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Cuba By: Lydia Haasl

Indigenous people:

Indigenous people The indigenous people of Cuba were the Tainos, Ciboneys, and Guanajatabeyes. The ancestors of these groups had migrated from North, Central, and South America centuries earlier. After Christopher Colombus discovered Cuba, they developed into a Spanish colony. The Tainos were the most powerful and largest group of all, and some are still alive today.


Tainos They were an Arawak group that came to Cuba from the West Indies. They called the land Caobana, and they were fishermen and farmers. They had three social classes: caciques (chiefs or nobles), advisors, and commoners. They completely disappeared and European, African, and Asian immigrants created a new culture, but some think they did not disappear with the coming of the conquistadores. Some people think they were wiped out because of disease and suicide, but there are many descendents of native Cubans, especially Taino people, that are herbalists and healers. It is believed that they were forced westward from their tribe about 200 years before the Spanish arrival by the Caribs who were cannibals. The Caribs would raid villages, kill all of the adult men and feast on their flesh. They were more evolved and technologically advanced than the other groups on the island.


Ciboneys They were apart of an Arawak group that first came from South America and spread to the West Indies. They were farmers, hunters, and fishermen who were servants for the Tainos. The name Ciboney means “cave dwellers” because many lived in caves. It is unknown how the Ciboneys arrived on the island, but it is thought that they didn’t come in one big group, but came in small groups from different areas at different periods of time. Study of genetic material from the Ciboneys seems to support this theory. When the Europeans arrived, they were driven to the western side of Cuba by the Tainos, and after a century of European rule, they were extinct.


Guanahatabeyes They were the smallest group in number and they lived in caves. They gathered fruit and food and were hunters. They lived on the Western part of Cuba and were largely isolated. They hardly ever came in contact with the Spanish. They were on the island the longest and they used natural materials such as fish bones, seashells, and unpolished stones for tools. It is thought that they came from the southern part of the U.S. because their artifacts looked like artifacts from early inhabitants of Florida. Diego Velázquez, Cuba’s first Spanish governor, thought of the Guanajatabeyes as savages because they lived without proper houses or towns and ate only the meat they could find in the forest or ocean.


Timeline 1538- French pirates with the help of angry local slaves burn Havana 1500 1600 1700 1800 1900 2000 1526- Beginning of slave trade from Africa 1763- The Treaty of Paris returns Cuba to Spain 1980- More than 100,000 Cubans flee to the U.S. 1603- government decrees that the sale of tobacco to foreigners is punishable by death to end smuggling 1697- The Treaty of Ryswick outlaws buccaneering, ending pirate raids on the island 1784- Spanish authorities end legal trade between Cuba and all countries other than Spain 1848- U.S. Minister Saunders meets with Spain’s minister of foreign affairs to discuss selling Cuba, but Spain refuses 1880- Havana becomes the center of slave trafficking in the New World 1902- Tomás Estrada Palma was elected president of Cuba and the Cuban flag is finally allowed to fly over Havana 1976- A new socialist constitution is approved by the communist party and Fidel Castro is elected president 2002- U.S. Under Secretary of State John Bolton accuses Cuba of trying to develop biological weapons 2000- 4 Cubans try to assassinate Fidel Castro

Geography and Climate:

Geography and Climate Natural resources of Cuna are cobalt, nickel, iron ore, chromium, copper, salt, timber, silica, petroleum, and arable land. It consists of mostly flat to rolling plains with rugged hills and mountains in the southeast. Its lowest point is the Caribbean Sea at 0 m, and its highest point is Pico Turquino at 2,500 m. Cuba has a Tropical Savanna Climate which is mostly hot and dry. Cuba has a dry season from November to April and a rainy season from May to October. Cuba usually has at least one hurricane every other year and droughts are common. Lately, air and water pollution and deforestation have greatly affected Cuba’s environment. Cuba has thousands of sugar mills on their land because sugar is one of their major industries. The warm weather all year round also helps with the growth of fruits and vegetables that can be exported to other countries.


Economy Major agricultural products of Cuba are sugar, tobacco, citrus, coffee, rice, potatoes, beans, and livestock. Major industries of Cuba are sugar, petroleum, tobacco, construction, nickel, steel, cement, agricultural machinery, and pharmaceuticals. Cuba’s major exports are sugar, nickel, tobacco, fish, medical products, citrus, and coffee. Their main export partners are China (25.68%), Canada (20.31%), Spain (6.79%), and the Netherlands (4.53%). Their main imports are petroleum, chemicals, food, machinery and equipment. Their main import partners are Venezuela (30.51%), China (15.48%), Spain (8.3%), and the U.S. (6.87%). Their currency is the Cuban peso which is 0.9259 of a U.S. dollar. The government still controls the economy, which is very bad because of all of the wars and communism. The government has eliminated some 500,000 jobs and expanded opportunities for self-employment. Raul Castro says they need to update their economy to ensure the survival of socialism. Cubans still have a very low standard of living and Venezuela provides a discount for them for the products like oil that they need.


