Front Door to Cuba

Timetable History of Cuba

BEFORE The Revolution - 1

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1929

October. The Wall Street crash drags Cuba into its worse economic crisis. From 1928 to 1932, the price of sugar drops from 2.18 cents per pound to an all-time low of 0.57 cents.The sugar crop value totals $225,100,000.

March. A bill is introduced in Congress stating that "any Cuban who seeks the intervention or interference of a foreign power in the internal or external development of the national life" will be imprisoned for life. Under U.S. pressure, Machado vetoes the proposal.

By the end of the year, tobacco exports represent a total value of $43,067,000.

1930

January. The government announces a general reduction in the salaries of all public employees (except soldiers), and a new law forbids all public demonstrations by political parties or groups not legally registered.

March. Throughout the island, masses protest the government's delay in paying salaries of teachers and agricultural workers.

May 19. In Artemisa (near Havana) a meeting of Nationalists is interrupted by a group of soldiers. Eight people are killed and several dozen injured. The tragedy creates a national commotion and many national leaders are arrested.

May 28. Railroad workers declare a general strike. The army takes over the running of the trains, and several labor leaders are arrested.

May 30. Quoted in an article in the Diario de la Marina, Gerardo Machado takes full responsibility for the army's action in Artemisa on May 19.

June. Former President Mario G. Menocal makes statements critical of the government.

September 30. Tipped by José Soler of a planned demonstration by the University Student Directorate, police block the streets around the University of Havana and confront the students. After several arrests, Directorio leader Rafael Trejo is fatally wounded.

October 1. Machado's government suspends constitutional guarantees, charging that the students are "following orders from Moscow." Machado warns that he will act "without weakness or hesitation."

November 11. In Pinar del Río, Santiago de Cuba, Santa Clara and several other cities, students lead violent demonstrations against the government.

By the end of November all schools are closed in Cuba, and Diario de la Marina, the oldest newspaper on the island, is forced to suspend publication.

December 28. The Havana Yacht Club is closed down by police on the allegation that it is being used by "conspirators" and enemies of the government.

1931

January 4. The entire membership of the Directorio Estudiantil Universitario is arrested. They remain in prison until March.

January 29. To avoid a decline in revenues, the government issues an Emergency Tax Law which creates a series of new taxes and increases several old ones.

February 14. 85 university professors are indicted on charges of sedition and conspiracy to overthrow the government. Among these is Dr. Ramón Grau San Martín.

June 21. Congress authorizes the suspension of constitutional guarantees.

June 30. The Supreme Court rejects all the arguments presented against the Emergency Tax Law issued on January 29.

July. Rumors circulate throughout Cuba about an imminent revolution.

July 9. Captain Calvo, chief of the government's repressive corps, is shot from a passing car and killed. After this event, terrorism and brutality become weapons used frequently by the government and the opposition.

August 10. Mendieta and Menocal attempt an uprising in the interior of the island, supposedly coordinated with members of Machado's army.

August 14. Mendieta and Menocal are easily captured in Río Verde, Pinar del Río.

September. A secret political organization is formed by Dr. Joaquín Martínez Saenz. Known as the ABC, their aim is the punishment of principal members of Machado's government in retribution for their bloody aggression against the opposition.

December 23. Machado announces in the Diario de la Marina that he will stay in office until May 20, 1935, "not a minute more or a minute less."

1932

January 29. Manuel Artime Buesa is born.

February 6. Camilo Cienfuegos is born in the Havana neighborhood called La Vibora.

1933

As the year begins, Machado is deeply entrenched in power, using official brutality in an attempt to crush the opposition.

March. In Miami, a revolutionary junta is created including representatives from the principal opposition to Machado.

May 8. U.S. ambassador Benjamin Sumner Welles arrives in Havana. His background includes diplomatic experience in the Dominican Republic.

May 11. Sumner Welles and President Machado meet for the first time.

July 1. A meeting mediated by Sumner Welles takes place at the American Embassy in Havana, including members of the ABC, the OCRE, the Nationalists and others.

