Name: Republic of Cuba
Capital City: Havana
Official language: Spanish
Population (2005): 11.2 million inhabitants. Havana has 2.2 million inhabitants
Ethnic composition: 65% whites, 24.9% mestizos (mixed), 10.1% blacks
Area: 109 886 km2
Length: 1 200 km
Currency: Cuban Peso (CUP)
Climate: Subtropical. Average summer temperature: 25°C (77°F). Average winter temperature: 22°C (72°F). Average relative humidity: 81%
Flag: It was hoisted for the first time in 1859 in Cardenas City
National anthem: The patriot Perucho Figueredo composed the music and wrote the lyrics in 1867
National flower: Butterfly Jasmine
National bird: Tocororo (Priotelus temnurus)
National tree: Royal Palm
Arawak (or Taino) Indians inhabiting Cuba when Columbus landed on the island in 1492 died from diseases brought by sailors and settlers. By 1511, Spaniards under Diego Velásquez had established settlements. Havana's superb harbor made it a common transit point to and from Spain.
In the early 1800s, Cuba's sugarcane industry boomed, requiring massive numbers of black slaves. A simmering independence movement turned into open warfare from 1867 to 1878. Slavery was abolished in 1886. In 1895, the poet José Marti led the struggle that finally ended Spanish rule, thanks largely to U.S. intervention in 1898 after the sinking of the battleship Maine in Havana harbor.
An 1899 treaty made Cuba an independent republic under U.S. protection. The U.S. occupation, which ended in 1902, suppressed yellow fever and brought large American investments. The 1901 Platt Amendment allowed the U.S. to intervene in Cuba's affairs, which it did four times from 1906 to 1920. Cuba terminated the amendment in 1934.
In 1933, a group of army officers, including army sergeant Fulgencio Batista, overthrew President Gerardo Machado. Batista became president in 1940, running a corrupt police state.
In 1956, Fidel Castro Ruz launched a revolution from his camp in the Sierra Maestra mountains. Castro's brother Raul and Ernesto (Ché) Guevara, an Argentine physician, were his top lieutenants. Many anti-Batista landowners supported the rebels. The U.S. ended military aid to Cuba in 1958, and on New Year's Day 1959, Batista fled into exile and Castro took over the government.
Bristish Embassy in Havana:
Calle 34 no. 702 esq 7ma Miramar Playa La Habana - 11300 Cuba
Correo electrónico: UkinCuba@fco.gov.uk
Telephone: +53 7214 2200
Telephone: +53 7204 1771
Telephone: +53 7204 1772
Swiss Embassy 5ta Avenida no. 2005 entre 20 y 22, Miramar, Playa La Habana 11300 Cuba
Headquarters +41 58 464 18 46
Headquarters +41 58 464 18 47
Headquarters +53 7 204 26 11
People of Cuban origin who are nationals of other countries and left Cuba after 1970 must travel with a Cuban passport.
Passport and visa regulations often change, so we recommend that you confirm this information to the nearest competent consulate (see addresses of interest). All persons need a passport valid for at least 6 months from the date of entry into the country.
Note: a) All business travelers (excluding journalists, those who attend conferences and those who wish to study in Cuba) need a visa regardless of their nationality. To obtain this type of visa it is necessary to make a prior request in the commercial office of the Cuban embassy; Once the application has been approved, the visa will be processed at the consulate. b) Those born in Cuba who have a passport from another country will not be able to enjoy the visa or tourist card exceptions, unless they have documents proving they are no longer Cuban citizens. Exit permit: required for those whose stay in Cuba is longer than 90 days. Starting fee: around 20 euros.
Tourist Card - Tourist Visa: about 30 euros.
Business Visa - Business Visa: around 60 euros.
Visa journalist: 60 euros.
Note: a) In addition to the visa price, the issuance of visas may be subject to an administrative fee (consult the nearest Cuban consulate). b) Journalists’ visas must be authorized directly by the International Press Center of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Cuba.
Money for tourists is USD.
Two types of coins circulate in Cuba: the Cuban Peso (CUP or MN) and USD with credit card.
Both the Cuban Peso can only be obtained and used in Cuban territory. You can get USD when you arrive in Cuba by exchanging Euros, US or Canadian dollars, sterling or other currencies. The currency exchange service is provided at airports, hotels, banks and Exchange Houses (CADECA), which are present throughout the island, working some of these entities 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
The USD exchange rate you will find upon arrival in Cuba is published daily on the Banco Metropolitano website.
You will find that the USD exchange rate at airports is slightly less favorable, so it is best that upon arrival only change what you might need in the first days. Later you can change the rest of your money in any bank, hotel or CADECA.
