by cruise ship or airplane was not changed.
Diaz-Canel was elected President of Cuba in 2021. He replaced Raul Castro. Cuba continues to struggle.
President Biden opened the flights between the USA and Cuba in 2022. He also gave preferential treatment to those in Cuba applying for Visas and lifted the remittance cap for families.
2023 sees a record number of Cubans deported.
I have come to know many Cubans from living in Miami and Key West. They are hard-working and kind-hearted. May Cuba one day be truly free!