CUBA GENERAL INFO
14 provinces (provincias, singular - provincia) and 1 special municipality* (municipio especial);
- Ciego de Avila
- Ciudad de La Habana
- Isla de la Juventud (Isle of youth)
- La Habana
- Las Tunas
- Pinar del Rio
- Sancti Spiritus
- Santiago de Cuba
- Villa Clara
For detailed information on each province please click over the province name.
Cuba Geographic data
Cuba, formally Republic of Cuba, independent republic located in the Caribbean Sea, some 145 km (90 mi) south of Florida in the United States, comprising two main islands, Cuba and Isla de la Juventud ("Isle of Youth", formerly Isle of Pines), and more than 1,600 small coral cays and islets. Cuba commands the two entrances to the Gulf of Mexico to the west: the Straits of Florida and the Yucatán Channel. On the east, the republic is separated from the island of Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic) by the Windward Passage; Jamaica lies to the south, the Bahama Islands to the north-east, and the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico to the west, across the Yucatán Channel. The republic has a total land area of 110,860 sq km (42,803 sq mi), of which almost 95 per cent is accounted for by the island of Cuba. The largest island in the Caribbean and the most westerly of the Greater Antilles group, Cuba is 104,945 sq km (40,519 sq mi) in area, and long and narrow in shape. It has a maximum length of about 1,225 km (760 mi)-between the westernmost and easternmost points, Cabo de San Antonio and Cabo Maisí-and a maximum width of about 191 km (119 m). Isla de la Juventud, lying opposite the Bay of Batabanó on the south-western coast, in the Canarreos Archipelago, has an area of about 2,200 sq km (849 sq mi). Havana (in Spanish, La Habana), on the north-western coast, is the capital, largest city, and chief port of Cuba.
Official Name - Republic of Cuba
Capital - Havana 2,175,995 (1993)
Population - 11,117,000 (1996)
Life Expectancy - 74 for men 78 for women
Area - 110,860 sq km (42,803 sq mi)
Largest Cities - Santiago de Cuba 440,084 Camagüey 293,961 Holguin 242,085
Guantánamo 207,796 Santa Clara 205,400 (1993) Languages - Spanish; English
Religions - Roman Catholicism; Protestantism
Currency - Cuban peso
Government - Unitary socialist republic
Havana is the capital city with a population of 2,184,990 in 1996. In 2001 the nation’s population was estimated to be 11,184,023.
Cuba's original inhabitants probably came to the island from South America. They were the Guanahatabey and the Ciboney, the former living in the extreme west of the island, the latter in various places in the island and particularly on the cays to the south. Both were hunter-gatherers. The Taino (Arawakan Indians), who arrived later and who spread over not only Cuba but also the rest of the Greater Antilles and the Bahamas, lived in villages and had rudimentary agriculture; they also made simple pottery. The Taino constituted 90 percent of the island's population at the time of the Spanish conquest.
Institute of Ethnology and Folklore was created within the Academy of Sciences of Cuba, with the aim of collecting and classifying the Cuban cultural heritage. It formed the National Folklore Group, which performs Afro-Cuban dances throughout Cuba and abroad and gives international folklore laboratories each year. The activities of the folklore group are complemented by the Institute of Literature and Linguistics of the Academy of Sciences. The revolutionary government has made a special effort to promote study of the African roots of Cuban culture. The Guanabacoa Museum is the main repository of Afro-Cuban artifacts.
European colonists in Cuba did not develop an independent culture earlier because the island was only a shipping and military outpost and not a great administrative or mining center during the Spanish Empire. Early Cuban authors of importance, such as 19th century writers María de las Mercedes Santa Cruz y Montalvo, better known as La Condesa de Merlín, and Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda, lived and wrote in Spain rather than in their homeland. The influences of the French Revolution (1789-1799) and the American Revolution (1775-1783) awoke Cubans to the possibilities of social and economic change, and stimulated intellectuals to become involved in nationalist and independence movements.
