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Republic of Cuba
República de Cuba  (Spanish)
Five horizontal stripes: three blue and two white. A red equilateral triangle at the left of the flag, partly covering the stripes, with a white five pointed star in the centre of the triangle. A shield in front of a fasces crowned by the Phrygian Cap, all supported by an oak branch and a laurel wreath
Flag Coat of arms
Motto: "Patria o Muerte" (Spanish)
"Homeland or Death"
Anthem:  La Bayamesa
Bayamo Song 
Political map of the Caribbean region with Cuba in red. An inset shows a world map with the main map's edges outlined.
and largest city
23°8′N 82°23′W
Official languages Spanish
Ethnic groups ()
  • 65.1% White
  • 23.8% Mulatto / Mestizo
  • 10.1% Black
  • 1.0% Asian
Demonym Cuban
Government Marxist–Leninist single-party state
 -  President of the
Council of State
Raúl Castro
 -  First Vice President Miguel Díaz-Canel
 -  First Secretary of Communist Party Raúl Castro
 -  President of
the National Assembly
Esteban Lazo Hernández
Legislature National Assembly
Independence from Spain and the United States
 -  Ten Years' War 1868 – 1878 
 -  Republic declared May 20, 1902 
 -  Cuban Revolution January 1, 1959 
 -  Total 109,884 km2 ( 105th)
42,426 sq mi 
 -  Water (%) negligible
 -  2012 census 11,163,934
 -  Density 102/km2 ( 106th)
264.0/sq mi
GDP ( PPP) 2012 estimate
 -  Total $121 billion ( 66rd)
 -  Per capita $10,200 (2010 est.) ( 91th)
GDP (nominal) 2011 estimate
 -  Total $68.715 billion ( 63rd)
 -  Per capita $6,106 ( 88th)
HDI (2013) Increase 0.780
high · 59th
  • Cuban peso ( CUP)
  • Cuban convertible pesoa
( CUC)
Time zone CST ( UTC−5)
 -  Summer ( DST) CDT ( UTC−4)
Drives on the right
Calling code +53
ISO 3166 code CU
Internet TLD .cu
a. From 1993 to 2004, the United States dollar was used alongside the peso until the dollar was replaced by the convertible peso.

Cuba, officially the Republic of Cuba ( / ˈ k juː b ə /; Spanish: República de Cuba, pronounced:  [reˈpuβlika ðe ˈkuβa]), is an island country in the Caribbean. The nation of Cuba consists of the main island of Cuba, the Isla de la Juventud, and several archipelagos. Havana is the capital of Cuba and its largest city, followed by Santiago de Cuba. To the north of Cuba lies the United States (150 km or 93 mi away) and the Bahamas, Mexico is to the west, the Cayman Islands and Jamaica are to the south, and Haiti and the Dominican Republic are to the southeast.

In 1492, Christopher Columbus landed on what is now the island of Cuba and claimed it for the Kingdom of Spain. Cuba remained a colony of Spain until the Spanish–American War of 1898, after which it came briefly under the administration of the United States until gaining formal independence in 1902. Its fragile democracy became increasingly dominated by radical politics, and while the Cuban Constitution of 1940 sought to strengthen its democratic system, the country came under the dictatorship of former president Fulgencio Batista in 1952. Growing unrest and instability led to the ousting of Batista in January 1959 by the July 26 movement, which afterward established a new administration under Fidel Castro. By 1965, the country had developed into a single-party state under the revived Communist Party of Cuba, which holds power to date.

Cuba is the largest island in the Caribbean, and with over 11 million people, it is also the most populous, albeit with a much lower population density than most Caribbean nations. Its people, culture, and customs draw from diverse sources, such as the aboriginal Taíno and Ciboney peoples, the period of Spanish colonialism, the introduction of African slaves and its proximity to the United States.

Cuba is a poor developing country, but it still has both a high life expectancy and literacy rate. The country operates a national health system and assumes fiscal and administrative responsibility for the health care of all its citizens; the infant death rate is lower than some developed countries, and the average life expectancy at birth is 78 years. Cuba has a 99.8% literacy rate with free education at every level. According to the United Nations, Cuba was the only nation in the world in 2006 that met the World Wide Fund for Nature's definition of sustainable development, with an ecological footprint of less than 1.8 hectares per capita and a Human Development Index of over 0.8 for 2007.


The name Cuba comes from the Taíno language. The exact meaning of the name is unclear but it may be translated either as where fertile land is abundant (cubao), or great place (coabana). Authors who believe that Christopher Columbus was Portuguese state that Cuba was named by Columbus for the ancient town of Cuba in the district of Beja in Portugal.



Sketch of a Taíno woman, also known as the Arawak by the Spanish

Cuba was inhabited by Native American people known as the Taíno, also called Arawak by the Spanish, and Guanajatabey and Ciboney people before the arrival of the Spanish. The ancestors of these Native Americans migrated from the mainland of North, Central and South America several centuries earlier. The native Taínos called the island Caobana. The Taíno were farmers and the Ciboney were farmers, fishers and hunter-gatherers.


After first landing on an island then called Guanahani on October 12, 1492, Christopher Columbus landed on Cuba's northeastern coast near what is now Bariay, Holguin province on October 28, 1492. He claimed the island for the new Kingdom of Spain and named Isla Juana after Juan, Prince of Asturias. In 1511, the first Spanish settlement was founded by Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar at Baracoa; other towns soon followed including the future capital of San Cristobal de la Habana which was founded in 1515. The native Taínos were working under the encomienda system, which resembled a feudal system in Medieval Europe. Within a century the indigenous people were virtually wiped out due to multiple factors, including Eurasian infectious diseases aggravated in large part by a lack of natural resistance as well as privation stemming from repressive colonial subjugation. In 1529, a measles outbreak in Cuba killed two-thirds of the natives who had previously survived smallpox.

Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar, conquistador of Cuba

On September 1, 1548, Dr. Gonzalo Perez de Angulo was appointed governor of Cuba. He arrived in Santiago, Cuba on November 4, 1549 and immediately declared the liberty of all natives. He became Cuba's first permanent governor who resided in Havana instead of Santiago, and he built Havana's first church made of masonry. After the French took Havana in 1555, the governor's son, Francisco de Angulo, went to Mexico.

Cuba remained a Spanish possession for almost 400 years (1511–1898), with an economy based on plantation agriculture, mining, and the export of sugar, coffee, and tobacco to Europe and later to North America. The work was done primarily by African slaves brought to the island.

The small land-owning elite of Spanish settlers held social and economic powers supported by a population of Spaniards born on the island ( Criollos), other Europeans, and African-descended slaves. The population in 1817 was 630,980, of which 291,021 were white, 115,691 free black, and 224,268 black slaves.

In the 1820s, when the rest of Spain's empire in Latin America rebelled and formed independent states, Cuba remained loyal. Although there was agitation for independence, the Spanish Crown gave Cuba the motto La Siempre Fidelísima Isla ("The Always Most Faithful Island"). This loyalty was due partly to Cuban settlers' dependence on Spain for trade, their desire for protection from pirates and against a slave rebellion, and partly because they feared the rising power of the United States more than they disliked Spanish rule.

Slaves in Cuba unloading ice from Maine, c. 1832

Independence from Spain was the motive for a rebellion in 1868 led by Carlos Manuel de Céspedes. De Céspedes, a sugar planter, freed his slaves to fight with him for a free Cuba. On 27 December 1868, he issued a decree condemning slavery in theory but accepting it in practice and declaring free any slaves whose masters present them for military service. The 1868 rebellion resulted in a prolonged conflict known as the Ten Years' War.

Two thousand Cuban Chinese joined the rebels. There is a monument in Havana that honours the Cuban Chinese who fell in the war, on which is inscribed: There was not one Cuban Chinese deserter, not one Cuban Chinese traitor.

The United States declined to recognize the new Cuban government, although many European and Latin American nations did so. In 1878, the Pact of Zanjón ended the conflict, with Spain promising greater autonomy to Cuba. In 1879–1880, Cuban patriot Calixto García attempted to start another war known as the Little War but received little support.

In Cuba, a sophisticated and prosperous sugar industry had employed chattel slavery until the final third of the 19th century. Cuba produced 720,250 metric tons of sugar in 1868, more than forty percent of cane sugar reaching the world market that year. Slavery had been maintained in Cuba, however, while abolition was underway elsewhere. Abolition in Cuba began the final third of the 19th century, and was completed in the 1880s.

Carlos Manuel de Céspedes is known as Father of the Homeland in Cuba, having declared the nation's independence from Spain in 1868.

An exiled dissident named José Martí founded the Cuban Revolutionary Party in New York in 1892. The aim of the party was to achieve Cuban independence from Spain. In January 1895 Martí traveled to Montecristi and Santo Domingo to join the efforts of Máximo Gómez. Martí recorded his political views in the Manifesto of Montecristi. Fighting against the Spanish army began in Cuba on 24 February 1895, but Martí was unable to reach Cuba until 11 April 1895. Martí was killed in the battle of Dos Rios on 19 May 1895. His death immortalized him as Cuba's national hero.

Around 200,000 Spanish troops outnumbered the much smaller rebel army which relied mostly on guerrilla and sabotage tactics. The Spaniards began a campaign of suppression. General Valeriano Weyler, military governor of Cuba, herded the rural population into what he called reconcentrados, described by international observers as "fortified towns". These are often considered the prototype for 20th-century concentration camps. Between 200,000 and 400,000 Cuban civilians died from starvation and disease in the camps, numbers verified by the Red Cross and United States Senator and former Secretary of War Redfield Proctor. American and European protests against Spanish conduct on the island followed.

The U.S. battleship Maine was sent to protect U.S. interests, but she exploded suddenly and sank quickly, killing nearly three quarters of her crew. The cause and responsibility for her sinking remained unclear after a board of inquiry, but popular opinion in the U.S., fueled by an active press, concluded that the Spanish were to blame and demanded action. Spain and the United States declared war on each other in late April.

Over the decades, four US presidents—Polk, Buchanan, Grant, and McKinley—tried to buy the island from Spain.


The Cathedral of Saint Christopher in Havana

After the Spanish-American War, Spain and the United States signed the Treaty of Paris (1898), by which Spain ceded Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and Guam to the United States for the sum of $20 million. Under the same treaty, Spain relinquished all claim of sovereignty over Cuba. Theodore Roosevelt, who had fought in the Spanish-American War and had some sympathies with the independence movement, succeeded McKinley as U.S. President in 1901 and abandoned the treaty. Cuba gained formal independence from the U.S. on May 20, 1902, as the Republic of Cuba. Under Cuba's new constitution, the U.S. retained the right to intervene in Cuban affairs and to supervise its finances and foreign relations. Under the Platt Amendment, the U.S. leased the Guantánamo Bay naval base from Cuba.

Following disputed elections in 1906, the first president, Tomás Estrada Palma, faced an armed revolt by independence war veterans who defeated the meager government forces. The U.S. intervened by occupying Cuba and named Charles Edward Magoon as Governor for three years. Cuban historians have attributed Magoon's governorship as having introduced political and social corruption. In 1908, self-government was restored when José Miguel Gómez was elected President, but the U.S. continued intervening in Cuban affairs. In 1912, the Partido Independiente de Colour attempted to establish a separate black republic in Oriente Province, but was suppressed by General Monteagudo with considerable bloodshed.

García Lorca Theatre in Havana

During World War I, Cuba exported considerable quantities of sugar to Britain. Cuba was able to avoid U-boat attacks by the subterfuge of shipping the sugar to Sweden. The Menocal government declared war on Germany very soon after the United States.

A constitutional government was maintained until 1930 when Gerardo Machado y Morales suspended the constitution. During Machado's tenure, a nationalistic economic program was pursued with several major national development projects which included the Carretera Central and El Capitolio. Machado's hold on power was weakened following a decline in demand for exported agricultural produce due to the Great Depression, attacks by independence war veterans, and attacks by covert terrorist organizations, principally the ABC.

