The Island of Cuba

Is the largest Caribbean island, between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean. It lies 145km (90 miles) south of Key WestFlorida, between the Cayman Islands and the Bahamas, to the west of Haiti, east of Mexico and northwest of Jamaica.

Since independence in 1902, Cuba had been a US satellite state. The Cuban economy was dependent on America’s and the second most important person in the island was the American ambassador. During this time, most of the population lived in poverty and social inequalities were large. It was during this period that Cuba became a popular tourist destination for United States citizens, mainly due to Havana’s European-like beauty, its high standard of living (Cuba having the largest Latin American middle class per-capita in 1958), and the large number of shows, events, and casinos catering to tourists. During such era more Americans resided in Cuba than Cubans in USA. Many Americans had beach homes during the summer, and rich American companies also owned large factories and land in the island nation. However there were large gaps in wealth and corruption was rife while most property was owned by foreigners.

In 1952 Fulgencio Batista, a former President and General, robbed a presidential election causing public discontent and political turmoil for the next six years. His authoritarian government together with social inequalities, enormous corruption and the fact that the island was a US satellite culminated in the Cuban Revolution in 1953 to 1959 led by Fidel Castro. However, crippled by an embargo by the US, the growing ties with the USSR turned the revolution into a socialist one.

Since the Revolution, Cuba’s single party government has outlawed protests against the regime and the island became highly authoritarian. However the revolution also brought positive changes such as practically wiping out illiteracy, developing a high life expectancy for its citizens, a lower infant mortality rate than in the US, a healthcare and education system that is famous worldwide, practical independence from the United States, an international influence parallel to a world power and the only country that has met WWF’s definition of sustainable development. Such accomplishments still survive the end of the Cold War. During that time, Fidel Castro became the hero of Latin America as his small country stood up to the USA and still survived.

After 1959 Cuban tourism diminished drastically and was mostly for people within the Soviet block. As a result, many facilities were not renewed until the 1990s, when Cuba lost financial backing from the defunct Soviet Union and opened its doors to foreign tourism and the possession of foreign currency. Now many European, Canadian, and even American visitors come to the island. In the typical tourist regions like Varadero and Holguín many modern 3-star to 5-star hotels are available, while in less popular tourist regions visitors are still able to rent rooms in many Cuban homes (called casas particulares). Since 2009, US citizens with relatives living in Cuba have been allowed to visit Cuba and most Cubans have recently been given the right to travel abroad for up to 24 months under Raul Castro.

Due to several long-standing factors (e.g. US embargo against Cuba, bureaucratic ineffectiveness, and the loss of Soviet subsidies), today much of the country’s infrastructure is desperately in need of repair. In major tourist destinations there will generally be few problems with either power or water, although such outages may occur. Electricity outages have been common in Cuba, except in tourist facilities that have a generator. 2006 was designated the Year of the Energy Revolution in Cuba, and many small generators have been installed in an attempt to avoid blackouts. Since Venezuela began providing Cuba with cheap oil and the refinery in Cienfuegos was relaunched, the energy situation has improved. Many tourist accommodations offer 220V as well as 110V power sources. This is adequate for your power needs and should be enough to accommodate anything you plug in, at least to a reasonable limit.

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