Republic of Cuba
República de Cuba(Spanish)
Five horizontal stripes: three blue and two white. A red equilateral triangle at the left of the flag, partly covering the stripes, with a white five pointed star in the centre of the triangle. A shield in front of a fasces crowned by the Phrygian Cap, all supported by an oak branch and a laurel wreath
Motto: "¡Patria o Muerte, Venceremos!"(Spanish)
"Homeland or Death, we shall overcome!"[1]
Anthem: La Bayamesa
Bayamo Song [2]
Cuba (orthographic projection)
Cuba - Location Map (2013) - CUB - UNOCHA
and largest city
23°8′N 82°23′W / 23.133, -82.383
Official languages Spanish
Ethnic groups (2012)
Demonym Cuban
Government Single-party Communist republic
 -  President Raúl Castro
 -  First Vice President Miguel Díaz-Canel[3]
President of the
National Assembly
Esteban Lazo Hernández
Legislature National Assembly
Independence from Spain
 -  Ten Years' War October 10, 1868 – 1878 
 -  Republic declared May 20, 1902 
 -  Cuban Revolution January 1, 1959 
 -  Total 109,884 km2 (106th)
42,426 sq mi 
 -  Water (%) negligible[4]
 -  2012 census 11,167,325[5]
 -  Density 102/km2 (106th)
264.0/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2012 estimate
 -  Total $121 billion[6] (66th)
 -  Per capita $10,200 (2010 est.) (92nd)
GDP (nominal) 2012 estimate
 -  Total $71.017 billion[7] (65th)
 -  Per capita $6,301 (91st)
Gini (2000)negative increase 38.0[8]
HDI (2013)increase 0.780[9]
high · 59th
  • Peso (CUP)
  • Convertible pesoa
Time zone CST (UTC−5)
 -  Summer (DST) CDT (UTC−4)
Drives on the right
Calling code +53
Internet TLD .cu
a. From 1993 to 2004, the United States dollar was used alongside the peso until the dollar was replaced by the convertible peso.

Cuba, officially the Republic of Cuba ( /ˈkjuːbə/; Spanish: República de Cuba, pronounced [reˈpuβlika ðe ˈkuβa] (Speaker Icon listen)), is an island country in the Caribbean. The nation of Cuba comprises the main island of Cuba, the Isla de la Juventud, and several archipelagos. Havana is the capital of Cuba and its largest city. The second largest city is Santiago de Cuba.[10][11][12] To the north of Cuba lies the United States (150 km or 93 mi away) and the Bahamas are to the northeast, Mexico is to the west (210 km or 130 mi away), the Cayman Islands and Jamaica are to the south, and Haiti and the Dominican Republic are to the southeast.

The island of Cuba was inhabited by numerous Mesoamerican tribes prior to the landing of Italian explorer Christopher Columbus in 1492, who claimed it for the Kingdom of Spain. Cuba remained a colony of Spain until the Spanish–American War of 1898, after which it was briefly administered by the United States until gaining nominal independence in 1902. The fragile republic endured increasingly radical politics and social strife, and despite efforts to strengthen its democratic system, Cuba came under the dictatorship of former president Fulgencio Batista in 1952.[13][14][15] Growing unrest and instability led to Batista's ousting in January 1959 by the July 26 movement, which afterwards established a socialist government under the leadership of Fidel Castro. Since 1965, the country has been governed as a single-party state by the Communist Party.

Cuba is the largest island in the Caribbean, and with over 11 million inhabitants, is the second-most populous after Hispaniola, albeit with a much lower population density than most nations in the region. A multiethnic country, its people, culture, and customs derive from diverse origins, including the aboriginal Taíno and Ciboney peoples, the long period of Spanish colonialism, the introduction of African slaves, a close relationship with the Soviet Union during the Cold War, and proximity to the United States.

Cuba ranks high in metrics of health and education, with a high Human Development Index of 0.780 as of 2013. According to data it presents to the United Nations, Cuba was the only nation in the world in 2006 that met the World Wide Fund for Nature's definition of sustainable development, with an ecological footprint of less than 1.8 hectares per capita, 1.5 hectares, and a Human Development Index of over 0.855.[16][17]


The name Cuba comes from the Taíno language. The exact meaning of the name is unclear but it may be translated either as where fertile land is abundant (cubao),[18] or great place (coabana).[19] Authors who believe that Christopher Columbus was Portuguese state that Cuba was named by Columbus for the town of Cuba in the district of Beja in Portugal.[20][21]



Arowak woman by John Gabriel Stedman

Sketch of a Taíno woman, also known as the Arawak by the Spanish.

Cuba was inhabited by American Indian people known as the Taíno, also called Arawak by the Spanish, and Guanajatabey and Ciboney people before the arrival of the Spanish. The ancestors of these Native Americans migrated from the mainland of North, Central and South America several centuries earlier.[22] The native Taínos called the island Caobana.[23] The Taíno were farmers while the Ciboney were farmers as well as fishers and hunter-gatherers.

Spanish colonization and rule (1492-1898)[]

After first landing on an island then called Guanahani, Bahamas on October 12, 1492,[24] La Pinta, La Niña and the Santa María, the first three European ships under the command of Christopher Columbus, landed on Cuba's northeastern coast near what is now Bariay, Holguin province on October 28, 1492.[25] He claimed the island for the new Kingdom of Spain[26] and named Isla Juana after Juan, Prince of Asturias.[27]


Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar, conquistador of Cuba.

In 1511, the first Spanish settlement was founded by Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar at Baracoa. Other towns soon followed including the future capital of San Cristobal de la Habana which was founded in 1515. The native Taínos were working under the encomienda system,[28] which resembled a feudal system in Medieval Europe.[29] Within a century the indigenous people were virtually wiped out due to multiple factors, including Eurasian infectious diseases aggravated in large part by a lack of natural resistance as well as privation stemming from repressive colonial subjugation.[30] In 1529, a measles outbreak in Cuba killed two-thirds of the natives who had previously survived smallpox.[31][32]

On September 1, 1548, Dr. Gonzalo Perez de Angulo was appointed governor of Cuba. He arrived in Santiago, Cuba on November 4, 1549 and immediately declared the liberty of all natives.[33] He became Cuba's first permanent governor who resided in Havana instead of Santiago, and he built Havana's first church made of masonry.[34] After the French took Havana in 1555, the governor's son, Francisco de Angulo, went to Mexico.[35]

The population in 1817 was 630,980, of which 291,021 were white, 115,691 free men (mixed-race), and 224,268 black slaves.[36] In the 1820s, when the rest of Spain's empire in Latin America rebelled and formed independent states, Cuba remained loyal.