July 2. In the Diario de la Marina, Cosme de la Torriente asserts that the National Union is in favor of returning to the Constitution of 1901.

July 21. Sumner Welles insists on the restitution of constitutional guarantees, and Machado responds in a stern tone: "The re-establishment of the guarantees is a prerogative of the President of Cuba and will be done when the President considers it necessary."

July 25. Bus drivers declare a general strike.

July 26. The government approves a law that gives a general amnesty to all prisoners.

July 27. Machado addresses the Congress. "The mediation of Mr. Welles," he says, "cannot damage our sovereignty, because it is a result of his spontaneous desire and not of any instructions received from the government of the United States…" He reiterates that he will remain in office until May 20, 1935.

August 1. Streetcar workers join the strike.

August 4. The strike of bus drivers grows into a general strike that nearly paralyzes Havana. To break the strike, Machado reaches a compromise with Communist leaders, but before any action can be taken, the announcement of his resignation by a radio station sends jubilant crowds to the streets. As the crowds march towards the presidential palace they are met by police and about 20 people are killed, others injured.

August 9. The strike spreads throughout the island.

August 12. After an anti-Machado conspiracy in the army is forced into the open, a group of officers take possession of some military barracks and proclaim a rebellion against the government. Machado visits the Columbia Military Barracks to assess the situation, and a group of officers that includes Julio Sanguily and Erasmo Delgado inform him that to save Cuba from intervention he should resign. Machado resigns the presidency, and flies to Nassau in the Bahamas. Carlos M. Céspedes, the son of Cuba's legendary leader, takes over as provisional president.

August 13. Without consulting with the new President, U.S. Ambassador Sumner Welles invites leaders of the ABC to take part in Cuba's new provisional government.

August 14. Provisional President Carlos M. Céspedes announces his new cabinet, which includes fewer ABC members than Welles promised.

August 24. The Student Directory issues a Manifesto-Program to the Cuban People. The document is highly critical of the provisional government, the ABC, and the political power structure in Cuba.

August 26. At the Columbia military barracks, a "Junta de los Ocho," formed by dissatisfied sergeants, begin to meet in the enlisted men's club. The junta includes Sergeants Pablo Rodríquez, Fulgencio Batista, Eleuterio Pedraza and others.

September 5. In an uprising known as the "Revolt of the Sergeants," Fulgencio Batista takes over control of the island. Céspedes and his cabinet abandon the Presidential palace the next day.

September 5. The ABC declines all responsibility for the revolt.

September 10. From the balcony of the Presidential Palace, Ramón Grau San Martín takes the oath of office in front of large crowds. This government lasts 100 days, but engineers radical changes in Cuban society. It nullifies the Platt Amendment (except for the Guantánamo naval base lease) sets up an 8-hour working day, establishes a Department of Labor, opens the university to the poor, grants peasants the right to the land they were farming, gives women the right to vote, and reduces electricity rates by 40 percent.
The new government includes Antonio Guiteras as Vice President. He is credited with keeping this government together for the time it lasts. U.S. Ambassador Sumner Welles refers to these changes as "communistic" and "irresponsible," and the U.S. government never recognizes the Grau-Guiteras government.

September 15. An article in the New York Times quotes students from the Directorio, who assert that their movement compares "most closely with the new revolutionary Republic of Spain."

September 16. In the front page of El País, Guiteras states: "In our capitalist system, no government has been so ready to defend the interests of workers and peasants as the present revolutionary government. Nevertheless, induced by American companies, the workers are unconsciously helping in trying to topple the government... It is essential that the worker become aware of the reality we are facing today. It is impossible for the masses to gain political control; thus, instead of opposing the revolutionary government they should cooperate with it to obtain the satisfaction of the most immediate demands of the workers, and to avoid being an instrument of imperialist companies. The National Confederation of Workers will be responsible before History for the setback that the masses will suffer if we give the Americans a pretext to intervene."

September 20. Decree No. 1693 establishes an eight-hour day for workers, and Decree No. 1703 requires that all professionals (lawyers, physicians, architects, etc.) become members of their respective professional organizations in order to continue practicing.

