Cuba was one of the first regions to be colonized by the Spanish in the 1500s. The original inhabitants, Tainos, were nearly exterminated by the forced labor and wanton slaughter. Later, African slaves were imported to replace them.
Cuba became one of the richest colonies in the Americas due to its sugar plantations. Cuba was also one of the last colonies to gain independence from Spain; the Cuban independence movement of the 1890s failed to gain traction until the Spanish-American War, after which the United States granted it independence.
In the 1950s, the U.S.-backed Fulgencio Batista became President of Cuba. Although initially democratic, his reign became increasingly tyrannical, and in 1959 he was overthrown by a popular revolt led by Fidel Castro. A Soviet-aligned communist government was established, and the Soviet Union under Nikita Khrushchev began constructing nuclear missile bases there. The United States, under John F. Kennedy, responded with an embargo. The Cuban Missile Crisis lasted for several months in 1962 until Khrushchev backed down and dismantled the missile bases.
Cuba supported various communist insurgencies around the world, including the Angolan Civil War. Cuba survived the fall of communism in 1991, but its economy contracted due to the end of Soviet aid. In 2009, Fidel Castro stepped down because of old age and appointed his brother Raul Castro as President.