(I apologise for the following long description, but I made up most of it as I wrote it and didn't think too much about condensing it. The short version is "Alien nomads land on Earth looking for a new home. Fear and misunderstanding causes conflict to break out and escalate between them. The aliens see that the conflict is doing them more harm than good, and so begin peace negotiations with humans. Hundreds of years later, the aliens and humans have merged in terms of politics, culture and society.")
It seems so long ago now, but it is a lesson that must be taught. Come, listen, and hear of the falling stars that changed the world.
In 2022 Cuba was undergoing rapid change; stubborn communism had given way to a growing market economy. The USA's embargo of the state had ended in 2017, and Cuba was coming to be considered part of the westernised world.
On February 28th a set of falling stars were seen in the night's sky. They appeared to land somewhere in Eastern Cuba, but it quickly became evident that they were not your everyday rocks from space.
For the next couple of days people in the region told of strange noises and sightings of "tall, pale men without faces" in the area. The sightings were numerous, detailed and consistent, even when the person telling it had no idea of any other encounters. Photographs of the creatures and their crashed spaceships confirmed their presence beyond any real doubt soon enough, and the world was shocked.
Television programs all over the world were interrupted by emergency, 24-hour broadcasts covering the astounding events happening in the small, Latin American country. The creatures did not try to hide their presence, and yet the whole of mankind had no idea what to do about them. Eventually a group of linguists, diplomats and experts in speculative forms of extraterrestrial life were sent with a military escort to make the first official contact with the aliens. What happened next is indisputably the most horrendous misunderstanding ever to take place between cultures.
The Antillans, as they were coming to be called - due to the fact that they had made landfall in the Greater Antilles island chain - sent a similar team with armed escort to meet the humans, which they had correctly assumed to be a welcoming envoy looking to make first contact.
The Antillans approached the group carefully, and attempted to signal them to lay down their weapons. The human soldiers didn't understand their signals, and kept their weapons raised. The stand-off lasted a couple of minutes before an Antillan soldier opened fire. Unable to distinguish between soldiers and civilians, the Antillans quickly killed the human envoys.
A twitchy trigger finger had begun what would be the second most damaging conflict the Antillans had ever faced.
Military units were ordered to disable and capture the outnumber Antillans, but the Antillans' technology gave them a significant advantage, and they quickly dispatched the immediate military threat.
The Antillans refused to lay down their arms and explain the misunderstanding, fearing that the humans would kill them all or subjugate them. A strategy was formed to take over the island of Cuba in order to prove themselves as an equal threat to the human race as they were to them, so that they could negotiate a favourable peace.
The Antillans moved quickly, and US Marines landing near Guantanamo Bay Naval Base were obliterated by their superior technology.
Believing the aliens to be invaders a huge coalition of nations was formed in order to combat the alien threat. Though various nations such as China and India were included in the Coalition, only those nations with forces in the area were able to respond to the conflict before it was over.
Soldiers from a small group of countries, primarily the USA, Britain, Canada and France, began landing and taking up positions in central Cuba. The Antillan forces used their advanced mobility to their advantage and were able to attack the defending forces near the town of Camalote before they were fully prepared.
The remnants of the Coalition forces met up with reinforcements in the Cuban province of Ciego de Avila. The Coalition dug in and used whatever information they had to give their soldiers a crash course in anti-Antillan tactics. Their defences were still compromised, but the number of Antillan casualties was much higher than in any previous battle.
Shortly after the battle Coalition forces captured a group of Antillans who willingly surrendered their weapons to the humans. It wasn't until after the conflict was over that they knew why.
The Antillan forces attacked further into Cuba, trying to prevent their forces from losing momentum, but the fact that they had an extremely limited number of armed personnel, and the fact that the facilities needed to support them didn't exist, began to have a severely detrimental effect on their forces. At Sancti Spiritus the Antillans fell back after losing around half their attacking force; the first victory the Coalition won, and the final battle of the conflict.
The Antillans retreated and dug in to the territory in central Cuba, whilst the Coalition attempted to form a strategy appropriate to the situation. The world watched as two armies stared at each other across a stretch of war torn Earth.
The Antillans broke the silence. They broadcast a loud message in their language across at the Coalition forces, alongside a shorter message using what they had come to know of human languages. The original message was in Cuban Spanish, but in English it translated roughly as "Sorry. Peace?".
What had happened was this:
The Antillans had been a young, spacefaring civilisation some hundreds of lightyears away that had been embroiled in a war with a much older and more powerful civilisation. Before they were all wiped out by the rapidly advancing enemy forces they sent several generational ships out in order to seed their species on a new planet, so that they might begin anew in safer environs.
It had been hundreds of years since they left their homeworld, and none of the original members of the ships' crew and passengers lived, only their children and grandchildren did. It seemed as though they would hopelessly wander space forever, until the ships' automated systems picked up evidence of a habitable planet - Earth.
Their landing had been mostly automated and they had little time to learn about humans before hand and make a more controlled first contact, so they landed wherever the ships' systems took them, and tried to make peaceful contact with the primitive rulers of this new world.
The fact that they were there to start a new life for their species was one that weighed heavily on their minds, and the Antillan who had opened fire at their first meeting had done so in the fear that humans would subjugate them and stunt their growth as a species. This was the view shared by their leader at the time, who came to become known to Antillans as "The Great Betrayer". At the time their leader gave up on any chance of a peaceful reconciliation with the humans, and gave orders to begin military action against them.
When the Antillans won their pyrrhic victory at the Battle of Ciro Redondo, many began doubting their leader's abilities, and saw that such blatant war-making was going to damage their species more than talking to the humans. This was the reason for the defections that happened soon after.
Such defections are normal in Antillan society, which is structured around generational social groups wherein every person knows every other person, and who tend to make decisions as a group, including pursuing similar careers and living together. These groups are permitted to defect from under one authority to live under another at any time; they only submit to an authority as long as they agree with it (or agree with it more than any other authority). The defections that took place actually consisted of two, whole social groups (the Antillan term for which is generally translated as "cadre").
The Antillan defeat at Sancti Spiritus was the last straw for many Antillans, and a popular shift in leadership took place, replacing The Great Betrayer with a leader who would later become commonly known as The Builder. The message broadcast in the Antillan language that was played alongside their offer of peace was directed at the defected Antillans. It explained the situation, and informed them to work with the humans that they might understand one another's languages and act as translators. The soldiers that had defected became known as The Mediators to later Antillans, many of which took pride in being descended from The Mediators.
After some time the Antillan language had been sufficiently deciphered, and the first controlled contact between the races took place. No final solution to the problem of the Antillan Nomads' desire for a new home could be found at the time, but certain things were agreed upon: Firstly that demilitarised zone was to be set up in central Cuba, and secondly that The Great Betrayer were to be tried at a sui generis court of both humans and Antillans in order to try him for war crimes.
Now, hundreds of years later, humans and Antillans have come to live together as equals, and together they are exploring the stars.
Something I made for a map contest on AlternateHistory.com. The explanation's rather long-winded and not too well thought out, but it works, I think.