Cuba the country of joy and sunshine in 2021.
Official name: Republic of Cuba.
Nature of the regime: socialist one-party regime.
Head of State: Miguel Díaz-Canel, President of the Council of State and the Council of Ministers.
First Secretary of the Cuban Communist Party (CCP): Raúl Castro.
Surface area: 106,449 km².
Capital: Havana (2,130,000 inhabitants).
Main Cities: Santiago de Cuba, Villa Clara, Holguín, Camagüey.
Official Language: Spanish.
Currencies: Cuban peso and convertible peso (fixed parity against the dollar).
National Day: 1 January (anniversary of the 1959 revolution).
Population: 11,239,224 (UNDP, 2017).
Density: 102.3 inhab./km².
Population growth: 0.2.
Life expectancy: 79.7 years.
Religion(s): Catholic (10% of the population declares itself to be a believer, 3% practicing), santera (Afro-Caribbean cults).
History of Cuba:
Between the Spanish Conquista, the Castro Revolution and the turbulent relations with the United States, Cuba’s history is tumultuous. It is necessary to know a little about the history of this country before visiting it, in order to better understand how Cuba came to be what it is today.
The history of Cuba is mainly known after the discovery of the island by Christopher Columbus on October 27, 1492.
Cuba was previously populated by Amerindian tribes, but they were decimated during the Spanish Conquista. The island thus joined the Spanish Empire in 1492. The Spanish colonists settled in Cuba, enslaved the Amerindians and set off in search of Cuban gold. Once the gold was exhausted, Cuba turned to the cultivation and marketing of tobacco and soon became the first in this field. At the end of the 19th century, Cuba fought against Spain for its independence. The United States intervened in the conflict to help Cuba. In 1902, Cuba’s independence was officially recognized.
At the end of the 1950s, under the regime of the dictator Fulgencio Batista, Cuba was in bad shape. Although the standard of living had improved, inequality and corruption were still rampant.
Therefore, the United States has great influence in Cuba: it maintains naval bases, has large investments and is the first trading partner of the Cubans. Moreover, all this makes the Cuban economy very dependent on its neighbor.
1959, the dictator Batista was overthrown by the revolutionaries whose leader was Fidel Castro, accompanied by his brother Raul and Che Guevara. After 6 years of struggle and exile, Fidel Castro came to power as Minister of Defense, then Prime Minister, but it is he who has the real power of decision.
Fidel Castro’s first reforms included nationalizing part of the land (40%), making education free and implementing universal and free medical coverage. All media are also nationalized.
Committees for the defense of the revolution are set up to transform the Cuban people into actors of the revolution, according to the regime’s supporters, or to monitor and indoctrinate the population, according to the regime’s opponents.
1960s, the repression of the regime’s opponents was significant: about 10,000 people were sentenced to death and 20,000 political dissidents were imprisoned.
1965, the Communist Party of Cuba was created.
Cuba and the United States:
Relations between Cuba and the United States cooled down as Fidel Castro decided to nationalize several large American firms present on the island. As a result, in 1960, the United States announced economic sanctions against Cuba. It was then that the Soviet Union came into play and took the Cuban side to fight against “the aggressive forces of Washington”.
In April 1961, a team of dissidents against the Castro regime landed in Cuba’s Bay of Pigs, an operation supported by the United States. They were counting on an uprising of the population to turn the situation around, but this never took place. In response to this attack, Cuba declared its socialist regime.
1962, the United States announced the end of diplomatic relations and imposed an embargo against Cuba.
October 1962, at the height of the Cold War, when tensions between the United States and Cuba were at their height, the island played a central role in the US-Soviet conflict. Cuba authorized the installation of Soviet missiles on its territory, which could reach the United States.
When the Americans learn of this, they organize a naval blockade around Cuba to prevent any resupply of Soviet missiles. Nuclear war seemed imminent, but the Soviet Union withdrew its missiles from Cuba in exchange for a promise of non-aggression directly from Cuba by the Americans. After this crisis, Cuban-American relations relaxed.
These political conflicts had heavy economic consequences for the Cuban population, some of whom decided to emigrate to the United States. Between 1959 and 2015, more than one million Cubans fled their country for the United States.
Fidel Castro declared Cuba to be a communist state and defender of the people oppressed by US imperialism.
He remained in power until 2006 and, ill, handed over power to his brother Raul Castro. He died in 2016. The U.S. economic, trade, and financial embargo is still in place today. China and Russia are now Cuba’s two main trading partners.
The official language in Cuba is Spanish, which is the mother tongue of 90% of Cubans.
There is also a community of 300,000 Haitian immigrants or descendants of Haitian immigrants who speak Haitian Creole, making it the second language of the country. A radio broadcasts even in this language in Havana. This language will be officially recognized in 1994.
The Republic of Cuba is located between the Caribbean Sea to the south, the Gulf of Mexico to the northwest, Florida to the north and the Bahamas to the northeast, themselves bathed by the North Atlantic.
It is an archipelago composed of the island of Cuba, the Isle of Pines (Isle of Youth), and 4,095 keys. Geographically, it is located near the Tropic of Cancer, 87 km west-northwest of the Pointe du Cheval Blanc, on the island of Haiti; 145 km north of Jamaica; 208 km from Punta Cayo Raton, on the Yucatán Peninsula (Mexico), and 212 km south of the East Cape, on the Florida Peninsula. The Republic includes the entire island as well as the Isla de la Juventud (“Island of Youth”), but the entrance to Guantánamo Bay has been occupied since 1898 (officially leased since 1903) by the United States, which has installed a major naval base there.
