After four centuries of Spanish colonial rule, Cubans win their independence, but U.S. intervention at the eleventh hour comes with a price.
Cuba flourishes thanks to sugar production, but relations with the U.S. deteriorate, leading to the rise of military strongman Fulgencio Batista.
A source of illegal rum during Prohibition, Cuba becomes a haven for the Mafia, which seizes control of the country's popular gambling industry.
On New Year's Day 1959, rebel guerillas led by the Castro brothers and Che Guevara succeed in toppling the corrupt, dictatorial rule of Batista.
Heroes of the revolution include the Castros, Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos, but Fidel Castro's brutality and radical leftist reforms divide them.
When Fidel Castro expropriates U.S. businesses and pursues support from the Soviet Union, the CIA sends assassins, saboteurs and invaders to Cuba.
Challenges mount in the '80s as Cubans desert their restrictive homeland, cocaine infiltrates the government, and European socialism collapses.
In the post-Soviet world, the Castros find mutual support in Venezuela, but the Cold War's conclusion brings the country's isolationism to an end.