ECONOMY: TRADE, COMMUNICATIONS AND TOURISM
Up to 1989, over 50% of foreign trade took place with the Soviet Union, followed by Japan, Spain, and then by the other socialist countries; However, various Western states also played a fair role, such as West Germany, Great Britain, France, etc. The Soviet Union, a huge buyer of sugar, has ensured for a couple of decades, with special agreements, the near equilibrium of the trade balance, despite the fact that Cuba had to import many industrial products and all the fuels, as well as foodstuffs. At the beginning of the 2000s, Cuba’s main partners for imports were: China, Spain, Canada, USA, Germany and Italy; for exports: the Netherlands and, again, China, Canada, Spain, in addition to Belize and Russia.
According to Itypeusa, the main exports are represented, as well as from sugar (raw and refined), also from nickel, tobacco, fish, coffee, citrus fruits and pharmaceutical products, against a massive import of oil, chemicals and machinery. Between 2004 and 2006, imports were subject to a constant increase, passing from 5 to 9 million US $; exports also underwent a slight increase, however, settling on significantly lower volumes (around US $ 2.3-2.5 million). In 2018, imports amounted to US $ 10.03 million and exports about US $ 2.8 million. Foreign debt also remains constant, including that to Russia. § In terms of infrastructure, the island has a good railway network (8,367 km in 2018, represented however to a large extent by small trunks that connect the cane plantations to the sugar factories and export ports) and road (over 60,000 km, of which about half asphalted, as of 1999), which has its main axis in the highway that connects Pinar del Río with Santiago de Cuba, the second sea outlet after Havana. The other ports on the island are Cienfuegos and Matanzas. Air services have undergone a significant increase in investments, both for internal routes and for flights to foreign countries. The largest airport is the José Martí international airport, located near the capital and followed by those of Santiago de Cuba, Varadero, Camagüey and Holguín. § Great attention continues to be paid by the Cuban government to tourism, despite the situation of constant economic crisis. The sector, considered a significant source of currency, now employs about 200,000; thanks to the development of hotel equipment and the increase in foreign visitors, it accounts for 40% of the national GDP. Between 2020 and 2021, the tourism sector was severely damaged by the containment measures imposed to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic.
HISTORY: THE SPANISH CONQUEST
When Columbus landed in Cuba on October 28, 1492, the island was inhabited by Ciboney and Taino, populations that had not given rise to advanced forms of civilization and that offered almost no resistance to the conquest of the Europeans. First called Juana, in homage to the daughter of the Spanish sovereigns, the island was explored by Columbus during his second voyage across the Atlantic (1493-94), but the real conquest was the work, from 1510, of Diego Velázquez; the only important battle was the one fought against Chief Hatuey, who, taken prisoner, was burned alive. Between 1510 and 1515 Velázquez and his lieutenants founded the main cities. Both from the political-strategic point of view, and from the economic point of view, the island acquired great importance and, administered as Capitanía General by the Viceroyalty of New Spain (Mexico), became, from the second half of the century. XVII, large sugar production center. Society was dominated by a landed oligarchy, closely linked to international trading markets, while the lower strata, given the conditioning of the slave and colonial economy, operated in a situation of proven weakness. The temporary occupation of Havana by the English (1762), during the Seven Years War, brought the Cuban planters into contact with the British settlers of North America and opened up good prospects for the export of sugar. After the proclamation of the independence of the United States, the commercial and financial circles of the new nation made massive investments in the sugar and tobacco plantations. After 1815, even in Cuba the first intolerances towards colonial subjugation appeared; attempts at insurrection and riots erupted in various locations. The situation became more tense at the end of the US civil war: the ideals of freedom had in fact been accepted by the population of the island, determined to emancipate themselves from Spain.