During a general strike in which the Communist Party sided with Machado, the senior elements of the Cuban army forced Machado into exile. The Party then installed Carlos Manuel de Céspedes y Quesada, son of Cuba's founding father (Carlos Manuel de Céspedes), as President. During 4–5 September 1933, a second coup overthrew Céspedes which led to the formation of the first Ramón Grau government. The period from 1933 to 1937 is a story of "virtually unremitting social and political warfare", whose notable events include the separate sieges of Hotel Nacional de Cuba and Atares Castle. This government lasted 100 days but engineered radical socialist changes in Cuban society, including the abolishment of the Platt Amendment and instating of women's suffrage in Cuba. In 1934, Grau was ousted in favour of Carlos Mendieta, the first in a series of puppet presidents subordinate to the army and its young chief of staff, Fulgencio Batista.

Fulgencio Batista was democratically elected President in the elections of 1940, so far the only non-white Cuban to win the nation's highest political office. His government carried out major social reforms. Several members of the Communist Party held office under his administration and established numerous economic regulations and pro-union policies, as well as the Cuban Constitution of 1940, which engineered radical progressive ideas, including the right to labour and health care. Batista's administration formally took Cuba to the Allies of World War II camp in World War II. Cuba declared war on Japan on December 9, 1941, then on Germany and Italy on December 11, 1941. Cuban armed forces were not greatly involved in combat during World War II, although president Batista suggested a joint U.S.-Latin American assault on Francoist Spain in order to overthrow its authoritarian regime.

Many so-called yank tanks remain in use from pre-revolutionary days. The balcony above belongs to a casa particular.

Batista adhered to the 1940 constitution's strictures preventing his re-election, and so it was Ramón Grau who, having lost to Batista in 1940, was returned as president in the 1944 elections by defeating Batista's preferred successor, Carlos Saladrigas Zayas. Grau further corroded the base of the already teetering legitimacy of the Cuban political system, in particular by undermining the deeply flawed, though not entirely ineffectual, Congress and Supreme Court. In 1948, his Revolutionary Authentic Party won again when Carlos Prío Socarrás won, the last person elected to the presidency by free and fair elections. The two terms of the Auténtico Party saw an influx of investment fueled a boom which raised living standards for all segments of society and created a prosperous middle class in most urban areas.

The 1952 election was a three-way race. Roberto Agramonte of the Ortodoxos party led in all the polls, followed by Dr. Aurelio Hevia of the Auténtico party, and Fulgencio Batista, seeking a return to office, as a distant third. Both Agramonte and Hevia had decided to name Col. Ramón Barquín to head the Cuban armed forces after the elections. Barquín, then a diplomat in Washington, DC, was a top officer. He was respected by the professional army and had promised to eliminate corruption in the ranks. Batista feared that Barquín would oust him and his followers. When it became apparent that Batista had little chance of winning, he staged a coup on 10 March 1952. Batista held on to power with the backing of a nationalist section of the army as a "provisional president" for the next two years. Batista outlawed the Cuban Communist Party in 1952.

In March 1952 Justo Carrillo informed Barquín in Washington that the inner circles knew that Batista had plotted the coup. They immediately began to conspire to oust Batista and restore democracy and civilian government in what was later dubbed La Conspiracion de los Puros de 1956 (Agrupacion Montecristi). In 1954, Batista agreed to elections. The Partido Auténtico put forward ex-President Grau as their candidate, but he withdrew amid allegations that Batista was rigging the elections in advance.

At the beginning of 1959 United States companies owned about 40 percent of the Cuban sugar lands – almost all the cattle ranches – 90 percent of the mines and mineral concessions – 80 percent of the utilities – practically all the oil industry – and supplied two-thirds of Cuba's imports.

In April 1956 Batista ordered Barquín to become General and chief of the army, but Barquín decided to move forward with his coup to secure total power. On 4 April 1956, a coup by hundreds of career officers led by Barquín was frustrated by Rios Morejon. The coup broke the back of the Cuban armed forces. The officers were sentenced to the maximum terms allowed by Cuban Martial Law. Barquín was sentenced to solitary confinement for eight years. La Conspiración de los Puros resulted in the imprisonment of the commanders of the armed forces and the closing of the military academies.

Cuba had Latin America's highest per capita consumption rates of meat, vegetables, cereals, automobiles, telephones and radios, though about one third of the population was considered poor and enjoyed relatively little of this consumption. In 1958, Cuba was a relatively well-advanced country by Latin American standards, and in some cases by world standards. Cuba attracted more immigrants, primarily from Europe, as a percentage of population than the U.S. The United Nations noted Cuba for its large middle class. On the other hand, Cuba was affected by perhaps the largest labor union privileges in Latin America, including bans on dismissals and mechanization. They were obtained in large measure "at the cost of the unemployed and the peasants", leading to disparities.

Between 1933 and 1958, Cuba extended economic regulations enormously, causing economic problems. Unemployment became a problem as graduates entering the workforce could not find jobs. The middle class, which was comparable to the United States, became increasingly dissatisfied with unemployment and political persecution. The labor unions supported Batista until the very end.


Che Guevara and Fidel Castro, photographed by Alberto Korda in 1961.

On 25 November 1956 a party of 82 people on the yacht Granma departed Tuxpan, Veracruz, Mexico. They landed in Cuba a week later on the Playa Las Coloradas, Municipality of Niquero. The party, led by Fidel Castro, had the intention of establishing an armed resistance movement in the Sierra Maestra. The boat was off course and under attack from Batista's forces, and fewer than 20 of the men on the ship survived. Batista's men claimed to have killed Castro, yet months later New York Times reporter Herbert Matthews would publish the first in a series of articles that proved Castro was alive and made him a legend.

While facing armed resistance from Castro's rebel fighters in the mountains, Fulgencio Batista's regime was weakened and crippled by a United States arms embargo imposed on 14 March 1958. By late 1958, the rebels broke out of the Sierra Maestra and launched a general popular insurrection. After the fighters captured Santa Clara, Batista fled from Havana on 1 January 1959 to exile in Portugal. Fidel Castro's forces entered the capital on 8 January 1959. The liberal Manuel Urrutia Lleó became the provisional president. The next couple of years were crucial for the revolution, but its survival during this period owed nothing to Castro's abilities.

