- Area: 109,884 sq km / 42,426 sq mi
- Population: 11,221,060
- Infant mortality: 4.4
- Life expectancy: 79.1
- Urbanisation: 77
- Literacy: 99.7
The island of Cuba was inhabited by various Mesoamerican cultures prior to the arrival of the Spanish explorer Christopher Columbus in 1492. After Columbus' arrival, Cuba became a Spanish colony, ruled by a Spanish governor in Havana.
In 1762, Havana was briefly occupied by Great Britain, before being returned to Spain in exchange for Florida. A series of rebellions during the 19th century failed to end Spanish rule. However, the Spanish–American War resulted in a Spanish withdrawal from the island in 1898, and following three-and-a-half years of subsequent US military rule, Cuba gained formal independence in 1902.
In the years following its independence, the Cuban republic saw significant economic development, but also political corruption and a succession of despotic leaders, culminating in the overthrow of the dictator Fulgencio Batista by the 26th of July Movement, led by Fidel and Raúl Castro Ruz, during the 1953–59 Cuban Revolution.
Cuba has since been governed as a socialist state by the Communist Party under the leadership of the Castro brothers. The country has been politically and economically isolated by the United States since the Revolution, but has gradually gained access to foreign commerce and travel as efforts to normalise diplomatic relations have progressed. Domestic economic reforms are also beginning to modernize Cuba's socialist economy.
Cuba is an archipelago of islands located in the northern Caribbean Sea at the confluence with the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. The United States lies 93 miles across the Straits of Florida to the north. The Bahamas are 3 miles to the north. Mexico is 130 miles across the Yucatán Channel to the west.
Cuba is 780 miles long. It is the largest island in the Caribbean and the 17th-largest island in the world by land area. The main island consists mostly of flat to rolling plains apart from the Sierra Maestra mountains in the southeast, whose highest point is Pico Turquino 1,974 m / 6,476 ft. With the entire island south of the Tropic of Cancer, the local climate is tropical, moderated by northeasterly trade winds that blow year-round. The temperature is also shaped by the Caribbean current, which brings in warm water from the equator.
In general, there is a drier season from November to April, and a rainier season from May to October. The average temperature is 21 °C in January and 27 °C in July. The warm temperatures of the Caribbean Sea and the fact that Cuba sits across the entrance to the Gulf of Mexico combine to make the country prone to frequent hurricanes, common in September and October.
Cuba has a planned economy dominated by state-run enterprises. Most industries are owned and operated by the government and most of the labour force is employed by the state. Following the fall of the Soviet Union, the Communist Party encouraged the formation of worker co-operatives and self-employment.
In the year 2000, public sector employment was 76% and private sector employment, mainly composed of self-employment, was 23% compared to the 1981 ratio of 91% to 8%. Investment is restricted and requires approval by the government. The government sets most prices and rations goods to citizens.
Housing and transportation costs are low. Cubans receive government subsidized education, health care and food subsidies.
The country achieved a more even distribution of income since the Cuban Revolution, which was followed by an economic embargo by the United States. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba's GDP declined by 33% between 1990 and 1993, partially due to loss of Soviet subsidies and to a crash in sugar prices in the early 1990s. Cuba retains high levels of healthcare and education.
Baptists, Pentecostals, Presbyterians, Anglicans, Methodists, and Lutherans.