Cuba is the largest island in the Caribbean Sea, with some 110,922 square kilometers of land surface. Florida is very close - physically speaking. And despite Hemingway's admonition about all the water separating Cuba from Key West, Florida is only some 180 km away. And the Bahamas are closer still, at 140 km Cancun Mexico to the South-West, is about 210 km away.
Some 1200 km long (about 750 miles), Cuba is a quite narrow island, stretching from West to East, with over 5,000 km of coastline and hundreds of natural beaches. Little wonder then, that when Columbus first saw Cuba he was reported describing the island as: " . . . the most lovely that eyes have ever seen".
There are three large mountain ranges in Cuba. In the West, we find the Sierra de los Organos while in central Cuba are the Sierra del Escambray. In the southern region of eastern Cuba, are located the Sierra Maestra, where the highest point of the country is located, the " Pico Turquino " rising some 1,974 meters ( approx. 6,000 feet ) above sea level. Its longest river is the Cauto, which is some 250 km long.
Cuba has a population of over 11 million inhabitants of mixed descendency including Spanish, African, French and Chinese.
Havana is Cuba's largest city, with a population of 2 million.
Cuba has a "moderate subtropical" climate. Translation: warm and sunny! The eastern part of the country ( eg. Santiago de Cuba ) has a warmer climate than the western part.
There are an average of 330 sunny days per year. The hottest months of the year are usually July and August. The "hurricane season" is normally in October and November.
Cuba's "dry season" lasts from November through to April. The "rainy season " is from May to October.
Summer Average - 25' C. (77' F.)
Winter Average - 22'C. (72' F.)
Year Round Average - 24.5' C. (76' F.)
Cuba is in the Eastern Standard Time Zone ( ie. same as New York ).
FLORA AND FAUNA
Cuba is a cornucopia of bio-diversity with over 900 species of fish, nearly 300 types of birds and almost 7000 species of insects.
There are no animals or plants which are life-threatening for human beings, anywhere on the island.
The White Mariposa or Butterfly Jasmine. This flower was used by Cuban women in the Wars of Independence to pass messages to the battlefield. It is said to symbolize purity and independence.
Grows wild in humid places such as river banks and lagoons - found in the gardens of many Cuban homes.
El Tocororo, sometimes known as the Cuban trogon (priotelus temnurus). Related to the quetzal. This lovely bird has the "national " colours of Cuba found on the flag: red, blue and white.
The Royal Palm ( La Palma Real). This tree seen throughout Cuba, has come to represent the strength and pride of the Cuban people.
La Bandera. First raised in the city of Cardenas , when in 1850 a rebellion erupted there against Spanish rule. The three blue stripes are said to represent the departments of government that the Island was divided into at that time. The two white stripes evoke the purity of the independence struggle. The triangle stands for the French revolutionary ideals of freedom, equality and fraternity. Its red color symbolizes the blood lost in the independence struggle. The lone white star symbolizes freedom.
Cuba's Independence Day. Anniversary of the triumph of the Cuban Revolution (1959).
International Worker's Day
July 25, 26, 27
Celebration of the Days of National Rebelliousness
Celebration of the Beginning of the Wars for Independence
Cuban cuisine arises from the confluence of Spanish and African traditions. The national dish is "el ajiaco", a soup-stew of root crops and vegetables of diverse types preferably cooked with pork meat. The taste will depend on the type of root crops and the spices used.
Other typical dishes are: barbecued pork on a prong, fried banana chips ( tachinos, chatinos, or tostones), black beans, congri oriental (rice with red kidney beans), moros y cristianos (rice with black beans), mince meat Havana style, tamales, bacanes or ayacas (made of tender maize).
The fame of the Cuban rum has favored the popularity of Cuban cocktails made with its distinct presentations (white, gold or matured). To drink on its own or with ice, the gold and matured are the preferred types, while for cocktails the ideal types are the white ones.
The most famous Cuban cocktails served in most of bars and restaurants are Daiquirí , Cuba Libre, Mojito, Cubanito, Isla de Pinos, Presidente, Saoco y Cuba Bella.