Facts about Cuba
El Caiman or El Cocodrilo
Cuba, a country located in the Caribbean Sea - also called the long green lizard because of its shape. Colonial architecture, cigar factories, beautiful old cars, rum - all contribute to the atmosphere of Cuba. Add to that 200 bays and 250 beaches, and the island is a huge tourist base and a paradise for sunbathers. The people there are cheerful, open to relationships with loved ones and in no hurry to go anywhere.
1The Republic of Cuba is an island country in North America, located on the island of Cuba in the archipelago of the Greater Antilles.
The Greater Antilles are part of a larger chain of islands in the Caribbean Sea, known as the Antilles. The archipelago includes Cuba, Haiti, Jamaica and Puerto Rico, as well as many smaller islands off their coasts.
2It is the largest country by area in the Caribbean, a region consisting of the Caribbean Sea, islands, and surrounding coasts.
The region is located southeast of the Gulf of Mexico and mainland North America, east of Central America and north of South America.
3The island has an area of 110,860 km2 (68,885 sq mi) and a population of over 11 million people.
The island ranks 16th in the world in terms of surface area.
4The island lies latitudinally and is separated from Florida by the Straits of Florida, from Haiti by the Windward Passage, from Jamaica by the Cayman Trough, and from Yucatan by the Yucatán Channel.
The island is about 1,200 km (745 mi) long and 50-200 km (31 - 124 mi) wide.
5The capital of Cuba is Havana.
It is the capital and also the largest city and port of the island and the entire Caribbean. It is situated on the Gulf of Mexico. Havana is an old city, founded in 1515 by the Spanish conquistador Diego Velazquez de Cuellar, first on the southern coast of the island and moved to its present location in 1519 (some sources give 1519 as the date of the city's founding). It is the most important industrial center of the country, with tobacco, petrochemical, textile and electromechanical industries. It is a hub for land, sea and air transport - it has the Jose Marti International Airport.
6Havana was the favorite place of Ernest Hemingway, who spent 20 years of his life here.
The city has many monuments of colonial architecture, and for this reason, the old town of La Habana Vieja was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982.
7In July 2015, the country's first Internet access zone was opened in Havana for Cubans to use.
Previously, the internet was only available in residential zones for foreign tourists.
8The island was discovered in 1492 by Christopher Columbus.
It is the largest island in the Caribbean, with a varied coastline of 3735 km. There is a network of bays and peninsulas and hundreds of small offshore islands. The largest bays of Cuba are: Batabano, Ana Maria and the famous Bay of Pigs, best known for the armed incident in April 1961 (among other things, the United States broke off diplomatic relations with Cuba as a result of this conflict). Cuba is surrounded by a deep sea up to 7000 m.
9The largest island belonging to Cuba is Isla de la Juventud (Isla de Pinos).
It is a lowland island in Gulf of Batabanó. It is the second-largest Cuban island and the sixth-largest in the Antilles archipelago.
10The landscape of Cuba is quite varied, with most of the country being lowland (70%).
The largest mountain concentration is in the eastern part of the country, and the highest peaks rise there. In the east are the Sierra Maestra Mountains, with the highest peak in the country - Pico Turquino (1974 m). Most Cuban mountains have low elevation - the lowest mountain chain is the Cordillera Guaniguanico.
11Cuba's climate is hot and humid, tempered by the northeasterly trade winds.
Most of the country is in the humid equatorial climate zone, where there is a single rainy season that lasts from May to November. The western edge has a tropical climate with a distinct dry season. Cuba lies in the path of tropical cyclones, which occur in late summer and autumn.
12Cuba's river network is well developed, with over 200 rivers flowing there. The longest is the Rio Cauto, 340 km (211 mi) long, which flows into the Caribbean Sea.
Most of the rivers are located in the eastern part of the country. Of the 340 km of the Rio Cauto, only 80 km (50 mi) of the lower reaches are navigable. There are a small number of small lakes, and the reservoirs near the coast are saline. The largest lakes are Laguna de Leche and Laguna de Ariguanabo.
13Cuba has characteristic soils belonging to the Caribbean soil region.
Much of the country is covered with red feralitic soils (characteristic of tropical equatorial and subequatorial climates, they may be red, reddish-yellow or yellow), with high fertility. In places there are ferruginous savannah soils and dark alluvial soils in the river basins.
