When someone tries to tell the story of Cuba in the briefest way possible, they come to a chronological series that can be reduced to the following general characterization:
Six thousand years (approximately) during which the island was inhabited by aborigines; 388 years under Spanish colonial rule; 4 years of an interventionist North American government; 56 years as a Republic and 50 years of revolution.
Clearly, it’s almost disrespectful to recount the history of a country in 35 words that can be said in 15 seconds. But, let it displease whomever it may, that is an extreme generalization of the chronology. In the bus terminal in Havana, for example, there is a mural that tries to tell the entire story in 14 meters. Its principal defect is that it omits the aborigines, substituting a tobacco plant for a yucca plant. Fidel Castro’s face is shown twice and he is the only living person represented.
I want to toss out the following challenge to historians specializing in Cuba: Prepare a chronology of the last 50 years. I tried, but quit the task when I came up against the terrible difficulty of defining the time limits of each stage along with the names of the periods. Suppose we baptize the first years (January 1959 to April 1961) as the time of the first revolutionary transformations (Agrarian Reform, Urban Reform, nationalization of property, literacy campaign, etc.). Then came the stage that began with the declaration of socialist character* and each swing towards Maoism, Eurocommunism, Sovietization or the search for a separate identity, which would each have to be treated separately. Another would be the time they talked of the simultaneous construction of socialism and communism. One clear stage is the “definitive” placement of the country into the context of the socialist camp, whose climax was our joining CAME* [Council for Mutual Economic Assistance, or Comecon], another was the beginning of the Special Period, and finally the current situation, which is like nothing that came before. I repeat that I abandoned the completion of this difficult work, but warn that I have not abandoned the right to criticize those who do it. So here I extend an open invitation that can be summarized by this question:
What are the time periods and proper way to describe the historical subperiods of the past 50 years of Cuban history?
The most interesting answers will be published in the digital magazine Contodos, on this site, desdecuba.com, provided the authors agree to it.
Declaration of socialist character of the Cuban Revolution, April 1961
Comecon: Cuba joined in 1972.
Details can be found through an online search.