President Eisenhower recognised the new government on 7 January, and John Foster Dulles noted that the revolutionaries' Provisional Government appeared "free from Communist taint" and that it intended to pursue friendly relations with the United States. This wary wait-and-see attitude did not last long, and so, in late October 1959, Eisenhower approved a plan to offer support to elements of the opposition in Cuba.

U.S. policy remained unremittingly hostile thereafter, with salients such as the Bay of Pigs Invasion, Operation Mongoose, a complete diplomatic and commercial embargo, and the CIA's conspiring with the Chicago mafia in 1960 and 1961 to assassinate Fidel Castro. One U.S. analyst notes that, "The sheer survival of the Castro regime—despite forty years of pressure from the world's leading superpower—should serve to convince any reasonable observer of the failure of U.S. policy."

In its first year, the new revolutionary government expropriated private property with little or no compensation. Some of these measures were undertaken by Fidel Castro's government in the name of the program outlined in the Manifesto of the Sierra Maestra. The government nationalized private property totaling about USD $25 billion, of which American property made up around USD $1 billion.

From 1959 to 1966 Castros' troops fought a six-year rebellion in the Escambray Mountains by Cuban insurgents. The insurgency was eventually crushed by the governments use of vastly superior numbers. The rebellion lasted longer and involved more soldiers than the Cuban Revolution.

By the end of 1960, the coletilla made its appearance, and most newspapers in Cuba had been expropriated, taken over by the unions, or had been abandoned. All radio and television stations were in state control. Moderate teachers and professors were purged. In any year, about 20,000 dissenters were imprisoned. Some homosexuals, religious practitioners, and others were sent to labor camps where they were subject to political " re-education". The U.S. State Department estimates that 3,200 people were executed from 1959 to 1962. Other estimates for the total number political executions range from 4,000 to 33,000.

The Communist Party strengthened its one-party rule, with Castro as ultimate leader. Fidel's brother, Raúl Castro, became the army chief. Loyalty to Castro became the primary criterion for all appointments. In September 1960, the revolutionary government created a system known as Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR), which provided neighbourhood spying.

In the 1961 New Year's Day parade, the administration exhibited Soviet tanks and other weapons. Eventually, Cuba built up the second largest armed forces in Latin America, second only to Brazil. Cuba became a privileged client-state of the Soviet Union.

By 1961, hundreds of thousands of Cubans had left for the United States. The 1961 Bay of Pigs Invasion (La Batalla de Girón) was an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow the Cuban government by a U.S.-trained force of Cuban exiles with U.S. military support. Cuban exiles captured during the Bay of Pigs Invasion were exchanged for a shipment of supplies from America.

Fidel Castro and members of the East German Politburo in 1972

In January 1962, Cuba was suspended from the Organization of American States (OAS), and later the same year the OAS started to impose sanctions against Cuba of similar nature to the US sanctions.

By 1963, Cuba was moving towards a full-fledged Communist system modeled on the USSR.

During the 1970s, Fidel Castro dispatched tens of thousands of troops in support of Soviet-supported wars in Africa, particularly the MPLA in Angola and Mengistu Haile Mariam in Ethiopia.

The standard of living in 1970s was "extremely spartan" and discontent was rife. Fidel Castro admitted the failures of economic policies in a 1970 speech.

In 1975 the OAS lifted its sanctions against Cuba, with the approval of 16 member states, including the U.S. The U.S., however, maintained its own sanctions.

Raúl Castro and President Medvedev of Russia

Castro's rule was severely tested in the aftermath of the Soviet collapse (known in Cuba as the Special Period), with effects such as food shortages. The government did not accept American donations of food, medicines, and cash until 1993. On 5 August 1994, state security dispersed protesters in a spontaneous protest in Havana.

Cuba has found a new source of aid and support in the People's Republic of China, and new allies in Hugo Chávez, former President of Venezuela and Evo Morales, President of Bolivia, both major oil and gas exporters. In 2003, the government arrested and imprisoned a large number of civil activists, a period known as the "Black Spring".

In February 2008, Fidel Castro announced his resignation as President of Cuba, and on 24 February Raúl was elected as the new President. In his acceptance speech, Raúl promised that some of the restrictions that limit Cubans' daily lives would be removed. In March 2009, Raúl Castro removed some of Fidel Castro's officials.

On 3 June 2009, the Organization of American States adopted a resolution to end the 47-year ban on Cuban membership of the group. The resolution stated, however, that full membership would be delayed until Cuba was "in conformity with the practices, purposes, and principles of the OAS." Cuban leaders have repeatedly announced they are not interested in rejoining the OAS, and Fidel Castro restated this after the OAS resolution had been announced.

Government and politics

Revolution Square: José Martí Monument designed by Enrique Luis Varela, sculpted by Juan José Sicre, and finished in 1958.

The Republic of Cuba, along with China, Laos, and Vietnam, is one of the world's four remaining socialist states espousing communism. The Constitution of 1976, which defined Cuba as a socialist republic, was replaced by the Constitution of 1992, which is "guided by the ideas of José Martí and the political and social ideas of Marx, Engels and Lenin." The constitution describes the Communist Party of Cuba as the "leading force of society and of the state". The First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba is concurrently President of the Council of State ( President of Cuba) and President of the Council of Ministers (sometimes referred to as Premier of Cuba). Members of both councils are elected by the National Assembly of People's Power. The President of Cuba, who is also elected by the Assembly, serves for five years and there is no limit to the number of terms of office.

The Supreme Court of Cuba serves as the nation's highest judicial branch of government. It is also the court of last resort for all appeals against the decisions of provincial courts.