Modernism coincided with romanticism at the end of the 19th century and ultimately replaced it in the 20th century. Modernism is an artistic movement characterized by a concentration on art for art’s sake, or byemphasis on the beauty of structure in language and art. Cuban modernism was short-lived and pertained to only a few artists, including writer and revolutionary José Martí, the father of Cuban independence, and poet Julian del Casal. Cuban modernism gained influence at the same time that U.S. citizens were investing in Cuba, which opened Cuban writers to increased contact with foreign literature. This was a period when calls for political, economic, and cultural change appeared in all literary genres. This era gave way to postmodernism within the first decade of independence.
Cuba shares a common history with Latin America, beginning with the conquest and European colonization. However, there were also some differences. One of the differences dealt with the indigenous peoples.
While throughout most of the continent, especially in areas where great civilizations were established, the roots of native cultures were preserved for various reasons, colonization and the introduction of catholicism in the Antilles brought with it the extermination of the Indian nation and with it the disappearance of religious beliefs and practices of those people.
This is the case of the Arawak Indians (Guanahatabeys, Ciboneys and Tainos), that once lived in Cuba and worshipped inanimate objects, believed in mythology and performed magic. They personified deities, praying to them during their religious services and celebrated religious holidays, known as the Areitos. Their priests were in charge of healing, fortune-telling and the preservation of tradition.
During the complex process of transculturation, the Indian heritage has barely survived in the form of legends and popular myths. Some areas have been preserved, such as the caves in which they held funeral rituals and painted murals.
The Spanish conquistadores imposed their culture, language, civilization, way of thinking and religion: catholicism. With the support of colonial authorities, over a period of time, catholicism became the official and exclusive religion. Through the spread of the gospel, Christianity became ethnocentric.
Education, health care and social relations in general were primarily in the hands of the clergy. The Catholic Church maintained a favored political and social position, even after the independence of Cuba.
As a consequence of centuries of slavery, a number of African religions were introduced in Cuba during the colonial period. The religious beliefs differed according to the region in Africa from where the slaves were brought.
Since then, Spanish and African people have been the foundation of the ethnic and cultural heritage of the Cuban nationality. Other cultures have had their influence (Caribbean, North American, Chinese and European), in a complex process of intercultural mixing. This brought about a unique religious diversity.
The original African creeds were modified according to conditions in Cuba. Uprooted from their surroundings on the African continent and subjected to a blending of cultural and ethnic influences, the deities and religious rituals changed.
As a result of slavery, many of the rituals were for protection and divine assistance. Other religious rites, such as fertilization, were seen as less important. Thus, Cuban religious beliefs were influenced by African creeds.
As they were barred from cultivating their beliefs, the African slaves reflected their deities in the Catholic saints. That's why, the Virgin of Charity is also Ochun for followers of the Yoruba Rule.
The Ocha Rule, popularly known as Santeria, came from the Yoruba culture in Nigeria. The focus of worship is a group of orichas (deities), connected to different myths. Among the most important gods: Olofin, Olorun and Oloddumare.
The religious leaders of Santeria are Santeros, in the case of men (babalochas) and Santeras, in the case of women (iyalochas). They have other hierarchical and secondary functions. The most systematic and complex expression is in the worship of Ifa -- a god whose main attribute is prophecy-- which is worshipped by the higher priests, the babalawos.
People originally from Congo followed the Conga Rule, Palo Monte or Palo Mayombe along with religious ceremonies that dealt with natural forces.
An important element of this belief is the nganga, a receptacle in which various objects, organic materials and minerals, key to the faith, are collected and carefully guarded by religious leaders.
The highest authority is the Tata Nganga. They concentrate on the medicinal properties of plants and herbs. There are several with such characteristics in Cuba --Mayombe, Brillumba and Kimbisa.
Another religious manifestation of African origin, located in the western part of Cuba, are secret men-only groups called Abakua, also known as naniguismo. These groups developed at the beginning of the past century, originating from the area of Calabar in Nigeria.
These groups are associations for mutual protection and assistance, following a mythical legend. They are organized in groups with teams headed by plazas, the highest dignity for life.