14Cuba's forests cover less than a quarter of the country's land - where tropical forests once grew are now cultivated fields and plantations.
The flora is species-rich but not very numerous. The primary vegetation formation of the island is savanna and xerophytic scrub. Many plant species are endemic. On the coast, forests and mangrove thickets grow.
15There are 65 nature reserves, including two national parks that are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The wildlife, like the flora in Cuba, is rich in number of species but modest in quantity. There are nearly 7,000 species of insects and 4,000 species of mollusks. Many poisonous animals, dangerous to humans, such as hairy spiders, black widows, and scolopendras live there. There are no large mammals on the island. Crocodiles live in the swampy areas while iguanas occupy savannahs.
16Cuba is home to the largest number of snail species in the world, including one that is considered the most beautiful - the Painted Snail.
One of these, the Cuban land snail - the Painted Snail (Polymita picta), boasts of its beautiful shell colors. They come in a wide range of colors and look like they came out of a painter's brush. For years they have been sought after by collectors from all over the world, and local traders capture the snails from their natural habitat to sell their shells. They are purchased not only by tourists visiting Cuba, but also shipped in packages to the United States and Europe. It has been illegal to harvest Polymita snails for more than a decade. Painted snails are critically endangered not only due to shell traders but also by losing their habitat to coffee plantations and climate change.
17Cuba is also home to the world's smallest bird, the Havana hummingbird (Mellisuga helenae).
It is a small species of bird in the hummingbird family (Trochilidae). It is endemic to Cuba and to Isla de la Juventud. The body length of this hummingbird is about 6.3 cm, of which 1.2 cm is the bill, and 1.5 cm is the tail. The wing measures 2.9 cm, and the body weight is 1.6-1.9 g. The bright, iridescent colors of the plumage make the bird look like a little jewel. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) classifies the Havana hummingbird as a near-threatened species because of the destruction and conversion of its habitat.
18Before Christopher Columbus arrived in Cuba in 1492, the island was inhabited by the indigenous peoples of the Caribbean, the Taíno and the Ciboney.
In the early 16th century (1511-1514), Cuba was overrun by Spain and became the base for the Spanish Conquest (Spanish and Portuguese military expeditions to conquer newly discovered territories) in the New World.
19The colonial authorities caused the extermination of the local population by introducing the encomienda system (slavery and control over the Indian population).
In the first half of the 16th century, black slaves were brought to Cuba to work on plantations. From 1797, the island became a major point of the slave trade.
20In the first half of the 19th century, Cuba was one of the most developed places in Latin America (countries of the South and Central America where Romance languages are spoken, i.e. Spanish, Portuguese or French).
It was also one of the last Spanish colonies. Cuba became the leading sugar producer in the region. It maintained close trade relations with the United States from the late 18th century - becoming the object of its expansionism in the 19th century.
21In the 19th century, three currents emerged in Cuban society: those in favor of reform and Spanish rule - the reformists; those in favor of incorporating Cuba into the United States - the annexationists; and those in favor of independence - the independents.
The independence camp, which simultaneously endeavored to abolish slavery and establish democracy, gained wide support. In 1868, an anti-colonial uprising broke out that grew into a decade-long war that resulted in Spain granting the Cubans a seat in the Spanish Parliament.
22In 1880, slavery was abolished in Cuba.
When another failed rebellion broke out on the island, the United States went to war with Spain and took control of the island by force. U.S. troops occupied Cuba until 1902, forcing the Cuban government to adopt the Platt Amendment that gave Americans the right to interfere in Cuba's internal affairs and establish a naval base at Guantanamo.
23In 1906, U.S. troops intervened in Cuba for the second time, occupying the island for two and a half years.
After the foreign troops left, many dictators ruled the country. During World War I, Cuba sided with the Allies. In the 1930s, Fulgencio Batista seized power and became president in 1940. The dictator's rule was overthrown by the Cuban Revolution, which brought an armed opposition to power in 1959, grouped in the 26th of July Movement and the Insurgent Army.
24In 1959, the revolutionary leader Fidel Castro became prime minister of Cuba.
