|Country of the Month|
|by Noah Arthur|
|The People of Cuba
Cuba has a high population, mainly around the cities, and this is made up of a diverse assemblage of people.
Most people are not rich, and live on basic needs and have few modern conveniences and luxuries. However, very few people are so poor as to lack what they need. Many people make a living by growing fruits and vegetables and selling them, but many earn a living in other ways, such as teaching or manufacture of items such as baskets or the world-famous Cuban cigars.
Most of Cuba's wealth goes to the government, so government officials are among the few rich people in Cuba. They can afford to live in luxury, and buy whatever they want whenever they want it. Besides having such a luxurious lifestyle, Cuban government officials are often the object of much general fame. Fidel Castro, Raul Castro (Fidel's brother) and Che Guevara are the object of many a fancy sculpture or monument in Havana and other big cities.
Most Cubans are of mixed race, from the intermarrying of European and African people after slavery ended in Cuba. The native people that populated Cuba before the Europeans arrived have largely died out, leaving little trace in the current population. More recently, Chinese laborers came to Cuba, adding another element to the cultural diversity of the island.
jCuba is an island in the Caribbean. It is roughly fish-shaped, and is placed east-to-west. The Atlantic Ocean is to the southeast, the Gulf of Mexico/Caribbean Sea is to the northwest. Ninety miles north is Florida, ninety-one miles south is Jamaica, and fifty-four miles northeast are the Bahamas.
Cuba is made up of flat land interspersed with low mountain ranges, the largest of which is the Sierra Maestra in the southeast corner of the island (the fish's head). Another is in the middle, and yet another is in the northwest. Various rivers run from these mountains to the sea, the longest of which is called Rio Cauto.
Cuba is famous for its beaches. It is, after all, bordered by ocean on all sides. Some of the island's best beaches are in the Varadero area, where there are no rocks, sticks, or spiky squirmy things to poke the feet on the beach or in the shallow water, although there are many of the latter farther out, in the coral reefs.
Cuba was originally a land of jungle and open palm forests. It is now mainly agricultural land, but some of that forest still survives. In it are Cuba's most famous trees, Royal Palms and Belly Palms. The Belly Palms are named so because of a funny-looking widening at the middle of the trunk that looks like a fat belly. Other trees include the Flamboyant Tree, covered with brilliant crimson flowers brighter than a Cardinal's breast.
In the Vinales Valley, the land is flat, green tobacco fields interspersed with big, tall, round hills with vertical sides that look like something out of Dr. Seuss. They are covered by ancient, mysterious jungles that no one can really get to and no one cuts down because no one could grow anything on a vertical surface. Even the jungles on the level tops of these hills remain, because they could only be reached by a gigantic ladder or a helicopter.
What People Like to Think About Him:
A few decades ago, in Cuba, the terrible oppression caused by the presidents and that political troublemaker Fulgencio Batista was going in full force. But then, a revolution led by Fidel Castro and Che Guevara set out to free the country. After the revolutionary Socialist government won the fight, the liberated Cubans rejoiced that Socialism had freed them. In the place of racism and poverty came equality and happiness. Although Fidel Castro was the main leader of the new government, Che Guevara was probably most active in it. He had great revolutionary ideas about how to make Cuba and the world a better place.
After freeing Cuba from the oppression of corrupted democracy, Che chased his dream of doing the same for Bolivia. Sadly, the innocent Che was captured and killed by the Bolivian army, while all he had been trying to do was to help. He died for the noble cause of freedom, equality, and happiness for everyone.
What Really Happened:
A few decades ago, in Cuba, after the United States had left, the democratic government of the country was undergoing a bad slump. Presidents were going in and out of office erratically, without any pattern, and Fulgencio Batista had led a coup to get into power.
The Communists, or Socialists, as they call themselves, believed that government should control almost every part of society. They figured that this governmental lapse was their chance to trick the Cuban people into thinking that Communism would free them from poverty, racism, and other troubles.
