Nothing prepared us for the sudden shift from the American-backed dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, to the vitriolic temper of Castro's rise to power. There was no evidence that he was a communist, although there were communists among the Fidelistas, including his brother, Raul, and his friend, Che Guevara. As events in Cuba spiraled out of control, Havana became remote and forbidding.
Writing Rebels on the Mountain forced me to throw away preconceptions and prejudices, and look again at the events in Cuba and America's role in them. I had to dig deep into the past to clear my vision, all the way back to the island's first inhabitants, the Caribs.
In addition to bases from which to mount Spanish expeditions against the Aztec, Inca, and Mayan civilizations, Santo Domingo supported vast plantations that supplied provisions for the expeditions to the main land. Local natives were enslaved to provide cheap labor. The Spanish didn't take Cuba seriously until they discovered that the slaves were stealing away to the larger island. They had to conquer it to deny them this refuge.
Cuba's conquest turned into a carnage. There was no reason to take native hostages. They had no treasure to ransom themselves. There was no reason to enslave them. They could not be tamed. The Spanish resorted to ethnic cleansing of the island.
The Spanish conquest of Cuba began in 1503. By 1513, they dominated the periphery only. The island's interior was still untamed. From that time until the end of the Spanish-American war in 1898, Spain never seemed interested in Cuba as anything more than a gateway to their colonies in the Americas.
Cuba lies in the center of the Americas. North, South, and Central America are arrayed around the island and its greatest natural asset, the harbor that the Spanish named La Habana. No other harbor in the region equals it. Accessible only via a narrow inlet, the harbor is easily defended from any naval excursion launched against it. Its broad, deep water interior, can shelter immense fleets from the most violent storms. Two lesser harbors at Santiago de Cuba and Guantanamo Bay, were merely the icing on the cake.