September 22. The Student Left Wing, (Ala Izquierda Estudiantil) formed by students who have moved away from the University Student Directorate, begins to protest the removal of certain professors from Havana schools.

September 29. The police uses weapons to disperse a demonstration organized by the Communist party to honor Julio Antonio Mella, whose ashes were just brought back from Mexico. 6 people are killed, and many others wounded.

October 2. The Department of Labor is created.

October 2. The Army attacks the National Hotel. 14 officers are killed in the battle, 17 wounded and the rest taken prisoner.

October 19. Grau invites Dr. Fernando Ortiz to join the cabinet and to propose a solution that could unify all revolutionary groups. Dr. Ortiz declines to join the cabinet but accepts the offer to propose a solution. Dr. Ortiz's proposal, to include representatives of all important political groups in a genuine "national" government fails due to mutual mistrust, suspicion and past resentment.

October 24. The ABC Radical withdraws its support for the revolutionary government.

"At the end of the October," writes Luis E. Aguilar in Cuba 1933: Prologue to Revolution, "hope for conciliation had died, terrorism in Havana increased, and the two most important sectors of the anti-Machado forces-the students and the ABC-were openly attacking each other."

November 3. A meeting at Sergio Carbo's house in Havana includes Grau, Guiteras, students and various other members of government, military command and the Revolutionary Junta. They have a recently passed decree that allows them to arrest (and, if necessary, kill) Fulgencio Batista. When he finally arrives with only one bodyguard, Batista notices that he is in danger and is able to talk his way out of the situation. Grau is later blamed for accepting Batista's apology.

November 5. After a difficult and emotional meeting the University Student Directorate dissolves.

November 8. Part of the Cuban Air Force and one unit of the Army rebel against the government. Nationalists lead by Rafael Iturralde and Colonel Blas Hernandez (the anti-Machado guerilla fighter) are joined by the ABC, lead by Carlos Saladrigas.

By noon, the rebels capture several police stations in Havana, and two planes attack the presidential palace. Rumors of the insurrection are spreading throughout the city. Batista later orders the Army to fight on the side of the government.

November 9. At 6 p.m., Grau announces victory for the government, and he condemns the actions of "false revolutionaries."

November 16. Horace G. Knowles, former U.S. Ambassador to Bolivia and Nicaragua, accuses Sumner Welles of "openly helping the counterrevolution." He suggests that the U.S. should recognize the revolutionary government. [Only Uruguay and Mexico have recognized the government so far.]

November 24. Sumner Welles is replaced by Jefferson Caffery. [In Cuba, this is seen as proof that the U.S. intends to recognize the revolutionary government.]

December. A new law called "El Derecho de Tanteo" (The right of estimate) is passed, giving the government the right to be considered a potential buyer in any sugar transaction. This law is meant to eliminate the way American and Cuban companies avoid paying taxes by selling their sugar mills or land at very low prices to another company, often a subsidiary.

December 1. The Committee for the Defense of the Zafra (sugar crop) is formed by wealthy hacendados who announce their support for the revolutionary government.

December 8. Guiteras announces that any one caught stealing or damaging government property is to be shot on the spot.

December 18. U.S. Ambassador Jefferson Caffery arrives in Havana.
From Cuba 1933: Prologue to Revolution, by Luis E. Aguilar:
"Caffery belonged to the same school of suave diplomats as Sumner Welles. Without any previous personal involvement in the Cuban imbroglio, he had a chance to be impartial and to judge the situation from an objective standpoint. He had, nevertheless, similar and possibly even stronger convictions than Welles about whom the American government should or should not support. A political conservative of elegant manners, Caffery was once described as a "somewhat frostbitten diplomat of the old school, who holds to the Hamilton belief that those who have should rule." "Diplomacy, as I interpret it," he declared in Havana, "nowadays consists largely in cooperation with American business."

December 19. In the front page of Diario de la Marina, Caffery states that "my country's policy toward Cuba will remain the same."

December 22. A huge pro-government demonstration gathers in front of the Presidential Palace to thank the government for its nationalistic stance.