Originating from ethnic groups, such as the Arara and Iyesa, there are different beliefs with lesser influence, also located in the western part of Cuba.
Religious expressions emanating from Africa --compared with Christianity -- are less developed theoretically. They are based on symbols, spirits and rituals, tied directly to nature and daily life. There is no central structure that regulates doctrine or the way services are conducted. Independent groups establish their own particular routine.
In the Abakua societies, a structure have been created to incorporate several local groups. In Santeria, more centralized groups have been formed, such as the Yoruba Cultural Association of Cuba, which brings together a number of Babalawos or Priests from the Ifa cult.
These religious expressions, particularly Santeria, are widely spread among the population. As a result, it is difficult to calculate the exact number of people who practice African-originated religions. With the exception of Abakua, which uses temples, services are carried out in private homes, making it more difficult to determine the exact number.
African influence in Cuba is noticeable in daily life, in the streets and in the culture -- especially in music, dance, musical instruments, cousine and the arts.
Spiritualism is a widespread religious expression in Cuban society, too. It appared during the middle of the 19th Century and first spread through the area where the independence war was being fought. At the same time, it assimilated elements of African beliefs and Christianity.
These forms of spiritualism are known as "cords", "crossed" and "individual". They are practiced within spiritual centers and societies, using individual "mediums," but do not have a formal federation. There has been, however, a tendency toward formalizing a group and an association with a leadership was set up.
Protestantism arrived relatively late in Cuba, due to the protection of the Catholic Church by the Spanish rule. The first Protestant influence appeared late last century, initiated by Cubans who had emigrated to the United States - - although the main churches were built after the U.S. intervention of 1898.
The Protestant faith grew during the first 50 years of the Republic, assisted by missionaries from the United States. Cuban Protestantism was molded from the denominations found in the American society.
There are several other religious expressions, but their followers are fewer in number. Some are associated with immigrants, such as Voodoo, brought to Cuba by Haitians. Other religious beliefs were brought over by Chinese immigrants, but little is known about these practices. In each of these cases, only a small percentage of Haitian and Chinese descendants practice those religions.
Judaism is practiced by member of the Hebrew community in Cuba; and there are a few Jewish synagogues, mainly in Havana.
There are also small groups of Eastern philosophical religions, such as the Theosophical Society and the Baha'i Assembly, as well as other similar, less organized religious faiths.
Masonic membership in Cuba is a little more than 26,000, with 314 lodges throughout the nation. The Cuban capital, Havana, has the largest number of Masonic members in the country.
The Catholic Church
With the conquest, Spain imposed its culture, language, civilization, way of thinking and religion: Catholicism.
With the support of colonial authorities, Catholicism became the official and exclusive religion for a long period of time. Education, health care and social relations in general were primarily in the hands of the clergy, through the concept of charity. After Cuba got independent from Spain, the Catholic Church maintained a favored political and social position.
Although the Catholic community was not that numerous, the institution itself was able to exert its influence upon Cuban social life. There are more than 600 churches and two seminaries --where priests are trained. In addition, there are several novitiates and parishes. The Catholic Church also runs three hospitals and centers for the elderly. Under State administration, nuns work in hospitals, asylums and an in one orphanage.
There are several temples that are especially worth mentioning, either for their architectural values, age or because of people's devotion to the saint they lodge. Among them: the Havana Cathedral, the Holy Ghost's Church, Our Lady of Regla's Church, St. Lazarus' Church, Church of Our Lady of Mercy, the Guardian Angel's Church, Our Lady of Mount Carmel's Church, Our Lady of Charity's Church, and the Sacred Heart of Jesus' Church -all in Havana. In Santiago de Cuba, the Cathedral and in the nearby village of El Cobre rises the dark yellow-painted building of the Basilica of Our Lady of Charity (of El Cobre), the Patron Saint of Cuba, among elevated hills and against a grey background of a cooper mine.
The Church publishes a weekly newsletter on Sundays, occasionally issuing other publications through which religious authorities provide guidance to believers. There are other publications -with a cultural and religious character- covering a broader perspective.
