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While the isle of Cuba was initially discovered on October 27, 1492 during one
of Columbus first voyages, it wasnt actually claimed by Spain until the
sixteenth century. However, its tumultuous beginnings as a Spanish sugar
colony provides an insightful backdrop into the very essence of the countrys
political and economic unrest. From its early revolutionary days to the
insurrectional challenge of the Marxist-Leninist theories emerged the
totalitarian regime under Fidel Castro in present day Cuba. Cuban colonial
society was distinguished by the characteristics of colonial societies in
general, namely a stratified, inegalitarian class system; a poorly
differentiated agricultural economy; a dominant political class made up of
colonial officers, the clergy, and the military; an exclusionary and elitist
education system controlled by the clergy; and a pervasive religious system.1
Cubas agrarian monocultural character, economically dependant upon sugar
cultivation, production and export severely restricted its potential for growth
as a nation, thereby firmly implanting its newly sprouted roots firmly in the
trenches of poverty from the very beginning of the countrys existence. In
1868, Cuba entered in to The Ten Years War against Spain in a struggle for
independence, but to no avail. Ten years of bitter and destructive conflict
ensued, but the goal of independence was not achieved. Political divisions among
patriot forces, personal quarrels among rebel military leaders, and the failure
of the rebels to gain the backing of the United States, coupled with stiff
resistance from Spain and the Cubans inability to carry the war in earnest to
the western provinces, produced a military stalemate in the final stages.2 The
war had a devastating effect on an already weak economic and political
infrastructure. The defeat, however, did not hinder the resolution of the Cuban
proletariat for an independent nation. In the words of one author, The Cubans
ability to wage a costly, protracted struggle against Spain demonstrated that
proindependence sentiment was strong and could be manifested militarily. On the
other hand, before any effort to terminate Spanish control could succeed,
differences over slavery, political organization, leadership, and military
strategy had to be resolved. In short, the very inconclusiveness of the war left
a feeling that the Cubans could and would resume their struggle until their
legitimate political objectives of independence and sovereignty were attained.3
The years following the Ten Years War were harsh and austere. The
countryside, ravaged and desolate, bankrupted Spanish sugar interests in Cuba,
virtually destroying the industry. The Spanish owners sold out to North American
interests, a process accelerated by the final abolition of slavery in Cuba in
1886.4 The end of slavery, naturally, meant the end of free labor. The sugar
growers, therefore, began to import machinery from the United States.
Essentially, Cuba deferred its economic dependence from Spain directly to the
U.S. What became known as the American Sugar Refining Company supplied from
seventy to ninety percent of all sugar consumed by the United States, thus
mandating the direction of the Cuban agricultural industry and thereby
controlling its economy. Moreover, the United States interventionism in the
Cuban-Spanish war in 1898, motivated primarily by interests in the Cuban market,
led the surrender of the Spanish army directly to the United States, not Cuba.
This war later became known as the Spanish-American War. The leader and
organizer of the Cuban Revolutionary Party, Jose Martis, goal of true
independence was buried without honor in 1898.5 In the years from 1902 to 1959,
following the institution of the Platt Amendment, which was an amendment to the
Cuban constitution, that stated that the United States had the right to
intervene in Cuba at any time, a period which came to be termed the Pseudo
Republic ensued. In the words of General Wood: Of course, Cuba has been left
with little or no independence by the Platt Amendment...The Cuban Government
cannot enter into certain treaties without our consent, nor secure loans above
certain limits, and it must maintain the sanitary conditions that have been
indicated. With the control that we have over Cuba, a control which, without
doubt, will soon turn her into our possession, soon we will practically control
the sugar market in the world. I believe that it is a very desirable acquisition
for the United States. The island will gradually be Americanized, and in
the due course we will have one of the most rich and desirable possessions
existing in the entire world...6 The Great Depression however, had a immense
impact on United States holdings of the Cuban sugar industry. In the summer
and fall of 1920 when the price of sugar fell from twenty-two cents a pound to
three ... more
Find essay on The Solidarity Movement
Women in Africa
Women in Africa
Timothy Veneylo November 26, 1995 History 387
In many parts of Africa, there is a large discrepancy in who controlled
the resources, access to the economy, individual autonomy and central voice in
the government between the men and the women. African men, for the most part,
have the largest say in the activities of the country. When issues of concern
arise, "men's issues" usually became the issues of national concern, and those
issues pertinent to women go to the back of everyone's mind. Women are forced
to accept the results of men's actions, and usually nothing gets accomplished
that benefits them. Because women continually were overlooked, they began to
come together and protest. If one examines the following women's protests and
their outcomes: A.E. Afigbo's The Warrant Chiefs, Sylvia Leith-Ross' African
Women, Jean Allman's "Rounding Up Spinsters: Gender Chaos and Unmarried Women in
Colonial Asante", and Irene Staunton's Mothers of the Revolution, several
questions arise. What were women seeking and how did this differ from what men
wanted? Did women attain their goals, and if not, why not? If women were not
successful in getting their concerns at the forefront of national interest, at
what, if anything, were they successful?
In several instances women became so angered by their lack of voice,
that they were moved to act. In some of these cases, women were relatively
successful in organizing and mobilizing. The story of the Aba Riots, which is
discussed in both The Warrant Chiefs and African Women, proves this point well.
In Nigeria, in the late 1920's, the Warrant Chiefs wanted to impose a system of
annual taxation. What was so displeasing to the people about the tax was that
it involved a census, and that the money went towards no specific project. The
concept of counting free people was a foreign one to the Igbo. This notion went
contrary to custom, and it was believed to bring about death (Afigbo, 229). The
people of the Eastern Provinces felt that because they were being counted, the
colonial government was enslaving them or that they were out to destroy them.
Also objectionable to these people was the fact that the collected money went
towards "development'" (Afigbo, 228), something for which these communities had
The first year of tax collection went surprisingly well; except for a
few isolated incidents. The first year was rather non-violent for two reasons:
"It needed the shock of the first payment for people to realize what taxation
meant in practical terms" and the second reason was the large police presence
and prosecutions of opponents to the tax (Afigbo, 233). These two factors
allowed for a relatively peaceful tax collection.
However, when year two arrived, so did the resistance. In September
1929, Captain John Cook was sent to Bende as the Acting District Officer, where
he was disappointed with the male roll counts. He instructed his Warrant Chiefs
to conduct new counts, and "added that the exercise had nothing to do with a tax
on women" (Afigbo, 236). The mere mention of "women" and "tax" in the same
statement sparked immediate disapproval. Rumors began to fly that the
government had ordered a tax on women. Suddenly, the women reacted and agreed
to resist by the end of October, 1929.
Captain Cook did not want to conduct the count himself, so he sent a
mission school teacher to administer the count. When he arrived he asked a
woman whom he met outside to go and count "her people'" (Afigbo, 237). Within
hours, women in mass numbers had gathered to discuss the tax, and went from
there to the mission teacher's home to ask them why they were being taxed. The
women equated being counting with taxation. "They also sent messengers armed'
with fresh folded palm leaves to women of neighboring villages inviting them to
come to Oloko" (Afigbo, 238). The women traveled on foot to ask other women for
support, and the women they approached in their villages would go and rally
their peers and bring the idea to their attention. From there, the women would
decide if they would join the movement and what action, if any, would be taken.
The mere fact that women were able to organize themselves to act in such
a short time was a definite success. Thousands of women from the Eastern
Provinces participated in different activities; some of which were organized,
and some of which were not. The women disturbed court proceedings repeatedly,
decapped chiefs, looted court officials' homes, burned and vandalized court
houses, even looted European ... more
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