So, the Communists took over Cuba by a revolution, fighting and killing until the weak government gave up. Fidel Castro and his best-buddy Che Guevara led this revolution. Guevara was highly active in the revolution. Even when Communism had bullied out Cuba's former government, he continued killing innocent people. He did not even use and "interesting" method like hanging them. He simply shot them through the head. He sometimes kept exact accounts of how the bullet went in and exited out the other side of the "criminal's" head. All this was done under the lie that Cuba was getting better for everyone. After Communism took hold, Cubas racism and other problems grew.
Guevara then decided to try to impose Communism on Bolivia, as well. He went there and led guerrrilla warfare against the Bolivian army. When threatened with capture, he gave up, then, once caught, pleaded not to be killed. He was executed for mass-murder.
Cuba, being tropical, has a very rich animal diversity. There are some interesting qualities about its animal life. For one, it is surprisingly diverse for an island. Another is that the mammals tend to be small, few, and far between (besides, of course, introduced pests such as rats). Because of this, there are few no dangerous large animals the island, although there are a wealth of poisonous small ones. The hutias are some unique and interesting Cuban mammals. They are like big, gray, fuzzy squirrels without bushy tails. They are, in fact, Cuba's equivalent of squirrels or woodchucks. Cuba has the world's smallest mammal, the butterfly-sized Butterfly Bat.
In Cuban waters lives one of my favorite mammals, the manatee. It is the size of a cow, gray like the sandy floor of the oceans, streams, and lakes in which it swims, and has no fuzz anywhere except for some bristly whiskers. A manatee's front half is like that of a seal, while its back half is like that of a whale. Manatees eat water plants. They are common in Cuba, often congregating in huge numbers at favored areas. Manatees can't leave the water, although they breathe air.
Cuban reptiles include the Iguanas, familiar and dinosaurish lizards. They range from black to reddish to green and from seven inches to four feet long. The small green ones eat various moths, beetles, and other potentially annoying bugs.
Cuba has beautiful and varied birdlife. As with other vertebrates, Cuba's birds are often quite small, from the little, scurrying Antbird to the inch-and-a-half-tall Bee Hummingbird, which is smaller than many moths. The Cuban Trogon is a beautiful bird, with a green back, pale grayish underparts with green spots, and a red underbelly. Its long tail is green on the upperside, pale, lined gray on the underside. The Trogon is proned to just sit around and chill in a tree, not doing anything but looking around.
Other beautiful birds of Cuba include the Cuban Parrot. It is patterned in pale green on its body, with a brilliant green and red tail that appears to be made of leaves. It is in danger of extinction.
Cuba's invertebrates are spectacularly diverse and beautiful, from the Cuban land snail, with a shell lined in gentle pastel colors of yellow or reddish, to the gracefully gliding Malachite butterfly, with its black and bright green wings.
Cuba has two unique butterflies that are found nowhere else, both giants of their families, and both rare. They are the Avellaneda's Sulfer (named after a famous Cuban artist), and the Homerus Swallowtail, with a wingspan of over six inches. The Sulfer is bright yellow with brilliant orange and red patches, and a deep ochre-orange underside. The huge Swallowtail is black with spectacularly contrasty yellow bands, and orange and blue spots on the hindwing. The underisde is variably suffused with brown and orange. Besides these two standouts, Cuba's butterfly fauna is very similar to that of other Neotropical areas, with species such as Mestras, Monarchs, Angled-sulfers, Purplewings, Preponas, Leafwings, Giant-sulfers, the White Peackock, the Caribbean Peacock, the Red Rim, the Malachite (mentioned above) and various others. Cuba's moths are little known.
One other Cuban bug is a true standout. This little insect, similar to a firefly, gives off a light so bright that it can light up a small room. These bugs often congregate in fields at night, making the place look like a big city.
| Cuban Music
Cuba is famous for its music, and for good reason. The island's musicians produce what is probably the most beautiful music in the world. There are three different general categories of Cuban music, the African-style, the Spanish-style, and the music that is simply Cuban, being a mix of the two.
