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Sunday, 24 August 2014



The island of Cuba was inhabited by numerous Mesoamerican tribes prior to the landing of explorer Christopher Columbus in 1492. He claimed it for the Kingdom of Spain.

Columbus named the island Isla Juana after Prince Juan of Asturia but later seemed content to use the local name of Cuba.

The first Spanish settlement was founded by Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar at Baracoa in 1511.

Within 40 years of Columbus' discovery, most of the indigenous population had died of diseases brought by the Europeans, mainly smallpox and measles.

The British captured Cuba in 1762 but a year later gave it back to Spain in exchange for Florida.

Aside from the mountainous regions, it has snowed only once in Cuba's recorded history, during March 1857.

Full independence from Spain was the goal of a rebellion in 1868 led by sugar mill owner Carlos Manuel de Céspedes and other wealthy natives. This led to the Ten Years War.

The Cuban national anthem, "La Bayamesa" was written in 1868 at the Battle of Bayamo when the Cubans overthrew the Spanish authorities in the important city of Bayamo. The third and fourth verses of the anthem include very derogatory remarks about Spain and the Spaniards. These verses are no longer sung.

Cuba was a Spanish colony until the Spanish–American War of 1898. After the war, it was part of the United States for four years.

Cuba gained independence from the United States on May 20, 1902. Tomás Estrada Palma was the country's first President.

Raising the Cuban flag on the Governor General's Palace at noon on May 20, 1902

The U.S. government signed a perpetual lease with Cuba on February 23, 1903, to site a naval base at Guantanamo Bay at the southeastern end of Cuba. The lease was $2,000 per year until 1934, when it was increased to $4,085 per year).

Since the Cuban Revolution of 1959, the Cuban government has consistently protested against the U.S. presence on Cuban soil and called it illegal under international law.

An aerial view of the naval base 

The Rumba evolved in Havana, Cuba in the 1870s. It became an internationally  popular ballroom dance for couples in the 1930s.

Fidel Castro was voted Cuba’s best schoolboy athlete in 1944. He was a left-handed pitcher and had a trial for Washington Senators baseball team but was turned down.

The American writer Ernest Hemingway moved to Cuba in 1945, where he lived in a Spanish style house, at Finca Vigia in San Francisco de Paula, 20 miles from Havana. He wrote in a white tower, which gave a view of Havana and the surrounding countryside.

Fidel Castro became Premier of Cuba in 1959 after dictator Fulgencio Batista was overthrown. He proclaimed Cuba a socialist nation and abolished elections on May 1, 1961.

The Cuban Missile Crisis was a 13-day confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union when the USSR was spotted constructing bases for ballistic nuclear missiles in Cuba. It played out on television worldwide and was the closest the Cold War came to escalating into a full-scale nuclear war. It ended on October 28, 1962 when Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev ordered the removal of Soviet missiles from Cuba.

The Soviet Union had transferred over 150 nuclear weapons to Cuba by the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Noel Regney and Gloria Shayne Baker wrote the Christmas song "Do You Hear What I Hear" as a plea to Fidel Castro for peace during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Travel, financial and commercial transactions by United States citizens to Cuba were made illegal by the John F. Kennedy administration on February 8, 1963.

John F Kennedy had his press secretary, Pierre Salinger, purchase 1200 Cuban cigars and confirmed the purchase was complete before signing the documents that made the embargo against Cuba official.

The current Constitution of Cuba, providing for a system of government and law based on those of the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc countries, was adopted by a national referendum on February 15, 1976.


With an area of 42,800 square miles, Cuba is the largest island in the Caribbean.

Cuba is said to be the only country where the total forest area is greater than 50 years ago.

Cuba has two official currencies, the peso and the 'convertible peso', which is pegged to the dollar's value and often used by tourists.

The national bird is the brightly coloured Cuban trogon or tocororo. Its red, white and blue plumage mimics that of the Cuban flag.

A Cuban Trogon in Camagüey, Camagüey Province, Cuba. By Laura Gooch - Wikipedia Commons

There is free education at every level. Because of this Cuba has a 99.8% literacy rate.

Cuba has one doctor for every 170 people. This is the world’s highest doctor-patient ratio.

Cuba provides more medical personnel to the developing world than all the G8 countries combined.

The game of Monopoly was once very popular in Cuba; however, Fidel Castro ordered that all games be destroyed.

Government vehicles in Cuba are legally obliged to pick up hitchhikers if passenger space is available.

Christmas was a normal working day in Cuba from 1969-1998. It became a holiday again after a visit by Pope John Paul II to Cuba in 1998.

Cuba is the only Caribbean island with a railway.

Source Daily Express,

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