Slaves Unloading Ice in Cuba 1832

Slaves in Cuba unloading ice from Maine, c. 1832.

A series of slave rebellions and revolts took place during the 'sugar boom' under Spanish colonizing with the 1812 Aponte Slave Rebellion in Cuba against the Atlantic Slave Trade.[37] Independence from Spain was the motive for a rebellion in 1868 led by Carlos Manuel de Céspedes. De Céspedes, a sugar planter, freed his slaves to fight with him for a free Cuba. On 27 December 1868, he issued a decree condemning slavery in theory but accepting it in practice and declaring free any slaves whose masters present them for military service.[38] The 1868 rebellion resulted in a prolonged conflict known as the Ten Years' War. Two thousand Cuban Chinese joined the rebels. There is a monument in Havana that honours the Cuban Chinese who fell in the war.[39]

The United States declined to recognize the new Cuban government, although many European and Latin American nations did so.[40] In 1878, the Pact of Zanjón ended the conflict, with Spain promising greater autonomy to Cuba. In 1879–1880, Cuban patriot Calixto García attempted to start another war known as the Little War but received little support.[41] Abolition of slavery in Cuba began the final third of the 19th century, and was completed in the 1880s.[42][43]

Carlos Manuel de Cespedes

Carlos Manuel de Céspedes is known as Father of the Homeland in Cuba, having declared the nation's independence from Spain in 1868.

An exiled dissident named José Martí founded the Cuban Revolutionary Party in New York in 1892. The aim of the party was to achieve Cuban independence from Spain.[44] In January 1895 Martí traveled to Montecristi and Santo Domingo to join the efforts of Máximo Gómez.[44] Martí recorded his political views in the Manifesto of Montecristi.[45] Fighting against the Spanish army began in Cuba on 24 February 1895, but Martí was unable to reach Cuba until 11 April 1895.[44] Martí was killed in the battle of Dos Rios on 19 May 1895.[44] His death immortalized him as Cuba's national hero.[45]

Around 200,000 Spanish troops outnumbered the much smaller rebel army which relied mostly on guerrilla and sabotage tactics. The Spaniards began a campaign of suppression. General Valeriano Weyler, military governor of Cuba, herded the rural population into what he called reconcentrados, described by international observers as "fortified towns". These are often considered the prototype for 20th-century concentration camps.[46] Between 200,000 and 400,000 Cuban civilians died from starvation and disease in the camps, numbers verified by the Red Cross and United States Senator and former Secretary of War Redfield Proctor. American and European protests against Spanish conduct on the island followed.[47]

The U.S. battleship Maine was sent to protect U.S. interests, but she exploded suddenly and sank quickly, killing nearly three quarters of her crew. The cause and responsibility for her sinking remained unclear after a board of inquiry, but popular opinion in the U.S., fueled by an active press, concluded that the Spanish were to blame and demanded action.[48] Spain and the United States declared war on each other in late April.

Over the decades, four US presidents—Polk, Buchanan, Grant, and McKinley—tried to buy the island from Spain.[49]

Independence (1902-1959)[]

Raising the Cuban flag on the Governor General's Palace at noon on May 20, 1902

Raising the Cuban flag on the Governor General's Palace at noon on May 20, 1902.

After the Spanish-American War, Spain and the United States signed the Treaty of Paris (1898), by which Spain ceded Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and Guam to the United States for the sum of $20 million.[50] Cuba gained formal independence from the U.S. on May 20, 1902, as the Republic of Cuba.[51] Under Cuba's new constitution, the U.S. retained the right to intervene in Cuban affairs and to supervise its finances and foreign relations. Under the Platt Amendment, the U.S. leased the Guantánamo Bay naval base from Cuba.

Following disputed elections in 1906, the first president, Tomás Estrada Palma, faced an armed revolt by independence war veterans who defeated the meager government forces.[52] The U.S. intervened by occupying Cuba and named Charles Edward Magoon as Governor for three years. Cuban historians have attributed Magoon's governorship as having introduced political and social corruption.[53] In 1908, self-government was restored when José Miguel Gómez was elected President, but the U.S. continued intervening in Cuban affairs. In 1912, the Partido Independiente de Color attempted to establish a separate black republic in Oriente Province,[54] but was suppressed by General Monteagudo with considerable bloodshed.

In 1924, Gerardo Machado was elected president.[55] During his administration, tourism increased markedly, and American-owned hotels and restaurants were built to accommodate the influx of tourists.[55] The tourist boom led to increases in gambling and prostitution.[55] The Wall Street Crash of 1929 led to precipitous drops in the price of sugar, political unrest, and repression.[56] Protesting students, known as the Generation of 1930, turned to violence in opposition to the increasingly unpopular Machado.[56] A general strike (in which the Communist Party sided with Machado),[57] uprisings among sugar workers, and an army revolt forced Machado into exile in August 1933. He was replaced by Carlos Manuel de Céspedes y Quesada.[56]

1933-Pentarchy w Batista

The Pentarchy of 1933. Fulgencio Batista, who controlled the armed forces, appears at far right.

