The history of Cuba begins with the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1492 and has largely marked by strained relationships with the United States.

Christopher Columbus
After Columbus arrived, Spanish conquest followed under the guise of Diego Valesquez, a move that brought on the eradication of the native Cuban population as a result of European diseases. The 1800’s brought on a large sugarcane industry in Cuba, which fueled the African slave trade in the country.

In 1878, Cubans would revolt against the Spanish government in what would be called the Ten Years War. The result of this uprising would be the abolishment of slavery in 1886.

The Cuban writer Joes Mari would lead another revolt against Spain aided by the US government. This resulted in the Spanish American War and the setting up of an independent republic of Cuba in 1899.

Presence of US Government
The US Government would remain a presence in Cuba until 1902 when Estrada Palma was elected as the first President. Another revolution would follow when Fulgencio Batista, a Cuban military leader, would overthrow the government of Gerardo Machado in 1933. Batista became President in 1940 and is known for his installation of a police state.

Fidel Castro
Fidel Castro’s rise marks the next period in the history of Cuba. Aided by his brother Raul and the Argentinean revolutionary Che Guevara, Castro started a 1956 guerrilla war against Batista.

In 1959 the US withdrew aid to Batista, and the ruler went into exile. Castro took over as President and would begin his rule by silencing his opposition.

This move angered the US, leading to the severing of ties with Cuba in 1961. Castro’s response was to align with the Soviet Union, a move that would fuel the Cold War and the exodus of many Cubans. In 1961 US President John F. Kennedy launched a failed secret mission to overthrow Castro’s government known as the Bay of Pigs.

The Cuban Missile Crisis
The US became alert when the USSR planned to use Cuba as a missile staging point in 1962, leading to what would be known as the Cuban Missile Crisis. The history of Cuba would continue to be defined by soured relationships with the US.

The remaining period of the history of Cuba would involve the country leading communist revolutions around the world aided by the Soviet Union.

However, when Russian Communism fell in 1990, all economic support for Cuba ended as well and economic hardship has befallen the country ever since.

In 2006, Castro contracted cancer and handed the presidency over to his brother Raul, a move that would solidify in 2008 with Castro’s official retirement.


Nearly 90 percent of the population was nominally Roman Catholic in pre-revolutionary Cuba, the number of practicing Roman Catholics was probably less than 10 percent. Other estimates suggest that about half of all Cubans were agnostic, that slightly more than 40 percent were Christian, and that less than 2 percent practiced Afro-Cuban religions. Membership in other religions, including Judaism, was limited.  But there is no independent authoritative source on the size or composition of religious institutions and their membership. The Roman Catholic Church estimates that 60 to 70 percent of the population is Catholic but that only 4 to 5 percent regularly attend mass. Membership in Protestant churches is estimated at 5 percent of the population. Baptists and Pentecostals are likely the largest Protestant denominations. Jehovah’s Witnesses reported approximately 94,000 members; Seventh-day Adventists and Methodists each estimated 30,000; Anglicans, 22,000; Presbyterians, 15,000; Quakers, 300; and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), 50. The Jewish community estimated 1,500 members of whom 1,200 reside in Havana. According to the Islamic League, there are approximately 6,000 to 8,000 Muslims, although only an estimated 1,000 are Cubans. Other religious groups include the Greek and Russian Orthodox churches, Buddhists and Baha’is.  Even though religious groups were no exception to the government’s generalized efforts to monitor all civic activities, and the Communist Party’s Office of Religious Affairs monitored and regulated almost every aspect of religious life, including the power to approve or deny religious visits, the construction or repair of religious buildings, the ability to conduct religious services in public, and the importation of religious literature. Except for two Catholic seminaries and several interfaith training centers throughout the island, religious schools were not permitted and military service was mandatory, with no legal exception for conscientious objectors.

Political and Social Organization

Political Organization. Prior to 1959, participation in the national and local political processes was limited. Between 1959 and 1970, the revolutionary government largely centralized authority and provided limited representative or direct access to decision making. Reorganization of the political system in 1970 was designed to allow greater input into policy formation at all levels. Legislative reforms in 1976 and again in 1992 and 1993 were illustrative of a trend toward increasing participation in economic decision making at all levels. To ensure wider input and greater understanding of the potential effects of change prior to policy formation, it was required that meetings be held with mass organizations and constituencies.
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Social Organization. In contrast to the prerevolutionary years, Cuba is attempting to create a society in which neither class nor circumstances of occupation, income, race, or sex define social opportunities and rewards. The most significant challenges for the Revolution since the collapse of the Eastern bloc are providing equal access to political and economic opportunities without creating a privileged group in society or loss of conscious socialist goals, and simultaneously moving the economy toward diversification and industrialization.
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The economy of Cuba is a largely state-controlled, centrally planned economy overseen by the Cuban government, though there remains significant foreign investment and private enterprise in Cuba. Most of the means of production are owned and run by the government, and most of the labor force is employed by the state. In the year 2000, public sector employment was 76% and private sector employment was 23% compared to the 1981 ratio of 91% to 8%.  Capital investment is restricted and requires approval by the government. The Cuban government sets most prices and rations goods to citizens. In 2009, Cuba ranked 51st out of 182 with an HDI of 0.863; remarkably high considering its GDP per capita only places it 95th.  Cuba also significantly outperforms the rest of Latin America in terms of infant and child mortality, morbidity, educational attainment and an array of other social and health indicators.


