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Wednesday 26th July
Cuba Information - Page 1
Geography
Cuba is the largest of the Caribbean islands. It lies between the Bahamas and Jamaica, ninety miles from Key West, Florida. The Republic includes the Isla de La Juventud (the Isle of Youth) and many smaller islands. Havana is the capital city.

Around a quarter of the the country is mountainous with three main mountain regions. The remainder of the country is mostly flat. Cuba has hundreds of rivers, most of them relatively shallow.

The climate is tropical. The wet season runs from May to November, when the rainfall is heavy. The dry season runs from December to April. The island is regularly struck by hurricanes.

Environment
The Vinales valley, an area with dark limestone outcrops and numerous caves, was inscribed on the World Heritage site in 1999.

Trees include cedars, ebony, kapok, giant figs, mahogany, oaks, pine, royal palm (the national tree) and mangroves along the shoreline.

Cuba's national flower is the mariposa, a species of jasmine; other flowering plants are begonias, bougainvillea, bromeliads, hibiscus, jacaranda and oleander.

Deforestation began with Spanish occupation when forests were cleared for plantations and cattle ranches. In 1978 Cuba set up the National Committee for the Protection and Conservation of Natural Resources and the Environment. National Parks include the Alejandro de Humboldt National Park and Desembarco del Granma National Park, both World Heritage sites.

Cuba's wetlands on the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance include Buenavista and Cienaga de Zapata. Buenavista is a National Park and UNESCO Biosphere Reserve which consists of beaches, dune systems, coastal lagoons, mangroves and karstic formations. Cienaga de Zapata, also a National Park and Biosphere Reserve, is one of the largest wetlands in the Caribbean.

Cuba has no large mammals; the most common mammals on the island are bats. The Cuban Hutia is a tree-climbing rodent. There are a number of species of reptiles such as crocodiles, chameleons and iguanas. Over three hundred species of birds are to be found in Cuba. As well as the bee hummingbird (the world's smallest bird), green parrots, woodpeckers and the tocororo (the national bird), there are many water birds living in the mangrove swamps: pelicans, cranes, herons and flamingoes. The island is an important resting place for many migratory species. Cuba is also home to hundreds of species of butterflies.

Architecture
The Amerindians who migrated to Cuba built villages of thatched huts. The thatch and the wood for these homes came from the Royal Palm.

Spanish Colonial buildings, churches and palaces are evident in Havana. There are some particularly well preserved Colonial buildings in the city of Trinidad. Another influence can be seen in the city of Cienfuegos, founded in the eighteenth century by a Frenchman from Louisiana; the French settlers helped the Spanish build streets resembling French promenades.

Population
Cuba's population was estimated at 11,087,330 in 2011. The majority of the people are of Spanish descent. Some are descendants of African slaves and about one percent are of Chinese origin.

Languages
Spanish is the official language and English is taught in schools.

Religion
Many Cuban Christians are Roman Catholics; other Christian religions are represented. A number of Sephardic Jews fled to Cuba in the sixteenth century to escape the Spanish Inquisition. The Santeria religion which is a mixture of Yoruba animist beliefs, some Voodoo and Roman Catholicism is also practised by a number of Cubans.

Food
Everyday food eaten in Cuba includes rice and beans, fried plantain, stew, pork and chicken. Although Cuba is an island, fish is not plentiful (fishing boats need a licence provided by the State). Much of Cuba's fruit crops are exported. Ice cream is popular and other sweet foods include cakes, doughnuts, biscuits and coconut based desserts. Rum is the best known Cuban drink and the "Cuba Libre" is one of the most famous rum cocktails.

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