Cuba, “Pearl of the Antilles”

Gem & Lita at Havana Viejo

Capital & largest city: Havana
Area: 42,426 sq. mi.
Population: 11.33 million
Language: Spanish
Unit of Currency: Cuban peso

Cuba is a beautiful and fascinating country – geographically, historically, culturally, and musically. Once the mecca for American wealthy elite, Cuba is still very touristy with snowbirds flocking to its sugary white sandy beaches for sun, surf and sand or seeking new adventures and discoveries at the republic’s tiny villages, towns and cities.

Cuba is an island nation in the West Indies lying just about ninety miles south from the United States shores of Florida. It is the largest island in the Caribbean and the 17th largest in the world by land area. The country comprises the Cuban archipelago of 3,715 islands, islets and cays (low islands). The island of Cuba itself is the largest in the chain. High mountains, rolling hills and lowland plains mostly planted with sugar cane, coastline fringed with sandy beaches and coral reefs characterize the country’s landscape. Cuba is warm and sunny all year long. Cubans call their country the “Pearl of the Antilles” because of its West Indian island charm and beauty.

On 28 October 1492 Genoese explorer Christopher Columbus discovered Cuba on his first voyage to the New World when he landed in the province of Holguin at northeastern coast of the island. The explorer, claiming the island for the Kingdom of Spain, declared, “It is the most beautiful land ever seen by the human eyes”. Columbus named the land “Isla Juana” but later would be called “Cuba”, which comes from the local native American name of “Coabana”, which means “great place”. By 1511 a Spanish colony was established. In time, the Spanish rule became unpopular resulting to political unrest. In 1898, as a result of the Spanish-American War, Spain relinquished its control of Cuba and the United States governed the country until 1902 when it gained nominal independence as a “de facto” United States protectorate.

United States-backed Fulgencio Batista ruled and dominated the government of Cuba from 1933 until he was ousted due to open corruption and oppression in 1959 when a revolution led by Fidel Castro and guerilla leader Che Guevara, an Argentine Marxist revolutionary, thereby establishing a Marxist-Leninist state led by the Western Hemisphere’s longest ruling Communist Party of Cuba as enshrined in the constitution with no political opposition permitted. Currently, the incumbents are Manuel Marrero Cruz and Miguel Diaz-Canel, preceded by Raul Castro, as the prime minister and president of Cuba, respectively.

Our next travelations, in the second of a three-part series, will take us to the country’s nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Gem & Lita at Havana’s Revolutionary Square

Practise your Spanish and see classic cars in Cuba