Credit cards accepted in Cuba (unless are Amex or from an American Institute), both to pay for goods and services purchased, and to withdraw money at ATMs, are International Master Card and International Visa.
In Havana City you can find ATMs in many places. There are ATMs in almost all banks and major hotels, as well as in some Exchange Houses (CADECA). You can also find ATMs in the main cities of Cuba such as Matanzas, Cienfuegos, Santiago de Cuba, or in tourist resorts such as Varadero and in the keys. However, if you are visiting a small city or town, be sure to bring the necessary cash with you.
In addition to the worship of one God, named Olodumare, the Yoruba worship dozens of deities known as "Orishas" who are personified aspects of nature and spirit. The principal orishas include Eleggua, Oggun, Ochosi, Obatala, Yemaya, Oshun, Shango, Oya, Babalu Aiye, and Orula.
Orisha worship was spread to the new world through the slave trade. In order to preserve their religious traditions against Catholic repression, the African slaves syncretized the orishas with Catholic saints. Thus Shango came to be depicted as Sta. Barbara; Obatala as Our Lady of Mercy, etc. The religion took deep hold in African communities in Brazil and Cuba especially, and eventually spread to mixed race and European-American communities in these countries. After the Cuban revolution of 1959 the religion, known in Spanish as Santeria or La Regla de Ocha, spread to the United States (especially New York City and Florida), Puerto Rico and Venezuela.
Central features of the religion are its drumming and dancing celebrations known as tambors. At the tambors elaborate altars are created, and then food is offered to the Orishas. Depending on the nature of the celebration, percussionists and drummers (often playing the sacred 3-piece bata drums) play precise rhythms directed to specific Orishas while those present sing call-and-response songs in archaic Yoruba (called Lucumi in Cuba), causing the Orishas to descend and possess initiated priests and priestesses of the religion. The rhythms and forms of Yoruba religion are said to be fundamental to the development of many forms of African American music from gospel to blues and jazz, and to musical forms such as Salsa and Latin Jazz.
From 2010 Medical insurance is mandatory for all tourists traveling to Cuba. You could easily found one by your travel service provider.
For the Cubans: All Cuban citizens living in the country have the right to receive assistance in all health institutions, which is free. The State guarantees the right to receive medical treatment in the following way: with the provision of free medical and hospital care, through the network of rural health service facilities, outpatient clinics, hospitals, prophylactic centers and specialist care; with the provision of free dental care; with the development of plans for the diffusion of health and health education, periodic medical visits, general vaccination and other preventive measures of diseases. In these plans and activities, the entire population cooperates through mass and social organizations.
The State of Cuba grants women workers maternity leave, before and after childbirth, and temporary work options compatible with their maternal role.
Every Cuban has access to doctors, nurses, specialists and medicines. Currently, there are 22 faculties of medical sciences, distributed throughout the provinces of the country. There are faculties that receive only foreign students such as the Latin American School of Medicine in Havana (ELAM) and many others throughout the country who currently implement a new model of education in the framework of the agreements with Venezuela in the ’ALBA, giving low-income students opportunities from Venezuela, Bolivia, Honduras and Ecuador hosted in student residences.
The public health of the island has gained recognition of specialized global and regional organizations. Cuba provides medical assistance to other countries such as Bolivia, Honduras, Venezuela, Haiti and many others.
Cuba has one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world, with an index of 5.3 per thousand live births in 2007.
An excellent health system, with institutions designed for each specific treatment, places health tourism in Cuba in a position to respond to the most demanding clients in terms of physical and mental recovery.
The effectiveness of the Cuban health strategy is reflected in health indicators at the level of the developed world, with a life expectancy that exceeds 73 years and infant mortality rates among the lowest in the world, in addition to the decrease in maternal mortality .
The primary care system on the island is widespread, with the support provided by the most advanced techniques in the field, applied by qualified personnel in an extensive network of high-level hospital institutions.
Unique proposals to face diseases such as retinitis pigmentosa, psorias, alopecia, bone enongation, treatment of addictions and a complete vaccination scheme with products developed by Cuban research centers are also available for health options.
First-line programs and unique procedures take visitors to facilities where various ophthalmological pathologies are treated, or with techniques dedicated to dermatological conditions and in the treatment of that widespread malady known as vitiligo.
Addicted to drugs and alcoholism, many of them considered lost in their countries of origin, find in Cuba the solution to their ills, supported by a pleasant and tranquil natural environment that contributes to healing.
Treatments to regulate the corporal weight, to fight the stress, the aging and the accomplishment of habitual medical checkups are part of the wide range of services that the interested receive.
