Cuba is a country of North America
with a surface area of 109,884 km² (density of 102.3 inhab./km²). The population of Cuba is 11,241,161 inhabitants in the last census.The capital of Cuba is the city of Havana which has 2,400,300 inhabitants. The president and premier of the unitary republic is Raúl Castro Ruz.
“The fatherland or death, we will overcome”
Cuba or Republic of Cuba is a country formed by several islands and located in Caribbean space, off Mexico and of Florida, between the Bahamas, Jamaica, Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The island of Cuba is the largest island of the Greater Antilles.
The Bay of Guantánamo located in the south of the island is controlled by the United States since 1903. The Americans installed the camp of Guantánamo there, a military detention centre of high security which causes many polemics.
Since 2004, Cuba is part of Bolivarian Alliance for Americas, an organization based on solidarity and the co-operation.
Cuba at a glance
Communist republic with sole party
Administrative divisions: 15 provinces and a special municipality
Population: more than 11 million inhabitants
Principal languages: Spanish and Haitian Creole
Principal religion: Christianity but very few practitioners
Current president: Raúl Castro
Currency: Cuban Peso (1 peso cuban = 100 centavos)
Conversion into euro: 100 pesos cuban = 87.50 euros
Tourism: no the particular restriction
An island with the multiple landscapes
The Republic of Cuba is composed of two large islands and more than 1,600 small islands located at the limit of the Caribbean Sea, of the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico.
The two main islands separated by the Gulf from Batabanó are the island of Cuba and the island of Youth. They are located at a hundred kilometers one of the other.
The island of Cuba is a primarily formed country of plains and plates dominated by three mountainous solid masses:
• the Cordillera of Guaniguanico located west of the island and which shelters the fertile valley of Viñales famous for its “Wall of Prehistory”, an immense fresco painted on the mogotes (hills limestones strongly eroded) in 1960 on order of Fidel Castro.
• Escambray located at the center of the island, a historical place since it was used as camping to Che Guevara, the craftsman of the Cuban revolution, in 1958
• the Maestra Sierra going down in an abrupt way towards the coast in the south of Cuba and which was used as base camp with the revolution. The summit highest of the island, Pico Turquino, culminate there with 1,974 meter altitudes.
The littoral is bordered by ideal sandy beaches for idleness or the water activities.
The basement of Cuba conceals many wealth, mainly of gold and nickel while its fertile grounds made it possible to develop the agricultural sector in particular the plantations of sugar, tobacco and coffee.
Cuba is also remarkable by the diversity and the conservation of an exceptional flora and a fauna. The forests, the mangrove swamps, the arid grounds, savannas, mogotes, as many ecosystems which are of great ecological interest.
Between the many varieties of orchises, the trees with “invaluable wood” like the mahogany tree or the baobab tree, the wild fruit trees which produce in abundance, the palm trees and the coconuts, the island is truly an environmental paradise. This often luxuriant vegetation shelters animal numerous species of which a large number of batrachians and birds like the tiny hummingbird, of snakes, crocodiles or monkeys.
The environment particularly well is protected and managed by provincial national parks or and nature reserves.
The island of Cuba benefits from a tropical climate with an annual average temperature of 25
If the dry season extends from November to April, Cuba is often victim of hurricanes sometimes very violent one during the summer and the autumn.
During the season of the cyclones, the island can be swept by winds exceeding 300 km/h and destroying the dwellings and harvests. Thanks to the prevention plan and of crisis and the organization of the first-aid organizations developed by the Cuban government, the number of deaths is less low than in the other affected regions by the hurricanes.
An origin rooks
The origin of the settlement of Cuba is badly known but, while basing oneself on the writings of Christophe Colomb who discovers the island in 1492, one estimates that the Amerindian population had reached the 100,000 inhabitants on arrival of Europeans.
