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The Colonization of the Oriente de Cuba

The Colonizers arrived and once and for all they imposed customs, culture and ways, that anything had to see with who they constituted the autochthonous population until then.

The conquest of the Island for Spain almost begins for the Oriente of Cuba two decades after Colón's first trip, like part of the occupation process that was irradiated toward diverse lands of Caribbean. To Diego Velázquez, one of the richest colonists in The Spaniard, took charge to subdue the Cuban territory that began in 1510 with a lingering acknowledgment operation and conquer, plagued of bloody incidents. Alerted about the outrages made by the Spaniards in the neighboring islands, the aboriginal of the Oriente of Cuba resisted the Hispanic invasion, directed by Yahatuey or Hatuey, a fugitive cacique of The Spaniard who finally was captured and burnt alive as punishment.

With the foundation of Nuestra Señora de la Asunción of Baracoa in the Oriente of Cuba, in 1512, the Spaniards undertook the establishment of seven villages with the objective of controlling the conquered territory - Bayamo (1513), La Santisima Trinidad, Sancti Spíritus and San Cristóbal de La Havana (1514), Puerto Principe (1515) - until concluding with Santiago de Cuba (1515), designated the government's headquarters. From these establishments that changed its primitive location mostly, the conquerors began the exploitation of the resources of the Island.

The economic activity was sustained in the work of the natives, delivered them to the colonists for the kingdom by means of the system of "commands", a kind of a granting personal, revocable and not transferable, through which the colonist committed to dress, to feed and to Christianize the aborigine in exchange for the right of making him work in benefit of the prevailing goverment. The dominant economic line in these first years of the colony was the mining, specifically the extraction of gold, activity in which commended Indians were used as well as some black slaves that were integrated from very early to the ethnic conglomerate that centuries later it would constitute the Cuban town.

The quick exhaustion of the gold-bearing sands and the population's drastic reduction in value - included the Spaniards, enlisted in great number in the successive expeditions for the conquest of the continent - transformed to the cattle raising into the principal source of wealth of the Oriente of Cuba and the country in general. For lack of gold, the salted meat and the leathers would be the almost exclusive goods with which the scarce colonists of the Island could incorporate themselves to the commercial circuits of the nascent Spanish empire.

Conceived under mercantilist rigid principles, the imperial trade would be developed as a closed monopoly that managed the Casa de Contratación of Seville, what didn't take in wake the jealous appetites of other European nations.

Corsairs and filibusters French, Dutch and Englishmen razed Caribbean, they captured ships and they plundered cities and towns. The Oriente of Cuba didn't escape from those assaults: The construction of the Castle of El Morro in Santiago de Cuba, the fortresses of Jagua, La Cabaña, Atares and El Príncipe were necessity because of these incidents.

To preserve the trade, Spain decided to organize big fleets that would have as obliged spot the port of Havana, strategically located to the beginning of the current of Gulf.

The periodic affluence of merchandisers and traveling, as well as the resources dedicated to finance the construction and defense of the fortifications that, as the Castle of El Morro, guarded the Havanan bay, they would transform into an important source of income for Cuba.

The residents of the Oriente of Cuba, excluded them of such benefits, appealed then to a smuggled lucrative trade with the own pirates and corsairs that this way less aggressive they also deceived the Sevillian trade monopoly. Determined to suffocate such exchanges, the colonial authorities ended up colliding with the neighbors, mainly those of the village of Bayamo who offered an early evidence of the diversity of interests between "people of the land" and the metropolitan government with their rebellion of 1603. One of the incidents caused by the contraband inspired soon after to the poem "Espejo de Paciencia", original document of the Cuban literary history .

The opinions continue divided among those who affirm it was useful to bring the "civilization" to America and those that when qualifying the event like crash of cultures, asseverate that the annihilation of the indigenous populations and the spoliation of the natural resources has been a high cost, to the point of causing an irreparable damage to this continent where passionate people live, of hot blood and Indian heart, for fortune preserved in other nations where contrary to Cuba the original towns outlived.

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