The natural conditions of the largest of the Antilles also contribute to the progress of the mentioned modality, since many of the riches of the environment serve as a complement to the most varied treatments.
In the modern world, where life goes on in an increasingly fast and intense way, a pause to approach the natural and spiritual is always well received by man, who finds in it the necessary conditions to restore balance and face new challenges.
Along with lovers of the sun, the white sands and warm waters every year thousands of visitors come in search of health, interested in programs that return them to an ideal physical state.
MUSIC Of all expressions of Art, music is undoubtedly the one that has influenced more the personality of Cuban people. It is said that the island's inhabitants speak singing, dance while walking and woo with a love song. Music has developed fast and strong. The Habanera, rhythm born from the danza criolla and the contradanza, received its influence from the tango in Argentina and other rhythms of South America. Recent researches prove that in the contradanzas by Manuel Saumell, the tempo of the habaneras could be heard, for instance, in "La Tedesco", the first part is like the danzon, which appeared later; in many of his music scores, song and guajira were also outlined. Son and bolero arrived in Havana from the eastern provinces, specifically Santiago de Cuba. The bolero emerged at the beginning of this century with great composers such as, Alberto Villalon and Sindo Garay, influenced by Pepe Sanchez (who wrote the first one "Tristezas", in 1883). Though the songs of the old trova were boleros, best composers were Orlando de la Rosa and Isolina Carrillo who left one of the most sublime gifts of all times, the bolero "Dos Gardenias".
News about the son montuno dates back to the second half of the 19th century. In 1920 "Havana's Sextet " showed up at the high society salons in the capital. The "Matamoros trio ", started their long-lasting and important career in 1925 in Santiago de Cuba. They created some of the classic Cuban songs: Son de la loma, Mariposita de primavera y Lagrimas negras. Soon after, the first golden era of the son arrived and dozens of septets and sextets came forth, some of them began to make records with big North American companies. Arsenio Rodriguez, Miguelito Cuni, Felix Chapotin and Roberto Faz succeeded the first performers of son. Meanwhile, orchestras like "Arcaño y sus maravillas" and "La Sensacion" spirited balls in Havana playing danzones and charangas during the '40s and '50s. Enrique Jorrin composed first cha cha cha "La Engañadora" on 1950. Perez Prado made his first mambo on 1952. The second splendour of son took place in the '50s decade when a self-taught man from Cienfuegos turned up: Benny More, who, years later would be acclaimed "El Barbaro del Ritmo". This composer and singer revived the traditional ways of Cuban music, leading the son montuno to a concept of jazz band. The Cuban musician who had more influence on the process of evolution of Cuban and Caribbean music was Benny More. The "Van Van" orchestra of popular dancing music, with a very typical and modern sonority, was created in 1970. Year's later son offered its arrangements to the Salsa, which also incorporated Caribbean rhythms and sounds from the music of Latin (Cuban, Dominican and Puerto Rican) communities in New York. Cuban salsa, very well known today almost everywhere, reached its boom at the end of the '80s and beginnings of the '90s when orchestras like "Van Van" and "NG la Banda" grew solid and new, young orchestras like "El Medico de la Salsa", "Paulo FG y su elite" and "Isaac Delgado" came forth.
In the Late 90's and early 2000, Latin Music, who's roots lie primarily in Cuban rhythms, has met a massive revival worldwide with groups such as Ricky Martin, Christian and the Buena Vista social Club. This rivival outlines today's desires to return to the catchy rhythms and agreeable melodies foundered in Cuba and now playing worldwide at your local music store.
PAINTING is the most genuine expression of fine arts on the island. It could not develop in a coherent manner because its first expressions, made by the aborigines in the caves, were discontinued when those communities disappeared. With the conquest and evangelisation process a religious kind of painting prevailed, associated to catholic liturgy. Only in the 19th century, when the San Alejandro academy was founded (1818), paintings by natives began to flourish, designed to satisfy the European taste of Cuban bourgeoisie. The Economic Association Friends of the Country created the Academy and its first principal was French painter Jean Bautiste Vermay. By 1880 a new tendency in Cuban painting was born, its main subject was landscapes. Outstanding in this period were Esteban Chartrand and Valentin Sanz Carta. The works of Basque Victor Patricio de Landaluze showed an interesting folkloric style. But classicism still ruled in fine arts. The avant-gardist awakening of the '20s (20th century) initiated a new period for Cuban painting. The modern movement had its first and most important exhibit in 1927, sponsored by the magazine Avance. Eduardo Abela, Victor Manuel, Antonio Gattorno, Carlos Enriquez and others were starters of the vanguardist movement in Cuba. Following years were of consolidation of the modern movement; this was evidenced at the celebration of the First Modern Arts Salon on 1937. Then, young artists already showed a new period in Cuban art that would build up to create, the so-called "School of Havana" in 1940.
