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The island that is Cuba was inhabited by several different indigenous groups when it was visited in 1492 by Christopher Columbus Cuba served as the staging area for Spanish explorations of the Americas As an assembly point for treasure fleets it offered a target for French and British buccaneers who attacked the islands cities incessantly Miller 1997 The native population was quickly destroyed under Spanish rule and was soon replaced as laborers by African slaves who contributed much to the cultural evolution of the island The European population was continuously replenished by immigration chiefly from Spain but also from other Latin American countries Despite pirate attacks and the trade restrictions of Spanish mercantilist policies Cuba the Pearl of the Antilles prospered Miller 1997 In the imperial wars of the 18th cent other nations coveted the Spanish possession and in 1762 a British force under George Pocock and the earl of Albemarle captured and briefly held Havana Cuba was returned to Spain by the Treaty of Paris in 1763 and remained Spanish even as most of Spains possessions became independent republics The slave trade expanded rapidly reaching its peak in 1817 Sporadic uprisings were brutally suppressed by the Spaniards Miller 1997 Desires for Cuban independence increased when representation at the Spanish Cortes granted in 1810 was withdrawn yet neither internal discontent nor filibustering expeditions achieved results The desire of US Southerners to acquire the island as a slave state also didnt help matters any Cuban discontent grew and finally erupted in the Ten Years War a long revolt that ended in a truce with Spain promising reforms and greater autonomy Miller 1997 Spain failed to carry out most of the reforms although slavery was abolished as promised Revolutionary leaders many in exile in the United States planned another revolt and in 1895 a second war of independence was launched with the brilliant writer
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