These Amerindians pertaining to the ethnos groups Taïnos (Arawaks) and the Caribbean probably started to populate Cuba during the 2nd millennium before our era after having left the South American continent. They had a structured and hierarchical company and controlled basket making, the pottery, the woodcutting and the work of gold.
On October 12th, 1492, the explorer and Genoese browser elected by the Spanish sovereigns, Christophe Colomb, on the ground puts foot on the island of San Salvador, in the archipelago of the Bahamas, at the end of a journey 9 weeks in direction, he thought of the Eastern Indies.
This date marks the first meeting between Europeans and the natives that Colomb call Indians, always persuaded to be arrived at destination. These natives, probably of Taïnos are friendly and accept barter suggested by the Spanish.
Christophe Colomb carries on then his way and accosts in Cuba on October 28th. He gives to the island the name of Juana in honor of the girl of the sovereigns and, thinking of being arrived at Japan, he sends men to the meeting of the sovereign. Having to cope with damages, it returns to Spain.
During his four travellings, Colomb discovers in islands of the Antilles without never giving an account which it is not in Asia. He dies in 1506.
It is finally the Portuguese browser Amerigo Vespucci who, the first, mentions the term “Novum Mondum” in an account of journey published in 1504.
To note: it is probably erroneous to think that Christophe Colomb is the first European to have put the feet on the American continent. Indeed, the Vikings probably unloaded on the island of Newfoundland several centuries to found the colony of Vinland there before.
In 1500, the cartographer Juan of Cosa which had accompanied Christophe Colomb during his the first three travellings indexes for the first time the grounds discovered in the name of the Spanish sovereigns of which the Antilles. In spite of the conviction of Colomb which thinks that Cuba been part of continuous Asian, Juan of Cosa represents it in the shape of an island, a representation which is confirmed in 1508.
In 1511, a first Spanish colony controlled by Diego Velásquez de Cuéllar settles in Cuba to the detriment of the Amerindians who are despoiled their grounds and their goods and are reduced in slavery. Moreover, the Spanish’s practice the policy of the “encomienda” consisting in moving the natives and forcing them with the forced labors without any compensation. Several cities are built near the goldmines and Baracoa becomes the capital of the island.
Cuba depends on the general Harbor office of Santo Domingo of 1535 to 1664, creation date of the general Harbor office of Cuba which also was part of News-Spain.
The island belongs mainly to the owners of the plantations of tobacco and sugar canes while the Amerindians are victims of diseases and the deplorable living conditions imposed by the colonists. Labor lack, the landowners turn very quickly to the slaves sent of Africa.
The Cuban plantations however will not know the prosperity of the French coffee plantations of the colony of Santo Domingo.
Santo Domingo is indeed the principal sugar but coffee exporter also. However, the living conditions and of work of the slaves are particularly difficult while all their rights are ridiculed. The owners of the plantations make come always more black slaves so that towards the end of the 18th century, they are much more numerous than the White.
The rich French colonists refuse any equality between the freed White and Blacks going until requiring the addition of an article on the Declaration of the Human rights specifying that “All the white men are born free and equal in rights”. The first movements of revolt carried out by the “free ones of color” quickly joined by the mulattos burst in 1791.
Many slaves flee of the plantations and gather in the forests marking the beginning of the first successful revolution slaves who will lead to the independence of Haiti, the new name of Santo Domingo.
These facts are not without consequence on Cuba since 20,000 French growers flee Santo Domingo and take refuge on the neighboring island. A part of them will start again the cuban plantations thanks to their knowledge to make but many French become corsairs and grow rich to the detriment of the American ships.
In a few years, the production of Cuban coffee will be multiplied by 40 while the population increases quickly because of the importation of African slaves.
About the middle of the 19th century, the prices of the coffee are in freefall because of the competition of Brazil and Haiti. Cuba diversifies its resources then producing sugar more and more.
In spite of the abolition of the trade draft, the colonists continue to import by work of Yucatán, China and even of Spain to work on the plantations.