In 1933 Batista meets with mobster Meyer Lansky, and they forge a friendship and business relationship that lasts three decades.

1934

January 2. A new decree provides free registration at the University for low income students.

January 10. Ambassador Caffery reports to the U.S. State Department his opinion of the revolutionary government: "I agree with former Ambassador Welles as to the inefficiency, ineptitude and unpopularity with all the better classes in the country of the de facto government. It is supported only by the army and the ignorant masses who have been misled by utopian promises." Batista asks Caffery what must be done to obtain U.S. recognition. Caffery answers, "I will lay down no specific terms; the matter of your government is a Cuban matter and it is for you to decide what you will do about it."

January 11. In the presence of Batista, President Grau San Martín tells U.S. Ambassador Caffery that he is willing to accept a compromise with the opposition, and that he is willing to allow a non-political successor to guarantee fair elections.

January 14. Guiteras announces the nationalization of American-owned Electric Bond and Share Company. It is his last governmental act.

January 15. Now a Colonel, Fulgencio Batista, encouraged by Caffery, forces the resignation of the Grau-Guiteras government. In the front page of the Diario de la Marina, Guiteras states that "if the junta designates me, I will accept (the presidency). If the army opposes, we'll fight the army."Before a large crowd in Havana, Grau makes a short farewell address: "I have dictated some laws which are beneficial for the entire country… I have never submitted to any foreign embassy… I have tried to benefit the people, and I have used a firm hand against big companies." The following week he departs for Mexico.
Carlos Hevia becomes the new provisional President.

January 17. Under political pressure from the military and opposition groups, Hevia addresses his resignation to Batista, and Carlos Mendieta steps in as the new provisional President. On the same day, Rubén Martínez Villena (leader of the Communist Party) dies in Havana.

January 20. The U.S. government recognizes the Batista-installed government government with Carlos Mendieta as President.

January. The Cuban Electric Company (a subsidiary of the American Electric Bond and Share Company) goes on strike and is later placed under temporary government control.

April 1. The current issue of the magazine Bohemia includes comments by Pablo de la Torriente: "Compromise, compromise, is always the advice of those false revolutionaries who never understand the real lesson of Danton: that in Cuba, as in any other place, what a revolutionary needs is audacity, audacity and more audacity."

May 29. Cuba and the U.S. sign the "Treaty on Relations," which eliminates the Platt Amendment and the Permanent Treaty of 1903, but allows the U.S. to continue using Guantánamo Bay.

Cuban women win the right to vote.

1935

March. The various revolutionary groups-the Auténticos, Guiteras' Joven Cuba, the ABC and the Communists, join forces in a general strike to topple Batista. The effort fails.

May 8. While preparing to leave Cuba and organize an armed invasion like that of José Martí forty years earlier, Guiteras is killed by the army.

1936

Civil war breaks out in Spain. About one thousand Cubans fight with the International Brigades to defend Spanish democracy.

Colonel Batista becomes General Batista.

June 13. Pablo de la Torriente Brau, member of the Student Left Wing (Ala Izquierda Estudiantil), pays tribute to Batista in a letter to Raúl Roa:
"If we deny his personal courage, we can't deny his other qualities for leadership. He has the imagination of a stenographer, that is, a capacity to quickly interpret a confusing sign, a senseless paragraph or, if applied to politics, a difficult situation. On the other hand, he has the attributes of a demagogue: he is a good speaker, a man of projects, he knows the secret of the smile and the handshake. He constructs, steals, and improves himself… No doubt he is facing a difficult situation, but we should not forget that in Cuba today he is perhaps the man with the best political skills, that he knows how to solve problems, and that when measuring his forces he never forgets to also measure those of his enemies."
The letter also states:
"He belongs to that category of men who, in case of a revolution and if given enough time, would have a plane ready to fly." (Ironically, 22 years later, in December 1958, Batista does have a plane ready to fly.)

1937

May 21. Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada is born in Havana.

1939

Cuban-owned sugar mills account for 22% of the island's total sugar production.