In September 1933, the Sergeants' Revolt, led by Sergeant Fulgencio Batista, overthrew Cespedes.[58] A five-member executive committee (the Pentarchy of 1933) was chosen to head a provisional government.[59] Ramon Grau San Martin was then appointed as provisional president.[59] Grau resigned in 1934, leaving the way clear for Batista, who dominated Cuban politics for the next 25 years, at first through a series of puppet-presidents.[58] The period from 1933 to 1937 was a time of "virtually unremitting social and political warfare".[60]

A new constitution was adopted in 1940, which engineered radical progressive ideas, including the right to labour and health care.[61] Batista was elected president in the same year, holding the post until 1944.[62] He is so far the only non-white Cuban to win the nation's highest political office.[14][63][64] His government carried out major social reforms. Several members of the Communist Party held office under his administration.[65] Cuban armed forces were not greatly involved in combat during World War II, although president Batista suggested a joint U.S.-Latin American assault on Francoist Spain in order to overthrow its authoritarian regime.[66]

Batista adhered to the 1940 constitution's strictures preventing his re-election.[67] Ramon Grau San Martin was the winner of the next election, in 1944.[62] Grau further corroded the base of the already teetering legitimacy of the Cuban political system, in particular by undermining the deeply flawed, though not entirely ineffectual, Congress and Supreme Court.[68] Carlos Prío Socarrás, a protege of Grau, became president in 1948.[62] The two terms of the Auténtico Party saw an influx of investment fueled a boom which raised living standards for all segments of society and created a prosperous middle class in most urban areas.[69]

After running unsuccessfully for the presidency in 1952, Batista staged a coup.[70] He outlawed the Cuban Communist Party in 1952.[71] Cuba had Latin America's highest per capita consumption rates of meat, vegetables, cereals, automobiles, telephones and radios, though about one third of the population was considered poor and enjoyed relatively little of this consumption.[72]

In 1958, Cuba was a relatively well-advanced country by Latin American standards, and in some cases by world standards.[73] On the other hand, Cuba was affected by perhaps the largest labor union privileges in Latin America, including bans on dismissals and mechanization. They were obtained in large measure "at the cost of the unemployed and the peasants", leading to disparities.[74] Between 1933 and 1958, Cuba extended economic regulations enormously, causing economic problems.[14][15] Unemployment became a problem as graduates entering the workforce could not find jobs.[14] The middle class, which was comparable to that of the United States, became increasingly dissatisfied with unemployment and political persecution. The labor unions supported Batista until the very end.[14][63] Batista stayed in power until he was forced into exile in December 1958.[70]

Revolution and Communist party rule (1959-present)[]


Che Guevara and Fidel Castro, photographed by Alberto Korda in 1961.

In the 1950s, various organizations, including some advocating armed uprising, competed for the public's support in bringing about political change.[75] In 1956, Fidel Castro and about 80 other rebels aboard the Granma yacht launched a failed attempt to start a rebellion against the government.[75] It was not until 1958 that the July 26th Movement emerged as the leading revolutionary group.[75]

By late 1958, the rebels broke out of the Sierra Maestra and launched a general popular insurrection. After the fighters captured Santa Clara, Batista fled from Havana on 1 January 1959 to exile in Portugal. Fidel Castro's forces entered the capital on 8 January 1959. The liberal Manuel Urrutia Lleó became the provisional president.[76]

From 1959 to 1966 Cuban insurgents fought a six-year rebellion in the Escambray Mountains against the Castro government. The insurgency was eventually crushed by the government's use of vastly superior numbers. The rebellion lasted longer and involved more soldiers than the Cuban Revolution.[77][78] The U.S. State Department has estimated that 3,200 people were executed from 1959 to 1962.[79] Other estimates for the total number of political executions range from 4,000 to 33,000.[80][81][82]

The revolution was initially received positively in the United States, where it was seen as part of a movement to bring democracy to Latin America.[83] Castro's legalization of the Communist party and the public trials and executions of hundreds of Batista's supporters caused a deterioration in the relationship between the two countries.[83] The promulgation of the Agrarian Reform Law, expropriating farmlands of over 1,000 acres, further worsened relations.[83] In February 1960, Castro signed a commercial agreement with Soviet Vice-Premier Anastas Mikoyan.[83] In March 1960, Eisenhower gave his approval to a CIA plan to arm and train a group of Cuban refugees to overthrow the Castro regime.[84]

The invasion (known as the Bay of Pigs Invasion) took place on April 14, 1961.[85] About 1,400 Cuban exiles disembarked at the Bay of Pigs, but failed in their attempt to overthrow Castro.[85] In January 1962, Cuba was suspended from the Organization of American States (OAS), and later the same year the OAS started to impose sanctions against Cuba of similar nature to the US sanctions.[86] The tense confrontation known as the Cuban Missile Crisis occurred in October, 1962. By 1963, Cuba was moving towards a full-fledged Communist system modeled on the USSR.[87]

Bundesarchiv Bild 183-L0614-040, Berlin, Fidel Castro an der Grenze

Fidel Castro and members of the East German Politburo in 1972.

During the 1970s, Fidel Castro dispatched tens of thousands of troops in support of Soviet-supported wars in Africa, particularly the MPLA in Angola and Mengistu Haile Mariam in Ethiopia.[88]

The standard of living in 1970s was "extremely spartan" and discontent was rife.[89] Fidel Castro admitted the failures of economic policies in a 1970 speech.[89]

In 1975 the OAS lifted its sanctions against Cuba, with the approval of 16 member states, including the U.S. The U.S., however, maintained its own sanctions.[86]

Castro's rule was severely tested in the aftermath of the Soviet collapse in 1991 (known in Cuba as the Special Period), when the country faced a severe economic downturn following the withdrawal of former Soviet subsidies worth $4 billion to $6 billion annually, resulting in effects such as food and fuel shortages.[90][91] The government did not accept American donations of food, medicines, and cash until 1993.[90] On 5 August 1994, state security dispersed protesters in a spontaneous protest in Havana.[92]

Cuba has found a new source of aid and support in the People's Republic of China, and new allies in Hugo Chávez, former President of Venezuela and Evo Morales, President of Bolivia, both major oil and gas exporters. In 2003, the government arrested and imprisoned a large number of civil activists, a period known as the "Black Spring".[93][94]

In February 2008, Fidel Castro announced his resignation as President of Cuba,[95] and on 24 February his brother, Raúl Castro, was elected as the new President.[96] In his acceptance speech, Raúl promised that some of the restrictions that limit Cubans' daily lives would be removed.[97] In March 2009, Raúl Castro removed some of Fidel Castro's officials.[98]

On 3 June 2009, the Organization of American States adopted a resolution to end the 47-year ban on Cuban membership of the group.[99] The resolution stated, however, that full membership would be delayed until Cuba was "in conformity with the practices, purposes, and principles of the OAS."[86] Cuban leaders have repeatedly announced they are not interested in rejoining the OAS, and Fidel Castro restated this after the OAS resolution had been announced.[100]

Effective January 14, 2013, Cuba ended the requirement established in 1961 that any citizens who wish to travel abroad were required to obtain an expensive government permit and a letter of invitation.[101][102][103] The now-replaced travel ban dates to 1961, when the Cuban government imposed broad restrictions on travel starting to prevent the mass migration of people after the 1959 revolution[104] and only approved exit visas on rare occasions.[105] Henceforth, Cubans will only need a passport and a national ID card to leave; they will also be allowed for the first time to take their young children with them.[106] Despite the new policy, a passport will still cost on average five months' salary and it is expected that it will be mostly Cubans with paying relatives abroad that will be able to take advantage of the new policy.[107] In the first year of the program, over 180,000 left Cuba and returned.[108]

Government and politics[]


Sign promoting the 2008 parliamentary election.