To the independence
In 1868, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, owner of a Cuban plantation, decide to release all his slaves and of raising an army to deliver the island of the Spanish yoke. The following year, he proclaims a first Republic of which he becomes the president before being killed in 1874 with the combat. At the end of ten years of a fatal war, the independence army however supported by the United States capitulates and Spain preserves its possessions.
“The ten year old War” will have some positive repercussions however since the abolition of slavery becomes effective in 1886 and that the Blacks obtain more autonomy and the equal rights in 1893.
But all these reforms promised by Spain are not put in application and the Cuban people take again the combat in 1895.
Spain sends nearly 300,000 soldiers to crush the revolution. The population is massacred and seems to have to accept the defeat when the United States intervenes in the conflict in 1898, fascinating pretext the explosion of their warship “the Maine” which wet in the port of Havana.
Even if it would seem that this explosion was accidental, the United States show Spain to have torpedoed the building. In a few months, the Spanish troops are overcome and Cuba is occupied by the United States which founds a military government until 1902.
The Republic of Cuba
With this date, the Republic of Cuba is proclaimed and its independence is recognized by the international community. However, the United States preserves the control of two naval bases established on the island, Guantánamo and Bahia Honda. They are also entitled of intervention in the event of no respect of the Constitution, a right which they will exert with four recoveries between 1906 and 1919.
The trade relations with the United States combined with the requirement out of sugar for Europe during the First World War bring a real opulence to the country. But this gold basket crumbles the shortly after the war when Europe produces its own sugar again. The world-wide crisis of 1929 causes bankruptcies in cascade and the population is impoverished quickly what causes tensions in the form of strikes and of demonstrations.
These popular revolts are repressed with violence by a government close to the dictatorship what does not prevent the rebellion from becoming extensive.
In 1933, the president and general Gerardo Machado there Morals is released by its army and flees in the Bahamas.
The vacancy of the presidency makes it possible the United States to place the son of Carlos Manuel de Céspedes at the power.
The American interference in the business of the country is more and more badly supported by the Cubans and Roosevelt then president of the United States founds a “policy of good neighborhood” which reduces considerably the American interventions in the countries of Latin America and which abolishes in particular American protectorate on Cuba in 1934.
The coups d'etat will follow one another, all fomented by Fulgencio Batista who is pressed on the army to control the country in the shade. He twice becomes finally president of the Republic, 1940 to 1944 and 1953 to 1959. For all this period, corruption reigns as a Master within the government and the Mafia benefits from it to develop illegal activities in the country and to build casinos and luxury hotels. Drug, the game and the prostitution become the main resources of Havana while Batista and his close relations benefit largely from the situation.
By 1953, the young person Fidel Castro, Doctor of Laws and in social sciences and nationalist militant and anti-imperialist, organizes an armed struggle against Batista. Its first operation aiming at the barracks of Moncada is however a total failure and a large number of its partisans are carried out or imprisoned without another form of lawsuit. After its amnesty in 1955, it leaves to Mexico accompanied by his brother. It is there that it meets the Argentinian Marxist revolutionist Ernesto Guevara, known as Che.
Fidel Castro returns to Cuba in 1956 and returns in clandestinely with a handful of partisans. After a first bloody confrontation with the army of Batista, Castro cannot count any more but on 16 men of which Che Guevara. They take refuge in the mountains and organize a guerrilla
Very quickly, the people adhere to the movement of that which is regarded as a hero.
The United States which supported Batista prefers to change camp because the mode in place is considered to be too repressive.
Many soldiers of the government army desert and come to inflate the rows of Castro who starts to gain important victories. In 1959, Fidel Castro takes Havana given up by Batista who fled the country by carrying a fortune estimated at 40 million dollars.
After the short presidency of Manuel Urrutia Lleó considered to be too liberal and who opposed the systematic executions opponents with Castro, the Communist Osvaldo Dorticós Torrado seizes the power in Cuba in July 1959.