1940

The Constitution of 1940 is established by a national assembly that includes Blas Roca, a young shoemaker who helped organize the Revolution of 1933. The document strikes a balance between the rich and the working class, it protects individual and social rights, supports full employment and a minimum wage, extends social security, calls for equal pay for equal work and outlaws the huge plantations known as latifundias.

General Fulgencio Batista is elected Cuba's 14th president.

1943

Batista legalizes Cuba's Communist Party (established in 1925).

1944

Fidel Castro, a student about to enter a Jesuit high school in Havana, is proclaimed the best high school athlete in Cuba for the year 1943-44.

Ramón Grau San Martín is elected president. [Grau is the first Cuban leader to openly defy U.S. dominance, and support the causes of the lower classes.]

1945

October. Fidel Castro enters the University of Havana.

October 24. Cuba joins the United Nations.

1946

July 4. The US government formally recognizes the sovereignty and independence of the Philippines.

September 19. Famed mobster Charlie Lucky Luciano is issued a Cuban passport, and that same day he leaves Italy. Within two weeks he arrives in Cuba, where's he's met by Meyer Lansky.

November 29. Employees of Hotel Nacional go on strike, demanding a 30% salary increase.

December 22-26. Luciano precides over a large mafia meeting in Havana. . Attendees at the Hotel Nacional meeting include: Meyer Lansky, Frank Costello, Tommy Lucchese, Vito Genovese, Joe Bonanno, Santo Trafficante Jr. and Moe Dalitz. Among the topics discussed is the assassination of Bugsy Siegel. Coincidentally, Frank Sinatra makes his singing debut in Havana.

See a photo of Hotel Nacional

1947

February 23. Luciano is arrested at a restaurant in Vedado.

March 29. Luciano leaves Cuba on a Turkish freighter. Popular radio personality Eduardo Chibás reports on the departure in his Sunday night radio program.

May 15. The Cuban People's Party (Partido Del Pueblo Cubano) is formed. It becomes known as the Orthodox Party (Partido Ortodoxo).

"I had heard that Cubans are a deeply religious people. In two days here, I have learned that baseball is their religion."
- Sam Lacy, 1947

1948

April 9. In Bogotá, Colombia, Fidel Castro participates in a popular uprising known as Bogotazo.

June 1. Carlos Prío Socarrás is elected president.

October 10. Carlos Prío succeeds Grau San Martín as president of Cuba.

Fulgencio Batista is elected in Las Villas to the Cuban Senate.

In Puerto Rico, Luis Muñoz Marín becomes the island’s first elected governor under US rule.

1950

April 27. The National Bank of Cuba officially opens.

May 12. The Inter-American Conference for Democracy and Freedom begins in Havana.

June 1. Cubans go to the polls to elect half the membership of the House of Representatives.

July 3. The US Congress passes Public Law 600, establishing a “compact” between the US government and the people of Puerto Rico. This new law allows Puerto Rico to draft its own constitution, slightly modifying the Jones Act passed in 1917.

July 4. A group of armed men invate the court where the case against former President Grau San Martin is to be held for misappropriation of nearly $175 million (Case No. 82) and steal all the evidence. (None of the documents are recovered, and nobody is arrested.)

Autust 24. Communist newspaper Hoy is suspended by orders of the Cuban government. Also closed is America Deportiva.

September 24. Roberto Fernández is born in Sagua la Grande.

October 27. In Puerto Rico, a number of members from the Nationalist Party are arrested. Two days later police raid the home of party President, Albizu Campos.

October 30. In Puerto Rico, shooting breaks out between members of the Nationalist Party and the police. The Nationalists are able to take the town Jayuya, but are crushed within a few days.

The Puerto Rican Federal Relations Act is passed.

1951

Brief introduction to the 1950s

August 5. At the end of his popular radio show Eddy Chibás commits suicide.

December. The popular weekly magazine, "Bohemia," holds a public opinion poll that shows Batista (who's running for president) as a distant third.

1952

Fidel Castro, two years out of law school, runs for Congress as a candidate of the Orthodox Party.

March 10. Fulgencio Batista takes over (again) in a bloodless coup de etat. Elections, three months away, are canceled.

