British Cuba!?

Did you know that Cuba was once British????

BritishTaxiHavana

Cuba! The very name conjures up a taste of sugar and rum, the smell of fine cigar tobacco and coffee and the sound of music played to the rhythms of the gentle waves lapping on the shores of this coral island paradise! Cuba is the very essence of a Spanish Caribbean Island, or is it???
You might be surprised to hear that “Yes indeed” Cuba was under British rule ….. for a spell!!

PlayaAnconTrinidad

Cuba had been jealously claimed and run by the Spanish Conquistadores who divided it up amongst themselves for cultivation and colonization. Its location made it a perfect stop off for treasures plundered from “New Spain” and South America, heading back to be melted down for the Spanish crown. Goods too made this journey back to Europe and a two way trade developed between Europe and the Americas!

DSC05180
Cuba the island was flat and fertile a readymade breadbasket of the Caribbean! ! The “west Indies” as they were called were crucial in the trade routes between the Americas and Europe and whoever gained a foot hold of these islands could easily control trade!
SUGAR had become an addiction in Europe and Cuba was ideal for cultivation of this crop, but the local populations had long since perished from diseases and over work and the island had been repopulated by slaves captured along with the booty from neighbouring lands. A new source of stronger workers were needed and Slaves from West Africa arrived by the boat load!

DSC04689
Greed and the idea that the world was there for the taking, and could be divided up between the crowns of Europe led the British in 1762 to set sail from Portsmouth for Havana, Cuba! This was no tourist trip! Britain had always prided itself on the power of its Navy! An expedition set off with 5 warships and 4,000 troops! They lay siege for two months on Havana bombarding the city walls and blasted their way through the massive fortifications and defeated the Spanish; this battle cost the lives of 560 British soldiers!!
British rule immediately opened up trade after the heavy restrictions Spain had imposed! Trade was mainly with North American and Caribbean colonies and it transformed the Cuban society. Food, horses and other commodities poured onto the island as well as thousand of slaves from West Africa to work the sugar plantations. The British brought machines and greatly improved all aspects of the sugar industry!

GuarapoHavana2
The desire to rule Cuba was all about money and British occupation was short lived! London merchant feared a decline in sugar prices and put pressure on the government to negotiate with Spain over colonial territories! Nine months on with the Paris Treaty the Seven Year War was ended and Britain got Florida in exchange for Cuba!!!! Britain felt it was a poor exchange!!
How sad that hundreds of thousands of Cubans have exchanged their own island for Florida in the 20th and 21st Century!CamagueyEmilio2012126

Read more about Cuba in our Archives Cuba News Posts! If you have a sweet tooth try http://encompasstours.com/2012/05/the-sweetest-sugar-in-the-world/

Why not see Cuba for yourself? Join one of our tours this year!

Our favourite is “A Cuban Snapshot”  http://encompasstours.com/tours/a-cuban-snapshot-7-days/

If you have more time we recommend “Mi Cubita”  http://encompasstours.com/tours/mi-cubita-cuba14-days/

The sweetest sugar in the world!

Guarapo Frio!

Celia Cruz was not the only Cuban to cry “Azucar” with delight and eager anticipation, but she put the island on the map for many people!

“Azucar” or sugar, is and has been the life blood of the island and an essential ingredient without which Cubans could not survive!

Life is sweet in Cuba and coffee comes automatically sweet…”Sin azucar???” (without sugar) you must be crazy!

The plantations of sugar cane are now much reduced from their peak following the revolution of 1959 when vast areas of land were cut and burnt to boost crops and foreign income. Sugar prices were high as was demand, but markets fluctuate and during the last three decades Cuban sugar industry has all but disappeared! Many of the the “centrales” or sugar refineries, have been closed down or even pulled down, and in some cases only the elegant tall chimneys remain. Workers have had to move on to other industries, and communities have shrunk or moved away. The trains too that were so important for the transportation to the ports are mainly to be found in the museums or abandoned and rusting at the end of the line!

Home consumption of sugar will always be  high as Cubans have a very sweet tooth, and one way of getting your sugar hit for the day is a delicious cup of “Gurapo Frio” cold sugar juice!

Kiosks selling Guarapo are popular all over Cuba and the juice couldn’t be fresher!  A stack of recently cut cane is piled ready and you can watch the machine as it crushes and squeezes the sweet sticky liquids from the stalks. It’s comes trickling out a light brownish colour and is collected in a bucket as it runs from the rollers.

Next a block of ice is pulverised in your mug and the liquid poured over!  Its quite frothy, very sweet and will give you a huge energy rush! Cubans love it!! On a boiling hot summer day what could be better mid morning!!

Holidays to Cuba available now!

“Mi Cubita” 14 days tour
http://encompasstours.com/tours/mi-cubita-cuba14-days/

“Cuban Snapshot” 7 days tour
http://encompasstours.com/tours/a-cuban-snapshot-7-days/

For the sounds of Celia singing “Azucar Negra” you tube link below!  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fCSAHyvslhU&feature=related