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An American History


15 min read
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What's inside?

Cuba’s history has been bound up with America’s for centuries.

Editorial Rating



  • Comprehensive
  • Eye Opening
  • Engaging


A tropical island in the passage between the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, Cuba is an epic poem in every way. It has suffered conquest, violent occupation, the slave trade – and political revolution. Cuba and the United States were already interconnected before the American War of Independence, but Fidel Castro’s takeover in 1959 and Cuba’s association with the Soviet Union vaulted the relationship into a new, Cold War context. Professor Ada Ferrer’s comprehensive history gives readers a sense of Cuba and the United States’s complicated connection – and what it looks like now, as it moves into an uncertain future.


Christopher Columbus plays a big part in the way Americans understand their history.

In 1492, the Spanish monarchs drove Muslims from Spain as part of a “Christian Reconquest.” They also forced Spain’s Jews to convert to Christianity or to leave the country. It was in this atmosphere that Christopher Columbus set sail for the New World on August 3. For many Americans today, Columbus’s “discovery” serves as the mythical origin point of US history. In truth, though Columbus first arrived in the Bahamas and later made it to Cuba, he never actually set foot in North America. People already lived in the Americas at the time of Columbus’s arrival – people who ultimately suffered a brutal and protracted genocide at the hands of Europeans.

There are other points of origin for Europeans in North America: The Vikings landed there in the year 1000; John Cabot explored the North American coast in 1497; Jamestown was settled in 1607; and the Puritans arrived at Plymouth Rock in 1620. But Columbus became an appealing avatar in the early 19th century, when the United...

About the Author

Ada Ferrer is a Cuban-American historian and a professor of history and Latin American studies at New York University. She won the 2022 Pulitzer Prize in History for this book and the Frederick Douglass Prize in 2015 for Freedom’s Mirror: Cuba and Haiti in the Age of Revolution.

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