Government Cuba is a communist state and their current president is Raul Castro Ruz and the vice president is Jose Ramon Machado Ventura. The president of Cuba is both the chief of state and the head of government. The government controls the economy and everything the people do because it is a Communist government. Each election for president and vice president is held every five years, but there is only one party, the Communist party.

Unique animals and plants:

Unique animals and plants Cuba has a huge variety of plants and animals indigenous to the island because of the great diversity of land. One unique animal is the Cuban Solenodon. It is known as the Almiqui to Cubans and was discovered in 1861. In the 1970s it was thought to be extinct, but in 2003 there were sightings of it. It resembles shrews, opossums, and mice. It has glands that produce a goat-like smell and they are the only mammal known to inject venom into its prey. It is highly endangered due to its slow reproduction. Another example is the Little Goblin Bat. It is an insectivore that is found in Cuba’s dry forests. It is endangered and habitat loss is a major threat. Another animal unique to Cuba is the Cuban crocodile. Its habitat is in freshwater swamps especially the Zapata Swamp and Lanier Swamp. They have a light iris that becomes darker with age, and their yellow and black patterning has lead to the name “Pearly crocodile.” They can reach up to 3.5 meters, but 5 meter crocodiles have been spotted. Other examples are the Cuban greater funnel-eared bat, the Cuban Hutia, the Bee Hummingbird, Cuban screech owl, Cuban green woodpecker, and Cuban boa. Some examples of plants are the Cuban belly palm, Dwarf Turk’s cap cactus, and the Cuban Pine.

National symbols:

National symbols Cuba’s national flower is the white mariposa or butterfly jasmine. It is an endemic type of jasmine used by Cuban women in wars of independence to pass messages to battlefields. It symbolizes purity, rebelliousness, and independence. The national bird of Cuba is the tocororo, also called guatani for the natives in ancient times and people who still live in the oriental extreme part of Cuba. The flag because of its colors (red, white, and blue), for being endemic, and for its dislike of being put in jail. The national tree is the royal palm recognized as “the queen of the fields” because of its structure and peculiar size. It is the most numerous tree in Cuba. It represents freedom and independence of the young Cuban republic and it is a symbol of the luxuriance and ferocity of their privileged land.

Culture Religion:

Culture Religion Cubans have been unable to worship their own faith for five decades. They are officially an atheist country. Cuban Christianity was denied because the Church sided with the Spanish so the church and government were separated. The visit of Pope John Paul II in 1998 finally allowed Christmas to be a holiday. Now there is new religious activity for Christians in Cuba, and lately Catholics are the most common. The most common churches are Protestant, Presbyterian, Baptist, and Methodist.

Culture Art:

Culture Art Cuba has a very diverse blend of African, European, and North American design reflecting the diversity of the island, and artists embraced European modernism in their art. Naïve art is very popular and it is described as having childlike simplicity in its subject matter and technique. Cuba didn’t allow original art because of Communism so many artists left the country to study their own art. They wanted to make art against the revolutionary movement, but they would get in trouble with the government if they did.

Culture Music:

Culture Music Cuban music is a mixture of African and Spanish origins with only traces of indigenous elements. Most natives were wiped out centuries ago and paved the way for Afro-Cuban. The music has an African taste to it because of the African slaves in Cuba. The first music came from Europe and would experience Africanization. It then developed into what it is today.

Culture Food:

Culture Food Cuba combines food of South America, North America, Europe, and Africa. Typical food of Cuba are beans, white rice, yellow rice, citrus marinades, garlic, and fried sliced plantains. Typical sauces are olive oil and garlic marinades. Typical spices are cumin, cayenne, and coriander. Meat is usually prepared roasted and in a “creola” style marinade. Creams, milk products, and cheeses in heavy sauces are not typically seen because they are expensive and hard to store in Cuba. Pork and chicken are plentiful, fresh, and inexpensive.

Culture Sports:

Culture Sports The national sport of Cuba is definitely baseball. The National Baseball Amateur League of Cuba won baseball games for 45 years at a stretch. Another sport is boxing which Cuba has earned 23 medals and Olympic titles for. Street sports like baseball, basketball, and soccer are played by children on the streets of Cuba. Water sports like windsurfing, snorkeling, diving, surfing, and fishing are very popular in Cuba.

