The U.S.S. Maine on Feb. 16, 1898. An explosion sank the battleship in Havana Harbor, killing 266   men. (AP)

The U.S.S. Maine on Feb. 16, 1898. An explosion sank the battleship in Havana Harbor, killing 266 men. (AP)

Field workers use machetes to cut sugar cane in Cuba in 1943. (AP)

Field workers use machetes to cut sugar cane in Cuba in 1943. (AP)

A street vendor prepares posters to sell, including a historic photo of revolutionary leader,  Fidel Castro. (AP)

A street vendor prepares posters to sell, including a historic photo of revolutionary leader, Fidel Castro. (AP)

500 Years of Cuba

Posted: March 2, 2015

In 1492 . . . Columbus sailed the ocean blue. You know that. But did you know he discovered more than America? He discovered Cuba too. He claimed Cuba for Spain.

In 1509… The Spanish started taking over Cuba. They made Cubans their slaves. Most Native Cubans died because of war and disease. Spanish plantation owners brought in African slaves to work the land.

In the 1800s… Cubans sold lots and lots of sweet treasure—sugar! That made good money for Spain. But all was not well. Plantation slaves were poorly treated. They rebelled. A bloody war broke out in 1868. But Cuba lost. Spain still controlled them.

In 1895…  Cuban rebels still wanted to be free. They fought a war against Spain—again. An American ship, USS Maine, exploded in Cuban waters. No one was sure who attacked the ship. But the United States suspected Spain. Now Cuba had a powerful friend on their side—the United States!

In 1898… The United States won the war. Cuba was free—but not really. The United States still had some control. Wealthy Americans hung out on Cuban beaches. New leaders were unkind to the Cuban people.

In the 1950s… After another revolution, Cuba got a new leader. His name was Fidel Castro. He had a big personality. People liked him. But he was a Communist dictator. Mr. Castro decided individual people couldn’t own things. The state owned everything. He said that would make people’s lives better.

Now…  But guess what? Things didn’t get better. People in Cuba are poor. They don’t have enough to eat. Their island looks just like it did 65 years ago when Fidel Castro came to power. So much for Mr. Castro’s ideas!