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Their emerging nationalist sentiment was countered by increasing anxiety among the African majority.
After the British occupation of Havana in 1752, slaves who had been stolen from Africa comprised the majority of the population.
The struggle between these three groups determined the character of the colony and the meaning of Cuban-ness ( cubanidad ).
Peninsulares came to earn their fortunes and return to Spain.
After the Haitian revolution of 1791, creoles and peninsulares thought that only the presence of the Spanish army could maintain order and their privilege.
Indigenous lands were quickly distributed to European conquistadors and gold prospectors, and indigenous persons were enslaved and given to Europeans for use in mining and agricultural projects (a system called the encomienda ). Malnutrition, overwork, suicide, and brutality made the indigenous population virtually extinct within fifty years of the conquest.In 1862 the African population was larger than that of whites.Although the larger slave-holding plantations were in the west, escaped and emancipated slaves often fled east, where they could more easily hide or establish themselves on small unclaimed plots of land in Oriente. The dialect is similar to that in the other Hispanic Caribbean islands, although the rhythmic speaking and the use of highly expressive hand gestures are distinctly Cuban.At least 50 percent of the population is classified as mulatto (mixed African and European descent), although the cultural privilege assigned to whiteness probably causes many mulattos to minimize their African heritage.Thirty-seven percent of the population claims to be exclusively white, and 11 percent is classified as "negro." The remaining 1 percent is Chinese, the result of the importation of 132,000 Chinese indentured laborers between 18 to replace the loss of labor caused by the impending end of African slavery.