Religious education (cathecism) for children, teenagers and adults is available in churches for all those who request it. People can also ask for the sacraments such as baptism, communion, extreme unction or services like marriage and confession.
The greatest evidence of religious observance in Cuba takes place in religious holidays.
Aside from the customary holidays, there are very specific days that are observed in Cuba. The celebration of San Lazaro --or Saint Lazarus-- every December 17th, is observed by several religions.
The day before the celebration believers undertake a long pilgrimage of up to 34 kilometers to the Church of San Lazarus in El Rincon, on the outskirts of Havana. It is there that believers ask the saint for special miracles.
Other saints, too, have their holidays with special festivities and pilgrimages, including the Virgin of Charity -- in Santiago de Cuba, the Virgin of Regla (Patron of the Seas), the Virgin Mercy and St. Barbara -- in Havana.
In almost all of these celebrations, depending on the combination of different forms of religious practices, one can detect a certain African influence. Deities in African religions are worshipped as are the Catholic saints.
Diplomatic relations between Cuba and the Vatican have existed at the highest level since 1935. Authorities from the Holy Sea have visited Cuba, as have superiors of religious orders and other organizations, such as the Latin American Bishop Conference (CELAM). A number of organizations, such as Caritas, support the local Church and make donations to the people, namely medicines, and medical equipment
A historic moment in those ties took place on november 19, 1996 when President Fidel Castro met Pope John Paul II, as part of his visit to Rome. It was the first time a Cuban leader was received by the higher hierarchy of the Catholic Church. In the private library of the Supreme Pontiff, in the Holy Sea, they talked for about 35 minutes, an opportunity for Fidel Castro to reiterate his invitation to the Pope to visit Cuba, which was accepted by John Paul II.
The visit by Pope John Paul II to Cuba was prepared throughout 1997 and took place from January 21 - 25, 1998. It was a complete success according to the Cuban authorities, the Vatican and the international press. The Holy Father offered mass in the Revolution Square, in Havana, and in open squares in Villa Clara, Camaguey and Santiago de Cuba. All of the ceremonies were massively attended by both believers and non-believers, including the highest-ranking government authorities. On his arrival and departure and in his homilies, the Pope reiterated his rejection of one country placing a blockade on another and called on Cuba to open to the world and the world to open to Cuba.
The Church is organized into eight dioceses, two of them in Havana and Santiago de Cuba have Archbishops.
A cardinal, Jaime Ortega Alamino, Archbishop of Havana and President of the Cuban Catholic Bishops Conference (COCC), is the higher authority of the church on the island and was elected on may 1995 CELAM vice president. Cuba had another cardinal: Manuel Arteaga Betancourt.
Cuba has 12 bishops, 10 residentials and 2 auxiliaries, around 250 priests and 50 masculine and feminine orders and congregations with approximately 750 men and women, among them 335 Cubans; the rest are Spaniards, Mexicans, Canadians, Colombians, Dominicans and Italians, among others.
The orders and congregations with a bigger number of priests are Jesuits, Franciscans, Salesians and of Saint Vincent of Paul. The feminine orders are the Sainte Claire nuns, Discalced Carmelites, Dominicans (enclosed nuns), Daughters of Charity, Immaculate Mary's missionary oblates and Servants of Mary, who take care of old people in resting homes and carry out an active social service.
There are also organizations such as the Cuban Religious Confederation (CONCUR), in addition to associations, lay groups, Episcopal commissions, dioceses or archdioceses and parishes.
Mountains cover about a quarter of the total area of the island of Cuba. They are often interrupted by the plains that cover some two-thirds of the surface. The coastal basins of Santiago de Cuba and Guantánamo lie in the extreme east; a great central valley also begins in the east and then combines with a peneplain that continues westward across the island. These plains have been hospitable to sugarcane and livestock raising.
Cuba Plants and Animals
Cuba’s varied climates enable over 3,000 species of tropical fruits and flowers to inhabit the island. Extensive tracts of land in the eastern portion of the island are heavily forested. The most predominant species of trees are palms, of which Cuba has more than 30 types, including royal palms. Other indigenous plants are mahogany, ebony, lignum vitae, cottonwood, logwood, rosewood, cedar pine, majagua, granadilla, jagüey, tobacco, papaya trees, and the ceiba, which is the national tree.
