After having been claimed by Spain in 1492, Cuba finally got its first taste of independence from Europe when Spain ceded it to the United States after the Spanish-American War.
Tomas Estrada Palma becomes the first President of a free Cuba; however, the Platt Amendment both keeps Cuba under the protection of the US and grants the US the right to intervene in Cuban politics.
After Estrada resigns, the US is forced to come back to Cuba in response to a rebellion led by Jose Miguel Gomez. Gomez is then elected president after US-sanctioned elections, but falls to corruption soon after.
After taking power, Machado immediately takes measures to increase mining, agriculture, and public works, but eventually establishes a dictatorship.
Sergeant Fulgencio Batista leads a military coup and overthrows Machado. During his reign, the US leaves Cuba entirely, including politically, giving up its right to intervene in domestic affairs. It also reforms tariffs and sugar quotas to benefit Cuba. He resigns in 1944 and is succeeded by a civilian named Ramon Gray San Martin.
Batista comes out of retirement and seizes control from San Martin. Yet again, he presides over an oppressive dictatorship, and puts down a rebellion headed by none other than Fidel Castro in 1953. Castro then flees to the Sierra Maestra mountains, where he mounts a guerrilla warfare campaign with Ernesto "Che" Guevara.
After the US cut off military support to Batista in 1958, Castro led his army of 9,000 revolutionaries into Havana, forcing Batista out of power. He names his brother, Raul, as his deputy, with Guevara acting as third-in-command.
Catalyzed by the nationalization of all US-based businesses in Cuba without compensation, Washington breaks off all ties with the Cuban government. After the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion, Cuba declares itself a communist state and begins the process of allying with the USSR.
Castro agrees to let the USSR stage nuclear missiles on its land, for fear of a US invasion. This marks the closest the Cold War ever came to being an all-out nuclear holocaust.
With the collapse of the USSR, Soviet advisors leave Cuba. This places an incredible strain on its economy.
With the US increasing its trade embargoes, Cuba has no choice but to reform its markets in order to stop the economical bleeding. These reforms include, among other things, the legalization of USD, the conversion of a number of state-owned farms into semi-autonomous co-ops, and allowing a limited amount of private enterprise.
In response to the shooting down of two US aircraft piloted by Cuban exiles, the trade embargoes on Cuba are made permanent.
Raul Castro meets with Russian president Dmitri Medvedev to discuss trade agreements. This marks Raul's first significant involvement in foreign affairs as President. In addition to this, a newly-elected Barack Obama says he wants a fresh start with Cuba a year later.
Fidel, in bad health, steps down as President of Cuba. He hands control of the country over to his brother Raul. During his first term as President, Raul introduces a large number of reforms, chief among them being increasing legalization of private business ventures and transactions.
During Raul Castro's second term, Cuba begins to reunite itself with the Western world. It begins talks with the EU to restore diplomatic and economic ties in 2014, and does the same with China and Russia. Along with this, Castro and Obama reach an agreement to restore diplomatic relations between the US and Cuba.