Curious Facts about Cuba

Do you think you know a lot about Cuba? See which of these facts will surprise you!
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Curious Facts about Cuba

Cuba is the next country we are to visit while on our online tour of Spanish-speaking countries. Do you think you know a lot about Cuba? Read the serious and fun facts listed below and see which of them will surprise you!

🐊 Cuban Islands

  • Officially known as the Republic of Cuba, the country has made itself comfortable on the island of Cuba, the island of Youth (la Isla de la Juventud) and a number of smaller archipelagos.
  • The name “Cuba” came from Taíno, one of the native languages of the island. It is either related to the word cubao meaning “with an abundance of fertile land” or coabana meaning “a great place.” The country also has a Spanish nickname, which it owes to the contours of the island of Cuba, when viewed from the bird’s eye view – it reminds of an alligator, hence the nickname – el Cocodrilo or el Caiman.
  • The largest of the Caribbean islands by land mass, Cuba covers an area of 42,426 square miles. Its terrain is mostly a plain, with some hills and mountains in the southeast of the country. Within its huge territory and the territories of smaller islands of the Republic of Cuba, there are 9 UNESCO World Heritage sites.
  • The territory of the Republic of Cuba is divided into fifteen provinces and then further into municipalities. Isla de la Juventud is a special separate municipality.
  • The climate of Cuba is tropical, with some trade winds. The dry season continues from November till April, while the rest of the year is mostly rainy.
The contours of the island of Cuba resemble an alligator, hence the country's nickname - el Cocodrilo or el Caiman
A close-up of the map of Cuba (image via shutterstock.com)



👨‍👩‍👧‍👦 Population of Cuba

  • The population of Cuba amounts to 11.3 million people, which makes the island the second-most populated in the Caribbean and the 16th most populous in the world.
  • The territory of modern Cuba was originally inhabited by natives: the Taíno from Hispaniola, the Ciboney from South American mainland, and the Guanajatabey, who originated from western Cuba and lived there before the arrival of the first Europeans in the New World. Unfortunately, the natives did not survive the cohabitation with the colonists from Europe, as they were highly susceptible to European diseases. Moreover, their health was severely damaged by the conditions imposed upon them by colonization.
  • Nowadays, about 99.8% of Cuban are literate, which makes the country’s literacy rate one of the highest in the world.
A portrait of an old woman with a cigar sitting on the sidewalk on the street of old Havana, Cuba
A portrait of an old woman with a cigar sitting on the sidewalk on the street of old Havana, Cuba (image via shutterstock.com)

📜 Historical Overview

  • Having arrived on the northeastern coast of the island in 1492, Christopher Columbus claimed Cuba to be the location where the new Kingdom of Spain would be found.
  • Founded in 1515, San Cristobal de la Habana later became one of the highest populated Cuban cities – its capital Havana.
  • Five U.S. Presidents intended to buy Cuba, but it still remained a colony of Spain till 1898. Just before the American invasion of Cuba during the Spanish-American War, President McKinley offered Spain to sign the ownership of Cuba off to the USA for $300 million. When the war was concluded with a Peace Treaty of Paris, Cuba gained independence from Spain, on the condition that the USA would control the country. American military forces then ruled the island posing as a “protectorate” from 1899 till 1902, when Cuba was finally granted complete independence on May 20, 1902 and got its official name of the Republic of Cuba.
  • Before Fidel Castro came to office through a communist revolution in 1959, the country was passed over from one pair of corrupt hands to another. At the beginning of Castro’s rule, a group of Cuban refugees, who had been trained by the CIA upon Eisenhower’s approval, attempted to overthrow Fidel in what is known as the Bay of Pigs invasion, but they failed. In 2008, after almost 50 years in office, Fidel Castro resigned due to his complicated health condition. Raúl Castro, Fidel’s younger brother, was declared President after Fidel’s resignation. He was reelected President in 2013 for another 5-year term (a Cuban president can serve an unlimited amount of 5-year terms); Raúl Castro Ruz will be the chief of state and the head of the Cuban government up until 2018, when, as he has announced, he is going to resign.
Castro during a visit to the United States in 1959
Castro during a visit to the United States in 1959 (image via eng.wikipedia.org)



✔️ Random Facts about Cuba

  • Cuba is one of the last countries in the world that still stick to socialism as their political system.
  • Both male and female citizens of Cuba are required to complete two years of military service between 17 and 28 years of age.
  • Any citizen of Cuba who has reached 16 years of age and is not a convicted felon has a right to vote.
  • Since the US-Cuba embargo was only lifted in 2011, most cars one would see in the country are classic beauties from the 1950s.
Classic old cars in Havana, Cuba (image via pixabay.com)
  • Vehicles that belong to Cuban government services are obliged to take hitchhikers.
  • All national Cuban mass media should be government-controlled; no privately-owned mass media is allowed.
  • The world’s highest doctor-to-patient ratio is found in Cuba. In fact, the world owes a lot to Cuban doctors, who were the advance guard and the leader of the West African battle against Ebola virus.
Cuban music is well-known around the world
Elderly street musicians playing traditional cuban music on the street in old Havana (image via shutterstock.com)



  • Cuban music is well-known around the world. Son is recognized as the chief musical form; it is all classical guitar backed by an energetic beat. Cuban dance is another renowned phenomenon; the country endowed the world with such famous styles as Mambo, Cha Cha, and Bolero.
  • The most favorite sport of Cubans is baseball. However, a significant number of Olympic medals won by Cubans belong in the area of boxing.
  • Cuba is the birthplace of Bacardi rum, but it was pushed out of the country to Puerto Rico during Fidel Castro’s rule. Another curious fact about rum: did you know what the world-famous rum-based Cuba Libre is called in Cuba? It’s mentirita, which translates as “a little lie”.
  • There is a John Lennon Park in Cuba’s capital Havana. In the park, a statue of John Lennon, the lead figure of the Beatles, has been standing since 2000, when it was erected upon Fidel Castro’s order. Castro was a fan of Lennon; he believed that the musician was a real genius.
  • There is no such thing as private internet access in Cuba. The only people who permanently stay connected are scientists, scholars, government officials, doctors, approved journalists, and engineers.
  • The national cuisine of Cuba is based on cooking bananas, rice, and black beans. There is also shredded beef known as ropa vieja, pork cooked with onions, special bread, and juicy fruits of the tropics. The most popular herbs and spices are oregano, cumin, garlic, and bay leaves. A characteristic feature of Cuban cuisine is that it does not have any fixed recipes written down into classical recipe books. Dishes are invented by families and then passed on to younger generations via storytelling or more empiric ways like cooking together.
Ropa vieja, traditional Cuban national dish made of shredded beef and vegetables
Ropa vieja, traditional Cuban national dish made of shredded beef and vegetables with tomato based sauce, peppers and onions served in a restaurant in Old Havana (image via shutterstock.com)

Well, this is all for your initial Cuban experience. You will find more information in my next article.

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