In Cuba, primary education gets great priority. Going to the schools is a must for the children. There are numerous schools in Cuba. During school, students must wear the specific school uniforms. The courses of primary education generally continue for six years. On the other hand there are two separate sections in the secondary education. These are the basic secondary education and after that the pre-secondary education. After finishing the courses of pre-university education, students get the award called "Bachillerato".


The police force of Cuba,The National Revolutionary Police (Polida Nacional Revolucionaria - PNR) fall under the authority of the Vice Ministry of Internal Order. As Cuba's primary uniformed law enforcement body, they are responsible for handling routine criminal and law enforcement matters and are also occasionally called on by other security forces to help with what are deemed to be political matters. The force was established on January 5, 1959, only days after the victory of the Revolution, and in the mid-1980s numbered 10,000. It is unclear how the size of the force may have been affected by the economic crisis of the 1990s.


Spanish is the official language of Cuba. Please note that Cuban-Spanish contains variations, making it difficult for native-Spanish speakers, who may get lost in translation at times. The majority of Cubans only know Spanish, but in larger cities and tourist areas, English is commonly spoken. InsightCuba’s English-speaking hosts will translate throughout the program. Although knowledge of Spanish isn’t required, we encourage you to learn some simple words and phrases to maximize your experience with the Cuban people.

Climate Region

Cuba has a semi-subtropical climate, divided into two seasons: wet (May-October) and dry (November- April). However, regional variations and trade winds account for fluctuations. Cuba’s average temperature is 77 °F. Compared to most countries, Cuba experiences little variation, although July and August can be hot and humid. Nearly 2/3 of all rainfall occurs during the wet season. Hurricane season is from June-November. Cuba has an advanced disaster preparedness system and civil defense network for evacuations.


Spanish colonists brought with them citrus fruits, such as oranges and lemons, as well as rice and vegetables. They also grew sugar cane, a major Cuban crop. African slaves were unable to bring any items along with them on their journey to Cuba. They were, however, able to introduce their African culture. The slaves developed a taste for fruits and vegetables such as maize (corn), okra, and cassava. In time, Spanish and African cultures joined together to create several popular dishes, including arroz congri (rice and beans, often known as Moors and Christians) and tostones (pieces of lightly fried fruit, similar to the banana).

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Within the past few years decades, Cuban housing has begun to catch up to population demand. Nearly 1.3 million housing units were built between 1959 and 1993. In the 1980s, over half of all housing units were detached houses. The remainder were apartments, palm huts called hohios, and cuarterias, housing units in buildings composed of a number of detached rooms where occupants share some or all facilities. More than half of all dwellings were concrete and brick, about one-third were solid wood, and a smaller number were constructed with palm planks. Water was piped indoors to roughly half of all homes and outside to one-fifth; about half had private bath facilities. Housing conditions have generally improved over the past few years. By 1998, about 87% of urban dwellings were graded as Good or Fair, as were 68% of rural dwellings.

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Relationships for family

The double character of family as a group and institution helps to visualize it as an important part of the civil society and it is closely related to the government and some other elements of the Cuban political system. Family is very important for the positive or negative conformation of the new generations" subjectivity (Plain 1991). However, the high level of socialization that is produced as a result of the priority given by the government to the prenatal period, public education and the formation of occupational, sport, and artistic interests makes family to cede on its level of influence upon the new generations" social reproduction.

Creative Expression(Arts, Sports, Music)

Since the Revolution the Cuban government has invested heavily in the promotion of sports in the country. In 1961, just two years after the triumph of the Revolution, the National Institute of Sport, Physical Education, and Recreation (INDER) was created. This is the governing branch of all sport and recreation in Cuba. In 1991 Cuba hosted the Pan-American Games. The island placed first in those games with a total of 265 medals.

Baseball is considered to be the national sport, and the sport which most Cubans are passionate about. Even before the Spanish conquest the Taino Indians played a similar game called "batos". The sport was officially introduced to the island in the 1860s by Cubans who studied in the United States and American sailors who ported in the country. The sport quickly spread across the island nation.

The national baseball team of Cuba is easily the best in Latin America and one of the best in the world. Every province in the country has its own baseball team while Havana City has two and the municipality of the Isla de la Juventud has another. This means there are a total of 16 baseball teams in the national baseball league. The sports season begins in early autumn and culminates with national finals in May. The sporting league is similar to the basketball league in the US where the best of the Eastern conference meets the best of the Western conference in the finals which are played as the best of a series of seven games.








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