Racial types and language
For more than four centuries, Cuba has been the base of ethnic groups of different origins. The descendants of Spaniards and black Africans are the predominant racial groups, but there are also Chinese, European and Lebanese Jews, among others.
Pre-Columbian inhabitants came from the South American continent, with cybels being one of the oldest ethnic groups. It is estimated that shortly before the arrival of Christopher Columbus, the Taínos, coming from the Venezuelan peninsula of Paria, settled not only in Cuba, but also in the rest of the Antilles and the Bahamas, developing primitive agriculture. This last people, belonging to the Arawak group, constituted alone between seventy and eighty percent of the population at the beginning of the 16th century.
When it was reduced, the indigenous population was soon replaced by black Africans, employed mainly in the large cane fields. Mostly, they came from Senegal and the coast of Guinea, and the presence of elements of Yoruba and Bantu culture could be detected in their ethnic origins. Long after the abolition of slavery, between 1919 and 1926, some 250,000 black workers from Haiti and Jamaica were hired to work on the sugar plantations and, for the most part, settled permanently on the island. Its cultural influence, especially in music and dance, became decisive.
Like Brazil and other parts of Latin America, in Cuba there was intense racial miscegenation, so that for several centuries the mixed race population, to a greater or lesser extent, became more numerous than all races, except for the white. However, with the decrease in the mortality rates of the total population and the reduction in the birth rate of whites, this difference has been reduced significantly.
The European population, represented mainly by Spanish immigrants, came to constitute three quarters of the total. Its influence on habits and customs, as well as on the political and economic evolution of society, characterizes Cuban history, its folklore and its cultural traditions.
The Asian component is present in a considerable proportion, mainly due to the immigration of Chinese workers between 1853 and 1874 and, later, in the 1920s. The vast majority were men from the Canton region.
According to Prozipcodes.com, Spanish is the official language of Cuba and there are no differentiable local dialects. Some indigenous words, like hamaca (hammock) and many others, enriched the local Spanish, as well as the soft accent and intonation used by Cubans.
In the second half of the twentieth century, the population recorded more than two percent annual vegetative growth, mainly due to the rapid decrease in mortality rates and the high birth rate, especially in the lower social strata. Since 1960, however, more than a million people have left the country for political reasons. Subsequent demographic trends tended to compensate for regional imbalances, with greater growth in sparsely populated provinces than in large cities.
In addition to the capital, Havana, other important cities are Santiago de Cuba, Camaguey and Holguín, in the homonymous provinces; Santa Clara, capital of the province of Villa Clara; Guantánamo, Cienfuegos and Matanzas, in the provinces of the same name; Bayamo, capital of Granma; and Vitoria de Las Tunas.
Since the 1959 revolution, the Cuban economy has undergone profound restructuring, which has affected the distribution of income more strongly than production. All economic activities carried out in the country are planned by the Communist Party of Cuba. Almost all companies are public, except small farms. The most important economic institution is the Central Planning Board, whose highest responsibility is the Minister of Economy.
Cuban soil is very fertile. Properly cultivated, it allows obtaining two or more annual harvests of different products. The rainfall regime is very variable. The construction of large dams, however, promoted intensively since the 1960s, has diminished the importance of seasonal variations. Groundwater is also an important resource for agriculture and industry. The import of tractors and other agricultural implements made it possible to improve production.
Cuba’s main agricultural product is sugar, from which, in the second half of the twentieth century, it produced approximately eight million tons a year. The export of sugar, along with rice, tobacco, coffee, citrus, etc., seeks to offset the need to import large quantities of dairy products, cotton, etc., in which the country is in deficit.
Energy and minerals
Cuba does not produce enough oil for consumption. However, from the point of view of foreign trade, it could for some time be considered an oil exporting country, due to the economic aid it received from the extinct Soviet Union, mainly in the form of oil, part of which it was transferred to the international market. The island’s own mineral resources are nickel, chromium, magnetite (iron ore), manganese and copper.
Industry and Commerce
The processing, often artisanal, of the various products grown on the island, especially sugar cane and tobacco, is the main manufacturing activity. The state has made strong investments in heavy industry, in cement factories, power plants and agricultural machinery.
During the first half of the 20th century, almost three quarters of Cuban imports came from the United States. Two years after the revolution in 1961, that trade dropped to four percent, disappearing entirely under the trade block imposed by the American government.
Since the middle of the 19th century, the Cuban merchant fleet has multiplied more than twenty times, at the pace of the country’s commercial exchanges. The authorities endeavored to ensure that at least half of the goods entering and leaving national ports were transported in Cuban-flagged boats.
The first Cuban railroad, opened in 1837, united the cities of Havana and Bejucal, being the first in the Americas outside the United States. In the 1980s, there were more than 12,000 km of railways, more than half of which were destined to link the sugarcane plantations with the sugar factories.
Since 1960, road transport has been substantially increased. In the previous decade, the number of imported automobiles was much greater than that of trucks and buses, a trend that was reversed in the following twenty years, in order to adapt to the development goals. The main highway crosses the island in almost its entire length.
Air transport is in charge of the Cuban Consolidated Aviation Company, responsible for flights between different cities on the island and for connecting Havana with several European, American and African cities. The Moscow-Havana route, covered by the Russian company Aeroflot, is the longest non-stop regular flight in the world.