cross-cultural analysis of the Republic of Colombia and the Republic of Cuba reveals a group of similarities between the cultures, as a result of the postcolonial status of both nations. Both nations are plagued with political and social strife that has altered the landscape of the culture, to a large degree resulting in a fragmented society. The rich are very rich and the poor are very poor, not unlike many Latin American nations yet, between these two we find the most similarities in nationalism in addition to the pervasive effects of a relatively recent independence from Spanish rule.
One frequently cited difference between the Cuban population and that of Colombia is the existence of indigenous populations in Colombia. While Colombia is large enough to have offered refuges for indigenous people from the diseases and oppression of the colonizers Cuba offered no refuge and was quickly wiped clean of indigenous survivors of the Spanish landing.
"The native population was quickly destroyed under Spanish rule, and was soon replaced as laborers by African slaves, who contributed much to the cultural evolution of the island. The European population was continuously replenished by immigration, chiefly from Spain but also from other Latin American countries. Despite pirate attacks and the trade restrictions of Spanish mercantilist policies, Cuba, the Pearl of the Antilles, prospered." ("Cuba" Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia 6th ed, 2003)
Historically Cuba acted as a central hub for the colonial Spanish exploitation in all of Latin America and parts of North America. In Cuba the population is therefore entirely made up of resettled peoples, from mostly two main regions of the world, Spain and Africa. "Cuba served as the staging area for Spanish explorations of the Americas. As an assembly point for treasure fleets, it offered a target for French and British buccaneers, who attacked the island's cities incessantly. ("Cuba" Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 2003) The region has therefore maintained the creation of a culture in need of protection from invasion. As an island nation the culture is driven by the idea that they are often at the mercy of invaders, on all shores and has thus created a social and political call for utmost adherence to nationalism. The Spanish in Cuba are descendants of the conquistadores and other immigrants from Spain and other areas of Latin America, while the African population is made up of former slaves of the conquerors.
The origins of the population include Spanish (over 35%), African (over 10%), and mixed Spanish-African (over 50%). Spanish is spoken and Roman Catholicism, the dominant religion, is tolerated by the Marxist government. Santeria, an African-derived faith, is also practiced, and there are a growing number of Protestant evangelical churches. ("Cuba" Columbian Electronic Encyclopedia 6th ed. 2003)
Though Colombia does boast at least a small percentage of indigenous peoples they are clearly economically, culturally and geographically marginalized. "Prior to the Spanish conquest, Colombia was inhabited by Chibcha, sub-Andean, and Caribbean peoples, all of whom lived in organized, agriculturally-based communities." ("Colombia" Columbian Electronic Encyclopedia 6th ed. 2003) While the majority of people within the country are mestizo, referring to a large population of mixed origins, both European (Spanish) and native Indians.
About 60% of Colombia's population are mestizos, and some one fifth are of European descent. Indigenous peoples, who account for only about 1% of today's population, live on the edge of some of the major cities and in remote areas. About 15% of the people are of mixed African and European descent. The small (less than 5%) black population is concentrated along the coasts and in the Magdalena and Cauca valleys. Spanish is the official language. The population is overwhelmingly Roman Catholic. ("Colombia," Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia 6th ed., 2003)
The strife within both nations can be linked to political social issues of representation, through the often-challenged transition from colonial rule to independence. As with nearly all post colonial nations all populations feel disenfranchised from the governing body of colonizers with little voice or benefit and much discrimination. Those who are of European decent are often, at least relatively resentful of their inability to be received by the colonizers as equals and yet are resented by those who are of the underclass, in the case of Cuba the Afro-Cubans and those of mixed blood and in Colombia the Mestizos and the Colombian Blacks, because of their relative ability, at least on the surface, to achieve success and function within the infrastructure of the Colonizers. The civil rights battle, in each country, though unique has driven the creation of a worldview not unlike that of Americans.
The regional reliance upon agriculture is a still present legacy of the colonization of both Cuba and Colombia, though recent strides have been taken, especially by Castro in Cuba to reduce the dependence on such labor intensive work as cane sugar farming. It was mostly the sugar and mining industries that caused the resettlement of Cuba and Colombia by slave labor and it was these two main things that fed the colonial hunger for power and money. Deforestation, in both nations is another outgrowth of this hunger. Alternatives, such as Coffee have replaced older legitimate agricultural endeavors while cocaine production, and demand for it has poisoned the political, social and economic history of the two nations. The relative profit margin on an illicit crop, versus a licit one is a huge temptation for formerly legitimate farmers.
... A battle has emerged between economic and political interests shaping popular ideology as well as governmental action (Reinarman, 1979: 250). In the 1980s, this conflict intensified when certain drugs became international commodities of incredible magnitude, with subsequent economic, political, and social repercussions in many areas of the world. (Olmo, 1993)
In Colombia the very small population of indigenous peoples whose lives are the most challenged by the colonizers, as they have cultural memory of the region prior to its exploitation under colonial rule. Strangely even after years of independence it is often those who are of pure European decent that through the legacy and infrastructure of the colonial government have the greatest economic advantage, a fact in both Colombia and Cuba.
In Colombia 2001 an estimated 55% of population is below the poverty line while in Cuba is it difficult to determine because of the control of information by the government, yet economic challenges of the region that are knowable would indicate a similar disparity between the rich and the poor, though on a smaller scale because of the size difference between the nations. (CIA World Fact Book 2003)
Economic statistics mean little if they disguise huge differences in income, wealth and foreign control over a nation's industry, resources and wealth. Over half the Latin American region's labor force was unemployed or underemployed, and over sixty percent of the region's 450 million people lived in absolute poverty as the world entered the 1990s. Twenty million homeless children wandered the region's streets. (Frank, 1993, p. 42)
In Cuba a particularly post colonial problem has plagued the nation, as the labor intensive and seasonal work required to produce on of it main export crops, sugar has decimated the poor population of resettled decedents of African nations. There has also been historical strife between these, non-homogenous peoples as they hail from two general previously resettled regions under Spanish control. Haitian and West Indian migrant sugar workers have demonstrated historical and bloody strife. (Mcleod, 1998) The political strife in Cuba is often the only point of reference as the nation underwent it revolution and chose communist rule, eventually ending in embargos with the United States and a compact with Russia, upon the dissolution of the U.S.S.R. The country remained communist under Fidel Castro and remains so today. Political factions still exist but the strife is mainly caused by the economic conditions.
Colombia's history is similar, independence from Spain was gained through much toil and bloodshed and the region dissolved into several nations states, including Colombia. "After the Spanish conquest, which began in 1525, the area of present-day Colombia formed the nucleus of New Granada ... The struggle for independence was, as in all Spanish-American possessions, precipitated by the Napoleonic invasion of Spain." ("Colombia," Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia 6th ed., 2003) The revolution in Colombia began before 1810 and ended in 1819 when the region was freed of Spanish rule.
The new state ... included what is now Venezuela, Panama, and (after 1822) Ecuador, as well as Colombia. ... While Bolivar, who had been named president, headed campaigns in Ecuador and Peru, the vice president, Francisco de Paula Santander, administered the new nation. Political factions soon crystallized. Santander advocated a union of federal sovereign states, while Bolivar championed a centralized republic. ("Colombia," Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia 6th ed., 2003)
Bolivar was largely successful in his bid to keep the region together yet the region soon divided roughly into the nations we see on the map today. The region, even after division into several nation states still had many conflicts, most of which were centered in Colombia.