Cuba's national legislature, the National Assembly of People's Power (Asamblea Nacional de Poder Popular), is the supreme organ of power; 609 members serve five-year terms. The assembly meets twice a year; between sessions legislative power is held by the 31 member Council of Ministers. Candidates for the Assembly are approved by public referendum. All Cuban citizens over 16 who have not been convicted of a criminal offense can vote. Article 131 of the Constitution states that voting shall be "through free, equal and secret vote". Article 136 states: "In order for deputies or delegates to be considered elected they must get more than half the number of valid votes cast in the electoral districts". Votes are cast by secret ballot and counted in public view. Nominees are chosen at local gatherings from multiple candidates before gaining approval from election committees. In the subsequent election, there is only one candidate for each seat, who must gain a majority to be elected.

No political party is permitted to nominate candidates or campaign on the island, including the Communist Party. The Communist Party of Cuba has held six party congress meetings since 1975. In 2011, the party stated that there were 800,000 members, and representatives generally constitute at least half of the Councils of state and the National Assembly. The remaining positions are filled by candidates nominally without party affiliation. Other political parties campaign and raise finances internationally, while activity within Cuba by opposition groups is minimal.

Administrative divisions

The country is subdivided into 15 provinces and one special municipality (Isla de la Juventud). These were formerly part of six larger historical provinces: Pinar del Río, Habana, Matanzas, Las Villas, Camagüey and Oriente. The present subdivisions closely resemble those of the Spanish military provinces during the Cuban Wars of Independence, when the most troublesome areas were subdivided. The provinces are divided into municipalities.

  1. Pinar del Río
  2. Artemisa
  3. Havana
  4. Mayabeque
  5. Matanzas
  6. Cienfuegos
  7. Villa Clara
  8. Sancti Spíritus
  1. Ciego de Ávila
  2. Camagüey
  3. Las Tunas
  4. Granma
  5. Holguín
  6. Santiago de Cuba
  7. Guantánamo
  8. Isla de la Juventud

Human rights

Trinidad, Cuba, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1988

The Cuban government has been accused of numerous human rights abuses including torture, arbitrary imprisonment, unfair trials, and extrajudicial executions (also known as "El Paredón"). The Human Rights Watch alleges the government "represses nearly all forms of political dissent" and that "Cubans are systematically denied basic rights to free expression, association, assembly, privacy, movement, and due process of law". The European Union in 2003 accused the Cuban government of "continuing flagrant violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms". The United States continues an embargo against Cuba "so long as it continues to refuse to move toward democratization and greater respect for human rights".

Cuba had the second-highest number of imprisoned journalists of any nation in 2008 (the People's Republic of China had the highest) according to various sources, including the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), an international NGO, and Human Rights Watch. As a result of ownership restrictions, computer ownership rates are among the world's lowest. The right to use the Internet is granted only to selected locations and they may be monitored. Connecting to the Internet illegally can lead to a five-year prison sentence.

Cuban dissidents who commit crimes face arrest and imprisonment. In the 1990s, Human Rights Watch reported that Cuba's extensive prison system, one of the largest in Latin America, consists of some 40 maximum-security prisons, 30 minimum-security prisons, and over 200 work camps. According to Human Rights Watch, political prisoners, along with the rest of Cuba's prison population, are confined to jails with substandard and unhealthy conditions.

Citizens cannot leave or return to Cuba without first obtaining official permission in addition to their passport and the visa requirements of their destination. The membership of Cuba in the United Nations Human Rights Council has received criticism.

Foreign relations

Cuba under Castro was a major contributor to anti-imperialist wars in Africa, Central America and Asia.

Cuban support for Algeria in 1961–5 achieved significant success. Cuba sent tens of thousands of troops to Angola. Other countries that featured Cuban involvement include Ethiopia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, and Yemen. Cuba is the only minor developing country to have projected influence on the world stage that is characteristic of a major global power. Lesser known actions include the 1959 missions to the Dominican Republic. The expedition failed, but a prominent monument to its members was erected in their memory in Santo Domingo by the Dominican government, and they feature prominently at the country's Memorial Museum of the Resistance.

Cuba is a founding member of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas. At the end of 2012, tens of thousands of Cuban medical personnel worked abroad, with as many as 30,000 doctors in Venezuela alone via the two countries' oil-for-doctors programme.

In 1996, the United States, then under Bill Clinton, brought in the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act, better known as the Helms–Burton Act.

In 2008, the EU and Cuba agreed to resume full relations and cooperation activities. United States President Barack Obama stated on April 17, 2009, in Trinidad and Tobago that "the United States seeks a new beginning with Cuba", and reversed the Bush Administration's prohibition on travel and remittances by Cuban-Americans from the United States to Cuba.

Crime and law enforcement

All law enforcement agencies are maintained under Cuba's Ministry of the Interior which is supervised by the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces. In Cuba, citizens can receive police assistance by dialing "106" on their telephones. The police force, which is referred to as "Policía Nacional Revolucionaria" or PNR is then expected to provide help. The Cuban government also has an agency called the Intelligence Directorate that conducts intelligence operations and maintains close ties with the Russian Federal Security Service.


Cuba devoted 9–13% of its GDP to military expenditures. In response to American aggression, such as the Bay of Pigs Invasion, Cuba built up one of the largest armed forces in Latin America, second only to that of Brazil. From 1975 until the late 1980s, Soviet military assistance enabled Cuba to upgrade its military capabilities. After the loss of Soviet subsidies, Cuba scaled down the numbers of military personnel, from 235,000 in 1994 to about 60,000 in 2003.


Tobacco plantation, Pinar del Río

The Cuban state adheres to socialist principles in organizing its largely state-controlled planned economy. Most of the means of production are owned and run by the government and most of the labor force is employed by the state. Recent years have seen a trend toward more private sector employment. By 2006, public sector employment was 78% and private sector 22%, compared to 91.8% to 8.2% in 1981. Any firm wishing to hire a Cuban must pay the Cuban government, which in turn will pay the employee in Cuban pesos.

