The Country of Cuba
Submitted 7 years 8 months ago by CultureWhiz.
Cuba is the largest Caribbean island, with around 110,000 km2 (42,000 mi2) of land. The capital, Cuba, is also the most populous city, with over two million residents. The western part of the main island is where the larger plantations were historically located, while the east (or "oriente") is where slaves later went to establish their own culture.
Cuba, like many tropical countries, has a wet and dry season. Year-round, the temperature is comfortable.
Regions in Cuba
*Western Cuba (Pinar del Rio, Havana, Matanzas, Isla de la Juventud) The capital, the rolling hills of Pinar del Rio and an off-the-beaten-path island with good scuba diving add up to an exciting region
*Central Cuba (Camagüey (province), Villa Clara, Cienfuegos, Sancti Spíritus, Ciego de Ávila)
*Eastern Cuba (Las Tunas, Holguin, Santiago de Cuba, Granma, Guantánamo)
Cities in Cuba
*Havana – cosmopolitan capital with a swinging nightlife
*Baracoa – a quaint beach-side town, and Cuba's first capital
*Camagüey – Cuba's third-largest city is a maze of narrow alleyways, Catholic churches, and jars known as tinajones
*Cienfuegos – a French-founded city that rivaled (and eventually overtook) Trinidad as Cuba's main southern Port
*Matanzas – with a name that translates to "massacres," this industrial port city at the end of the Hershey railway is a hidden gem of Afro-Cuban culture and history
*Pinar del Rio – center of the cigar industry
*Santa Clara – site of the battle that won the Revolution and now home of the mausoleum to Ernesto "Che" Guevara
*Santiago de Cuba – coastal city rich in Caribbean influence and steeped in revolutionary history
*Trinidad – World Heritage Site with charming, colonial-era buildings
The Cuban economy has undergone many transformations, from traditional agriculture through colonial feudalism to its current communist structure. Cuba today has shortages of some basic goods and services, while excelling in the provision of others, all while undergoing gradual transition towards greater market formation. Cuba prides itself on health care and education.
The communist government of Cuba controls most media outlets, strictly regulating communications. The government also controls most other industries, although with some room for other actors. Currently, the economy is gradually opening.
Primary industries include sugar cane, tobacco (especially in the form of famous Cuban cigars), and raw materials such as metals. According to some sources, corruption is prevalent. Cuba uses ration booklets ("libreta de abastecimiento") for supplies like rice and cooking oil.
Cuba has a mix of architecture from its different periods: initial settlement, colonization, and communism. Standing out against its fleet of old classic vehicles, the architecture reaches up to the extraordinary. Spanish fortresses stand imposingly, while ornately designed features stand out on cathedrals. Havana, once a globally elite city, still has some of Latin America's most elegant buildings.
As in many areas of life, Cuba has a much more modern and efficient transportation system for tourists than for locals. With newer Chinese equipment, however, the public transportation system is now taking more Cubans between Havana and the rest of the country. Cuba also makes heavy use of donated buses from wealthier countries. Cuba's roadways are in a state of disrepair, resulting in travel inefficiencies and low usage. Hitchhiking is a very common way to conserve on travel costs.
Cuba was first settled by Amerindian tribes, who had come from the mainland Americas. Spaniards arrived and claimed the land, with Christopher Columbus setting foot in 1492. The Europeans established towns, including Havana, and forced the Amerindians to work, many of whom died from infectious disease. The island developed a more urban and independent culture than other Caribbean islands, which used more slaves on sugar cane plantations. Urban Cuban slaves sometimes bought their own liberty, a process called "coartacion".
Spain retained Cuba's loyalty even as other colonies rebelled. France, Britain, and the United States have also ruled Cuba. Spanish farmers, along with slaves and laborers, many of the latter from China, fought for Cuban independence. In the process, the country ended slavery. Colonial Spain forcibly held back Cuba, with immense death tolls. The US then got involved, leading to the Spanish-American War. In the aftermath, Cuba became an independent country with US oversight.
After gaining formal independence, a series of revolutions led to a period of relative affluence, with a sizable middle class under strict rulership. Starting in the late 1950s, a populist uprising overthrew the political system. The new rulers nationalized land and partnered with the Soviet Union. The US backed a failed rebellion, and Cuba became increasingly communist.
By the 1970s, the economy had become more barren. When the Soviet Union dissolved, it left Cuba in a vacuum, which China filled. In recent years, Cuba has begun to liberalize, with Cubans more free to leave, and having greater exchange with America.
One of the better-known examples of Cuban folklore is "El Bizarron", the story of a man who outsmarts the devil. Most of Cuba's heroes, however, come not from folklore but from real life. José Marti, who masterminded the War of Independence, is without a doubt Cuba's national hero. Marti is also known for his inspiring prose and poetry. The verses of his most famous poem, "The White Rose", have been set to music in what is Cuba's most poignant song, "La Guantanamera".
Fidel Castro is the modern idol in Cuba. He stands for all that is the Revolution and for this he is honored by some and despised by others. He is known for delivering long and dramatic speeches. In 1956, Castro, Ernesto "Che" Guevara (1928–67), Castro's younger brother, Raul (1931–), and other revolutionaries were on a yacht traveling from Mexico to Cuba, when the yacht was captured by dictator Batista's forces. Castro and the others headed for the hills of the Sierra Maestra where they began the three-year revolution that ended the Fulgencio Batista dictatorship in 1959. At one point, their invasion force consisted of only twelve men.
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