Spanish colonial administrators did not place much importance on the economy of Cuba. The island was poor in precious minerals, so Spain largely ignored Cuba. Instead, Spain focused on mainland colonies, such as Mexico and Peru, that were rich in gold, silver, and precious gemstones. Spanish authorities used Cuba’s hardwood forests to provide wood for shipbuilding and repairs for the galleon fleets that arrived in convoys in Havana harbor twice a year to transport the wealth of Spain’s American colonies back to Europe. Colonial administrators used the harbor as a stopping point between Spain and her colonies, giving Cuba strategic rather than economic importance. Cuban residents lived on relatively small farms and eked out meager livings raising cattle, tobacco, some sugarcane, and commodities to supply the ships. The residents were allowed to trade only with Spanish merchants. The merchants charged high prices for imported goods, while colonists made only small profits from exports.
By the end of the 1950s Cuba had developed one of the leading economies among Latin-American nations. Nevertheless, the country was confronted by a number of major problems: a sugar monoculture (sugar accounted for four-fifths of total exports), a low rate of economic growth, a heavy dependence upon the United States for investment and trade, high rates of unemployment and underemployment, and significant inequalities between urban and rural areas and among the various ethnic divisions.
The government, the primary player in the economy, has undertaken limited reforms in recent years to stem excess liquidity, increase enterprise efficiency, and alleviate serious shortages of food, consumer goods, and services, but prioritizing of political control makes extensive reforms unlikely. Living standards for the average Cuban, without access to dollars, remain at a depressed level compared with 1990. The liberalized farmers' markets introduced in 1994, sell above-quota production at market prices, expand legal consumption alternatives, and reduce black market prices. Income taxes and increased regulations introduced since 1996 have sharply reduced the number of legally self-employed from a high of 208,000 in January 1996. Havana announced in 1995 that GDP declined by 35% during 1989-93 as a result of lost Soviet aid and domestic inefficiencies. The slide in GDP came to a halt in 1994 when Cuba reported growth in GDP of 0.7%. Cuba reported that GDP increased by 2.5% in 1995 and 7.8% in 1996, before slowing down in 1997 and 1998 to 2.5% and 1.2% respectively. Growth recovered with a 6.2% increase in GDP in 1999 and a 5.6% increase in 2000. Much of Cuba's recovery can be attributed to tourism revenues and foreign investment. Growth in 2001 should continue at the same level as the government balances the need for economic loosening against its concern for firm political control.
domestic: principal trunk system, end to end of country, is coaxial cable; fiber-optic distribution in Havana and on Isla de la Juventud; 2 microwave radio relay installations (one is old, US-built; the other newer, built during the period of Soviet support); both analog and digital mobile cellular service established international: satellite earth station - 1 Intersputnik (Atlantic Ocean region)
The official language is Spanish, but immigration has left pockets of Haitians and Jamaicans in Cuba who speak French patois and creole English. Both English and Russian are spoken and understood in major cities.
Cuba Travel Info
The most conventional way to travel to Cuba is by air. There are several international air lines flying to Cuba on regular basis and with steady Air schedule. Depending on the departure point, you could find direct flights to Havana city, Varadero, Cayo Largo del Sur, Holguin, Cayo Coco y Santiago de Cuba. If you are from Canada, Europe, Central or South America you will easily find flights to some of these points.
Cubana de Aviación is the official national carrier and covers must of the air routes to and from Europe and Canada
More than 50 foreign airlines have regular flights to Cuba at the present, among them are:
Air Europa, AirEuropa, Air France, Mexicana air line, Air Jamaica, LACSA, Iberia, Copa air line, Lanchile, and many others.
Special rules are applied to US citizens or US permanent residents in Cuban soil.
Cuban International airports
The other five international airports in Cuba are located in:
- Varadero, the famous beach at Matanzas province: "Juan Gualberto Gomez" International Airport.
