History and Politics
The indigenous population: Taíno
Before the arrival of the Europeans in Cuba, the Taíno people lived here. The Guanahatabey lived in the far west. These indigenous peoples have already grown cassava, sweet potatoes and potatoes.
Discovery and conquest by Europeans
On his first voyage, Christopher Columbus came to Cuba in 1492 after landing on one of the islands of the Bahamas. He immediately took possession of the island for Spain. But it was far from being conquered.
The Spanish conquistador Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar came to Cuba from Hispaniola in 1511 and founded the cities of Baracoa and Santiago de Cuba there. He brought numerous settlers to the island and eventually conquered the interior as well. Havana was founded in 1515. As part of the Viceroyalty of New Spain, Cuba became a Spanish colony. Havana developed into an important port for bringing goods to Spain.
In the following decades the Taíno became extinct. They died fighting the conquerors, were forced to do hard labor, which made them perish, or were carried away by diseases that were introduced and against which they had no defenses.
Cuba as a Spanish colony
The Spanish settlers created tobacco and sugar cane plantations. Because there were soon no more Indians available to work in the fields, numerous black slaves from West Africa were brought into the country, especially in the 18th century. By 1840, Cuba was the country that exported the most sugar.
Struggle for independence
The struggle for independence began rather late in Cuba. But at some point it was enough for the Cubans to pay high duties and taxes to motherland Spain. However, they lost two wars for independence against Spain (Ten Years War 1868-1878 and Little War 1878-1879).
But the third war was successful. From 1895 the poet José Martí fought for Cuba’s independence, but fell early in the fight. He’s a national hero today. In 1898 the USA intervened in the war. The last phase of the independence struggle is therefore called the Spanish-American War.
The USA launched a warship in Havana. There was an explosion on the ship with many dead, for which the US believed Spain to be responsible. The USA now demanded the withdrawal of the Spaniards, whereupon they declared war on the USA. The US won the war and in the Peace of Paris Spain ceded not only Cuba, but also Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines.
The Platt Amendment
When the war ended in 1898, Cuba was occupied by the United States. Economically, Cuba was dependent on the US market. In 1902, Cuba finally gained independence, now from the USA. However, under pressure from the United States, the Cuban constitution received an amendment, the Platt Amendment. This gave the US the right to intervene militarily in Cuba if it saw its interests in danger.
In fact, the US intervened several times in Cuba in the years that followed. In 1934, the contract was canceled under US President Franklin D. Roosevelt. However, an article that allowed the United States to have naval bases remained. The naval base on Guantánamo Bay, established in 1903, remained in place and has not been returned to this day.
The everyday life of Cuban children
Cuban children start school when they are 6 years old. It’s like with us. But they wear a school uniform. The girls wear red skirts, the boys red shorts. To do this, they put on a white shirt and a scarf. School uniforms have the advantage that you can’t tell from their clothing which children are rich and which are poor. In addition, you don’t have to think about what to wear in the morning!
School in Cuba does not end until the afternoon. Then the children can also put on jeans, dresses or colorful T-shirts. Most of the time, they still have homework to do after school.
And after school?
Like you probably too, Cuban children enjoy watching television. Baseball and soccer are popular sports that are also shown on television. And of course there are also trick and adventure series for children. Many girls go to dance, many boys play baseball or boxing as a sport.
They usually don’t have that many toys, because many Cubans tend to have little money. The toy is therefore often homemade. Cuban children also play a lot in the streets. Chess and dominoes are very popular with adults. The children want to learn that too!
And what are the names of the children in Cuba?
Typical names for boys are Jorge Luis, Juan Carlos, Roberto, Ernesto, Alejandro or Raúl. Girls are often called Maria, Carmen, Elena, Tania, Yanet or Mercedes. Common surnames are Fernández, Hernández, García, Martínez, or Díaz. Typical Spanish names!
Children and School
School in Cuba: Education – great!
In contrast to the other Latin American countries, Cuba’s education system is considered to be particularly good. All children go to school and all people can read and write. So there are no illiterate people. Education itself is also considered exemplary. Cuban students always do well on tests.
Where are the teachers?
However, there is a lack of teachers in Cuba, a country located in Caribbean and Central America listed on politicsezine. Because the state sends teachers to friendly countries so that they can help build a good school system there. In addition, teachers are paid very poorly, they get the equivalent of around 21 euros a month! Many teachers then do not want to work in their profession. It happens that school leavers, themselves only 17 or 18 years old, are prepared in crash courses and then teach the younger students.
Education is free
From elementary school to university, education in Cuba costs nothing. However, students who finish their studies have to do three years of social service for the state. The children go to school for at least nine years. This is how long compulsory education lasts for primary and secondary schools.
From elementary school to university
Elementary school goes from the first to the sixth grade. From the third grade onwards, the children also learn English. The secondary school goes from seventh to ninth grade. Those with good grades can continue to school, either in the “pre-university” (Preuniversitaria), which leads to the Abitur after three years, or in a vocational class.
Only in school uniform
All Cuban students wear school uniforms. Girls wear a wine-red tank skirt and boys wear wine-red shorts. There is also a white top and a scarf. For older students the school uniform is beige.
Grades range from 0 to 100, with at least 60 points being required to pass. Happy who brings home a 100! Classes always begin with singing the national anthem. The schools are usually all-day schools, and the children don’t come home until the afternoon.
Living in Cuba
How do people in Cuba live? Well, in the cities they often live in houses with multiple apartments and very close together. It looks different in the country. Many Cubans live here in small wooden houses with a little land around them. Check out photos of houses below!