Cuba (1902-) is a single-party Marxist-Leninist state located in the Caribbean Sea/Gulf of Mexico in the island of Cuba. Explored in 1492 by Christopher Columbus of Spain, the city of Havana was built in 1515 and Cuba gained independence from Spain in 1898 and the United States in 1902. A 1959 revolution left an oppressive regime under Fidel Castro in power, and it aligned with the Soviet Union.
Cuba's name comes from the Taino word "coabana", meaning "great place". However, Cuba was also the name of a town in Portugal, one of Columbus' suspected birthplaces. It was first explored in 1492 by Christopher Columbus, an explorer in the service of Spain who believed that Cuba was China. However, he quickly found out that he had discovered a New World, and in 1515 the Spanish conquistador Diego Velazquez founded the city of La Habana on the western shore.
Cuba was under Spanish rule from 1515 to 1898, with a brief British takeover in 1762 during the Seven Years' War. It was the staging point for many expeditions to the American continents and to other islands during Spain's colonial wars. In 1878, the people of Cuba picked up arms to fight against Spanish rule after witnessing Spain's loss of their South and Central American colonies from 1808 to 1826, but they were crushed. Eventually, the United States intervened in the short Spanish-American War of 1898, during which the USA annexed Puerto Rico and Cuba. Cuba became a major source of American sugar and bananas, and the Spanish-American conflict began a series of Central American interventions known as the "Banana Wars" that lasted into the 1930s.
In 1902, Cuba gained independence in exchange for a trade agreement and the US's right to intervene in Cuban affairs. Cuba assisted the United States during World War II from 1941 to 1945, fighting against Japan in the Pacific. The Cuban nation was ruled by a dictator named Fulgencio Batista, who was friendly to foreign interests - at the cost of the exploitation of his own people. In 1956, nationalist revolutionary Fidel Castro attempted to overthrow the government at the Moncado Barracks attack, but he was captured. He later returned to warfare in 1958 with aid from Che Guevara and communist rebels, and in 1960 the government was forced to flee into exile on New Years' Day.
Castro's reign was initially supported by the United States, but his rivalries with US-backed United Fruit Company and other interests and his purchasing of oil from the Soviet Union (USSR) led to President John F. Kennedy authorizing an invasion in 1961. An army of Cuban exiles landed at the Bay of Pigs, but the Tropas (Cuban Army) mowed them down on the beaches and an attempt to assassinate Castro in his mansion failed. Many American CIA assassination attempts on Castro also failed through the years, and world war was nearly averted when the US blockaded Cuba in 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
During the 1970s and 1980s, Cubans played an increasing role in the Cold War, sending troops to Angola from 1975 to 1992 to assist the Marxist revolutionaries there. With the end of the Cold War in 1991, however, Cuba's ally the USSR ended and Cuba was isolated. Fidel Castro resigned in 2008 and gave power to his brother Raul Castro, whose rule has seen off many embargoes and established better relations with the USA.