- Cayo Coco international airport, for the large natural tourist resort of Cayo Coco & Cayo Guillermo, at northern Cuba.
- Camaguey City, "Ignacio Agramonte" International Airport
- Holguín City (Eastern Cuba), "Frank País" International Airport
- Santiago de Cuba City, "Antonio Maceo" International Airport
In other smaller cities there are small airports where only domestic flights can be operated, using short and medium size airplanes like An-2, An – 24 or ATR-42. For domestic flights like these, you should buy the tickets at Cubana de Aviacion offices for local national routes.
Besides Cubana air lines, the official carrier for the Republic of Cuba, the Island has other companies whose air planes cover air routes within the Caribbean, flying to and from Mexico, Jamaica andBahamas. Among these companies are AeroCaribbean and Aerogaviota.
Hotels, car rental, Tours and excursions, local operators:
There are several hotel chains selling accommodation in Cuba, covering a wide offer for lodging, from 3 to 4 and 5 stars hotels. Usual meals pan is CP ( bed and breakfast ), but some hotels rooms can be booked in MAP plan ( half board ). A lot of all inclusive accommodation facilities are located in beach resorts – destinations, some of them belonging to prestigious hoteliers like Sol - Melia, LTI, Sofitel, and others.
Cuba has different levels for tourist accommodation : Hotels rank varies from students’ budget lodging facilities to luxurious 5 stars hotels, aimed to lodge VIP clients. In-between you will find . 4 stars city hotels, even all inclusive resorts with available comfortable rooms. Following the architectural patterns, the location, function and interior design, you could classify hotels in Cuba as: city hotels, beach hotels, nature hotels, Spa's resorts, historic hotels or modern hotels.
For persons who are independent traveling like, the car rental in Cuba offers multiple options. You can easily book a car at airports terminals, in hotels desks, rental points located throughout the cities or in any beach resort or nature resort. If you want to have a package including accommodation plus car, then the Flexi Fly and Drive is the best option. Pick up and drop points are not bound to coincide, you can select them according to your travel schedule. Assistance by technical support team is guaranteed all around the country, and refueling is possible in almost all provinces at govern owned Gas stations: CUPET and ORO NEGRO. Additionally, in the rental points you can buy a country map or a road map to assist your self while driving though the country.
At any hotel desk you can book excursions and tours, in order to build up your own travel – vacation package including attractive visits to museums, historic places, nature spots and beaches, mountains, cavers, valleys or even to have a full day sailing journey through the Caribbean clearest waters. At night you can discover the Cuban nightlife at discotheques and cabarets, some of them really funny and famous.
Cuba History :
The Cuban archipelago, located among the Caribbean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic waters, is composed by the main island or Cuba, the Isle of Youth as well as 1600 islets and keys. Cuba, is the largest of the Antillean islands, located at the entrance to the Gulf of Mexico. On its West are the Strait of Florida, the Yucatán Channel and peninsula. On the East, the Windward Passage, which separates it from Haiti . Jamaica to the South and the Bahamas to the North-east. Because of its strategic geographic position it has been defined as the Key to the Gulf. Its long coast line occupies 5476 kilometers with many bays, coves and beaches. Twenty five percent of the Cuban territory is occupied by mountains. The Cuban climate is a tropical one with oceanic influences.
It was discovered by Christopher Columbus on October 28th, 1492, during his first voyage to the New World. Though the Admiral named it Juana on behalf of the daughter of the Catholic Kings of Spain, Ferdinand and Isabella, it has been definitely known by its aboriginal name, Cuba. In 1511 began the Colonization of the Island by Diego Velázquez who progressively founded several settlements, the first of which was the town of Baracoa. Santiago de Cuba, Bayamo, Santa María del Puerto Príncipe (Camagüey), Sancti Spiritus, Trinidad and Havana. During the colonization process, the weak and peaceful aboriginal inhabitants could not resist the Spaniards´ over exploitation and were soon exterminated. For this reason the colonizers replaced them by African slaves to work in the plantations and mines.
