Cuba is the most populous insular nation in the Caribbean.
Its people, culture and customs draw from several sources including the aboriginal Taíno and Ciboney peoples, the period of Spanish colonialism, the introduction of African slaves, and its proximity to the United States.
The name "Cuba" comes from the Taíno language the exact meaning of which is unclear, but may be translated either "where fertile land is abundant" (cubao) or "great place" (coabana).
The island has a tropical climate that is moderated by the surrounding waters; however, the warm temperatures of the Caribbean Sea and the fact that the island of Cuba sits across the access to the Gulf of Mexico combine to make Cuba prone to frequent hurricanes.
Cuba's main island, at 766 miles (1,233 km) long, is the world's17th largest.
The recorded history of Cuba began on October 12, 1492, when Christopher Columbus sighted the island during his first voyage of discovery and claimed it for Spain. Columbus named the island Isla Juana in reference to Prince Juan, the heir apparent.
The island had been inhabited by Native American peoples known as the Taíno and Ciboney whose ancestors had come from South America and possibly North and Central America in a complex series of migrations at least several centuries before, and perhaps 6,000 to 8,000 years ago. The Taíno were farmers and the Ciboney (far more commonly written Siboney in neo-Taino nations) were both farmers and hunter-gatherers; some have suggested that copper trade was significant and mainland artifacts have been found.
Cuba is no more a threat to the United States than Haiti, so why the economic sanctions ...They only tend to hurt the People more than Castro..It is Obvious that he cares little for his own People...
Lets stop this political and economic injustice and help Our back door neighbors...I think all Americans should be fed up with this unfair treatment of the Cuban People...Lift the economic sanctions and lets get on with Our lives...
We give More to Iraq than to Our Own close Neighbor...Enough is enough....The Cuban People Love Us, so why the injustice...???
The coast of Cuba was fully mapped by Sebastián de Ocampo in 1511, and in that year the first Spanish settlement was founded by Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar at Baracoa. Other towns including the future capital of the island San Cristobal de la Habana (founded in 1515) soon followed.
The Spanish, as they did throughout the Americas, oppressed and enslaved the approximately 100,000 indigenous people that resisted conversion to Christianity on the island. Within a century they had all but disappeared as a distinct nation as a result of the combined effects of European-introduced disease, forced labor and other mistreatment, though aspects of the region's aboriginal heritage have survived.
Most scholars now believe that, among the various contributing factors, infectious disease was the overwhelming cause of the population decline of the indigenous people.
Cuba was in Spanish possession for almost 400 years (1511-1898).
Its economy was based on plantation agriculture, mining and the export of sugar, coffee and tobacco to Europe and later to North America.
Havana was seized by the British in 1762, but restored to Spain the following year. The Spanish population was boosted by settlers leaving Haiti when that territory was ceded to France.
As in other parts of the Spanish Empire, the small land-owning elite of Spanish-descended settlers held social and economic power, supported by a population of Spaniards born on the island and called Criollos by the Iberian born Spaniards, other Europeans and African-descended slaves.
In the 1820s, when the other parts of Spain's empire in Latin America rebelled and formed independent states, Cuba remained loyal, although there was some agitation for independence.
Due to Cuba's loyalty to the Spanish government, the Spanish Crown gave the following motto to the island government "La Siempre Fidelisima Isla" (The Always Most Faithful Island). This was partly because the prosperity of Cuban settlers depended on trade with Europe, partly through fears of a slave rebellion (as had happened in Haiti) if the Spanish withdrew, and partly because the Cubans feared the rising power of the United States more than they disliked Spanish rule.
An additional factor was the continuous migration of Spaniards to Cuba from all social strata, a trend that had ceased in other Spanish possessions decades earlier and which contributed to the slow development of a Cuban national identity. Pirates were also still a problem and defense against them depended heavily on the presence of Spanish troops.
Cuba's proximity to the U.S. has been a powerful influence on its history. Throughout the 19th century, Southern politicians in the U.S. plotted the island's annexation as a means of strengthening the pro-slavery forces in the U.S., and there was usually a party in Cuba which supported such a policy.
In 1848 a pro-annexation rebellion was defeated and there were several attempts by annexation forces to invade the island from Florida. There were also regular proposals in the U.S. to buy Cuba from Spain. During the summer of 1848 President James K. Polk quietly authorized his ambassador to Spain, Romulus Mitchell Saunders, to negotiate the purchase of Cuba and offer Spain up to $100 million.
While an astonishing sum at the time for one territory, trade in sugar and molasses from Cuba exceeded $18,000,000 in 1838 alone. Spain, however, refused to consider ceding one of its last possessions in the Americas.
After the American Civil War apparently ended the threat of pro-slavery annexation, agitation for Cuban independence from Spain revived, leading to a rebellion in 1868 led by Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, a wealthy lawyer landowner from Oriente province who freed his slaves, proclaimed a war and was named president of the Cuban Republic-in-arms.
This resulted in a prolonged conflict known as the Ten Years' War between pro-independence forces and the Spanish army, allied with local supporters. There was much sympathy in the U.S. for the independence cause, but the U.S. declined to intervene militarily or to recognize the legitimacy of the Cuban government in arms, even though many European and Latin American nations had done so. In 1878 the Pact of Zanjón ended the conflict, with Spain promising greater autonomy to Cuba.
The island was exhausted after this long conflict and pro-independence agitation temporarily died down. There was also a prevalent fear that if the Spanish withdrew or if there was further civil strife, the increasingly expansionist U.S. would step in and annex the island.
