Cuba: What to know?

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Cuba is the largest island in the Caribbean, with a communist government and a population of 11.4 million. Its economy is supported by Venezuela, and its industries include sugar, oil, and tobacco. Cuban cuisine combines Spanish, Caribbean, and African elements. The US embargo on Cuba has been in place since 1961.

Cuba is the largest island in the Caribbean and is located between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean. It borders the United States due to the presence of the US naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. However, this does not signal the cooperation or relationship between Cuba and the United States that one might expect from such a relationship.

Although the United States helped Cubans overthrow Spain in the Spanish-American War in 1898 and Cuba was granted independence from the United States in 1902, things have not gone smoothly in their relationship since then. Fidel Castro was the leader of a rebel army that seized power in 1959 and was an example of a Soviet-backed communist government. Fidel Castro ruled until February 2008, when he handed over the presidency to his brother, Raul Castro. It remains a communist state and since 1961 there has been a US embargo on Cuba.

Cuba’s formal name is the Republic of Cuba, which in Spanish is Republica de Cuba. The capital is Havana, and it is divided into 14 provinces. Independence from the United States is officially ignored and the national holiday is the Triumph of the 1959 Revolution, celebrated on January 1st.

The lowest point is sea level at 0 feet (0 m), and the highest point is Pico Turquino at 6,578.08 feet (2005 m). At 42,803.29 square miles (110,860 sq km), Cuba is the size of Pennsylvania.

Cuba’s estimated population in July 2008 was 11,423,952, with the majority of the population between the ages of 15 and 64. Men and women are equally literate, with an overall literacy rate of 99.8%. As of the 2002 census, the population was 65.1% white, 24.8% mixed race, and 10.1% black. Before the introduction of communism, 85% of the population was Roman Catholic, with Protestants, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Santeria and Jews. The national language is Spanish.

Cuba’s economy is supported by its relationship with Venezuela. In 2008 it was estimated that almost 73% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) came from the service sector, with 22.8% from industry and 4.4% from agriculture, even though 20% of the population is employed in agriculture. Industries include sugar, oil and tobacco – Cuba is known for its cigars – along with construction, metals, cement, machinery and pharmaceuticals.

Cuban cuisine combines elements of Spanish, Caribbean and African cuisines. Important items that transcend various traditions include sugar cane, beans, rice, pork or beef, tubers and plantains, all seasoned with a wide range of spices.

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