Cuba. A land where the music is good, the drink flows freely (at least where the tourists are) and the tourists come for both. Oh, and it's famous for its cigars and Communism. A brief history of Cuba: Cuba was a island in the Caribbean inhabited by the native Tainos before the Spaniards arrived in the 1500s and colonized the place. The Tainos who weren't killed off through disease were assimilated into the colonist population. The Spanish colonists brought in African (mostly Yoruban, though they were from many different parts of Africa) slaves to operate plantations and such. Eventually, the Spanish colonists became upset with Spain and started to fight a war of liberation, which bled on for decades on and off of some of the most intensive fighting in the history of the Americas and featured the first formal use of Concentration Camps. All of this generally caused a great deal of instability and made Spain look like it had egg on its' face before the United States, flexing its muscles on the world stage, became involved due to popular outrage turning Cuba into a cause celebre. First unofficially and at a grass roots level, and then Not So Unofficially. After decades of being the Cuban rebels' most popular support base, it entered the war claiming that Spain had attacked the US, following the still-mysterious 1898 sinking of the USS Maine off the Cuban coast. The war became called the Spanish-American War; the US was victorious and Cuba became "independent"note . During this time a chess player named Capablanca became famous around the world. He went on to become a Chess Master and is now regarded as one of the greatest players of all time. Of course, newly independent Cuba faced several problems, not the least of which being that it was not-so-independent: the establishment of the now-infamous Guantanamo Bay military base was just one of the many strings attached to the country's independence under the terms of something known as the Teller and later Platt Amendments. According to these, the US gave Cuba its nominal independence, though the American shadow continued to hover over Cuba but that sort of went awry when Cubans started asking for a greater voice in government coupled by diplomacy from FDR. This status quo remained more or less until the reign of "President"/dictator Fulgencio Batista, who maintained strong ties with the US government and even moreso with "legitimate" US businesses. While the role of the Mafia in pre-Revolutionary Cuba is heavily exagerrated, it was definitely present on both sides of the Florida straits. All of this made it seem like Batista would be able to continue lording over like so many other strongmen had before him. But this state of affairs began to change when clamor for reform on the island coupled with growing US antipathy towards supporting his regime (particularly since he also wanted Guantanamo Bay back) ate away at his support until the 1959 Cuban Revolution, in which Fidel Castro took over the country. The Castro regime's policies rapidly led to a complete breakdown of relations between Cuba and the West. The resulting "Bay of Pigs" amphibious assault by a troop of Cuban exiles was a Last Stand on par of Thermopylae tactically, but strategically and politically was an embarrassing failure. Already heavily leaning towards the authoritarian left, Castro swung fully towards an alliance with the Soviet Union; inviting military forces in to act as a counterbalance to another attempt. Things got hairy during the Cuban Missile Crisis, wherein the US learned that the Soviet Union had transferred some missiles to Cuba. After several days of nuclear brinkmanship and frantic diplomacy, the two superpowers avoided all-out war, leading to a relative thaw in US-USSR relationships. Castro was not present at the talks concerning the crisis, particularly because the Soviets were not sure if they could rely on him or allies like Che to keep their cool. From 1966 to 1989 Cuba would aid the Angolan military in its military conflict, first against Portugal, then against an alliance of the rebel group UNITA and Apartheid South Africa in the 1960s. Cuba financed a number of revolutionary insurgencies around the world, including the Sandinistas, the South African rebel organizations such as the ANC. Che Guevara would die in this type of effort in Bolivia, most likely executed to avoid a trial. As a result of this Castro's reputation abroad is... mixed. On one hand, he's considered a ruthless, opportunistic tyrant with a thirst for military adventurism that often was uglier than the US or even the Apartheid government cared to stomach. On the other, he is considered by some one of the founding fathers of Namibia, Angola, and racially equal South Africa (to the point where Nelson Mandela and Fidel Castro were reported to be close friends). The status quo in Cuba tottered along until the Soviet Union's collapse in the late 1980's. This had an immediate and devastating effect on the Cuban economy since USSR was the main commercial partner of Cuba for decades, while the U.S insisted on maintaining an embargo on the economy hoping the regime would collapse. In what is known as "the Special Period" (early 90s), Cuba's economy suffered immensely, with simple necessities like toilet paper and food becoming even harder to find. Cuba started to focus more on tourism, and enough trade was attracted from Europe to slow the descent into the Crapsack World-ness of some of its Caribbean neighbors. Cuba continues to suffer shortages of every day commodities, a situation not helped by the ongoing US embargo- fiercely maintained through every US Presidential Administration for the past fifty years- or the Castro government's failures to utilize the rest of the world market and unstinting hostility towards the US. Until his official retirement in 2008, Castro was one of the longest-serving leaders in world history who wasn't a monarch. His brother Raul has taken over and he's no young 'un; what will happen after his passing is anyone's guess. If you like crumbling Spanish architecture, 1950s cars and lovely beaches uncluttered with stupid tourists, ballet and the best music Latin America has to offer, modern Cuba is the place to go—unless you're American, in which case only go if you're willing to take your trip in multiple steps and hide the fact you've ever been there from the government, because it is a violation of the embargo and therefore a crime for a US citizen to visit Cuba and subject to strong suspicion from the Cuban government. Also notable is the country's human development (average healthcare, education, nutrition, life expectancy, et al.) which throughout the last decades has been higher than those of the countries that surround it and Latin America in general. All this despite the crumbling infrastructure, the secret police, the embargo, and the continued repression of free speech and human right abuses against those elements deemed "counter-revolutionary". Cuba in fiction
Cuban Spanish One of the most notable things about Cubans to non-Cubans is their way of speaking Spanish. The stereotypical Cuban speaks Spanish quickly, slurring words and leaving off word endings. It's pretty similar to Puerto Rican Spanish. Some characteristics of Cuban Spanish include...
The three blue stripes symbolize Cuba's eastern, central and western regions, each being a hotspot of the Anti-Spanish La Résistance, and the two white stripes symbolize the purity of the revolution's cause; at the hoist is a triangle, drenched in red with the blood of Cuba's fallen freedom fighters, within which is the white star of independence.