The government initiated the nationalization of the economy, especially foreign ownership, and land reform. In protest of these measures, the U.S. government imposed a trade embargo in 1960 (which continues to this day) and broke off diplomatic relations a year later. As a result of the revolution, about two million people emigrated from Cuba, mainly to the U.S. (in 1961, emigrants organized in the Central Intelligence Agency carried out an invasion of the Bay of Pigs). After these actions by the US, Castro contacted the Soviet Union. The Communist Party of Cuba was founded and has ruled the country since 1965.
25In 2006, Cuba, Bolivia and Venezuela formed an alliance against capitalism and imperialism called ALBA.
That same year, Fidel Castro handed power to his younger brother, Raul Castro.
26Fidel Castro - the symbol of Cuba - died on November 26, 2016.
He was the longest-reigning head of state (52 years and 62 days) in modern times, among uncrowned rulers. When monarchs are considered, he is surpassed only by Queen Elizabeth II, who ascended the throne in 1952.
27Fidel Castro made a name for himself in the Guinness Book of records.
The record was awarded to him for the longest speech delivered at the UN. It lasted 4 hours and 29 minutes. However, his longest speech was the one he gave in Cuba - it lasted 7 hours.
28Castro was a person made famous by many records and surprising facts related to his life and activities.
- He survived 630 attempts on his life during his political activities
- He loved cigars but stopped smoking them in 1985 due to health reasons
- He had two wives and eleven children with seven partners
- His first wife filed for divorce while he was in prison. The reason was that Castro sent mixed up letters to his wife and mistress at the same time
- He was famous for his beard, which he only wore because he didn't have time to shave it every day
- In his youth, he played baseball as a pitcher
29Cuban citizens could only operate sole proprietorships in 127 industries listed in the National Classifier of Economic Activities until 2021.
Now, this list has been expanded to 2,100 industries, with only 124 activities reserved for the state and cooperative sectors.
30Cuba is predominantly inhabited by Cubans, a multi-ethnic nation of mainly European and African descent.
Whites make up about 64% of the population, Mestizos (one parent is Indian, the other European) over 26%, and Blacks over 9%. Before Spanish colonization, the Ciboney Indian tribe was the dominant population group.
31The predominant religion in Cuba is Catholicism.
There are 57% Christians, of whom 50.6% are Catholic, 6% Protestant, and 0.4% Orthodox. Afro-Christians account for 17.2%. Cuba has been visited by three popes: John Paul II in 1998, Benedict XVI in 2012 and Francis in 2015.
32Religious syncretism is very evident in Cuba.
Syncretism consists of the fusion of different religious and philosophical views, which promotes religious tolerance and pantheism (the mixing of spirit and matter) in the practice of various cults, including the most widespread ancestor worship. It is believed that up to 80% of the population, mostly Catholics, practice the rites of the Santeria cult. This cult grew out of the beliefs of African slaves, most of whom were forcibly baptized into the Christian faith and banned from their former tribal religion. The slaves hid their true religion behind images of Catholic saints building altars to them that actually honored the Orisha, or forces of nature, which in their tradition were direct manifestations of the supreme god.
33Cuba is a socialist republic headed by the Communist Party.
Executive power is vested in the National Assembly People's Power, a unicameral parliament. The organ of governance is the Council of State, and its president is the head of state. The Communist Party of Cuba was founded in 1925.
34It is generally believed that Christopher Columbus's crew discovered cigars while exploring the island. Cuba is one of the world's largest exporters of cigars, which are the country's fourth most important export commodity (Cuba's main export is nickel, which accounts for 4% of total world production of this raw material).
The habit of smoking cigars spread from Spain through Europe, where cigars were made from Cuban tobacco in Seville starting in 1717. Soon the demand for higher quality cigars arose, and the "Seville," as the Spanish cigars were called, were supplanted by those from Cuba.
Thanks to a decree by King Ferdinand VII of Spain, Cuba was granted permission to produce its own cigars in 1821, and so "Havanas" were born, and the legend of the Cuban cigar, which continues to this day, began to form. In recognition of this gesture, the Cubans delivered a box of their finest cigars, the "Trinidad," to the court of the King of Spain every year.
35The secret of the uniqueness of Cuban cigars lies above all in the ideal conditions for growing tobacco: 70% humidity and a correspondingly high temperature. Another important factor is the fertile red feralite soil, which is abundant in Cuba.
