North Americans’ collective sweet tooth fostered the rapid expansion of sugar plantations in Cuba. Wealthy Cuban and U.S. slave merchants funded planting of new lands by granting loans for capital improvements, all meant to foster an increasing need for slaves. Land planted in sugar multiplied more than tenfold by the end of the 18th century and was boosted with the Saint Domingue (Haiti) rebellion in 1791. About 30,000 French planters washed up in Cuba, bringing their superior knowledge of sugar production.
These events sent the slave trade soaring. In 1713, the Treaty of Utrecht, which ended the War of the Spanish Succession, had granted the British sole rights to the Spanish-American slave trade. The trade grew throughout the century: As many as 200 slaving ships called into Havana  annually during the 1830s. Although in 1817 Spain signed a treaty with England to abolish the slave trade, Cuban officials were so enriched by bribes that the industry continued unabated. Only in 1888 was slavery in Cuba abolished.
By 1760 Havana  was already larger than New York or Boston. The first University of Havana  had been established in 1728, the first newspaper in 1763, and the postal service in 1764. Spanish ships unloaded builders and craftsmen, hired to help citizens display their earnings in an outpouring of architectural sophistication. They brought with them a Moorish aesthetic, which they translated into what Juliet Barclay calls a unique “tropical synthesis of column, courtyard, and chiaroscuro.” Monuments and parks were erected, along with public libraries and theaters. Streets were paved, and beautiful colonial homes were erected. In 1790 street lamps went up in Havana.
While the British went out to their colonies to grow rich and return, the Spanish went to grow rich and stay. They brought a permanence of design and planning to their New World cities that other colonial powers never achieved.