Painters like Rene Portocarrero, Amelia Pelaez and Mariano Rodriguez are part of this movement. Wilfredo Lam returned to Cuba in 1942 after a long stay in Europe and a studio experience with Pablo Picasso. On 1943 Lam painted the work that immortalised him "The Jungle", which was acquired by New York's MOMA. With the triumph of the revolution, the artistic movement strengthened, since the foundation in 1962 of the National School of Fine Arts. Very important personalities such as Raul Martinez and Antonia Eiriz formed the body of professors. A few years later, in 1976, the Fine Arts College of the High Institute of Arts was founded. The important patrimony of the last decade gathers works of artists like Roberto Fabelo, Zaida del Rio, Tomas Sanchez, Manuel Mendive and Nelson Dominguez. Young artists such as, Jose Bedia, Kcho and Flavio Garciandia have occupied a privileged spot ahead of the new styles of painting. During the last 30 years Cuban painting has shown great capability to undertake the more important influences from the international arts, with a creative and unique appearance, assuming at the same time a critic attitude to continue defending the characteristic features of the Cuban identity.
Cuban artist today are abundant, they provide a mixture of past and future conceptions that are creating a worldwide attraction to the works. Art festivals and market sales of these paintings can be found all over the country. Who'll be the next Rembrandt? We will know in 100 years.
LITERATURE. Cuba is an island that has never ceased to yield poets. The first known poem, "Mirror of Patience", was written in 1608 by the Canarian Silvestre de Balboa at the Villa of Puerto Principe. By the first half of the 18th century, around 1733, the first theatre play El Principe Jardinero y Fingido Cloridano written by a Cuban author, Captain Don Santiago de Pita, was performed. Native bourgeoisie attained an important accolade in 1790 with the materialisation of Papel Periodico de La Habana, the first newspaper published on the island. Manuel de Zerqueiro (1760-1846) and Manuel Justo Ruvalcaba (1769-1805) are regarded as the most representative poets of the 18th century. In both poems the Cuban feelings rise slowly with the love and delight for the land's fruitfulness, dedicating their lines to glorify tropical fruits like pineapple and mamey. It was in the 19th century that the great poets were born and the tradition in Cuban poetry began to grow solidly. Deep and beautiful lines as those of Julian del Casal, Placido, El Cucalambe, Juan Clemente Zenea, Gertrudis Gomez de Avellaneda, Juana Borrero, Jose Jacinto Milanes, Luisa Perez de Zambrana, Jose Maria Heredia and Jose Marti, left a trail of such exquisite lyrical poetry that, despite romanticism, in some cases exceeded the limits of feelings to offer poems of complete commitment. Cirilo Villaverde wrote the first great novel Cecilia Valdez, in the 19th century, it is an essential gift. Other important novelists from this period are Ramon Meza and Gertrudis Gomez de Avellaneda. Poetry of the 20th century, restless in a diversity of styles as the century itself, comes up in the world with the names of Jose Zacarias Tallet, Regino Pedroso, Emilio Ballagas, Regino Botti, Nicolas Guillen, Carilda Oliver, Heberto Padilla, Virgilio Piñera, Jose Lezama Lima, Roberto Fernandez Retamar, Gaston Baquero, Nancy Morejon, Anton Arrufat, Eliseo Diego (Juan Rulfo Prize for his life's work), Cintio Vitier, Fina Garcia Marruz, Mirta Aguirre, Pablo Armando Fernandez, Guillermo Rodriguez Rivera, Angel Augier and Dulce Maria Loynaz (Cervantes Prize, awarded by the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language). The XX century developed quickly with writers that soon began to achieve important international awards. The library of novels for this century gathers the works of Miguel del Carrion, Jose Soler Puig, Dulce Maria Loynaz, Severo Sarduy, Miguel Barnet, Senel Paz, Pablo Armando Fernandez, Luis Rogelio Nogueras, Guillermo Cabrera Infante, Virgilio Piñera, Reinaldo Arenas, Jesus Diaz, Jose Lezama Lima, Abilio Estevez and Alejo Carpentier (Cervantes Prize, awarded by the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language). Currently, story writing is a style that has developed into a solid tendency among young writers; names like Alberto Garrido and Ronaldo Menendez (both winners of the Casa de las Americas prize), attest the eloquent performance of Cuban literature.
Cuban literature, both new and old, abounds in Havana. Street markets often provide some prized books many of which are over 100 years old.