Fidel Castro is then Prime Minister and the Communist party becomes the instrument of the power.
Social and economic reforms are setting-up, in particular the redistribution of the grounds to the peasants, the reduction in the rents, the wage increase and the nationalization of the majority of industries and energy while the media are controlled by the party.
The goods belonging to the Mafia are also nationalized.
All these decisions and the expropriation of many American industries worry the United States which founds an embargo on the Cuban products and plans by 1960 to reverse the new government. At this point in time Fidel Castro turns to the USSR which will deliver to him the oil refused by the United States
Nearly 1,500 Cubans opposed the Castro’s mode and to refugees to the United States project to unload on the island, constant by the Americans and especially by the Mafia which tries to recover their lost monopolies. In 1961, the United States Air Force bombards the Cuban airports nailing on the ground the planes while an unloading takes place in “Bay of the Pigs”. The exiled Cuban ones do not receive the discounted support of the population and the troops of Castro and Guevara leave victorious these confrontations.
This attempt at inversion pushes Fidel Castro to be turned even more to the USSR. It authorizes in particular the deployment of troops and Soviet missiles in Cuba, a real threat for the United States
This situation known under the name of “Crisis of the missiles of Cuba” leads finally to an agreement between the two great nations what makes it possible to avoid a nuclear war.
The USSR withdraws its missiles in 1962 and, in counterpart, the United States agrees to remove their own missiles deployed in Italy and Turkey and to recognize the mode of Fidel Castro.
Fidel Castro is maintained with the power until 2008, initially like Prime Minister and then, starting from 1976, as President.
The relations with the United States remain tended while Cuba invests itself regularly in conflicts as well in South America as in Africa, in particular in Angola and South Africa, offering its support for Nelson Mandela in his fight against apartheid.
Many Cubans exiled themselves in Florida where they establish an important community fleeing their country for economic reasons following the American embargo or ideological reasons.
The fall of the Soviet block
When the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics is dismantled in 1991, Cuba cannot count any more on the financial aid of its ally and loses the incomes of more than 75% of its exports. Thus the government must consider an in-depth reform of its economy, a situation known under the name of “special Period”.
The country must henceforth diversify its resources agreeing to export its products towards other countries and while turning in particular towards tourism and the foreign investors.
The goal of these reforms is to allow the maintenance of the standard of living of the Cubans by modifying the economic structures and in particular the principles of the property.
Far from being become capitalist, Cuba however moved away from its fundamental values and the social inequalities although not very important appeared.
The embargo of the United States is low-fat towards the end of 1990 and part of the flights between the two countries is restored.
After Fidel Castro
Following important preoccupations with a health, Fidel Castro is in the obligation to delegate his powers to his Raúl brother in 2006. This one is officially president de Cuba since 2008.
Raúl Castro more open than his brother approaches in particular the United States and meeting president Barack Obama in 2015. He also undertakes great reforms of which the propaganda of tourism, the authorization granted to the Cubans to buy computers, to have a censured Internet connection however, to travel out of country and to reach the property.
The Republic of Cuba is defined by the Constitution like a socialist State and the Communist party is the true force with the power since 1961, the other parties being strictly controlled. Moreover, no party can propose of candidate to the legislative, municipal or provincial elections even if all the candidates are actually members of the Communist party.
If, initially, the Marxism and Leninism were the ideologies adopted by the Cuban government, the principles were low-fat since the reform of the Constitution in 1992.
Since 1976, Cuba has a Parliament called “National Assembly of the popular power” which is charged to form the Council of State chaired by the Head of the State and the government (currently Raúl Castro), the Council of Ministers chaired by the president of the Council of State (thus also Raúl Castro) and the Supreme court.
The president is elected for one 5 years renewable duration in theory only once.