Due to the constant attacks from buccaneers belonging to the different countries enemies of Spain, since mid sixteenth century, the Island became the point of encounter of the Spanish Fleet. This way , all the vessels coming from South and Central America which, full of gold and silver, returned to Spain , had to meet in Havana ´ s very protected harbor. Since Cuba turned into a favorite objective for the many corsairs and pirates who often attacked its towns and villages, impressive fortresses were built all along the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, mainly in Havana and Santiago de Cuba. .
In 1762, the British seized Havana. After eleven months the town was returned to the Spaniards. From then on, Spain liberalized its policy towards the colony, encouraged the increasement of commerce, encouraged colonization and the development of agriculture.
Due to the strong sense of nationalism emerged in the 19th century, revolts and conspiracies against the Spanish domination regime took place through most of this stage. Due to the cruelty of slavery, uprising of slaves was also very common at those times. In 1886 slavery was officially abolished.
In 1868 Carlos Manuel de Céspedes , the Father of the Homeland, started the, first independence war against Spain that lasted ten years. While initiating this war , Céspedes, a wealthy landlord from the West zone of the Island , gave freedom to all his slaves. Though the intensity of this struggle, the Cubans could not achieve their freedom and continued fighting. After other attempts, on February 23rd, 1895, they commenced a new and definitive independence war under the leadership of the Cuban Revolutionary Party led by José Martí and commanded by Generals Máximo Gómez and Antonio Maceo.
On February 15th, 1898 the American battleship Maine sank in the harbor of Havana. Spain was blamed for it and the United States, declaring war to Spain, then intervened on the conflict. After the end of the war and until 1902, the Americans occupied the Island. Cubans had been long and bravely fighting for their freedom and at that moment had almost won the war, often known as the Spanish- American War. It really was a Cuban- Spanish- American War.
The American military government ruled the Island until May 20th, 1902, when the Cuban Republic was formally established. The new Cuban Constitution, adopted in 1901, had incorporated the Platt Amendment, by means of which the US kept the right to intervene in Cuba. A second American intervention took place from 1906 to 1909.
During the first decades of the twentieth century large amounts of funds were invested in Cuba, generally from the US and, mainly in the growing sugar industry but also in the cigar industry, railroads, banks and others. Amazing capitals, both foreign and local, were then developed. While the capital city, Havana, grew and turned into a cosmopolitan enclave with beautiful and luxurious quarters, avenues, hotels and other facilities, a majority of the population suffered from hunger, illiteracy and general poverty.
Several successive governments, many of them corrupted, were unable to provide any solutions to these problems. Social discontent and radical response particularly arose during the terrible dictatorships of Gerardo Machado ( 1925 t o1933 ) and Fulgencio Batista ( 1952 to 1959) . After different relevant revolutionary events, like the assault o the Moncada garrison in 1953, exile Fidel Castro, with some 80 insurgents, arrived in the Island to start the war. Batista´ s oppressive regime had murdered some 20, 000 persons in seven years . On January 1st, 1959 the rebel forces had taken control of most of the Island while Batista and his collaborators fled out of the country. Among the deep changes took place from then on were the Agrarian reform, the nationalization of foreign enterprises, among them may American, a vast campaign against illiteracy and others. In 1960 the US imposed a trade embargo that has lasted until our days and a total break of diplomatic relations.
On April 17th, 1961, the invasion of Bay of Pigs, South of Cuba, by Cuban exiles supported by the US , took place . After a few days they were defeated by the local militias . Some 1200 invaders were imprisoned and later exchanged for more than 50 million dollars in food and medicines.
The Missiles Crisis in 1962 was a perilous moment. Due to existence of Soviet missiles installations in Cuba, in 1962, American President John F. Kennedy, declared a naval blockade of the Island. The humanity was facing the possibility of a nuclear war. After days of negotiation, the Soviet Union agreed to dismantle their missile and the conflict ended. But, the relations between Cuba and the US have remained hostile. Though many American sectors have been increasingly trying to lift the embargo and the travel prohibitions to Cuba, until our days they have not succeeded.