March 27. The U.S. recognizes Batista's government.

June 2. In Canada, Carlos Prío, Emilio Ochoa and other moderates meet to unite forces against Batista. Their union is known as the "Pact of Montreal."

July 3. US President Harry S. Truman sings a congressional joint resolution (H.J.Res. 430) approving the constitution of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico (already adopted by Puerto Ricans on March 3, 1952).

1953

March 28. The Saturday Evening Post runs an article critical of crooked gambling. On the cover: "Suckers in Paradise: How Americans Loose Their Shirts in Caribbean Gambling Joints." In Havana, the author can only find two locations where the gambling is honest.

March 30. In Havana, 13 American "cardsharps" are arrested for running dishonest gambling operations. 11 are immediately deported.

July 6. Ernesto "Che" Guevara graduates from medical school in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

July 26. Fidel Castro leads a revolt in which 160 men and women attack the Moncada army barracks near Santiago de Cuba. The attack is a failure and surviving rebels are forced to retreat into the mountains. Large numbers of rebels are killed.

August 1. While sleeping in a hut, Fidel Castro is arrested and taken to a jail in Boniato (with other surviving members of the attack on the Moncada army barracks.

September 21. The trial begins in Santiago de Cuba for surviving rebels of the Moncada attack (on July 26). Castro and others are tried separately.

October 6. In Santiago de Cuba, 26 survivors of the Moncada attack are found guilty and sentenced to prison.

October 13. Twenty-six of the Moncada prisoners found guilty (on October 6) are sent to prison on the Isle of Pines. The women, Haydée Santamaría and Melba Hernández are sent Guanajay, outside Havana.

October 16. At his trial, Castro delivers a historic defense that ends with the phrase "history will absolve me" (la historia me absolverá). He is sentenced to 15 years in prison.

October 26. Batista announces that general elections will be held on November 1, 1954.

October 31. Batista outlaws the Cuban Communist Party.

November 19. In Mexico City, the Pact of Montreal is ratified by moderates who oppose Batista.

1954

February 20. Haydée Santamaría and Melba Hernández are released from prison.

March 28. During the Havana carnival, José Antonio Echeverría, Fructuoso Rodríguez and other leaders of the Federation of University Students (FEU) are attacked and beaten by the police.

May. A Cuba-wide campaign seeking amnesty for Castro and the Mocada prisoners is organized.

May 19. Melba Hernández travels to Mexico to organize veterans of Moncada.

May 25. Police in Havana raid a house where Aureliano Sánchez (AAA leader) is hiding. Sanchez escapes to the embassy from Uruguay, and travels to Mexico on June 5. Police discover a list of AAA members.

July. Fulgencio Batista announces that he will run for President.

July 26. On the first anniversary of the attack on the Moncada Army Barracks, a demonstration led by Haydée Santamaría and Melba Hernández is dispersed by police at Colón Cemetary.

July 14. In order to "legally" run for President of Cuba, Batista turns over the presidency to Dr. Andrés Domingo Morales del Castillo.

September 11. Poet Emilio Ballagas dies in Havana.

October. Castro's speech "History Will Absolve Me" is published and circulated throughout the island.

1955

January 23. Appointed president Andrés Domingo Morales signs a law that prohibits civil courts from taking on crimes by military personnel.

January 28. On the anniversary of Martí's birth, a group of people marching to where Martí is buried in Santiago de Cuba is attacked by the police.

February 6. U.S. Vice-President Richard Nixon arrives in Cuba.

February 11. In a letter sent from the U.S., Carlos Prío and other moderates ask Richard Nixon to pressure Batista to step down.

February 25. General Fulgencio Batista is inaugurated as President of Cuba. Rafael Guas Inclán is Vice President.

April. Head of the CIA, Allan Dulles, visits Cuba to organize the Bureau for the Repression of Communist Activities (BRAC).

May 15. Fidel Castro and other veterans of the attack on the Moncada Army Barracks are released from prison in a general amnesty.

June 24. Fidel Castro leaves for Mexico.

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