“A splendid work of historical craftsmanship. In tone and content it offers a generally balanced survey of Cuban history through the end of the seventeenth century and in this regard it promises to offer a very usable introductory text. The writing is accessible and thoughtful, organized around an informative and engaging narrative.”—Louis A. Pérez Jr., author of On Becoming Cuban: Identity, Nationality, and Culture
“A commendable and important achievement.”—Jason M. Yaremko, author of Indigenous Passages to Cuba, 1515–1900
Scholarly and popular attention tends to focus heavily on Cuba’s recent history: its notoriety as the world’s largest exporter of sugar and the Western hemisphere’s first socialist nation. Key to the New World fills the gap in our knowledge of the island before 1700, examining Cuba’s formative centuries in depth.
Luis Martínez-Fernández presents a holistic portrait of the island nation, interrelating its geography, economy, society, politics, and culture. He weaves these threads into a narrative that begins with the first arrival of indigenous people 10,000 years ago. He explores the conquest and establishment of colonial rule and how the island’s geographic uniqueness made it an ideal launching pad for Spanish conquests into Central America, Mexico, and Florida. While considering the role of Cuba and the Caribbean as a theater for European power struggles, Martínez-Fernández also focuses intimately on the people who both influenced and were influenced by these larger, impersonal forces.
In these often-overlooked centuries, Martínez-Fernández finds the roots of many of Cuba’s enduring economic, political, social, and cultural complexities. The result is a sweeping history, a seminal text that makes clear that to fully grasp revolutionary or contemporary Cuba we must first understand what came before.
Luis Martínez-Fernández, professor of history at the University of Central Florida, is the author of Revolutionary Cuba: A History.
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