Despite the tumultuous climate in Cuba, the celebration and recognition of its Afro-Cuban population should not be any less celebrated. The enslaved African people in Cuba have a rich and heroic history of fighting against the Spanish who once enslaved them with the tools that the Spanish had put in their hands. Their legacy will continue to live on through the vibrancy of the country and their beautiful music, culture and spirit.
Cuba is the largest island in the Caribbean, and much like the other islands that make up this area, has an intense history. Cuba was discovered by Christopher Columbus on his venture to discover the ‘New World’. This was with blatant disregard for the inhabitants of the island, who had lived there for centuries prior to Columbus’ invasion. Cuba already had land used for farming tobacco and was consequently even more desirable for the European invaders who saw an opportunity to capitalise on this industry. In the neighbouring island of Haiti, their revolution for self-autonomy from the French led to the collapse of their sugar cane production. As a result, the Spanish took this as an opportunity to adopt this industry in Cuba. However, due to the strenuous labour that it takes to farm sugar cane, they felt the need to enslave Africans to do the job for them.
The enslaved in Cuba
There were in fact natives to Cuba, but due to the arrival of the Spanish, they not only brought tyranny, but Smallpox. This effectively wiped out the entire native Cuban population. This led to a demand for labor, which they satisfied through the millions of slaves that they sent across the ocean. The enslaved inhabited the East of the island whereas the West of the island was where the wealthy settlers were. The Spanish used this African labor to farm the sugar cane and tobacco which was then imported to Europe for their own profit. Eventually, revolution spread in Cuba with the desire for freedom, and the once enslaved people used what once hindered them (their machetes) to fight.
Modern Day Afro-Cubans
Despite the present day tumultuous political and social climate within Cuba, this cannot distract from the beauty of the island. More importantly, the influence of the enslaved African people on the island. They have influenced music, culture, food and everything in between. Moreover, they built the island with their own hands, and should be recognized as a great part of Cuban history.
- The Cuba Libre Story (Netflix)
- Cuba and the Cameraman (Netflix)
- Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown, Season 6 Episode 1 (Netflix)
- Anything by the author Jose Marti – Amazon UK