Before the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba depended on Moscow for substantial aid and sheltered markets for its exports. The removal of these subsidies (for example the oil) sent the Cuban economy into a rapid depression known in Cuba as the Special Period. Cuba took limited free market-oriented measures to alleviate severe shortages of food, consumer goods, and services. These steps included allowing some self-employment in certain retail and light manufacturing sectors, the legalization of the use of the US dollar in business, and the encouragement of tourism. Cuba has developed a unique urban farm system (the organopónicos) to compensate for the end of food imports from the Soviet Union.

The communist agricultural production system was ridiculed by Raúl Castro in 2008. Cuba now imports up to 80% of food used for rations.

Under Venezuela's Mission Barrio Adentro, Hugo Chávez supplied Cuba with up to 80,000 barrels (13,000 m3) of oil per day in exchange for 30,000 doctors and teachers.

In 2005 Cuba had exports of $2.4 billion, ranking 114 of 226 world countries, and imports of $6.9 billion, ranking 87 of 226 countries. Its major export partners are China 27.5%, Canada 26.9%, Netherlands 11.1%, Spain 4.7% (2007). Cuba's major exports are sugar, nickel, tobacco, fish, medical products, citrus, and coffee; imports include food, fuel, clothing, and machinery. Cuba presently holds debt in an amount estimated to be $13 billion, approximately 38% of GDP. According to the Heritage Foundation, Cuba is dependent on credit accounts that rotate from country to country. Cuba's prior 35% supply of the world's export market for sugar has declined to 10% due to a variety of factors, including a global sugar commodity price drop that made Cuba less competitive on world markets.

In 2010, Cubans were allowed to build their own houses. According to Raul Castro, they will be able to improve their houses with this new permission, but the government will not endorse these new houses or improvements.

On August 2, 2011, The New York Times reported Cuba as reaffirming their intent to legalize "buying and selling" of private property before the year ends. According to experts, the private sale of property could "transform Cuba more than any of the economic reforms announced by President Raúl Castro's government". It will cut more than one million state jobs including party bureaucrats which resist the changes.

In August 2012, a specialist of the "Cubaenergia Company" announced the opening of Cuba's first Solar Power Plant. As a member of the Cubasolar Group there was also a mention of 10 additional plants in 2013.


Varadero beach gets 1 million foreign visitors per year

Tourism was initially restricted to enclave resorts where tourists would be segregated from Cuban society, referred to as "enclave tourism" and "tourism apartheid". Contacts between foreign visitors and ordinary Cubans were de facto illegal between 1992 and 1997. In 1996 tourism surpassed the sugar industry as the largest source of hard currency for Cuba. Cuba has tripled its market share of Caribbean tourism in the last decade; as a result of significant investment in tourism infrastructure, this growth rate is predicted to continue. 1.9 million tourists visited Cuba in 2003, predominantly from Canada and the European Union, generating revenue of $2.1 billion. The rapid growth of tourism during the Special Period had widespread social and economic repercussions in Cuba, and led to speculation about the emergence of a two-tier economy. The Medical tourism sector caters to thousands of European, Latin American, Canadian, and American consumers every year.


Alejandro de Humboldt National Park in eastern Cuba

Cuba is an archipelago of islands located in the northern Caribbean Sea at the confluence with the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. It lies between latitudes 19° and 24°N, and longitudes 74° and 85°W. The United States lies 90 miles across the Straits of Florida to the north and northwest (to the closest tip of Key West, Florida), the Bahamas to the north, Haiti to the east, Jamaica and the Cayman Islands to the south, and Mexico to the west. Cuba is the principal island, surrounded by four smaller groups of islands: the Colorados Archipelago on the northwestern coast, the Sabana-Camagüey Archipelago on the north-central Atlantic coast, the Jardines de la Reina on the south-central coast and the Canarreos Archipelago on the southwestern coast.

The main island named Cuba is 1,250 km (780 mi) long, constituting most of the nation's land area (104,556 km2 (40,369 sq mi)) and is the largest island in the Caribbean and 17th-largest island in the world by land area. The main island consists mostly of flat to rolling plains apart from the Sierra Maestra mountains in the southeast, whose highest point is Pico Turquino (1,974 m (6,476 ft)). The second-largest island is Isla de la Juventud (Isle of Youth) in the Canarreos archipelago, with an area of 2,200 km2 (849 sq mi). Cuba has a total area of 109,884 km2 (42,426 sq mi). Its area is 110,860 km2 (42,803 sq mi) including coastal and territorial waters.


Beach on Cayo Largo del Sur in the Canarreos archipelago

With most of the island south of the Tropic of Cancer, the local climate is tropical, moderated by northeasterly trade winds that blow year-round. In general (with local variations), there is a drier season from November to April, and a rainier season from May to October. The average temperature is 21 °C (69.8 °F) in January and 27 °C (80.6 °F) in July. The warm temperatures of the Caribbean Sea and the fact that Cuba sits across the entrance to the Gulf of Mexico combine to make the country prone to frequent hurricanes. These are most common in September and October.


Cuba signed the Rio Convention on Biological Diversity on 12 June 1992, and became a party to the convention on 8 March 1994. It has subsequently produced a National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan, with one revision which was received by the convention on 24 January 2008. The revision comprises an action plan with time limits for each item, and an indication of the governmental body responsible for delivery. There is, however, virtually no information in that document about biodiversity itself. The country's fourth national report to the CBD, however, contains a detailed breakdown of the numbers of species of each kingdom of life recorded from Cuba, the main groups being: animals (17,801 species), bacteria (270 species), chromista (707 species), fungi, including lichen-forming species (5844 species), plants (9107 species) and protozoa (1440 species). As elsewhere in the world, vertebrate animals and flowering plants are well documented. The numbers recorded from Cuba for those groups are therefore likely to be close to the numbers which actually occur in Cuba. For most if not all of the other groups, however, the true numbers of species occurring in Cuba are likely to exceed, often considerably, the numbers of those recorded so far.