African style music uses mainly drums, rarely if ever incorporating stringed instruments. Spanish style music uses guitars and other stringed instruments. Cuban music, a mix of the two, uses both drums and stringed instruments. All three rely on strong singing voices to make the music sound complete.
Everyone in Cuba seems to love music. Street musicians play at corners, people listen to music in bars and in cars, and there are many proffessional Cuban bands.
Although you never hear about Cuban food being great in the same way you hear about Cuban music, it is. In my opinion, Cuban food is some of the best in the world.
That is, at least, Cuban restaurant food. The majority of Cubans just eat whatever they get, and don't have enough money to worry about the taste of the food. That was not how it always was.
Before Castro took over the government, Cubans did have enough to make wonderfully flavorful foods out of many different ingredients, and pre-Castro Cuban food is what is served in restaurants in the United States today.
The closest thing that Cuba has to an official national dish is called moros y cristianos, "moors and christians". It is cooked and spiced black beans mixed with white or Spanish rice. It is the best of Cuban foods. Fried plantains, fish, chicken, and crabmeat were other common Cuban foods before Communism.
|Che Guevara poster|
|the rare Avellaneda's Sulphur|
|a very clear lake|
|a communist rally|
|flag of ?Cuba|
|Cubans fleeing to Florida|
|Cuban land snail shells|
|a woman with her pet dog|
|Loggerhead Turtle laying eggs on the beach|
|Cubans waiting in line for visas at the Spanish embassy|
|coral reef fish|
|Sources - Books:
- Enchantment of the World, Cuba
- Enchantment of the World, Cuba,
- Thinkquest - "The Cuban Missile Crisis"
- Che the Revolutionary Hero? Ruthless
serial killer more like. by Guy Sorman.
- The Truth About "Che"
|Cuban Trogon chillin' in a tree|
|the Vinales Valley|
|FIRST IMPORTANT THING ABOUT CUBA:
Cuba is a communist country. Here is how it became one:
In the 1930's, a man named Fulgencio Batista (cool name) was president of Cuba. He had taken over the government illegally, and, after a while of dillydallying around trying different kinds of government that didn't work, had made himself president. After being a tolerable president for a while, he held an election and was defeated, and was so embarrassed that he moved to Florida.
The government under the new president started out strong, but began to fall apart after some time. Corruption began to take over, but many Cubans did not realise this. When Batista returned to Cuba, and, once more, illegally took over the government, public opinion was mediocre towards him. The people of Cuba wanted more order in government, and did not like the dramatic change back to Batista.
However, the country did well. Its economy flourished, and people were satisfied with their lives but still unsatisfied with the politics of the time. The fact that Batista had taken over the governmedt illegally made the people not like him. Everyone wanted him to give up the presidency. Instead, he became more greedy and oppressive.
Eventually, a man named Fidel Castro decided to cause trouble. He and his friends wanted to take over Cuba's government for themselves, and make it a Communist government. The figured that the first step was to attack a military fortress. They did the attack, and escaped from the army through the hospital, killing hospital workers and injuring patients. They escaped to nearby mountains, but were eventually captured and put in prison for three years. After the years, they went to Mexico and gathered a small army to defeat the Cuban government.
The army boated to Cuba, and, because of the fact that the current political turmoil incapacitated all government functions, Castro's gang won. They took control of Cuba's government, and made the island a Communist country.
At first, the new government looked good, but, after a few oppressive actions by it, the Cuban people knew that it was no good. Then, the Cubans began moving to other parts of the world, mainly Spain and Florida. Lines for visas at the American embassy spanned a quarter mile out the door, and waits in them probably took days. So, the people of Cuba are slowly draining out, although most of them stay on, enduring.
|having fun on the beach|
| Early History.