An economy abused by the fall of the USSR
A long time flourishing saving in Cuba crumbled following the dissolution of the Soviet bloc. Since, it tries to be rectified but the situation is far from being encouraging.
The country is in full recession and should remain there still several years in spite of the policy aiming diversifying the resources and at attracting the foreign investors.
The opening of the country to tourism and the lightening of the American embargo made it possible Cuba to leave its insulation. The administration of Donald Trump could however endanger this light improvement. Currently, Cuba exports sugar, tobacco and nickel towards the European Union and China.
The standard of living of the Cubans is much lower than before the end of the USSR but unemployment rate remains weak.
Agriculture accounts for only 5% of the GDP and the country must import 80% of its food substances.
Industries and in particular the production of cement, the manufacturing of agricultural machines and the exploitation of resources mines of the country account for 20% of the GDP.
Finally the tertiary sector accounts for 75% of the GDP in particular thanks to tourism.
A nostalgic culture
The total population of Cuba exceeds the 11 million but the natural population growth is negative involving an ageing of the population in spite of a low level of infant mortality. Nearly 65% of the population is white and goes down from the Spanish colonists and the French. Nearly 10% of the Cubans are Blacks, descendants of the African slaves and 25% are Mulattos. Racial discrimination is still long-lived in Cuba and the Cuban Negroes obtain only very seldom high functions.
Because of the social situation and policy, Cuba knows a strong rate of emigration since 1959 and one estimates that nearly 2 million Cubans live in exile, mainly in Florida.
Spanish is the official language of Cuba but the community resulting from Haitian immigration speaks Haitian Creole, a mixture of French and African languages.
The education system of Cuba makes it possible the whole of the population to have access to the school. The rate of elimination of illiteracy is estimated at 100%.
Even if only 15% of the Cubans are practitioners, it quasi totality of the population adheres to a religion, generally Catholicism. However, of many Cubans adopted the belief “Santerie”, a religion originating in the island, derived from the Yoruba religion which believes in supreme God and into cubes human demigods taking care of the achievement of the destiny of each man, Orishas.
Cuba is often symbolized by its music, its rum and its cigars which are part of its cultural heritage as well as the old American cars which it is not rare to cross in the streets of Havana. Lastly, Che Guevara remains the Cuban personality preferred and became a legend in the whole world even if it is of Argentinian origin.
The Cuban kitchen is comparable to the West-Indian kitchen, influenced at the same time by Spain and Africa.
Of course, the Cubans are proud of their rum and propose many cocktails containing this alcohol like free Cuba or the mojito.
The presentation of a map of tourism corresponding to a visa is required for any stay not exceeding 30 days in Cuba. It can be obtained with the help of payment from the Cuban consulate or of the travel agencies approved by the Cuban government.
Cuba became a sure tourist destination but there is necessary to remain vigilant because of facts of delinquency mainly in the tourist places. Prudence is also of setting during displacements because of a state of the failing roads and a lighting.
No vaccination is required but it is recommended to be in order of vaccines against the diphtheria-tetanus-poliomyelitis, the typhoid fever, the viral hepatitis A and B and the rage. It is also necessary to be protected from the punctures from mosquitos responsible for the dengue, Chikungunya and the Zika virus.
Cuba allures its visitors by the charm of its villages and the old workings of Havana, by the paradisiac landscapes of its shone upon beaches, by the beauty of its tropical forests being spread out over the slopes of its mountains.
However, this beauty contrasts with the poverty of the people which are often tiny room to practise a parallel economy to survive since the collapse of their standard of living following the dissolution of the USSR. In spite of their difficulties, the inhabitants are accessible and the music belonged to the daily newspaper.
The tourists are allured by the cities with colonial architecture, the houses painted bright colors, the architectural cultural heritage and of Havana and Santiago de Cuba and of course the many seaside resorts of which Varadero which proposes hotel infrastructures of first order. However much of travelers choose less crested stations, more authentic to know true Cuba.