What Should I Know About Cuba?

Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth
Cuba is the largest of the Caribbean islands.
Cuba is the largest of the Caribbean islands.

Cuba is the largest Caribbean island and lies between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean. It has a border with the United States because of the presence of the US Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. However, this does not signal the cooperation or rapport between Cuba and the United States that one might expect from such a relationship.

Cuba is known for the high quality production of tobacco used in their cigars.
Cuba is known for the high quality production of tobacco used in their cigars.

Although the United Stated helped Cubans overthrow Spain in the Spanish-American War in 1898, and Cuba was granted independence from the US in 1902, things have not gone smoothly in their relationship since. Fidel Castro was the head of an army of rebels who took over in 1959, and example of Soviet-supported Communist rule. Fidel Castro ruled until February 2008, at which time he turned the presidency over to his brother, Raul Castro. It remains a Communist state, and there has been a US embargo on Cuba since 1961.

Cuba was granted independence from the US in 1902.
Cuba was granted independence from the US in 1902.

The formal name of Cuba is Republic of Cuba, which in Spanish is Republica de Cuba. The capital is Havana, and it is divided into 14 provinces. Independence from the US is ignored officially and the national holiday is the Triumph of the Revolution of 1959, celebrated on January 1.

The lowest point is sea level at 0 feet (0 m), and the highest point is Pico Turquino at 6,578.08 feet (2005 m). With 42,803.29 square miles (110,860 sq km), Cuba is about the size of Pennsylvania.

Sugar cane is a popular crop in Cuba.
Sugar cane is a popular crop in Cuba.

The estimated population of Cuba in July, 2008 was 11,423,952, with most of the population between the ages of 15 and 64. Men and women are equally literate, with an overall literacy rate of 99.8%. As of the 2002 census, the population was 65.1% white, 24.8% mulatto and mestizo, and 10.1% black. Prior to the introduction of Communism, 85% of the population was Roman Catholic, with Protestants, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Santeria, and Jews, as well. The national language is Spanish.

Havana, the capital of Cuba, hosts more than 1 million tourists each year.
Havana, the capital of Cuba, hosts more than 1 million tourists each year.

Cuba’s economy is bolstered by its relationship with Venezuela. In 2008, nearly 73% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was estimated to come form the service industry, with 22.8% from industry and 4.4% from agriculture, even though 20% of the population is employed in agriculture. Industries include sugar, petroleum, and tobacco — Cuba is noted for its cigars — along with construction, metals, cement, machinery, and pharmaceuticals.

Cuban cooking joins elements of Spanish, Caribbean, and African cuisines. Important elements that transcend the various traditions include sugar cane, beans, rice, pork or beef, tubers, and plantains, all seasoned with a wide array of spices.

Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth

Mary Elizabeth is passionate about reading, writing, and research, and has a penchant for correcting misinformation on the Internet. In addition to contributing articles to wiseGEEK about art, literature, and music, Mary Elizabeth is a teacher, composer, and author. She has a B.A. from the University of Chicago’s writing program and an M.A. from the University of Vermont, and she has written books, study guides, and teacher materials on language and literature, as well as music composition content for Sibelius Software.

Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth

Mary Elizabeth is passionate about reading, writing, and research, and has a penchant for correcting misinformation on the Internet. In addition to contributing articles to wiseGEEK about art, literature, and music, Mary Elizabeth is a teacher, composer, and author. She has a B.A. from the University of Chicago’s writing program and an M.A. from the University of Vermont, and she has written books, study guides, and teacher materials on language and literature, as well as music composition content for Sibelius Software.

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    • Cuba is the largest of the Caribbean islands.
      Cuba is the largest of the Caribbean islands.
    • Cuba is known for the high quality production of tobacco used in their cigars.
      Cuba is known for the high quality production of tobacco used in their cigars.
    • Cuba was granted independence from the US in 1902.
      Cuba was granted independence from the US in 1902.
    • Sugar cane is a popular crop in Cuba.
      Sugar cane is a popular crop in Cuba.
    • Havana, the capital of Cuba, hosts more than 1 million tourists each year.
      Havana, the capital of Cuba, hosts more than 1 million tourists each year.
    • Due to the American trade embargo against Cuba, it's against the law to purchase Cuban-made cigars in the United States or to bring them into the country.
      Due to the American trade embargo against Cuba, it's against the law to purchase Cuban-made cigars in the United States or to bring them into the country.