Cuban mother, Varadero

According to the census of 2010, the population was 11,241,161, including 5,628,996 men and 5,612,165 women. Cuba's birth rate (9.88 births per thousand population in 2006) is one of the lowest in the Western Hemisphere. Its overall population increased continuously from around 7 million in 1961 to over 11 million now, but the increase has stopped in the last few decades, and a decrease began in 2006, with a fertility rate of 1.43 children per woman. This drop in fertility is among the largest in the Western Hemisphere. Cuba has unrestricted access to legal abortion and an abortion rate of 58.6 per 1000 pregnancies in 1996, compared to an average of 35 in the Caribbean, 27 in Latin America overall, and 48 in Europe. Contraceptive use is estimated at 79% (in the upper third of countries in the Western Hemisphere).

Ethnoracial groups

Young boys in school uniform with soccer ball, Pinar del Río, December 2006
Official 1899–2002 Cuba Census
Race % 1899 1907 1919 1931 1943 1953 1981 2002
European 66.9 69.7 72.2 72.1 74.3 72.8 66.0 65.05
African American 14.9 13.4 11.2 11.0 9.7 12.4 12.0 10.08
Mulatto 17.2 16.3 16.0 16.2 15.6 14.5 21.9 23.84
Asian 1.0 0.6 0.6 0.7 0.4 0.3 0.1 1.02

The population of Cuba has very complex origins and intermarriage between diverse groups is general. There is disagreement about racial statistics. The Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami says that 62% is black, whereas statistics from the Cuban census state that 65.05% of the population was white in 2002.

The Minority Rights Group International says that "An objective assessment of the situation of Afro-Cubans remains problematic due to scant records and a paucity of systematic studies both pre- and post-revolution. Estimates of the percentage of people of African descent in the Cuban population vary enormously, ranging from 33.9 per cent to 62 per cent".

Cuba has a sizable number of Asian people who comprise 1% of the population. They are primarily of Chinese descent (see Chinese Cubans), followed by Filipino, Koreans and Vietnamese people. They are descendants of farm laborers brought to the island by Spanish and American contractors during the 19th and early 20th century. Afro-Cubans are descended primarily from the Kongo people, as well as several thousand North African refugees, most notably the Sahrawi Arabs of Western Sahara under Moroccan occupation since 1976.

Immigration and emigration

Immigration and emigration have played a prominent part in the demographic profile of Cuba during the 20th century. During the 18th, 19th, and the early part of the 20th century large waves of Canarian, Catalan, Andalusian, Galician, and other Spanish people immigrated to Cuba. Between 1900 and 1930 close to a million Spaniards arrived from Spain. Other foreign immigrants include: French, Portuguese, Italian, Russian, Dutch, Greek, British, Irish, and other ethnic groups, including a small number of descendants of U.S. citizens who arrived in Cuba in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Between 1882 and 1898, a total of 508,455 people left Spain, and more than 750,000 Spanish immigrants left for Cuba between 1899 and 1923, with many returning to Spain.

During the three decades after January 1959, more than 10% of Cubans emigrated to the United States, a proportion that matches the extent of emigration to the U.S. from the Caribbean as a whole during that period. By 2007, several hundred thousand Cubans of all social classes had emigrated to the United States, Spain, the United Kingdom, Canada, Mexico, and other countries. On 9 September 1994, the U.S. and Cuban governments agreed that the U.S. would grant at least 20,000 visas annually in exchange for Cuba's pledge to prevent further unlawful departures on boats.

More than one million Cubans of all social classes have left the island to the United States, and to Spain, Italy, Mexico, Canada, Sweden, and other countries. As of 2002, some 1.2 million Cubans (about 10% of the current population) left the island for the United States, Those who left the country often left by sea in small boats and fragile rafts. Between 30,000 and 80,000 Cubans are estimated to have died trying to flee Cuba.


Cuba is officially a secular state. After having long maintained that churches were fronts for subversive political activity, religious freedom increased through the 1980s, with the government finally amending the constitution, in 1992, to drop the state's characterization as atheistic. It has many faiths representing the widely varying culture. Roman Catholicism was the largest religion; it was brought to the island by the Spanish and despite less than half of the Cubans identifying as Catholics in 2006 remains the dominant faith, with 11 dioceses, 56 orders of nuns, and 24 orders of priests. In January 1998, Pope John Paul II paid a historic visit to the island, invited by the Cuban government and Catholic Church. The religious landscape of Cuba is also strongly marked by syncretisms of various kinds. Catholicism is often practiced in tandem with Santería, a mixture of Catholicism and other, mainly African, faiths that include a number of cults. La Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre (the Virgin of Cobre) is the Catholic patroness of Cuba, and a symbol of Cuban culture. In Santería, she has been syncretized with the goddess Oshun.

Three hundred thousand Cubans belong to the island's 54 Protestant denominations. Pentecostalism has grown rapidly in recent years, and the Assemblies of God alone claims a membership of over 100,000 people. Cuba has small communities of Jews, Muslims and members of the Bahá'í Faith.

Most Jewish Cubans are descendants of Polish and Russian Ashkenazi Jews who fled pogroms at the beginning of the 20th century. There is a sizeable number of Sephardic Jews in Cuba who trace their origin to Turkey. Most of these Sephardic Jews live in the provinces, although they maintain a synagogue in Havana.


The official language of Cuba is Spanish and the vast majority of Cubans speak it. Spanish as spoken in Cuba is known as Cuban Spanish and is a form of Caribbean Spanish. Lucumi, a dialect of the West African language Yoruba, is also used as a liturgical language by practitioners of Santería, and so only as a second language. Haitian Creole is the second largest language in Cuba, and is spoken by Haitian immigrants and their descendants. Other languages spoken by immigrants include Catalan and Corsican.

Largest cities


Cuban culture is influenced by its melting pot of cultures, primarily those of Spain and Africa. Sport is Cuba's national passion. Due to historical associations with the United States, many Cubans participate in sports which are popular in North America, rather than sports traditionally promoted in other Spanish-speaking nations. Baseball is by far the most popular; other sports and pastimes include basketball, volleyball, cricket, and athletics. Cuba is a dominant force in amateur boxing, consistently achieving high medal tallies in major international competitions. Cuba also provides a national team that competes in the Olympic Games.


