Oriente Province

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Cuba's provinces as shown on a 1910s map
The seal of the Province of Oriente.

Oriente (Spanish for "East" or "Orient") was one of six provinces of Cuba until 1976. It was known as "Santiago de Cuba Province" before 1905. The name is still used to refer to the eastern part of the country. The provincial capital was Santiago de Cuba. Fidel and Raúl Castro were born there.

The province was split up in 1976, with the administrative re-adjustment proclaimed by Cuban Law Number 1304 of July 3, 1976.[1] Historical Oriente is currently represented by 5 provinces:


Diego Velazquez founded the capital of Oriente province in 1514 and named it Santiago de Cuba. The province comprises 22 municipalities and is Cuba’s largest province containing about one third of the country’s population. Oriente Province is in the most eastern region of Cuba with a population of 1,797,606.[2] It stretches across 14,641 square miles (37,920 km2)[3] and consists of various mountain ranges with the Sierra Maestra region having Cuba’s highest mountain peak and elevation in Pico Turquino. Oriente Province is the cradle of much of Cuba’s history being the place of Fidel and Raul Castro’s birth. José Martí was killed in battle in Dos Ríos and many guerrllla wars have also taken place in Oriente. Cuba’s first guerilla-style war was in 1523.[4] against the advancing Spaniards in the Sierra Maestra Mountains. Some of Cuba’s oldest cities are in Oriente Province (such as Baracoa) and carry a rich history of Cuba’s struggle for independence and racial equality.

Throughout the 1800s. a significant amount of African slaves were brought to Cuba to work at the sugar mills, although many were brought from Haiti and other neighboring islands because they were also cheap and efficient labor. Open warfare broke out after an independence movement and lasted from 1867 to 1878.[5] Slavery was finally abolished in 1886, but life for many Afro-Cubans remains a struggle, especially in Oriente Province.

After the occupation of the Spanish ended in 1899, Oriente Province became a refuge for Afro-Cubans. Oriente had the highest number of individual land owners and renters with 96% of the population being native-born. Afro-Cubans constituted as many as 26% of the land workers. Of the total land owned by Afro-Cubans, 75% were in Oriente Province.[6] Even though Afro-Cubans fared better in Oriente, poverty was still rampant in the province and they remained oppressed by wealthy Cubans and foreign land owners.

Sugar and coffee were the main agricultural products produced. And at the highest there were forty-one sugar mills spread throughout the region. Foreign investors saw opportunity within the province and began to buy as much land as possible to increase sugar production. As investors bought land, local farmers were pushed out and frustration increased. Poverty grew and by May 1912 Cubans in Oriente Province had reached a boiling point. Massive demonstrations erupted and Afro-Cubans began to loot and burn businesses and property owned by foreign investors. In response, the Cuban government sent in the army to burn the property of the Afro-Cubans and slaughtered many. Within two years, half of the sugar mills in Oriente were owned by U.S. investors. For Cubans working within the province, life had become near unbearable.The presence of Americans, Jamaicans and Haitians, brought in by the United Fruit Company exacerbated racial problems not present until the U.S. occupation of 1898. Cuba´s national hero, José Martí called for a multiracial republic.


Present day municipalities that were part of Oriente include

in Granma Province,
in Guantánamo Province,
in Holguín Province,
in Las Tunas and
in Santiago de Cuba Province.


  1. ^ Fifth United Nations Conference on the Standardization of Geographical Names, Vol. II, published by the United Nations, New York, 1991
  2. ^ ^”Oriente- Cuba”. Cuban Commemorative Coins. O9 Mar. 2010. http://www.a1acoins.com/
  3. ^ ^”Oriente- Cuba”. Cuban Commemorative Coins. O9 Mar. 2010. http://www.a1acoins.com/
  4. ^ “On the Importance of Oriente Province”. History of Cuba. 02 Feb. 2010 http://www.historyofcuba.com/cuba.htm
  5. ^ ^ "Cuba." The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia. © 1994, 2000-2006 on Infoplease. © 2000–2007 Pearson Education, publishing as Infoplease. 09 Mar. 2010 <http://www.infoplease.com/ce6/people/A0844662.html>.
  6. ^ ^“On the Importance of Oriente Province”. History of Cuba. 02 Feb. 2010 http://www.historyofcuba.com/cuba.htm

External links[edit]