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PHYSICAL GEOGRAPHY

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Cuba's geographic coordinates can be found at 21 30 N, 80 00 W. It's political borders consume both land and water mass. 109,820 square kilometers are given to Cuba's land area and 1,040 square kilometers are water which totals to a final area of 110,860 square kilometers. It's coastline spans for 3,735 kilometers making it the largest country in the Caribbean Sea. It's terrain contains some mountains and rugged hills in the southeast end of the country but for the majority mostly flat to rolling plains are present. Droughts are quite common in Cuba but approximately every second year from August to November the country faces hurricanes on the east coast.

DEMOGRAPHICS

In July 2009, Cuba was recorded to have a population of 11,451,652 people. A 2002 census showed the percentage of the white population is 65.1%, mulatto and mestizo 24.8%, black 10.1%. As far as religion Cuba's citizens are 85% Roman Catholic before Castro's assumption of power. Spanish is recognized as the dominant language of the Cuban people. 77.1% of the Cuban people in 2009 live in urban areas. Cuba's major cities are Havana; which is the capital city, Santiago de Cuba, Camaguey, Holguin City, Varadero, Trinidad, and Matanaz.

POLITICS
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Fidel (Left) and Raul (Right) Castro

The political practices of Cuba are very controversial and often criticized by human rights activists. One critic of Cuba with an extensive history with the nation is the United States, whom continues to urge Cuba to move towards a democratic system of government. The United States has tried to encourage Cuba to take their recommendation by placing trade restrictions, such as the Cuban Democracy Act in 1992 and in 2004 further restrictions by President George W. Bush. Since then President Obama has taken a new approach towards Cuba and has worked to reduce some restrictions, such as allowing United States telecommunications networks to link the U.S. and Cuba and reduce travel restrictions.

“The Obama administration says there is both a moral and strategic argument in favor of lifting the restrictions. Morally, families will able to visit and help one another, strategically . . . family members in the U.S. will be good messengers of change and hope."

Since 1959, when Fidel Castro became Prime Minister and then later president, Cuba has been run by the same government, the Communist Party of Cuba. On February 19, 2008 Fidel stepped down and his brother, Raul Castro, has taken leadership.

There are other political parties in the nation. However, the Communist Party of Cuba controls who is allowed to compete for seats and the only party approved is the Communist Party of Cuba affiliates. These other political parties include:

  • Liberal Party of Cuba
  • Christian Democratic Party of Cuba
  • Democratic Social-Revolutionary Party of Cuba
  • Democratic Solidarity Party
  • Social Democratic Co-ordination of Cuba

DEVELOPMENTAL ISSUES

HEALTH:

The health sector has been of great interest to Fidel Castro. He had a history of investing in biotechnology and advancing the health sector. Currently Cuba is one of the top nations for cancer research and treatment. The investments are also bringing in capital through foreign exchange. The people of Cuba have access to these resources through a socialist health care system that is run by the Communist Government of Cuba. There are some problems with their health care system because of the difficulty in obtaining medical supplies. This has given rise to a black market where patients will give doctors bribes for medical services.

EDUCATION:

The Education system in Cuba is socialized. It is provided by and paid for by the state. There are laws that make education compulsory ages six to fifteen and uniforms to worn at school. Since the Castro revolution the education standard has risen. There are now 13.6 students per single teacher and a literacy rate of 99.8%, higher then many first world nations.

GENDER:

Cuba has worked hard to eliminate gender discrimination. In 1970 Cuba was the first country to sign and second to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. At the workforce women account for two thirds of all professionals and technicians. Cuban women are also well represented in politics where female representatives in congress are the most in the western hemisphere, with 37%. Women do more household tasks then men but this is thought to be largely part due to history. The government has worked towards giving equal rights in the household. Laws are put in place to allow women to take maternity leave when they are six months pregnant. An additional year, with pay, is allowed to be taken off by the either the mother or the father to take care of the child.

ECONOMY


Cuba has two different economies running separately yet interconnected. First is a socialist economy that most Cubans use. It provides universal education, health care, and employment, unemployment compensation, disability and retirement benefits, and the necessities of life (food, housing, etc.) at a low cost. Second is a free market economy that mostly uses the US dollar, sustaining the first. It is used in the tourist, international, and exports sectors. Since the loss of Soviet backing after the Cold War, the economy has been rebuilding itself with the help of Canadian, European, and Latin American investments (mostly through tourism). Past affiliations and actions have made Cuba unable to receive financial aid from large institutions (ex.World Bank), so the country relies on short-term loans to finance the imports sector (mainly imports food and fuel). Though the government controls all significant means of production, they carefully allow private agencies and employers, but impose high taxes. Many private business owners (restaurants, small shops) go into the black market because they don’t earn enough annually to pay the taxes. The government is inefficient in providing services and goods, so a huge black market has been created. Selling items from work or offering side services is common, and large companies figure 15% in losses into their production plans to cover this. Over 40% of the economy is estimated to run through the black market, and the government realizes trying to shut this down would be impossible, so instead try to shut down or minimize small and large private companies.

