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Cuba - Where Cultures Combine

It's home to frequent hurricanes, communism, the mambo and a booming tourism trade. While it's a fairly small country, Cuba is a brimming with life, history and contradictions. We've got the 411 on this colorful Caribbean country.

Cuba - Where Is It?

Cuba is located in the northern Caribbean where the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico meet the Atlantic Ocean. Cuba is located south of Florida and north of the Cayman Islands and Jamaica. The country is made up of the Island of Cuba, the Isle of Youth and a few other small islands. It's the most populated Caribbean nation, with about 11,346,000 people living there. The capital of Cuba is Havana.

Cuba - A Little History

Christopher Columbus first spotted Cuba in 1492 and claimed it for Spain. This probably came as a big shock to the Taino and Ciboney people who already lived there. The Spanish settlers later brought African slaves to the country, who would eventually make up a significant part of the population. In the late 1800s, Cuba began its struggle for independence from Spain. When a US ship was mysteriously blown up in Havana, the US seized the opportunity to intervene - and so began the Spanish-American War. The Republic of Cuba gained formal independence on May 20th, 1902.

After the war, the US was granted the right to intervene in Cuban affairs - a right it used to control Cuba's finances and foreign affairs, among other things. The gap between the rich and poor grew wider in the coming years, which eventually set the scene for The Revolution, which led to the Cuban government being overthrown and Fidel Castro assuming leadership in 1959. At first Castro did not identify as a communist, but after the US invaded Cuba to overthrow him (The Bay of Pigs Invasion), Castro declared Cuba a communist state. Communism is a political ideology that has the goal of ending private ownership of property - and eventually becoming a society with no government and no social classes. Today, Fidel Castro is the longest-serving political leader in the world. However, since having some serious health problems early in 2006, he has temporarily handed power over to his brother Raul.

Cuba - Did U Know?

  • More than half of Cuba's population is of mixed race. The rest is mostly of Spanish, African, South American or Chinese origin.
  • Cuba has one of the highest literacy in Latin America and all education - even university - is free there.
  • The United States has an embargo against Cuba, which means the US won't allow certain goods to be shipped to Cuba and won't allow goods to enter the US from Cuba. The idea is to use the embargo to put pressure on Fidel Castro to leave office.
  • Fidel Castro has reportedly survived over 600 assassination attempts.
  • US law allows US citizens to travel to Cuba - they're just not allowed to spend any money there!
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