The Republic of Cuba is one of the world's remaining socialist states with Communist governments. The Constitution of 1976, which defined Cuba as a socialist republic, was replaced by the Constitution of 1992, which is "guided by the ideas of José Martí and the political and social ideas of Marx, Engels and Lenin."[109] The constitution describes the Communist Party of Cuba as the "leading force of society and of the state".[109]

The First Secretary of the Communist Party is concurrently President of the Council of State (President of Cuba) and President of the Council of Ministers (sometimes referred to as Premier of Cuba).[110] Members of both councils are elected by the National Assembly of People's Power.[109] The President of Cuba, who is also elected by the Assembly, serves for five years and there is no limit to the number of terms of office.[109]

Comité Central PCC

The headquarters of the Communist Party.

The People's Supreme Court serves as Cuba's highest judicial branch of government. It is also the court of last resort for all appeals against the decisions of provincial courts.

Cuba's national legislature, the National Assembly of People's Power (Asamblea Nacional de Poder Popular), is the supreme organ of power; 609 members serve five-year terms.[109] The assembly meets twice a year; between sessions legislative power is held by the 31 member Council of Ministers. Candidates for the Assembly are approved by public referendum. All Cuban citizens over 16 who have not been convicted of a criminal offense can vote. Article 131 of the Constitution states that voting shall be "through free, equal and secret vote".[109]

Article 136 states: "In order for deputies or delegates to be considered elected they must get more than half the number of valid votes cast in the electoral districts".[109] Votes are cast by secret ballot and counted in public view. Nominees are chosen at local gatherings from multiple candidates before gaining approval from election committees. In the subsequent election, there is only one candidate for each seat, who must gain a majority to be elected.

No political party is permitted to nominate candidates or campaign on the island, including the Communist Party.[111] The Communist Party of Cuba has held six party congress meetings since 1975. In 2011, the party stated that there were 800,000 members, and representatives generally constitute at least half of the Councils of state and the National Assembly. The remaining positions are filled by candidates nominally without party affiliation. Other political parties campaign and raise finances internationally, while activity within Cuba by opposition groups is minimal.

The country's first ever transsexual municipal delegate was elected in the province of Villa Clara in early 2013. Adela Hernández is a resident of the town of Caibarien and works as a nurse electrocardiogram specialist. In Cuba, delegates are not professional politicians and, therefore, do not receive a government salary.[112] While very young, Adela was imprisoned for her sexual identity after her father pressed charges against her, but in a January 2014 interview states:

... nothing was able to make me renounce my ideals, neither the mistreatment, nor the insults nor the blows changed my feelings towards the revolution. I can’t continue to hold a grudge for the suffering I endured. Every country makes mistakes and Cuba made them in the way it treated us, but it has had the courage to acknowledge this.[112]

Administrative divisions[]

The country is subdivided into 15 provinces and one special municipality (Isla de la Juventud). These were formerly part of six larger historical provinces: Pinar del Río, Habana, Matanzas, Las Villas, Camagüey and Oriente. The present subdivisions closely resemble those of the Spanish military provinces during the Cuban Wars of Independence, when the most troublesome areas were subdivided. The provinces are divided into municipalities.


Provinces of Cuba

  1. Pinar del Río
  2. Artemisa
  3. Havana
  4. Mayabeque
  5. Matanzas
  6. Cienfuegos
  7. Villa Clara
  8. Sancti Spíritus
  1. Ciego de Ávila
  2. Camagüey
  3. Las Tunas
  4. Granma
  5. Holguín
  6. Santiago de Cuba
  7. Guantánamo
  8. Isla de la Juventud

Human rights[]

Damas de Blanco demonstration in Havana, Cuba

Ladies in White demonstration in Havana (April 2012)

The Cuban government has been accused of numerous human rights abuses including torture, arbitrary imprisonment, unfair trials, and extrajudicial executions (also known as "El Paredón").[113][114] Human Rights Watch, a US-based NGO, alleges the government "represses nearly all forms of political dissent" and that "Cubans are systematically denied basic rights to free expression, association, assembly, privacy, movement, and due process of law".[115]

The European Union (EU) in 2003 accused the Cuban government of "continuing flagrant violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms".[116] The United States continues an embargo against Cuba "so long as it continues to refuse to move toward democratization and greater respect for human rights",[117] though the UN General Assembly has, since 1992, passed a resolution every year condemning the ongoing impact of the embargo and claiming it to be in violation of the Charter of the United Nations and international law.[118] Cuba considers the embargo itself to be in violation of human rights.[119]

Cuba had the second-highest number of imprisoned journalists of any nation in 2008 (the People's Republic of China had the highest) according to various sources, including the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), an international NGO, and Human Rights Watch.[120][121]

Cuban dissidents who commit crimes face arrest and imprisonment. In the 1990s, Human Rights Watch reported that Cuba's extensive prison system, one of the largest in Latin America, consists of some 40 maximum-security prisons, 30 minimum-security prisons, and over 200 work camps.[122] According to Human Rights Watch, Cuba's prison population is confined to jails with substandard and unhealthy conditions.[122]

In July 2010, the unofficial Cuban Human Rights Commission said there were 167 "political prisoners" in Cuba, a fall from 201 at the start of the year.[123] More than 110 were freed in 2010 and 2011.[124] The EU made an urgent request in 2005 for Cuba to "release unconditionally all political prisoners still detained".[125]

Until 2013, citizens could not leave or return to Cuba without first obtaining official permission in addition to their passport and the visa requirements of their destination.[115] On January 13, 2014, Cuba lifted these restrictions for most citizens, allowing travel to anywhere in the world, including the US.[126]

The United Nations Human Rights Council ended an investigation into Cuban human rights abuses in June 2007,[127] though Cuba's membership on the council continues to receive criticism.[128]

Foreign relations[]


Propaganda sign in front of the United States Interests Section in Havana.

