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Key to the New World: A History of Early Colonial Cuba (Hardcover)
Florida Book Awards, Bronze Medal for General Nonfiction International Latino Book Awards, First Place, Best History Book (English)
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 is the first comprehensive history of early colonial Cuba written in English and fills the gap in our knowledge of the island before 1700.
Luis Mart nez-Fern ndez presents a holistic portrait of the island nation that interrelates geography, economy, society, politics, and culture and weaves these threads into a narrative that begins with the first arrival of indigenous people around 7,000 years ago. He chronicles 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, he focuses intimately on the people who both influenced and were influenced by these larger, impersonal forces.
Developing the theme of "Two Cubas," Mart nez-Fern ndez explores the differences between the urban, official, and mercantilist Havana and the eastern frontier, which is rural, remote, relaxed, and rebellious. As colonial society emerges on the island, he highlights the asymmetrical interactions among whites, blacks, mulattos, Amerindians, and mestizos; the people who challenged the conflicting and overlapping social structures and hierarchies; and the cultural by-products of multiethnicity. He brings to life the different characters in the story of Cuba that are emblematic of creolization and transculturation in religion, food and diet, and music. He also discusses the rise of the sugar plantation as a socioeconomic engine and its reliance on the expansion of African slavery, as well as slave and free black resistance to the system.
In these often-overlooked centuries, Mart nez-Fern ndez 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.
About the Author
Luis Martinez-Fernandez, professor of history at the University of Central Florida, is the author of Revolutionary Cuba: A History.