For more than thirty years Cuban trade was mainly developed with the Soviet Union and other socialist countries. Cuba became an active member of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (COMECON). After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the European socialist bloc, all the aide from this side ended.
A new stage called Special Period, because of the isolation and economic toughness it meant. A dramatic and fast readjustment of the national economy took place. From this moment on foreign investments were allowed in the country and Tourism was promoted as a main source for development.
Due to its location and history, Cuba is a real melting pot of influences. Cuban cultural heritage is basically composed by Spanish elements mixed with African. Because of the many Chinese immigrants brought to the Island in the nineteenth century to replace the African slaves, the Chinese component is an important one. A French Haitian culture has persisted in the Eastern provinces of Santiago de Cuba and Guantánamo. Even some Jewish and Islamic components have been preserved. North American influences are also evident.
The result of this Caribbean mix is a wide variety of races, religions and cultural traditions, of music and dance, sports, recipes and other manifestations transmitted from generations to generations.
From Colonial historic towns to early twentieth century quarters countrywide, Cuba shows an impressive built stock . Though Havana, Cienfuegos, Trinidad, Camagüey and Santiago de Cuba are its main exponents, many other minor towns like Matanzas, Gibara or Bayamo are also worth of admiration. An amazing twentieth century legacy of Eclectic and Art Deco examples can be mainly appreciated in Havana.
And also its natural heritage of mountains ,valleys, beaches and caves, flora and fauna, is an outstanding one due to its beauty and scientific values. Cultural landscapes where nature has been historically adapted by men, are also common all along the Island. For instance, the Archaeological Landscapes of the French Haitian coffee plantations on the Eastern Mountains as well as Viñales Valley, where the best tobacco is grown. Cuba is the Caribbean nation with more World Heritage sites.
During the last decades an increasingly efficient and diversified tourism infrastructure has been created countrywide. Important hotel chains like Sol Meliá, Superclubs or Sofitel, among others, have built four or five stars hotels in the historic and beautiful Cuban cities or fantastic beach resorts. These accommodation facilities provide travelers from all around the world with high quality services.
Hotels chains operating in Cuba:
Cubanacan, Complejo Palco, Gaviota, Gran Caribe, Habaguanex, Horizontes, Islazul.
Accor, Barceló Hotels & Resorts, Blau Hoteles, Grandes Hoteles del Caribe, Grupo Piñero, Grupo RIU, Hotetur, Iberostar, Maritim Hotels, NH Hoteles, OccidentalHoteles, Raytur Caribe, S.L. (Hoteles C), Sandals Resorts International, Sol Meliá, SuperClubs Resorts Limited, TMS, Valtur, Ventaglio
Official Excursions’ operators:
Havanatur, Gaviota Tours, Cubatur, Cubanacan Viajes, Cubamar Viajes, Viajes Gran Caribe, San Cristóbal Travel
In addition to your valid passport and air ticket, What else is required for traveling to Cuba?
After you have made your air reservation and bought your air ticket, you should buy a Cuban tourist card to enter the country. The tourist card, valid for 30 days can be acquired at the airline desks in airports, air line offices or in any local travel agency or international tour operator which sells Cuba as a traveling destination. Also Cuban consulates issue the visas to be stamped in the travelers passport, this is another way to legally enter the country.
Cuba foreign Tourist Boards:
CUBAN TOURIST BOARDS
Cuban Tourist Office . 55 Queen Street East, Suite 705 Toronto, Ontario M5C 1R6
Cuban Tourist Office, 440 Boulevard Rene Levesque Ouest, Montreal, Quebec, H2Z 1V7
Paraguay No 631, 2do piso A , Buenos Aires
Tel: 54.1.311.4198 1
Office de Tourisme de Cuba, 280 Boulevard Raspael, Paris 75014
Fax: 33.01.4538.9930 1
Cuban Tourist Board, An der Hauptwache 7, 60313, Fankfurt/Main
Fax: 49.69.296.664 1
Ufficio di Promozione ed Informazione Turistica di Cuba, Via General Fara 30, Terzo piano