A local musical house, Casa de la Trova in Santiago de Cuba

Cuban music is very rich and is the most commonly known expression of culture. The central form of this music is Son, which has been the basis of many other musical styles like salsa, rumba and mambo and an upbeat derivation of the rumba, the cha-cha-cha. Rumba music originated in early Afro-Cuban culture. The Tres was also invented in Cuba, but other traditional Cuban instruments are of African origin, Taíno origin, or both, such as the maracas, güiro, marimba and various wooden drums including the mayohuacan. Popular Cuban music of all styles has been enjoyed and praised widely across the world. Cuban classical music, which includes music with strong African and European influences, and features symphonic works as well as music for soloists, has received international acclaim thanks to composers like Ernesto Lecuona. Havana was the heart of the rap scene in Cuba when it began in the 1990s. During that time, reggaetón was growing in popularity, however in 2011, the Cuban state denounced reggaeton as degenerate, directed reduced "low-profile" airplay of the genre (but did not ban it entirely) and banned the megahit Chupi Chupi by Osmani García. In December 2012, the Cuban government officially banned sexually explicit reggaeton songs and music videos from radio and television. Dance in Cuba has taken a major boost over the 1990s.


A traditional meal of ropa vieja (shredded flank steak in a tomato sauce base), black beans, yellow rice, plantains and fried yuca with beer

Cuban cuisine is a fusion of Spanish and Caribbean cuisines. Cuban recipes share spices and techniques with Spanish cooking, with some Caribbean influence in spice and flavor. Food rationing, which has been the norm in Cuba for the last four decades, restricts the common availability of these dishes. The traditional Cuban meal is not served in courses; all food items are served at the same time. The typical meal could consist of plantains, black beans and rice, ropa vieja (shredded beef), Cuban bread, pork with onions, and tropical fruits. Black beans and rice, referred to as Platillo Moros y Cristianos (or moros for short), and plantains are staples of the Cuban diet. Many of the meat dishes are cooked slowly with light sauces. Garlic, cumin, oregano, and bay leaves are the dominant spices.


Cuban literature began to find its voice in the early 19th century. Dominant themes of independence and freedom were exemplified by José Martí, who led the Modernist movement in Cuban literature. Writers such as Nicolás Guillén and Jose Z. Tallet focused on literature as social protest. The poetry and novels of Dulce María Loynaz and José Lezama Lima have been influential. Romanticist Miguel Barnet, who wrote Everyone Dreamed of Cuba, reflects a more melancholy Cuba. Writers such as Reinaldo Arenas, Guillermo Cabrera Infante, and more recently Daína Chaviano, Pedro Juan Gutiérrez, Zoé Valdés, Guillermo Rosales and Leonardo Padura have earned international recognition in the post-revolutionary era, though many of these writers have felt compelled to continue their work in exile due to ideological control of media by the Cuban authorities.


The government of Cuba provides an online encyclopedia website called EcuRed that operates in a "wiki" format.


University of Havana, founded in 1728

The University of Havana was founded in 1728 and there are a number of other well-established colleges and universities. In 1957, just before Castro came to power, the literacy rate was fourth in the region at almost 80% according to the United Nations, higher than in Spain. Castro created an entirely state-operated system and banned private institutions. School attendance is compulsory from ages six to the end of basic secondary education (normally at age 15), and all students, regardless of age or gender, wear school uniforms with the colour denoting grade level. Primary education lasts for six years, secondary education is divided into basic and pre-university education.

Higher education is provided by universities, higher institutes, higher pedagogical institutes, and higher polytechnic institutes. The Cuban Ministry of Higher Education operates a scheme of distance education which provides regular afternoon and evening courses in rural areas for agricultural workers. Education has a strong political and ideological emphasis, and students progressing to higher education are expected to have a commitment to the goals of Cuba. Cuba has provided state subsidized education to a limited number of foreign nationals at the Latin American School of Medicine. Internet access is limited. The sale of computer equipment is strictly regulated. Internet access is controlled, and e-mail is closely monitored.

The Higher Institute of Technologies and Applied Sciences is a Cuban educational institution that prepares students in the fields of nuclear and environmental sciences. It is the only institution in Cuba that provides the opportunities of studies in these topics and one of the few in Latin America. Its headquarters is in Havana, inside the territory of the "Quinta de los Molinos".


Historically, Cuba has ranked high in numbers of medical personnel and has made significant contributions to world health since the 19th century. Today, Cuba has universal health care and although shortages of medical supplies persist, there is no shortage of medical personnel. Primary care is available throughout the island and infant and maternal mortality rates compare favorably with those in developed nations.

Post-Revolution Cuba initially experienced an overall worsening in terms of disease and infant mortality rates in the 1960s when half its 6,000 doctors left the country. Recovery occurred by the 1980s, and the country's healthcare has been widely praised. The Communist government asserted that universal health care was to become a priority of state planning and progress was made in rural areas. Like the rest of the Cuban economy, Cuban medical care suffered from severe material shortages following the end of Soviet subsidies in 1991, followed by a tightening of the U.S. embargo in 1992.

Challenges include low pay of doctors (only $15 a month), poor facilities, poor provision of equipment, and frequent absence of essential drugs. Cuba has the highest doctor-to-population ratio in the world and has sent thousands of doctors to more than 40 countries around the world.

According to the UN, the life expectancy in Cuba is 78.3 years (76.2 for males and 80.4 for females). This ranks Cuba 37th in the world and 3rd in the Americas, behind only Canada and Chile, and just ahead of the United States. Infant mortality in Cuba declined from 32 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in 1957, to 10 in 1990–95. Infant mortality in 2000–2005 was 6.1 per 1,000 live births (compared to 6.8 in the United States).

The quality of public healthcare offered to citizens is regarded as the "greatest triumph" of Cuba's socialist system.

In Cuba, there is a need to import certain pharmaceutical drugs. Therefore, the Quimefa Pharmaceutical Business Group was developed under The Ministry of Basic Industry (MINBAS) called, "FARMACUBA." This group also handles the exporting of pharmaceuticals, and provide technical information for the production of these drugs.

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