Cuba under Castro was a major contributor to anti-imperialist wars in Africa, Central America and Asia.

Cuban support for Algeria in 1961–5 achieved significant success.[129] Cuba sent tens of thousands of troops to Angola during the Angolan Civil War, where they fought against apartheid South Africa.[130] Other countries that featured Cuban involvement include Ethiopia,[131][132] Guinea,[133] Guinea-Bissau,[134] Mozambique,[135] and Yemen.[136]

Cuba is the only minor developing country to have projected influence on the world stage that is characteristic of a major global power.[137][138] Lesser known actions include the 1959 missions to the Dominican Republic.[139] The expedition failed, but a prominent monument to its members was erected in their memory in Santo Domingo by the Dominican government, and they feature prominently at the country's Memorial Museum of the Resistance.[140]

Cuba is a founding member of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas.[141] At the end of 2012, tens of thousands of Cuban medical personnel worked abroad,[142] with as many as 30,000 doctors in Venezuela alone via the two countries' oil-for-doctors programme.[143]

In 1996, the United States, then under President Bill Clinton, brought in the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act, better known as the Helms–Burton Act.[144]

In 2008, the EU and Cuba agreed to resume full relations and cooperation activities.[145] United States President Barack Obama stated on April 17, 2009, in Trinidad and Tobago that "the United States seeks a new beginning with Cuba",[146] and reversed the Bush Administration's prohibition on travel and remittances by Cuban-Americans from the United States to Cuba.[147]

Crime and law enforcement[]

Cuba police car 01

A police car in Holguín.

All law enforcement agencies are maintained under Cuba's Ministry of the Interior which is supervised by the Revolutionary Armed Forces. In Cuba, citizens can receive police assistance by dialing "106" on their telephones.[148] The police force, which is referred to as "Policía Nacional Revolucionaria" or PNR is then expected to provide help. The Cuban government also has an agency called the Intelligence Directorate that conducts intelligence operations and maintains close ties with the Russian Federal Security Service.


As of 2009, Cuba spends about $91.8 million on its armed forces.[149] In 1985, Cuba devoted more than 10% of its GDP to military expenditures.[150] In response to American aggression, such as the Bay of Pigs Invasion, Cuba built up one of the largest armed forces in Latin America, second only to that of Brazil.[151]

From 1975 until the late 1980s, Soviet military assistance enabled Cuba to upgrade its military capabilities. After the loss of Soviet subsidies, Cuba scaled down the numbers of military personnel, from 235,000 in 1994 to about 60,000 in 2003.[152]

In February 2013, Raúl Castro, current Cuban President, announced his resignation for 2018, that will end his current 5-year term, and hope to implement permanent term limits for future Cuban Presidents, including age limits.[153]


Tree map export 2009 Cuba

Cuban export composition, 2009.

The Cuban state adheres to socialist principles in organizing its largely state-controlled planned economy. Most of the means of production are owned and run by the government and most of the labor force is employed by the state. Recent years have seen a trend toward more private sector employment. By 2006, public sector employment was 78% and private sector, mainly composed by personal property, 22%, compared to 91.8% to 8.2% in 1981.[154] Any firm wishing to hire a Cuban must pay the Cuban government, which in turn will pay the employee in Cuban pesos.[155] The average monthly wage as of July 2013 is 466 Cuban pesos, which are worth about US$19.[156]

Cuba has a dual currency system, whereby most wages and prices are set in Cuban pesos (CUP), while the tourist economy operates with Convertible pesos (CUC), set at par with the US dollar.[156] Every Cuban household has a ration book (known as libreta) entitling it to a monthly supply of food and other staples, which are provided at nominal cost.[157]

SantiagoPeople 01

Cigar production in Santiago de Cuba.

Before the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba depended on Moscow for substantial aid and sheltered markets for its exports. The removal of these subsidies (for example the oil[158][159]) sent the Cuban economy into a rapid depression known in Cuba as the Special Period. Cuba took limited free market-oriented measures to alleviate severe shortages of food, consumer goods, and services. These steps included allowing some self-employment in certain retail and light manufacturing sectors, the legalization of the use of the US dollar in business, and the encouragement of tourism. Cuba has developed a unique urban farm system (the organopónicos) to compensate for the end of food imports from the Soviet Union.

The leadership of Cuba has called for reforms in the country's agricultural system. In 2008, Raúl Castro began enacting agrarian reforms to boost food production, as at that time 80% of food was imported. The reforms enacted are aimed at expanding land usage and increasing efficiency.[160] Venezuela supplies Cuba with an estimated 110,000 barrels (17,000 m3) a day of oil in exchange for money and the services of some 44,000 Cubans, most of them medical personnel, in Venezuela.[161] Estimates place Venezuelan assistance at over 20% of the Cuban GDP for 2008–2010, similar to the aid flows from the Soviet Union in 1985–1988.[162]

In 2005 Cuba had exports of $2.4 billion, ranking 114 of 226 world countries, and imports of $6.9 billion, ranking 87 of 226 countries.[163] Its major export partners are Canada 17.7%, China 16.9%, Venezuela 12.5%, Netherlands 9%, and Spain 5.9% (2012).[6] Cuba's major exports are sugar, nickel, tobacco, fish, medical products, citrus fruits, and coffee;[6] imports include food, fuel, clothing, and machinery. Cuba presently holds debt in an amount estimated to be $13 billion,[164] approximately 38% of GDP.[165] According to the Heritage Foundation, Cuba is dependent on credit accounts that rotate from country to country.[166] Cuba's prior 35% supply of the world's export market for sugar has declined to 10% due to a variety of factors, including a global sugar commodity price drop that made Cuba less competitive on world markets.[167]

In 2010, Cubans were allowed to build their own houses. According to Raul Castro, they will be able to improve their houses with this new permission, but the government will not endorse these new houses or improvements.[168]

On August 2, 2011, The New York Times reported Cuba as reaffirming their intent to legalize "buying and selling" of private property before the year ends. According to experts, the private sale of property could "transform Cuba more than any of the economic reforms announced by President Raúl Castro's government".[169] It will cut more than one million state jobs, including party bureaucrats who resist the changes.[170] The new economic reforms effectively created a new economic system, referred by some as the "New Cuban Economy".[171][172][173]

