Explorations. – Columbus landed in Cuba, not far from present-day Nuevitas, on October 28, 1492, two weeks after discovering the New World, and sailed along the shore towards NW, probably up to 78 ° W. Uncertain if he had landed in Cipango (Japan) or to the real Asian continent, he sent an embassy in the interior in search of the Great Khan, who penetrated 12 leagues into the land, well received by the natives, but without finding either the gold or the large cities that they hoped to discover. On December 5 he reached the point E. of Cuba, which he named Cuba Alpha and Omega, the beginning and end of the mainland which he supposed to be in Asia. Returning to the island in the second voyage (1494), he traveled along the southern coast as far as Santiago (April) and then (May) as far as Cuba de la Cruz; followed the coast of SO., discovered the Evangelista), and left Cuba in June, never to return. Columbus perhaps had knowledge of the insular form of Cuba, which is already in the map of Juan de la Cosa (1500), but the first circumnavigation was completed only in 1508 by Sebastiano de Ocampo. Colonization followed rapidly by Diego de Velázquez (1465-1524), who went there in 1511 with 300 volunteers, among whom was Cortés. The first city founded by the Spaniards was Baracoa (1512). Columbus had baptized the island Juana, in honor of the heir to the Spanish throne (who died in 1497); the name Cuba derives from the city of the same name, the current Puerto de Nuevitas. The island was later also called Fernandina, Santiago and Ave Maria. Although it was soon recognized in its essential features, its scientific exploration is relatively recent: it too, like that of many other regions, begins with the name of Humboldt. The American occupation and the relations established with the United States have attracted the attention of many scholars on the island, so that today Cuba is one of the best known territories of the New World also from a scientific point of view.
Commerce and communications. – The trade benefits greatly from the fortunate position of the island and also from the excellent railway network, which measures a total of about 5 thousand km., Not to mention the 8700 of local logs, which are used for the plantations and which have taken an enormous development especially in the eastern provinces. Imports take place for more than 3/4 through Havana; on the other hand, exports are distributed fairly regularly in the numerous ports spread out along the entire perimeter of the island. In the sugar trade, the palm is held by Nuevitas, the outlet of the Camagüey; followed by Matanzas, Cárdenas, Sagua, Caibarién and Havana on the north coast, Júcaro, Cienfuegos and Manzanillo to SW., Guantánamo and Santiago at noon.
Imports consist mainly of food products (38% in 1927), manufactured goods (12%), coal (5%), mineral oils and chemicals (5%), machines, metals, etc.; exports, as mentioned above, first and foremost of sugar (82%; over 265 million out of 324; tobaccos 11%), honey, fruit, copper, manganese, leather, cereals, alcohol, sponges and small quantities of asphalt, timber, textile fibers, wax, jams and turtle. The participation of the various states in this trade is clarified by the following table, which allows us to understand the consequences produced by the crisis of the world war.
Trade with Italy does not reach very remarkable figures: 2350 pesos on average in the five-year period 1924-28 at the importation of Italy into Cuba, against 600 thousand at export.
Merchant marine. – It is made up of 66 ships (45,270 gross tons), divided as follows: 43 steamers per ton 36,658; 5 motor ships per ton. 1434; 18 sailing ships per ton. 7178. The largest shipping company is the Empresa naviera de Cuba, which operates freight, passenger and postal services between Havana and Jamaica-San Domingo-Haiti-Puerto Rico. The maritime traffic of Cuba is therefore mainly exercised by foreign flags, among which that of the United States wants to assert itself. In fact, in the winter of 1928-29, the British shipping company Cunard, having placed an ocean liner between New York and Cuba on line, caused a tariff war with the Ward Line of the United States. Cuba is also connected to the United States through a ferry – boats ; in June 1929 a new service was inaugurated between Havana and New Orleans by means of the ultra- modern Seatrain ferry (4 decks and 95 wagons per deck).
Population. – At the time of the discovery it is estimated that the population of Cuba did not touch the 250 thousand residents (some have given much higher figures, which do not seem reliable), but the Spanish mismanagement meant that the Indians were almost extinct around the 1550 (the last Indian cacique died in 1558). The slave trade, which began in 1521, brought about a million Negroes, most of them from the west coast of Africa and also from the coast of Zanzibar, many of whom had acquired freedom even before the abolition of slavery ( 1880). Towards the middle of the century XIX the Whites were still in the minority, but the continuous immigration of Europeans, the civil wars, the barbaric treatment done to the black populations by the Spaniards reduced more and more the number of Negroes, although it is difficult to calculate exactly the proportion of the mixtures produced in the Cuban population. These naturally vary from province to province: black individuals, who represent 27.7% of the total for the whole of Cuba, are reduced to 18.6% in the province of Camagüey, while they are 43% in that of the Orient., 53% in the district of Santiago, 66% in the municipality of Guantánamo, 74% in that of Alto Songo. In Havana they represent just 2% of the total. It goes without saying that the official figures impose some reservations in this regard. 6% in the province of Camagüey, while they are 43% in that of Oriente, 53% in the district of Santiago, 66% in the municipality of Guantánamo, 74% in that of Alto Songo. In Havana they represent just 2% of the total. It goes without saying that the official figures impose some reservations in this regard. 6% in the province of Camagüey, while they are 43% in that of Oriente, 53% in the district of Santiago, 66% in the municipality of Guantánamo, 74% in that of Alto Songo. In Havana they represent just 2% of the total. It goes without saying that the official figures impose some reservations in this regard.
According to 800zipcodes.com, the total population of the island, as far as it is possible to deduce from the sources, has increased in the way shown in the following table:
There is a clear parallel between the increase in population and the development of the island’s natural resources: the pace of growth, disturbed by civil wars, resumes more lively after the conquest of independence; in the period of the last thirty years the population has more than doubled: in the face of the weak progress of the provinces of Pinar del Río and Matanzas, there are the high numbers marked by the eastern ones and, of course, also by the urban core of Havana, the whose population in 1907 was just half of today. Of this increase, however, only a part is due to the surplus of births and the improved standard of living on the island; the greatest contribution is still given by transoceanic immigration, which tends to decrease the proportion of black people. During the period 1921-30 it can be calculated that about 80 thousand individuals on average, annually, moved to Cuba; the largest contingent is given by the Spaniards, most of them coming from the northern provinces and the Canaries.
The population lives almost equally distributed in the countryside and in centers of more than 1000 residents, but the percentage relative to the latter on the island in general (44.7%) results from considerably distant extremes: minimum in the province of Pinar del Río (19.6%), maximum, of course, in that of Havana (76.9%), given the presence of the largest inhabited nucleus of the island, which with its suburbs concentrates about 18.5% of the total Cuban population. The inhabited places of more than 5 thousand souls are today about fifty, more than half concentrated in the three eastern provinces, towards which the population center of the island tends to move.