Buccaneers occupied the smallest islands of the Lesser Antilles that the Spanish had avoided, and used them as bases for raids on Spanish galleons and coastal towns. Spain complained to the governments of France and England who responded with appropriate remorse but secretly rejoiced at their share of the loot. Spain had no recourse but to fortify a base where the galleons could make repairs and assemble into fleets for the voyage home. They built a great castle at the entrance to La Habana Harbor – El Morro de la Habana. A fortified battery on the opposite shore completed the defenses. A chain was stretched between the castle and the fort on the opposite shore to prevent ships from passing before artillery could sink them. Officially named Castillo de los Tres Magos del Morro (Castle of the Three Magi – yes, the Three Kings of the Orient who visited the birth of Jesus – of the Rock), it was completed in 1589.
Cubans could not help but notice that they were neglected while Spain developed their mainland colonies, and they revolted several times during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Thus, the Cuban revolutionaries of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, including Castro, had a rich heritage of hatred for imperial rule.
The castle fell once, to the British, in 1762, and the island remained under their control for almost a year. Although Spain suffered a great loss – the British divvied up 750,000 pounds of treasure – the Cubans fared well under British rule. In that brief time, almost a thousand merchant ships visited the island's ports, and the streets of the cities were filled with merchandise. British tourists brought even more currency to the island's merchants. The Cubans had never known such commercial success under Spanish rule.
The British ceded Cuba back to Spain as part of a trade for Florida and eastern Louisiana brokered at the Treaty of Paris. The Cubans were once again subjected to Spanish rule and commerce fled the island. Their markets would not recover again until the American Revolution.
When El Morro ceased to be of value as a fortification to defend La Habana harbor, it became a prison. More accurately, it became a chamber of horrors. Many ghosts must stalk its bowels to this day, many murdered by Castro's most infamous executioner, Ernesto “Ché” Guevara. Was he eliminating Americans or imperialists? No, mostly his victims were Cubans who had the temerity to disagree with Che's vision for their homeland. In case you didn't know this, Ché was not a Cuban.