In August 2012, a specialist of the "Cubaenergia Company" announced the opening of Cuba's first Solar Power Plant. As a member of the Cubasolar Group, there was also a mention of 10 additional plants in 2013.[174]

In October 2013, as part of Raúl Castro's latest reforms, Cuba announced an end to the dual currency system.[175]


Cuba's natural resources include sugar, tobacco, fish, citrus fruits, and coffee.[6]

Cuba's most important mineral resource is nickel, with 21% of total exports in 2011.[176] The output of Cuba's nickel mines that year was 71,000 tons, approaching 4% of world production.[177] As of 2013 its reserves were estimated at 5.5 million tons, over 7% of the world total.[177] Sherritt International of Canada operates a large nickel mining facility in Moa. Cuba is also a major producer of refined cobalt, a by-product of nickel mining operations.[178]

Oil exploration in 2005 by the US Geological Survey revealed that the North Cuba Basin could produce approximately 4.6 billion barrels (730,000,000 m3) to 9.3 billion barrels (1.48×109 m3) of oil. In 2006, Cuba started to test-drill these locations for possible exploitation.[179]


Varaderos beach (5982433102)

Varadero beach.

Tourism was initially restricted to enclave resorts where tourists would be segregated from Cuban society, referred to as "enclave tourism" and "tourism apartheid".[180] Contacts between foreign visitors and ordinary Cubans were de facto illegal between 1992 and 1997.[181] The rapid growth of tourism during the Special Period had widespread social and economic repercussions in Cuba, and led to speculation about the emergence of a two-tier economy.[182]

Cuba has tripled its market share of Caribbean tourism in the last decade; as a result of significant investment in tourism infrastructure, this growth rate is predicted to continue.[183] 1.9 million tourists visited Cuba in 2003, predominantly from Canada and the European Union, generating revenue of $2.1 billion.[184] Cuba recorded 2,688,000 international tourists in 2011, the third-highest figure in the Caribbean (behind the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico).[185]

The Medical tourism sector caters to thousands of European, Latin American, Canadian, and American consumers every year. Allegations of widespread sex tourism are downplayed by the Cuban Justice minister.[186] According to a Government of Canada travel advice website, "Cuba is actively working to prevent child sex tourism, and a number of tourists, including Canadians, have been convicted of offences related to the corruption of minors aged 16 and under. Prison sentences range from 7 to 25 years."[187]


Cuba rel94

A general map of Cuba.

Cuba is an archipelago of islands located in the northern Caribbean Sea at the confluence with the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. It lies between latitudes 19° and 24°N, and longitudes 74° and 85°W. The United States lies 150 kilometers (90 miles) across the Straits of Florida to the north and northwest (to the closest tip of Key West, Florida), and the Bahamas to the north. Mexico lies 217 kilometers (135 miles) across the Yucatán Channel to the west (to the closest tip of Cabo Catoche in the State of Quintana Roo).

Haiti is to the east, Jamaica and the Cayman Islands to the south. Cuba is the principal island, surrounded by four smaller groups of islands: the Colorados Archipelago on the northwestern coast, the Sabana-Camagüey Archipelago on the north-central Atlantic coast, the Jardines de la Reina on the south-central coast and the Canarreos Archipelago on the southwestern coast.

The main island named Cuba is 1,250 km (780 mi) long, constituting most of the nation's land area (104,556 km2 (40,369 sq mi)) and is the largest island in the Caribbean and 17th-largest island in the world by land area. The main island consists mostly of flat to rolling plains apart from the Sierra Maestra mountains in the southeast, whose highest point is Pico Turquino (1,974 m (6,476 ft)).

The second-largest island is Isla de la Juventud (Isle of Youth) in the Canarreos archipelago, with an area of 2,200 km2 (849 sq mi). Cuba has an official area (land area) of 109,884 km2 (42,426 sq mi). Its area is 110,860 km2 (42,803 sq mi) including coastal and territorial waters.


Valle vinales 1

Viñales Valley.

With most of the island south of the Tropic of Cancer, the local climate is tropical, moderated by northeasterly trade winds that blow year-round. The temperature is also shaped by the Caribbean current, which brings in warm water from the equator. This makes the climate of Cuba warmer than Hong Kong, which is at around the same latitude as Cuba, but has a subtropical climate instead of a tropical climate. In general (with local variations), there is a drier season from November to April, and a rainier season from May to October. The average temperature is 21 °C (69.8 °F) in January and 27 °C (80.6 °F) in July. The warm temperatures of the Caribbean Sea and the fact that Cuba sits across the entrance to the Gulf of Mexico combine to make the country prone to frequent hurricanes. These are most common in September and October.


Cuba signed the Rio Convention on Biological Diversity on 12 June 1992, and became a party to the convention on 8 March 1994.[188] It has subsequently produced a National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan, with one revision which was received by the convention on 24 January 2008.[189]

The revision comprises an action plan with time limits for each item, and an indication of the governmental body responsible for delivery. There is, however, virtually no information in that document about biodiversity itself. The country's fourth national report to the CBD, however, contains a detailed breakdown of the numbers of species of each kingdom of life recorded from Cuba, the main groups being: animals (17,801 species), bacteria (270 species), chromista (707 species), fungi, including lichen-forming species (5844 species), plants (9107 species) and protozoa (1440 species).[190]

As elsewhere in the world, vertebrate animals and flowering plants are well documented. The numbers recorded from Cuba for those groups are therefore likely to be close to the numbers which actually occur in Cuba. For most if not all of the other groups, however, the true numbers of species occurring in Cuba are likely to exceed, often considerably, the numbers of those recorded so far.


