20th May

1570 Theatrus Orbis Terrarum published, first modern atlas

1609 Shakespeare’s Sonnets first published

1927 Charles Lindberg sets off on the first nonstop flight across the Atlantic; 1932 Amelia Earhardt does the same, first time by a woman.

 

Josephine Baker Day – an American-born French entertainer who helped in the civil rights movement in America by refusing to perform for segregated audiences.

 

World Metrology Day (celebrates the use of the metre) – how tall are you in metres? How far can you throw a ball? How far can you throw a flipflop?

European Maritime Day – so make boats out of everything!

Cuba Independence Day (from America, 1902)

combined-map-of-usa-and-cuba

Cuba was originally inhabited by ‘American Indians’ – the Taino/Arawak people. Christopher Columbus discovered it in 1492 and claimed it for Spain, whose settlers wiped out the natives in the usual manner (disease, oppression).

In 1549 the new governor, Dr. Gonzalo Perez de Angulo. liberated all remaining natives.

During the Seven Years’ War, Britain took Cuba from the Spanish. We already owned North America and other parts of the Carribean, so actually this was good for Cuba’s trade. Also we brought thousands of West African slaves to work in the sugar plantations. But then we swapped Cuba for Florida.

Carlos Manuel de Céspedes

In 1868 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes offered to free any slaves who fought with him for Cuban Independence, leading to the Ten Years’ War. In the end Spain offered them more self-control and in the 1880s abolished slavery.

An exile, Jose Marti, founded the Cuban Revolutionary Party in New York in 1892. In 1895 he joined Maximo Gomez, who led the war against Spanish rule then. The Spanish army outnumbered the rebel army and put them in prototype concentration camps called reconcentrados, where they died of starvation and disease. The US was against the Spanish on this, and declared war.

After the Spanish-American War (1898 – America won), Cuba belonged to America until it was granted independence in 1902. There followed a series of presidents, included the dictator Batista who took the seat through a military coup.

Then Fidel Castro took over, also by military force, and Batista fled to exile. Castro executed any rebels and legalised the Communist Party which Batista had banned. The US sent in CIA-trained Cuban exiles to assassinate Castro. This was the Bay of Pigs Invasion, 1961.

The next year Cuba asked Russia if it could have some of its nuclear missiles stationed on it, to put the US off further invasions. This was the Cuban Missile Crisis and was perhaps the closest the Cold War came to full-on nuclear war. Economy was poor, but this was partly because all American states had imposed trade sanctions. Soviet Russia had been supporting Cuba with about $5 billion a year, and when it collapsed in 1991 that was….bad. But Cuba refused American help until 1993.

Now China supports them. In 2008 Fidel stepped down and his brother Raul took over. In 2013 Cubans were allowed to go abroad without even having to be invited by the government (the previous terms). 180,000 left and returned. They don’t have democracy or perhaps much freedom of expression, but they have good healthcare and education. People from around Latin America and America itself go to Cuba for medical care because it’s good and cheap.

Cuban music is called Son, and the Rhumba comes from here. Ernesto Lecuona is a classical Cuban composer.

Other events today:

  • Cameroon National Day – see 1st October
  • East Timor Independence Day (from Indonesia, 2002)- see 30th August
  • Indonesia National Awakening (leading to independence from the Netherlands in 1945) – see 17th August
  • Cambodia Day of Remembrance (remembers Communist rule of Khmer Rouge in the 1970s, which killed and tortured masses of opponents) – see 9th November
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13th May

1880 Thomas Eddison tests his electric railway

1958 Velcro trademarked – you can engineer strange shapes with Velcro dots, craft sticks, corks, buttons, bottle lids, etc.

1958 Ben Carlin finishes a 10-year trip around the world in a car-boat – definitely something to build and test with the Lego!

Abbotsbury Garland Day (children traditionally have day off school to make flower garlands, which are blessed in church and were once put into the sea to bless the fishermen’s work but are now hung on the WWI memorial)

Rotuma Day (independence of Rotuma, an island off Fiji)

9th May

1662 Mr Punch from Punch and Judy debuts in England

1860 J.M. Barrie born

1920 Richard Adams born, author of Watership Down (for age 9-16)

Europe Day (commemorating Schumann Declaration beginning the idea of a united Europe)

Victory and Peace Day (Soviet Union defeats Nazi Germany, celebrated by Russia; Armenia; Azerbaijan; Belarus; Georgia; Kazakhstan; Kyrgryzstan; Tajikistan; Turkmenistan; Moldova; Ukraine)

Guernsey/Jersey Liberation Day

Romania Independence Day (from Ottoman Empire, 1877) – see 24th January

8th May

1886 Coca-Cola patented as a medicine

1926 David Attenborough’s birthday – Africa, The Blue Planet and  Life in the Undergrowth are my favourites.

Birthday of Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla (led a failed attempt at Mexican independence in 1810, leading to a decade of war)

Korea Parents’ Day – children give parents carnations.

[President] Truman Day (Missouri)

Victory in Europe Day – related days: Czech Liberation Day, France/Slovakia/Tahiti Victory Day, Turkmenistan Heroes’ Day; this book looks fun.

International Red Cross/Red Crescent Day

3rd May

Roodmas/Finding of the Holy Cross Day. The church above which the cross was found, built by St Helena, mother of Constantine the Great, is still to be found in Jerusalem.

Japan Constitution Memorial Day – see 11th February

Poland National/Constitution Day

In 966 A.D. Mieszko I, ruler of the land that is now Poland, converted to Christianity. The Kingdom of Poland was founded in 1025, and in 1569 it became part of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. In 1772–95 Poland was partitioned among Prussia, the Russian Empire, and Austria. It regained its independence at the end of World War I and became the Second Polish Republic.

In 1939, World War II was started when the Nazis and Russia invaded Poland. More than six million Polish citizens died in the war. After the war Poland became a satellite state of the Soviet Union. In 1989 Poland’s Marxist–Leninist government was overthrown and Poland became a democracy called the Third Polish Republic.

It has one of the oldest mountain ranges on earth (the Jura range) and a desert with sand 40 metres deep! They have a national reforestation scheme aiming to cover a THIRD of the country in forest (they’re only about 3% off the target) and a lot of the landscape is protected.

Famous Polish people include Marie Curie (moved to Paris when she was 24); Copernicus, and Chopin. They invented the polonaise. And you got to check out the Wieliczka Salt Mine.

30th April

Walpurgis Night (or St Walpurga’s Night, originally) is associated more with witches than the female saint. In Czechoslovakia they burn little witches made of rags; in Estonia they dress as witches like we would on Hallowe’en; in Finland there are carnivals and picnics; northern Germany has bonfires.

In old Ireland it was called Beltane; the day cattle were driven to the pastures for the summer, and rituals were done to protect them such as passing them through two bonfires. The flames would be used to relight all domestic fires and candles, and the ashes from the original fires would be spread on crops.

Other events today:

  • Children’s Day (Mexico) – see 16th September
    Reunification Day (Vietnam) – see 2nd September
  • Louisiana founded (1812): famous for New Orleans, voodoo, jazz, tobasco sauce, Mardi Gras, jambalaya, gumbo, pralines