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Since the announcement of a thaw with the United States, Cuba seems suspended between potentially very different histories: what was, what is and what’s to be. Of the three, the knowable one is, of course, the past, and a substantial and dramatic part of the record is in the form of photographs. The International Center of Photography has a collection deep enough to tell that visual story, and is doing so, with some outside additions, in “¡Cuba, Cuba! 65 Years of Photography” at the Southampton (N.Y.) Art Center through Sept. 7.

Published in News
Saturday, 15 October 2011 04:43

The Splendor of Cuba

Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar (1465–1524) of Spain led the first expedition to colonize Cuba in 1511, founding Cuba’s first seven towns: Baracoa (1512), Bayamo (1513), Santiago de Cuba (1514), Sancti Spiritus (1514), Trinidad (1514), Santa Maria del Puerto del Principe (1515), and Havana (1515). With Havana’s natural harbor as a strategic springboard for trade, Cuba was the most important outpost of the Spanish empire by the last quarter of the sixteenth century.

Toward the end of the century, Cuba’s supply of gold was all but exhausted and the island’s oligarchy began to concentrate on agricultural potential. In addition to the exportation of tropical hardwoods, tobacco plantations began to prosper, bringing wealth to the island, particularly to Havana, which became the center of the production and dispatch of tobacco for the entire Spanish empire.
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