Racial and Ethnic Composition in Cuba (2012 Census)[191][192]
Escuela Lenin(estudiantes)

Students of the Escuela Lenin

According to the official census of 2010, Cuba's population was 11,241,161, comprising 5,628,996 men and 5,612,165 women.[193] Its birth rate (9.88 births per thousand population in 2006)[194] is one of the lowest in the Western Hemisphere. Although the country has grown by around 4 million people since 1961, the rate of increase had simultaneously began to fall during that period, and the population began to decline in 2006, with a fertility rate of 1.43 children per woman.[195]

Indeed, this drop in fertility is among the largest in the Western Hemisphere,[196] and is attributed largely to unrestricted access to legal abortion: Cuba's abortion rate was 58.6 per 1000 pregnancies in 1996, compared to an average of 35 in the Caribbean, 27 in Latin America overall, and 48 in Europe. Similarly, the use of contraceptives is also widespread, estimated at 79 percent of the female population (in the upper third of countries in the Western Hemisphere).[197]

Ethnoracial groups[]

Cuba's population is multiethnic, reflecting its complex colonial origins. Intermarriage between diverse groups is widespread, and subsequently there is a discrepancy regarding the country's racial composition: whereas the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami determined that 62 percent of Cubans are black,[198] the 2002 Cuban census found that a similar proportion of the population, 65.05 percent, was white.

Young Boys in School Uniform - Pinar del Rio - Cuba

Young boys in school uniform with soccer ball, Pinar del Río, December 2006.

In fact, the Minority Rights Group International determined that "An objective assessment of the situation of Afro-Cubans remains problematic due to scant records and a paucity of systematic studies both pre- and post-revolution. Estimates of the percentage of people of African descent in the Cuban population vary enormously, ranging from 33.9 per cent to 62 per cent".[199]

Asians make up about one percent of the population, and are largely of Chinese ancestry, followed by Filipinos, Koreans and Vietnamese. Many are descendants of farm laborers brought to the island by Spanish and American contractors during the 19th and early 20th century. Afro-Cubans are descended primarily from the Yoruba people, as well as several thousand North African refugees, most notably the Sahrawi Arabs of Western Sahara.[200]

Immigration and emigration[]

Immigration and emigration have played a prominent part in Cuba's demographic profile. Between the 18th and early 20th century, large waves of Canarian, Catalan, Andalusian, Galician, and other Spanish people immigrated to Cuba. Between 1899 and 1930 alone, close to a million Spaniards entered the country, though many would eventually return to Spain.[201] Other prominent immigrant groups included French,[202] Portuguese, Italian, Russian, Dutch, Greek, British, and Irish, as well as small number of descendants of U.S. citizens who arrived in Cuba in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Post-revolution Cuba has been characterized by significant levels of emigration, which has led to a large and influential diaspora community. During the three decades since January 1959, more than one million Cubans of all social classes — constituting 10 percent of the total population — emigrated to the United States, a proportion that matches the extent of emigration to the U.S. from the Caribbean as a whole during that period.[203][204][205][206][207] Other common destinations include Spain, the United Kingdom, Canada, Mexico, and Sweden, among others. Those who left the country typically did so by sea, in small boats and fragile rafts. Between 30,000 and 80,000 Cubans are estimated to have died trying to flee Cuba.[81] On 9 September 1994, the U.S. and Cuban governments agreed that the U.S. would grant at least 20,000 visas annually in exchange for Cuba's pledge to prevent further unlawful departures on boats.[208]


2012-Catedral de San Cristobal anagoria 01

Cathedral of Havana.

In 2010, the religious affiliation of the country was estimated by the Pew Forum to be 59.2 percent Christian (mostly Roman Catholic), 23.0 percent unaffiliated, 17.4 percent folk religion (such as santería), and the remaining 0.4 percent consisting of other religions.[209]

Cuba is officially a secular state. Religious freedom increased through the 1980s,[210] with the government amending the constitution in 1992 to drop the state's characterization as atheistic.[211]

Roman Catholicism is the largest religion, with its origins rooted in Spanish colonization. Despite less than half of the population identifying as Catholics in 2006, it nonetheless remains the dominant faith.[166]

The religious landscape of Cuba is also strongly defined by syncretisms of various kinds. Christianity is often practiced in tandem with Santería, a mixture of Catholicism and mostly African faiths, which include a number of cults. La Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre (the Virgin of Cobre) is the Catholic patroness of Cuba, and a symbol of Cuban culture. In Santería, she has been syncretized with the goddess Oshun.

Cuba also hosts small communities of Jews (500 in 2012), Muslims, and members of the Bahá'í Faith.[212]


The official language of Cuba is Spanish and the vast majority of Cubans speak it. Spanish as spoken in Cuba is known as Cuban Spanish and is a form of Caribbean Spanish. Lucumi, a dialect of the West African language Yoruba, is also used as a liturgical language by practitioners of Santería,[213] and so only as a second language.[214] Haitian Creole is the second largest language in Cuba, and is spoken by Haitian immigrants and their descendants.[215] Other languages spoken by immigrants include Galician and Corsican.[216]

Largest cities[]

Template:Largest cities of Cuba


Casa de la Trova Santiago Cuba

A local musical house, Casa de la Trova in Santiago de Cuba

Cuban culture is influenced by its melting pot of cultures, primarily those of Spain and Africa. After the 1959 revolution, the government started a national literacy campaign, offered free education to all and established rigorous sports, ballet and music programs.[217]

Internet in Cuba has some of the lowest penetration rates in the Western hemisphere, and all content is subject to review by the Department of Revolutionary Orientation.[218] ETECSA operates 118 cybercafes in the country.[218] The government of Cuba provides an online encyclopedia website called EcuRed that operates in a "wiki" format.[219] Internet access is limited.[220] The sale of computer equipment is strictly regulated. Internet access is controlled, and e-mail is closely monitored.[221]


Gloria Estefan 2009 Celia Cruz 1
Gloria Estefan and Celia Cruz

Cuban music is very rich and is the most commonly known expression of culture. The central form of this music is Son, which has been the basis of many other musical styles like salsa, rumba and mambo and an upbeat derivation of the rumba, the cha-cha-cha. Rumba music originated in early Afro-Cuban culture.[222] The Tres was also invented in Cuba, but other traditional Cuban instruments are of African origin, Taíno origin, or both, such as the maracas, güiro, marimba and various wooden drums including the mayohuacan.

Popular Cuban music of all styles has been enjoyed and praised widely across the world. Cuban classical music, which includes music with strong African and European influences, and features symphonic works as well as music for soloists, has received international acclaim thanks to composers like Ernesto Lecuona. Havana was the heart of the rap scene in Cuba when it began in the 1990s.

