Many of the original inhabitants died from diseases that were brought to Cuba by the arriving sailors. The first Spanish settlements were established in Cuba in 1511. This corresponds closely to the first arrival of the Spanish in the Netherlands Antilles in the early 1500s. The Spanish also contacted Barbados in 1536. Spanish conquistadors seized the Caribs on Barbados to be used as plantation slaves and by the time the British settlements arrived in the 1620s, the island was uninhabited. Within 100 years of contact by Spanish explorers, all three native populations had been eradicated or enslaved.
During the 1600s, the rule of the islands changed hands from the Spanish to other European countries. Cuba remained a Spanish colony while Barbados was settled as a British colony. The Dutch captured the Netherlands Antilles in the 1600s. Under European colonial rule, all three islands experienced similar situations during the years 1600-1900. During these centuries, all three colonies exploited the sugar market. The large sugar plantations necessitated the importation of slavery. The slave labor was primarily from Africa, though Barbados imported slaves from the Celtic nations of Scotland and Ireland.
Slavery was abolished in all three colonies in the middle of the 19th century. ...
The descendants of the freed slaves continue to dominate the populations of these islands. Descendants of the Celts that were imported to Barbados are some of the poorest inhabitants there today.
During the centuries of large sugar plantations and slavery, the islands were ruled by the monarchies of the Dutch, England, and Spain. Cuba, which had come under Spanish rule, suffered during these years from a repressive rule. Barbados and the Netherlands Antilles were under colonial rule that was less oppressive. The Spanish rule in Cuba resulted in a revolt against Spanish rule in 1898, which ultimately resulted in the Spanish-American war. During this period, Cuba ousted the Spanish and it became an American protectorate.
Barbados fared better during this period, but the descendent slave population continued to live outside the mainstream political spectrum. Barbados had disenfranchised the female vote and also had an income qualification to be able to vote. Unrest at the beginning of the 20th century led to massive uprisings by the descendants of former slaves. In 1942, the income qualification was lowered and women were allowed to vote. While the English ruled Barbados was moving towards greater freedom, Cuba was inching into a series of oppressive dictatorships.
Fulgencio Batista was the military leader and later President of Cuba beginning in 1933. Batista ruled a corrupt and repressive police state. During his rule, he often silenced his critics through violence, which spawned an organized opposition led by Fidel Castro. Castro's supporters were able to oust Batista in 1959 when he fled the country. At the time, Castro was seen as a pro-democracy movement and self-rule was sweeping the Caribbean nations.
In 1954 the Netherlands Antilles had become an