Another crucial factor is the professionalism of the growers, their knowledge of cultivation, drying and fermentation of the leaves, which is often passed down from generation to generation.
36It used to be believed that cigars were rolled on the thighs of beautiful Cuban women - this may once have been so, but today they are made in factories by trocedores, skilled cigar factory workers.
The trocedores make the cigars entirely by hand. Starting with laying the filler (tripa) from whole tobacco leaves, rolling it into a wrapper (capote) and attaching the outer leaf (capa).
37In Cuba, the rhythm of salsa resounds at every turn. Music salsa groups started to form in the 1970s.
It is a combination of Caribbean, Afro-Cuban, and jazz rhythms that is popular worldwide. The word salsa in Spanish means a highly spicy sauce, and that is precisely what this dance is - dynamic and spicy. Equally popular in Cuba is the rumba, which originated among the first African slaves brought to the island about 400 years ago.
38Rum is the national drink of the Cuban people.
In the past, it was the drink of brigands, pirates, smugglers and slave traders and was a major contraband for centuries. Rum was probably brought to Europe by the Arabs. In Spain, the Moors had huge sugar cane plantations and Christopher Columbus, on his second voyage, brought the seedlings to Cuba where they adapted very well to the climate there. Slaves who worked on the plantations contributed to rum production by discovering that molasses, a by-product of sugar refining, could be fermented into alcohol.
39The rapid development of rum production in Cuba took place after 1800, when copper alembics - vessels used for distillation - were imported from Europe and when it was discovered that aged rum improves its taste and aroma.
At Rum Museum and in the factory founded in 1878 (the former FCA De Ron Bocoy), you can see all the equipment used in the historical production of Legendario Rum. The two most famous brands of Cuban rums are Bacardi and Havana Club. Bacardi is the oldest, whose owners emigrated from the island after the revolution spread and the new authorities confiscated the property.
40In the early 20th century, rum began to be produced on an industrial scale in Cuba.
It was mass-produced and its reputation became known throughout the world. When Prohibition was introduced in the United States in 1920, Americans came to Cuba in large numbers to drink alcohol.
41In 1934, the family business Jose Arechabala created the brand Havana Club.
The government of Fidel Castro nationalized the company, and years later, its rums became famous all over the world. Today, a bottle of Havana Club can be found in almost every Cuban home.
42There are five universities in Cuba, the most important scientific institution being the Cuban Academy of Sciences in Havana, founded in 1962.
In Cuba, schooling is compulsory for all children between the ages of 6 and 15. Children wear uniforms whose colors vary from year to year. Cuba has one of the highest literacy rates in the world - 99.8% of Cubans can read and write.
43Cuba is a tolerant country towards sexual minorities.
LGBT people can work unhindered in the military, the government funds gender reassignment surgery and plans to legalize gay marriage.
44In the southeastern part of the island, at Guantanamo Bay, is a U.S. military base - Naval Station Guantanamo Bay.
There are 2,300 U.S. troops stationed there. The United States pays Cuba $4085 per month to rent the base, but Cuba has never cashed the checks.
45Spanish is the official language in Cuba.
However, it differs considerably from Castilian, which is spoken in Spain, and from other South American dialects. Of all the nations that speak Spanish, Cubans speak it fastest and least clearly, with many regionalisms thrown in. English is spoken by quite a number of young Hawans.
46There is a statue of John Lennon in Havana.
From 1964 to 1966, the Beatles' music was officially banned in Cuba. It was not played on the radio until 1971. However, when Fidel Castro heard Lennon's statements criticizing the Western establishment, he claimed that he was a true revolutionary and changed his mind about an artist. In 2000, a bronze statue of Lennon, the work of Jose Villa, was erected in Havana. It stands in a square across from Havana's Beatles Soul Club, which has about 200 members.
47The problem with the statue was that Lennon's glasses kept disappearing.
Eventually, the Cuban government hired a guard, Mrs. Aleeda Rodriguez Pedrasa, who comes to the square every morning at 8 a.m., puts on Lennon's glasses and guards them. She is paid 245 Cuban pesos a month for this job, which is quite generous by Cuban standards. Nevertheless, the glasses have already disappeared three times, but the authorities buy back every lost piece.