Colonial Gaze

Cuba has a long and difficult history of colonialism, beginning with Christopher Columbus’ first encounter with the island in 1492. Spain established settlements in Cuba in the early 1500s, and the island became Spain’s prime base in the Carribean for goods such as sugar and tobacco. The colonization led quickly to the destruction of the indigenous Taíno and Guanahatabey people and culture, with slaves then being brought from Africa to Cuba to support the growing sugarcane trade.

Although Cuba has been independent from Spain since 1898, the image of Cuba’s colonial past is problematically romanticized by some of the material found here. The difficult history of colonialism and slavery is overlooked in the pamphlet below, evidenced by the tone of words used, like “humble,” describing Havana in its pre-Hispanic days as “a handful of palm-thatched huts scattered along the shores of the bay.” Along with its pristine beaches, La Habana Vieja (or Old Havana) with its colonial plazas, palaces, fortresses, and cathedrals remains the center of Cuban tourism.