Long before the arrival of the Spaniards to the Caribbean, the island of Cuba was populated by Native American Indian tribes, that is to say, “siboneyes”, who lived in the caves and lived from hunting and fishing; “taínos” who excelled in clay pottery and practiced agriculture; and “guanajatebeyes” who were nomads and populated the western coasts.
On October 27, 1492, Christopher Columbus sighted Cuba on his first voyage. The next day, Columbus landed, christening the port with the Christian name of “San Salvador”, “Savior”, where he touched land and, naming “Juana”, the island which he thought to be a continent. Between 1508 and 1509, Sebastián de Ocampo navigated around the island and in 1511, Don Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar initiated the conquest of the same land. In 1512, the city of Baracoa, at the northern tip of Cuba was founded; in 1513, Bayamo on the southwestern side; and in 1514, Trinidad in the southern middle, Sancti Spiritus, Santa María del Puerto Príncipe, Santiago de Cuba, and La Habana were established as the first seven (7) cities in the New World for the Americas.
The indigenous population was divided out to the entrusted and appointed landholders, “encomendaderos”. However, abusive work, hard labor, and disease from the Old World, dominated the Native American population which motivated the introduction of African black slave labor on the island of Cuba.
The Christian Catholic King of Spain, Don Fernando II, ruler of Aragón, became married to Doña Isabel of Castilla, with equity in the exercise of power. In the 15th century, at the beginning of 1482, the King and Queen of Spain developed military campaigns for the Reconquest of the Moorish lands which escalated to the seize of Granada, in Andalusía, Spain, circa 1492. During the same year, the Muslim Arabs surrendered in Granada and Seville to end eight (8) centuries of Islamic control which sealed the Christian conquest for the Spanish territories. Simultaneously, the discovery and exploration of the New World in the Americas by Don Christopher Columbus, occurred during the same times, in 1492.
Christopher Columbus was a Spanish-Italian sea explorer and navigator (who was probably a native of Genoa, born in 1451 and lived until 1506, in Valladolid, Spain). At the time, Columbus believed that in order to arrive at the East of the world, there was a route by sea to the West. With the protection of Don Juan Pérez, Prior of La Rabida, Christopher Columbus was granted the signature for Capitulations of the Holy Faith, according to which, Columbus received the title of Admiral, Viceroy, and Governor of the lands he discovered in the New World.
On the first voyage, Columbus sailed from Puerto de Palos on August 3rd, at the command of the Spanish galleons “carabelas”, la Pinta, la Niña y la Santa María, and arrived to the island of Guanahaní, “San Salvador”, on October 12, 1492.
Christopher Columbus discovered Cuba on October 27, 1492, five hundred and fifteen (515) years ago, and the island christened “La Española”, Hispaniola, also known by the Amerindian name of “Quisqueya” or Haití, where he established the Spanish fort Nativity. On December 5, 1492, Columbus discovered the island known today as the Dominican Republic and Haití. Afterwards, he returned to Palos and was received with triumph in Barcelona, Spain.
Upon the return to Spain from the discovery of the New World in the Americas by Christopher Columbus, the Spanish Catholic monarchs arranged before Pope Alexander VI the concession of the ecclesiastical Alexandrian edicts which assigned to the Spain the new territories in the New World. Since Portugal had closed the route to the spices for Castilla, Spain, Christopher Columbus had a projected mission to reach the Orient, in the East, by way of the Western (Occident) which was accepted and sponsored by the Catholic King and Queen, reigning monarchs of Spain.
Columbus’ accounts of his voyages in the New World remain in the Archives of the Indies as the documented description of an ethnographer, ethnologist, and ethnolinguist in the Americas. Christopher Columbus provided and recorded news and first impressions about the native indigenous inhabitants in the Caribbean and of the lands he discovered along the way.
The Republic of Cuba is an insular state of Central America. Cuba represents the island known for the same name of the country, in addition to the island of Youth or Isla de Pinos, other smaller islands in its surroundings, and some 1,600 adjoining islets known as keys or “cayos”, such as Key West, also known as Cayo Hueso.
Cuba can be found in the middle of the Caribbean, between the Strait of Florida and the old Channel of the Bahamas to the North; the eastern section of Cuba faces the Windward Channel; the southern littoral looks upon the Caribbean Sea or the Antilles; west of the Yucatán Peninsula and northwest toward the Gulf of México–only 99 miles from the United States of America, close to the states of Florida, Texas, Louisiana, and Alabama in the south.
Geographically, the island of Cuba extends in the shape of an arc from the northwest to the southeast with a longitude of 1,255 kilometers, from the tip of Cabo San Antonio to the point of Maisí.
The topography of Cuba is made of predominant plains or hills, with the exception of the mountain ranges of the Sierra Maestra to the southeast, which features the elevation called Pico Turquino, the highest point of view in Cuba, at 1,974 meters in altitude, and other smaller mountaineous extensions, such as the Sierra del Escambray at the center of Cuba with the Pico San Juan at 1,056 meters in altitude, and the mountain chain known as “cordilleras de los Organos”, which hardly rise above 690 meters in contrast to the elevation for the Pan de Guajabón.
The Cuban seacoasts are flanked by a great number of islands and islets. These maritime keys emerge up to considerable distances from the Cuban littoral in the Caribbean.
Cuba has more than 200 rivers, generally not long enough, but with impetuous currents. Among the major Cuban rivers is El Cauto which floods the surroundings areas of Santiago de Cuba during tropical storms, hurricanes, and cyclones, that is to say “maritime twisters”, and is required to be controlled by a river dam, “la represa del Cauto”. In addition, there are the rivers called Cuyaguateje, Sagua La Grande, Sagua La Chica, Aguabama, etc.
The Cuban climate is softened by tropical and maritime breezes.
The Spanish colonial city of Santiago de Cuba was founded in 1514, nestled among a series of hills near the mountain range of the Sierra Maestra, in the heart of the eastern municipal district of Oriente.
The architectural design of the building constructions have been adapted typically over time to the mountainous topography and frequently, the lower back rooms of the houses are found at a lower level than the front upper rooms of the same houses in Cuba.
Spain called Cuba “the Pearl of the Antilles”.
From Source: 2000 Nuevo Espasa Ilustrado. Diccionario Enciclopédico. Espasa Calpe, S.A. (1999), España.
THE AMERICAS IN THE NEW WORLD, FROM THE ARRIVAL OF CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS ON OCTOBER 27, 1492 AND SEBASTIAN DE OCAMPO, BETWEEN 1508 AND 1509
–UPCOMING 500TH ANNIVERSARY IN THE CARIBBEAN.
(English from Spanish Translation by Gardenia C. Hung, M.A.,B.A.)