During that time, reggaetón was growing in popularity. In 2011, the Cuban state denounced reggaeton as degenerate, directed reduced "low-profile" airplay of the genre (but did not ban it entirely) and banned the megahit Chupi Chupi by Osmani García, characterizing its description of sex as "the sort which a prostitute would carry out".[223] In December 2012, the Cuban government officially banned sexually explicit reggaeton songs and music videos from radio and television.[224][225] Dance in Cuba has taken a major boost over the 1990s.



A traditional meal of ropa vieja (shredded flank steak in a tomato sauce base), black beans, yellow rice, plantains and fried yuca with beer

Cuban cuisine is a fusion of Spanish and Caribbean cuisines. Cuban recipes share spices and techniques with Spanish cooking, with some Caribbean influence in spice and flavor. Food rationing, which has been the norm in Cuba for the last four decades, restricts the common availability of these dishes.[226] The traditional Cuban meal is not served in courses; all food items are served at the same time.

The typical meal could consist of plantains, black beans and rice, ropa vieja (shredded beef), Cuban bread, pork with onions, and tropical fruits. Black beans and rice, referred to as Moros y Cristianos (or moros for short), and plantains are staples of the Cuban diet. Many of the meat dishes are cooked slowly with light sauces. Garlic, cumin, oregano, and bay leaves are the dominant spices.


Cuban literature began to find its voice in the early 19th century. Dominant themes of independence and freedom were exemplified by José Martí, who led the Modernist movement in Cuban literature. Writers such as Nicolás Guillén and Jose Z. Tallet focused on literature as social protest. The poetry and novels of Dulce María Loynaz and José Lezama Lima have been influential. Romanticist Miguel Barnet, who wrote Everyone Dreamed of Cuba, reflects a more melancholy Cuba.[227]

Writers such as Reinaldo Arenas, Guillermo Cabrera Infante, and more recently Daína Chaviano, Pedro Juan Gutiérrez, Zoé Valdés, Guillermo Rosales and Leonardo Padura have earned international recognition in the post-revolutionary era, though many of these writers have felt compelled to continue their work in exile due to ideological control of media by the Cuban authorities.


Due to historical associations with the United States, many Cubans participate in sports which are popular in North America, rather than sports traditionally promoted in other Spanish-speaking nations. Baseball is by far the most popular; other sports and pastimes include football, basketball, volleyball, cricket, and athletics. Cuba is a dominant force in amateur boxing, consistently achieving high medal tallies in major international competitions. Cuba also provides a national team that competes in the Olympic Games.[228]


Università de La Habana

University of Havana, founded in 1728.

The University of Havana was founded in 1728 and there are a number of other well-established colleges and universities. In 1957, just before Castro came to power, the literacy rate was fourth in the region at almost 80% according to the United Nations, higher than in Spain.[73][229] Castro created an entirely state-operated system and banned private institutions. School attendance is compulsory from ages six to the end of basic secondary education (normally at age 15), and all students, regardless of age or gender, wear school uniforms with the color denoting grade level. Primary education lasts for six years, secondary education is divided into basic and pre-university education.[230] Cuba's literacy rate of 99.8 percent[6][231] is the tenth-highest globally, due largely to the provision of free education at every level.[232]

Higher education is provided by universities, higher institutes, higher pedagogical institutes, and higher polytechnic institutes. The Cuban Ministry of Higher Education operates a scheme of distance education which provides regular afternoon and evening courses in rural areas for agricultural workers. Education has a strong political and ideological emphasis, and students progressing to higher education are expected to have a commitment to the goals of Cuba.[230] Cuba has provided state subsidized education to a limited number of foreign nationals at the Latin American School of Medicine.[233][234]

According to the Webometrics Ranking of World Universities, the top-ranking universities in the country are Universidad de la Habana (1544th worldwide), Instituto Superior Politécnico José Antonio Echeverría (2603rd) and the Universidad Central Marta Abreu de la Villas (2947th).[235]


Havana - Cuba - 0503

An old Sarra Pharmacy, Havana.

As a result of its universal health care system,[236] its life expectancy at birth is 78 years.[6] The quality of public healthcare offered to citizens is regarded as the "greatest triumph" of Cuba's socialist system.[237] Historically, Cuba has ranked high in numbers of medical personnel and has made significant contributions to world health since the 19th century.[73] Today, Cuba has universal health care and although shortages of medical supplies persist, there is no shortage of medical personnel.[238] Primary care is available throughout the island and infant and maternal mortality rates compare favorably with those in developed nations.[238]

Post-Revolution Cuba initially experienced an overall worsening in terms of disease and infant mortality rates in the 1960s when half its 6,000 doctors left the country.[239] Recovery occurred by the 1980s,[63] and the country's healthcare has been widely praised.[240] The Communist government asserted that universal health care was to become a priority of state planning and progress was made in rural areas.[241] Like the rest of the Cuban economy, Cuban medical care suffered from severe material shortages following the end of Soviet subsidies in 1991, followed by a tightening of the U.S. embargo in 1992.[242]

Challenges include low pay of doctors (only $15 a month[243]), poor facilities, poor provision of equipment, and frequent absence of essential drugs.[244] Cuba has the highest doctor-to-population ratio in the world and has sent thousands of doctors to more than 40 countries around the world.[245]

According to the UN, the life expectancy in Cuba is 78.3 years (76.2 for males and 80.4 for females). This ranks Cuba 37th in the world and 3rd in the Americas, behind only Canada and Chile, and just ahead of the United States. Infant mortality in Cuba declined from 32 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in 1957, to 10 in 1990–95.[246] Infant mortality in 2000–2005 was 6.1 per 1,000 live births. Its infant mortality rate is 5.13.[6][231]

In Cuba, there is a need to import certain pharmaceutical drugs. Therefore, the Quimefa Pharmaceutical Business Group was developed under The Ministry of Basic Industry (MINBAS) called, "FARMACUBA." This group also handles the exporting of pharmaceuticals, and provide technical information for the production of these drugs.[247]

See also[]

Flag of Cuba Cuba
P history History
Portal New Spain
  • Index of Cuba-related articles
  • Outline of Cuba
  • Greater Antilles
  • International rankings of Cuba
  • List of Cubans
  • List of island countries
  • List of places in Cuba
  • Television Serrana


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This page uses content from the English language Wikipedia. The original content was at Cuba. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with this Familypedia wiki, the content of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons License.