Location Northwest Caribbean.
Time GMT - 5 (GMT - 4 from last Sunday in March to last Sunday in October.)
Area 110,922 sq km (44,218 sq miles).
Length: 1200 kms
Width: 32-200 kms
Population over 11 120 000 inhabitants.
Population Density 102 persons/sq km.
Population: 2.2 million (2006)
The Republic of Cuba is an archipelago in the Caribbean Sea, close to the entrance of the Gulf of Mexico. The country consists of the main island of Cuba, the largest in the Caribbean, the Isle of Youth, and some 4195 islets and keys.
It is the Greater Antilles group, lying 145km (90 miles) south of Florida. A quarter of the country is fairly mountainous. West of Havana is the narrow Guaniguanico mountain range, rising to 750m (2,461ft), divided into 2 main parts: Sierra de los Organos in the westernmost part of the island and Sierra del Rosario in the east. The Central part of Cuba is located the Guamuaya, rising to 1,100m (3,609ft.) encircling the port of Santiago and next largest to Garnma and Guantanamo provinces, are the rugged mountains of the Sierra Maestra, the highest peaks being 1974 meters. A quarter of the island is covered with mountains, forests of pine and mahogany.
Cuba was first discovered by Christopher Columbus on October 27th, 1492. For a man who had seen countless tropical islands, he was extremely impressed with Cuba and said ¨it is the most beautiful land human eyes have ever seen¨. After its discovery, the island was quickly colonized by the Spaniards, at the expense of the local aboriginal population, and by the sixteen hundreds, the first seven settlements: Baracoa, Bayamo, Trinidad, Sancti Spiritus, Puerto Principe and San Cristobal de la Habana had been founded.
By the nineteenth century, the Cuban population had become so distanced from their cousins in Spain that a movement began for independence from Europe.
The first war of independence began on October 1868 and was led by Carlos Manuel de Cespedes, ¨the father of the country¨. After ten years of fighting, the struggle ended in defeat.
The second attempt started on February 24th, 1895, and was led this time by Jose Marti who is considered the national hero of the country. He founded the Cuban Revolutionary Party and by 1898 victory was within sight. However, the US Government intervened, declared war on Spain, and after Spain was defeated kept the Cubans from attaining power.
The Republic was declared on May 20th, 1902, and was followed by a long period of economic and political dominance by the US that lasted until January 1st, 1959, when the Revolution finally triumphed. This was after several years of fighting in Sierra Maestra Mountains near Santiago and an underground struggle in the cities that finally toppled the Batista government on New Year's Eve.
The Republic of Cuba is one of the last bastions of socialism, and the people exercise their power through the Municipal, Provincial and national Assemblies. Raul Castro is the President of the Council of Ministers and has been the general Secretary of the Cuban Communist Party since 2008.
The official language is Spanish, although many Cubans have studied either English, French, German or Russian.
In Cuba, no specific religion prevails over others.
Cuba´s welfare state is the envy of its Latin American neighbors. Medical care is essentially free for Cubans and the population has the highest life expectancy in the third world (77 years) and the lowest infant mortality rate; about the same as New Zealand.
The government provides all education, from day-care centers to college and free books.
Most Cubans are of a mixed race. Criollos (over 65%) are of European descent, Mulatos (25%) are a fusion of European and African descent. Moreno (10%) are of pure African descent and finally a small percentage of Spanish and Chinese.
Television: On Cuban TV, there are 5 channels. They broadcast in the morning and then from mid afternoon, showing mostly official news, documentaries and some soap operas mainly from Brazil which involve a lot of shouting and drama. Sports events such as Baseball, Boxing, Art and Music shows and vast number of films in English.
Radio: Cuban radio stations broadcast 24 hours a day and have some British links. There is a tourism station called ¨Radio Taino¨ on 1160 Hz AM. The best time to receive the BBC World Service is early in the morning on short-wave radio.
• Papers are in Spanish, although the Communist Party daily newspaper, Granma, publishes a weekly edition, called Granma International, in English, German, Portuguese and French.
• There is also a fortnightly international newspaper, Prisma, published in Spanish and English