Originally, Cuba, being part of Central America and only ninety miles from Florida, was populated by native American people. Cuba, being a rich land of plants, animals, and fish, its people lived by hunting, fishing, and gathering fruits, along with growing corn. They had one very interesting method of catching fishies. A particular fish, called a guaican, has places on its body that other fishes like to cling onto. Once the various fishes had latched onto the guaican, the fisherman reeled them in.
But life was not just about eating and swimming and having fun. Two different groups of people lived on the island, the Tainos and the Siboneyes. Eventually, the Tainos made the Siboneyes their slaves. Also, a rival group from a neighboring island made occasinal attacks on Cuba.
Eventually, the Europeans got to Cuba. The first European to find the island was Portugal's Christopher Columbus, who thought it was the coast of Asia. Later, another European explorer, from Spain, was ordered to sail along the coasts of "Asia". When he had gone all the way around "Asia", he realised that this was not the land of gold and silk after all, but an island. No European knew that there was a very big thing, a thing called America, between them and the coast of Asia.
The Spaniards eventually took over Cuba, and fought the natives, or "Indians" as they were called by the Europeans that had thought that Cuba was Asia. The Spaniards had horses and better weapons, so the natives were eventually enslaved by them. They were made to do forced labor such as getting gold out of rivers and laboring on farms. They eventually died out almost completely from overwork and European diseases, so, because of lack of a sufficient free labor force, the Spaniards brought in Africans to work for them.
The colonists built big cities, such as Havana (now the capital of Cuba), but had a lot of trouble around the ports, which were essential, being both the mouth and the anus of the island. This was because of various sea-raiders, such as buccaneers, pirates, corsairs, and filibusters. Buccaneers landed on an island and stole things from the locals. Pirates looted ports and ships. Corsairs acted like pirates, but did so in the name of a European country. Filibusters took the loot for trade, usually for a major trade company.
In the late seventeenth century, Spain, England, and Holland were allies, but, in the early eighteenth century, they were fighting again. England briefly took over Havana, already Cuba's capital. The people of Havana liked the English rule, because they were allowed to trade with countries besides Spain. But the Spanish regained the city after only a few months of English rule. They held Cuba under their control from then till the Americans took over.
The Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962
The Cuban Missile Crisis was a threat of nuclear war from the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union made this threat by placing nuclear missiles aimed at the U.S. in Cuba, which is only 90 miles from the U.S.'s tropical southeastern extremity, Florida.
It started in April, when Premier Nikita Krushchev of the Soviet Union decided to place nuclear missiles aimed at Florida in Cuba. Fidel Castro, the ruler of Cuba, accepted this because he was worried that the U.S. would attack Cuba. When the Soviet Union had missiles pointing at the U.S., the U.S. was unlikely to attack Cuba.
On October 19, the U.S. found out that there were Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba. President Kennedy of the U.S. was informed of this, and the U.S. government got all worked up, and for good reason. This was the closest the world had ever come to nuclear war. At any minute, Florida could blow up.
The U.S. and the Soviet Union bargained with each other, and an agreement was finally made. It was that, as long as the U.S. would promise not to attack Cuba, the missiles would be removed. This was agreed upon by both sides, but some more bargaining followed. By October 29, the crisis was all over. Agreements had been made, but it had been a close call. 1962's Cuban Missile Crisis was the closest the world has ever come to nuclear war.
Although the majority of Cubans were originally Catholic (after Europeans arrived), Communism has highly suppressed religion in Cuba, so the island is now considered to have no main religion. Probably about twenty-five to thirty per cent of Cubans are currently Catholic. Another twenty per cent or so are protestant Christian.
There are other religions besides these two forms of Christianity, as well. Most prominent are the African spirit-worship religions brought to Cuba by African slaves in the 1700's. The people of these religions have their own religious festivals which feature African music.
Another large percentage of Cubans do not say that the believe any religion at all.