After the landing of the Portuguese explorer Christopher Columbus in
1492, the population of the native Amerindians (American Indians) of
Cuba began to decrease. The succeeding centuries of Spanish rule saw
further decline in numbers. Several African slaves were brought over
to work in the coffee and sugar plantations. Havana was the starting
point for the yearly treasure ships traveling to Spain with produce
from other Spanish colonies such as Peru and Mexico. Freedoms
seeking rebels rose up in arms against Spanish rule but were
immediately squashed by the militia.
It was not until the United States of America intervened on behalf
of the native Cubans in 1898 during the Spanish-American War that
Cuba finally became independent from Spain.
later, in 1902, with the Treaty of Paris, Cuba gained independence from
the U.S. and government was led by local military and unscrupulous
leadership of Fidel Castro, a rebel army took over government in 1959
and Castro became its president for almost five decades. His brother,
Raul Castro, succeeded him in 2008 after he stepped down.
Cuba is an
island in the Caribbean located between the North Atlantic Ocean
(just off Key West, Florida) and the Caribbean Sea. It is the
largest nation in the Caribbean and it is the Great Antilles’
westernmost island. The climate here is tropical though temperatures
do drop when trade winds blow. Dry season is from November to April
while the wet season is from May to October. The terrain is mostly
flat with rolling plains and some mountains and rugged hills.
Hurricanes frequently occur in the east coast of the country around
August to November. Droughts occur often in the country in general.
half of the population is Caucasian, a fourth are mulattos and
mestizos (half-breeds), and a small number are of African descent.
The official language of Cuba is Spanish and most of the people are
Roman Catholics even though it is a communist state.
Cuba’s capital is
Havana and it is the largest city in the country. It is the most
beautiful and oldest city in the west. Before the advent of communism,
Havana had been a popular winter destination for tourists, particularly
Americans. Buildings in the city are made of white coral limestone. The
oldest part of the city is characterized by narrow streets, houses with
overhanging balconies, and several historical landmarks.
Most of the city has
been modernized with beautiful houses, parks, and plazas, with largest
patches of greenery and tree-lined avenues. Large, ancestral homes had
been converted into government facilities and student hostels.
In history, Havana had been a prime naval station by the Spaniards. Its
harbors were excellent and strategically located and were used as the
point at which Spanish trade ships, loaded with treasures for the
Spanish king, docked. This made it attractive to Dutch, English, and
French pirates in the 16th and 17th centuries. These sea-robbers often
laid siege to the city, pillaging and robbing.
When the Americans occupied Havana after the Spanish-American War, the
city’s condition improved. It once again became a commercial city, with
its old buildings and facilities modernized and sanitation improved.
The culture of Cuba is a mixture of
Spanish and African traditions. The rumba and the son are Cuba’s most
distinctive forms of music as these sounds are a combination of the
Spanish guitar and the African drum. However, folk music on the island
such as the punto, zapateo, guajira are mainly of European influence.
Cuba is an island surrounded by sandy beaches and deep bays. Varadero,
Cuba is a popular tourist destination as it is the home of the historic
DuPont Mansion, an old while house located along the coast that has been
converted into a restaurant. Nearby is the lone ancient Mayan figure
sitting on the coast, seemingly keeping watch.
The island of Cuba has many things to offer tourists who want a taste of
how life is in the tropical Caribbean. The music, cuisine, and the
people are a mixture of all nations that have landed on the ports of
Havana throughout the centuries. The Spaniards, the French, the Dutch,
the English, and the Americans have all left their mark on the island
and the best of all these countries have been blended together to form
what is uniquely Cuban.