Culture Dance:

Culture Dance The most popular traditional dance of Cuba is the habanera with its slow pace and delicate movements. The tango originated in Cuba and the African slaves inspired the rumba which inspired the mamba. The conga also created in Cuba among the African slaves forced to work on the plantations. The short steps of the conga mimic the way in which slaves in Cuba were chained to each other and limited to only short shuffles because of the shackles around their ankles.

Culture Way of Life:

Culture Way of Life There is a double system of payment and prices in Cuba, the Peso Nacional and the Peso Convertibles. The Peso Nacional is only for Cubans and can only be used in peso shops. The Peso Convertible is for tourists only and can be used only in dollar shops. One Peso Convertible equals 0.9 USA dollars or 24 Peso Nacionales. An average salary is 350-400 Peso Nacionales. The police are the highest paid with 2500-3000 Peso Nacionales. The ration booklet supplies families with basic rations of things such as rice, beans, cooking oil, salt, sugar, and bread. They receive one piece of soap, one toothbrush, and one tube of toothpaste. Chicken is a luxury, and milk is only available to mothers with children six years or younger. The ration is only good for about 15-20 days for most, but nobody starves to death.

Viñales Valley:

Viñales Valley Viñales Valley is the most visited part of the Pinar del Rio province. Mogotes are limestone hill formations caused by erosion and covered with vegetation and are found there. They formed beneath the sea over 40 million years ago and were pushed upward to become land. As the rainwater wore away the limestone, caves and channels were hollowed out beneath the plateau. The limestone then collapsed and crumbled away, but some pillars of the rocks remained and are very popular for rock climbing. The most photographed scene is the Dos Hermanas Mogote. It is really a karstic depression and tobacco and other crops are grown at the bottom of the valley.

Old Havana:

Old Havana It is known to Cubans as La Habana Vieja. It is a tourist magnet and the government knows it so they have really tried to renovate the colonial-era structures. Some beautiful sites are old mansions and churches. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Some of the best Havana hotels are around there. Tourists can take a guided tour or go on foot for their own journey

Bellamar Caves:

Bellamar Caves These caves were discovered in the 1800s by either a slave working in a limestone quarry or a shepherd looking for a lost sheep. It is 60 miles from Havana and the locals call it Cuevas de Bellamar. You can find ornate crystal sculptures, underground rivers and ponds, and indigenous pictures. There are stalagmites and stalactites growing from floor to ceiling. You can go down 100 feet along narrow corridors and through wide caverns. Tourists are encouraged to drink from the natural fountains: “The Fountain of Youth” and “The Fountain of Love.”

Daisy Fuentes:

Daisy Fuentes She is a Cuban American TV host, model, and comedian. She was born in Havana, but when she was three her family fled to Miami due to political turmoil. She was first hired as host of MTV Internacional , a one-hour Spanish music show. She appeared on shows like Loving Dream , The Larry Saunders Show , and Cybill . She hosted her own talk show, Daisy , as well as America’s Funniest Home Videos , Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve , the 1998 World Music Awards, the 1999 Billboard Latin Awards, Miss Teen USA, Miss USA, and Miss Universe pageants. She has been on many magazine covers and on ads for Pantene, Revlon, AE, M&Ms, and others. She had a three page cover in People en Español’s 50 most beautiful women. Daisy Fuentes Pilates was released for Wii. She has six fragrances, a jewelry line, clothing line, hair care line, accessories collection, and home collection.

Andy Garcia:

Andy Garcia He was born in Havana with a dead parasitic twin on his left shoulder that was later removed. His dad was an avocado farmer and he moved to Miami after the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion. He had a role in Hill Street Blues , The Mean Season , and 8 Million Ways to Die , but his claim to fame was in The Untouchables . He had a role in The Godfather Part III , Internal Affairs , Hero , When a Man Loves a Woman , Things to do in Denver when your Dead , Night Falls on Manhattan , Desperate Measures , Ocean’s Eleven , and Ocean’s Thirteen . He released The Lost City which he co-wrote, directed, and starred in that struck controversy because it had a negative portrayal of the Cuban Revolution.

Emiliano Díez:

Emiliano Díez He was born in Havana and then immigrated to Miami. He started to do many plays like Blithe Spirit, La Cage Aux Folles, Rose Tattoo, and many others. He also appeared on radio and television commercials. He was in the soap operas El Magnate, Marlelena, Guadalupe, and Los Beltrán. He guest starred on Everybody Loves Raymond, Yes, Dear, MDs, Manhattan, AZ, The Brothers Mamita, and Passions. He is most famous for his role as Dr. Victor Palmero on George Lopez.


Sources Countries of the World: Cuba by: Jen Green

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