According to Cuba's Oficina Nacional de Estadisticas ONE 2002 Census,
the Cuban population was
5,597,233 men and 5,580,510 women.
The Racial make-up
The Chinese population in Cuba which numbers at 40,000 are descended mostly from indentured laborers who arrived in the 19th century to build railroads and work in mines. Many of these laborers stayed in Cuba because they could not afford return passage to China. 34,000 Indo-Pakistanis who also worked building railroads live in Cuba. Due in part to Cuba's Communist history 22,000 Russians live in Cuba.
The population of Cuba has very complex origins and intermarriage between diverse groups is so general as to be the rule. The ancestry of White Cubans (65.05%) comes primarily from the ethnically diverse Spanish nations:Spain
During the 18th, 19th and early part of the 20th century large waves of Canarian, Catalan, Andalusian, Galician and other Spanish people emigrated to Cuba In which an estimated 4,000 Spaniards came to Cuba.
National name: República de Cuba
President: Raúl Castro (2008)
Current government officials
Total area: 42,803 sq mi (110,860 sq km)
Population (2008 est.): 11,423,952 (growth rate: 0.2%); birth rate: 11.2/1000; infant mortality rate: 5.9/1000; life expectancy: 77.2; density per sq mi: 103
Capital and largest city (2003 est.): Havana, 2,686,000 (metro. area), 2,343,700 (city proper)
Other large cities: Santiago de Cuba, 554,400; Camagüey, 354,400; Holguin, 319,300; Guantánamo, 274,300; Santa Clara, 251,800
Monetary unit: Cuban Peso
Ethnicity/race: mulatto 51%, white 37%, black 11%, Chinese 1%
National Holiday: Triumph of the Revolution, December 10
Religions: predominantly Roman Catholic and Santería (Afro-Cuban syncretic religion)
Literacy rate: 97% (2003 est.)
Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2006 est.): $45.51 billion; per capita $4,000 . Real growth rate: 9.5%. Inflation: 5%. Unemployment: 1.9%. Arable land: 33%.
Agriculture: sugar, tobacco, citrus, coffee, rice, potatoes, beans; livestock. Labor force: 4.82 million; note: state sector 78%, non-state sector 22% (2006 est.); agriculture 20%, industry 19.4%, services 60.6% (2006).
Industries: sugar, petroleum, tobacco, construction, nickel, steel, cement,
agricultural machinery, pharmaceuticals. Natural resources: cobalt, nickel, iron ore, copper, manganese, salt, timber, silica, petroleum, arable land. Exports: $2.956 billion f.o.b. (2006 est.): sugar, nickel, tobacco, fish, medical products, citrus, coffee. Imports: $9.51 billion f.o.b. (2006 est.): petroleum, food,
machinery and equipment, chemicals. Major trading partners: Netherlands, Canada, China, Russia, Spain, Venezuela, U.S., Italy, Mexico (2004)
Communications: Telephones: main lines in use: 849,900 (2005); mobile cellular: 134,500 (2005). Radio broadcast stations: AM 169, FM 55, shortwave 1 (1998).
Television broadcast stations: 58 (1997). . Internet hosts: 2,234 (2006). Internet users: 190,000 note: private citizens are prohibited from buying computers or accessing the Internet without special authorization; foreigners may access the Internet in large hotels but are subject to firewalls; some Cubans buy illegal passwords on the black market or take advantage of public outlets to access limited email and the government-controlled "intranet" (2005).
Transportation: Railways: total: 4,226 km; in addition, 7,742 km of track is in private use by sugar plantations (2004). Highways: total: 60,858 km; paved: 29,820 km (including 638 km of expressway); unpaved: 31,038 km (1999 est.). Waterways: 240 km (2004). Ports and harbors: Cienfuegos, Cienfuegos, Havana, Matanza. Airports: 170 (2006 est.).
International disputes: US Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay is leased to US and only mutual agreement or US abandonment of the area can terminate the lease.
Major sources and definitions
In 1879-1880, Cuban patriot Calixto Garcia attempted to start another war, known in Cuban history as the Little War, but received little support. Partly in response to U.S. pressure, slavery was abolished in 1886, although the African-descended minority remained socially and economically oppressed, despite formal civic equality granted in 1893. During this period rural poverty in Spain provoked by the Spanish Revolution of 1868 and its aftermath led to even greater Spanish emigration to Cuba.
During the 1890s pro-independence agitation revived, fueled by resentment of the restrictions imposed on Cuban trade by Spain and hostility to Spain's increasingly oppressive and incompetent administration of Cuba. Few of the promises for economic reform made by the Spanish government in the Pact of Zanjon were kept.
In April 1895 a new war was declared, led by the writer and poet José Martí who had organized the war over 10 years while in exile in the U.S. and proclaimed Cuba an independent republic —
Martí was killed at Dos Rios shortly after landing in Cuba with the eastern expeditionary force. His death immortalized him and he has become Cuba's national hero.
The Spanish armed forces totaled about 200,000 troops against a much smaller rebel army which relied mostly on guerilla and sabotage tactics to fight battles, and the Spaniards retaliated with a campaign of suppression.
General Valeriano Weyler was appointed military governor of Cuba, and as a repressive measure he herded the rural population into what he called reconcentrados, described by international observers as "fortified towns."
These reconcentrados are often considered the prototype for the 20th century concentration camps. Between 200,000 and 400,000 Cuban civilians died from starvation and disease during this period in the camps.
These numbers were verified by the Red Cross and U.S. Senator (and former Secretary of War) Redfield Proctor. U.S. and European protests against Spanish conduct on the island fo