The Central American country Cuba is located on the largest island in the Antilles.
The island, which consists mainly of lowlands and some karstified mountain ranges, has a tropical climate.
The crisis-ridden economy, one of the last socialist planned economies, is strongly oriented towards the cultivation and export of sugar and tobacco. Tourism has developed into an important economic factor in recent years. The checkered history of the country has been closely linked to the USA for more than a hundred years.
The Republic of Cuba consists of the main island of Cuba and around 1600 smaller islands and coral reefs. The main island has a length of 1250 km and a width between 30 and 190 km. It lies between the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. In the north, the 180 km wide Florida Strait separates the island state from the North American mainland. A small part of the main island, the area around the city of Guantánamo on the east coast, is under administration of the USA.
The capital of Cuba is Havana opposite the Florida peninsula.
The surface of the main Cuban island consists predominantly of flat undulating lowlands. This is a sheet of limestone that lies over volcanic rocks from the Middle Age.
The island is also traversed by three heavily karstified mountains:
Cuba has a mountain character especially in the southeast. Here the Sierra Maestra rises from the lowlands and reaches almost 2000 m with the highest mountain in the country, Pico Turquino (1972 m). Already 40 km south of the Sierra, the Cayman Rift falls more than 7 km below the sea level of the Caribbean Sea. Violent earthquakes often occur in this fracture zone.
There are still smaller mountain landscapes in the central part of the island (Sierra del Escambray, 1156 m), and to the west of Havana the limestone hills and mountains of the cone karst in the Sierra Guaniguanico rise.
Climate and vegetation
Cuba has a humid tropical climate, which is mainly influenced by the northeast trade wind. The annual temperature fluctuations are relatively small. The rich rainfall of up to 1500 mm falls in the lowlands, especially in summer, only the mountains are permanently humid. In late summer, tropical cyclones endanger the west of the country in particular.
The original vegetation of the island, rainforests and savannahs, has largely given way to agricultural areas and palm-lined grasslands (palm savannas).
Important data about the country
|Population density:||102 residents / km²|
|Growth of population:||0.3% / year|
|Life expectancy:||77 years|
|Form of government:||Socialist republic|
|Capital:||Havana (La Habana)|
|Population groups:||Mixed race 51%, white 37%, black 11%|
|Languages:||Spanish as the national language|
|Religions:||Non-denominational 55%, Catholics 40%|
|Climate:||alternately humid tropical climate with a dry season in winter, average temperatures in Havana in January 21.7 °C, in August 27.2 °C|
|Land use:||Arable land 29%, pasture land 22.5%, forest 17.4%|
|Main export goods:||Sugar, nickel, chromium, tobacco, rum, citrus fruits|
|Gross domestic product:||$ 33,840 million (2004)|
(share of GDP, 2004)
|Industry 26%, agriculture
7%, services 68%
|Gross National Product:||US $ 1,170 / residents (2003)|
Because of the relatively high proportion of the descendants of European immigrants, Cuba is also known as the “white island” under the Antilles. The majority of the population are mestizos and descendants of black and white residents.
Since the victory of the Cuban Revolution under the leadership of FIDEL CASTROS in 1959, one million Cubans have left the country and live mainly in Florida (USA).
Three quarters of Cubans live in cities, around a quarter in Havana alone.
Compared to other Latin American countries, the country has an advanced health and social system. Like attending school, medical care is free.
The economy of the former “Sugar Island” had been a socialist planned economy with tight state management and control since 1959. When the world socialist system disintegrated in the early 1990’s, the “outpost on the doorstep of the US”, which was highly dependent on socialist economic aid, also fell into a catastrophic economic crisis. It was only in the second half of the 1990’s that the economy slowly began to recover. The growth was mainly based on the development of tourism, the legalization of the dollar as a means of payment and the partial privatization of agriculture, trade and small businesses.
Despite this cautious opening, state regulation and control continue to exist in all areas. For this reason, no fundamental change in the desolate economic situation with the overcoming of the serious supply bottlenecks is foreseeable at the moment.
The main product of Cuban agriculture is still cane sugar, which in some years generates over 50% of export earnings. That is why the country’s economy is also heavily dependent on crop yields and the sugar price on the world market.
In addition, the staple foods rice, corn, potatoes, potatoes and cassava are grown, but the country is still unable to provide for itself.
In addition to sugar, mainly tobacco for the famous Havana cigars and citrus fruits are destined for export.
However, since the mid-1990’s tourism has replaced agriculture as the country’s most important economic sector. An increasing flow of tourists from the USA and Europe brought more of the urgently needed foreign currency into the country from year to year. Today tourism is the most important source of foreign currency for Cuba, alongside sugar exports and money transfers from Cuban exiles.
Cuba has significant natural resources. Nickel, manganese, chromium and copper are promoted for export.
Also export-oriented branches of industry are sugar and tobacco processing and nickel smelting.
In addition, the Cuban companies produce food and beverages as well as consumer goods (furniture, textiles, glass, etc.) for domestic use.
1492: On October 28th, COLUMBUS discovers Cuba. Only 20 years later, however, the island was conquered by the Spanish and made the starting point for the further conquest of Central America.
16th to 18th centuries: Havana is expanded to become the strongest fortress in Central America to protect against pirates. However, the island is constantly subject to looting by pirates and attempts at conquest by the English, French and Dutch.
19th century: The independence movements in the Spanish colonies also spread to Cuba. But they remain unsuccessful here until the USA intervenes. When a US warship explodes in Havana harbor, the Spanish-American War begins in 1898. After the defeat of the Spaniards, Cuba becomes independent, but remains under American protection.
20th century: On May 5, 1902, Cuba becomes an independent republic. Nevertheless, the USA intervened several times in Cuba in the following decades, especially from Guantánamo, which they had leased from Cuba in 1903 “for ever”. But after gaining independence, Cuba does not come to rest for a long time. The country is often terrorized and plundered by corrupt presidents.
1959: With the entry of the victorious Cuban rebel army under the leadership of FIDEL CASTRO, his brother RAUL and the Argentine CHE GUEVARRA on New Year’s Day in 1959 in Havana, the history of the socialist republic of Cuba begins, which is founded on December 2, 1961.
1962: A failed invasion of Cuban exiles in the “Bay of Pigs” prepared by the US secret service leads to Cuba rapprochement with the Soviet Union. In 1962 she had nuclear missiles stationed in Cuba. This led to the so-called Cuba crisis, which brought the world close to the abyss of nuclear war. After the crisis was resolved, FIDEL CASTRO rejected any political democratization and economic opening based on the model of perestroika in the Soviet Union in the following decades. This puts the country into international isolation and increasingly into economic difficulties.