The Heritage of Humanity in Cuba is a designation for world cultural and natural sites protected by a UNESCO convention.
The Island of Cuba ratified the Convention for the Protection of World Heritage in 1981.
The wonders of Cuba:
9 absolutely incredible sites, probably the largest number of protected sites within a single state of this size.
Old Havana and its system of fortifications.
Trinidad and the Valley of Los Ingenios.
Castle of San Pedro de la Roca, Santiago de Cuba.
Desembarco del Granma National Park
Archaeological landscape of the first coffee plantations in southeastern Cuba.
Alejandro de Humboldt National Park.
Historic Urban Center of Cienfuegos.
Historic Center of Camagüey.
The Cuban gastronomy:
Cuban cuisine is called “Creole”, which means a mixture of different cultures. Today, it is diversifying after having been limited in resources and supplies for a long time. With the opening of private restaurants, you will be able to enjoy Cuban specialties. No longer obliged to be content with rum and cigars! Simple and generous, Cuban cuisine is reasonably spicy and largely fried. Ingredients imported from Spain, Africa, France, and the Caribbean islands, it is a bubbling pot of mixed flavors. It contains cassava, sweet potatoes, tubers, exotic fruits, pork, rice, plantains, and simmered tomato sauce with onions, bay leaves, and spices.
The arrival of the “Coffea arabica” on Cuban soil in 1748 is due to Don José Antonio Gelabert.
It was first cultivated in very limited quantities. The production only took off after the strong coffee growth experienced in the French neighbor during the Coffee Revolution in Santo Domingo.
The coffee revolution in Cuba refers to the period during which the island became the world’s leading coffee producer, thanks to very rapid development of plantations during the first three decades of the 19th century. This period profoundly transformed the island’s culture and demography, with the massive arrival of black slaves and immigrants of non-Spanish origin, mainly French. This agricultural “revolution”, a high point in the history of coffee growing, took place mainly around Havana and in the eastern part of the island, an area then sparsely inhabited, on the outskirts of the port of Santiago de Cuba and the Sierra Maestra, which culminates at 1,974 meters at Pico Turquino, the highest peak in the country.
Religions in Cuba:
Religion reflects the cultural diversity of the island. According to some researchers, 85% of Cubans believe in something, while only 15% regularly practice a religion.
After the 1959 revolution, Cuba became officially atheist and limited religious practice. The regime expelled or imprisoned several hundred clergymen. The new government persecuted Santeria practitioners and kept them out of the Communist Party.
Fidel Castro declared in 1977 that “the necessary revolutionary process in Latin America required the union between Marxists and Christians. He himself became involved in making it possible for believers to join the Cuban Communist Party161. Article 8 of the Cuban Constitution states that “the State recognizes, respects and guarantees religious freedom.
Since the 1990s, there has been a revival of religious life on the island. The crisis caused by the collapse of the Soviet bloc led many poor people to turn to the charity of the churches. In 1992, Fidel Castro officially renounced state atheism. From 1969 to 1998, the government had removed Christmas from public holidays. In January 1998, Pope John Paul II made a historic visit to the island, invited by the Cuban government and the Catholic Church. The regime relaxed its positions against religion, since it is now possible for Catholics to become members of the CCP and to publicly display religious symbols. However, an Office of Religious Affairs, which depends on the CCP, still monitors the activities of churches that must obtain recognition from the authorities.
Cuba is traditionally a Catholic country.
Cuban Catholicism is sometimes marked by syncretism. A common syncretic belief is Santeria, which originated in Cuba. 60% of the population has been baptized, but only 1.5% are practicing Catholics.
The Roman Catholic Church is composed of the Conference of Cuban Catholic Bishops, led by Jaime Ortega, Cardinal and Archbishop of Havana. It is formed by eleven dioceses, 56 orders of nuns, and 24 orders of priests.
According to a study by the Center for Psychological and Sociological Research, Cuba has half a million Protestants out of a total population of 11.2 million people. There are 90,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses and five synagogues for about 1,500 Jews. Several hundred thousand Cubans practice Afro-Cuban cults, which are very successful. Among the rituals coming from Africa, Santeria is the most widespread. Other African cults practiced in Cuba include the Palo Monte, in which herbs and other natural elements are used for magical purposes, and the Abakuá, which is more than a secret mutual aid society reserved for men.
There is also a Muslim community on the island. The first group of converts to Islam was called “the dozen” because they could be counted on the fingertips. They began their conversion in the 1990s and today the island is said to have nearly 10,000 Cuban Muslims.
Cuba is famous for :
Its cigars, especially Habanos and Cohiba, Cuban cigars of world renown;
its rum, notably Havana Club, owned by the Cuban government, which operates it jointly with the Pernod Ricard group. Rum is a brandy obtained by fermentation and distillation of sugar cane juice ;
Cuban music has produced a wide range of musical genres, including mambo and cha-cha-cha, the sound that Buena Vista Social Club has rediscovered, the bolero. Today, it is expressed above all by timba (close to salsa) and reggaeton. It is also inspired by the Congolese rumba, for good reason, the strong community originating from Central Africa (ex-Zaire) since slavery. Songs such as Guantanamera, Hasta Siempre, Quizás, quizás are world-famous.
Old American cars (classified as Cuban heritage, meaning that they cannot be bought and taken out of the island).
The Argentinian revolutionary Ernesto Guevara called the “Ch”, at whose side Fidel Castro led the Cuban revolution.
Santeria, a syncretic religion of African origin, very present in Cuban society. According to the historian and anthropologist María I. Faguaga, the majority of the population takes into account the prophecies published each year in the Letter of the Year by the babalaos, the priests of the santería.