Re-opened in 1993, tourism is one of the main sources for revenue, bringing in nearly 2 billion dollars/year, mostly coming from Canadians and Europeans. Because tourists usually pay in US dollars, they are usually favored over citizens for food, hospital services, and consumer goods. Sugar exporting is the other main source for incoming revenue. Remittances (transfers of money from foreign workers to their home country) bring in 800 million to 1 billion dollars/year, mostly coming from immigrated families in the US. Recently the US imposed restrictions, allowing money to be sent to immediate family only. Wanting this money, the government set up “dollar shops” selling basic necessities. The US dollar was legalized for Cubans in 1993, developing it into an important currency, entering through remittances and tourism. The standard of living between people with access to the dollar and those without it has widened since legalizing the US dollar. Jobs with dollar salaries or the chance of tipping in US dollars have become very popular, making them scarce.

STATISTICS:

- GDP: $55.43 billion, GDP/Capita Income: $9,700, Annual Salary: $17/month
- Poverty Rate: N/A%
- Primary Industry: mining (common metals, natural gas/oil), agriculture (sugar, tobacco, coffee, fruits/vegetables, rice/potatoes, beans), logging
- Secondary Industry: sugar/food processing, oil refining, electrical power, consumer/industrial and pharmaceutical/biotech products
- Tertiary Industry: tourism, sugar exports (most notable)
- Exchange Rate: 0.93 CUC to $1 US (two official currencies in circulation: the Convertible Peso (CUC) and the Cuban Peso, but the US dollar is also used)

ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES

images.jpegDeforestation, preservation of native wildlife, and the pollution of Havana Bay are three main issues facing Cuba since 2000. Much of the forests are being harvested for the lumber industry, but until recently the trees were not being replanted and by the mid 1990’s resulting in the forests occupying only 17% of their original size. In 2000, the government finally implemented a reforestation program. The second issue is trying to preserve the wildlife that is native to Cuba. Many animals and plant-life have slowly decreased in numbers, some of which have already gone extinct. Because Cuba is so isolated, everything has to be shipped in. This has resulted in spills and dumpling while bringing Cubans necessities they need. The government has formed agencies in an effort to protect the environment, including the National Commission of Environmental Protection and Rational Use of Natural Resources (1977), the National Environmental Education Program, and the National Parks Service.

RURAL AND URBAN SECTORS

The collapse of the Soviet Union at the end of the 1980s forced Cuba into its “Special Period” wherein the people suffered as the economy did. The abolition of existing trade agreements and the seemingly malevolent market (that saw an increase in oil prices and a decrease in sugar) allowed the United States to take advantage of the dwindling country. The Torricelli bill of 1992 hindered the island by restricting trade with Cuba in medicine and medical supplies, discontinuing approximately 90% of Cuban trade with U.S. subsidiaries at the time; by prohibiting any ships engaged in trade to enter U.S. docks within six months of visiting Cuba; by authorizing the president to deny aid to the country; and by placing monetary restrictions for travelers to Cuba. Without the means to purchase, fuel shortages began resulting in drastic decreases in living standards, with the closing down of many factories and industrial plants, the collapse of their transportation system, power shortages up to ten hours a day, and the need to start rationing as many were unable to find sustenance, let alone purchase it.
As of late, Cuba has found its production in agricultural products such as sugar, tobacco, citrus, coffee, potatoes and beans and greater industries in petroleum, construction, nickel, steel, cement, agricultural machinery and pharmaceuticals. Tourism has become popular, as the government spends millions to preserve historical sites and to bring about new tourist attractions and accommodations, bringing in close to 2 billion dollars each year.

CULTURE AND UNIQUE FEATURES

Cuban music has a long history and it is the result of the mixture of countless styles and genres with African and Spanish influence. Some of the many Cuban musicians include Gloria Estefan, Dámaso Pérez Prado - El Rey del Mambo (The Mambo King); Celia Cruz - La Reina de la Salsa (The Salsa Queen); José “Joseito” Fernández - writer of “Guajira Guantanamera,” one of the most popular Cuban songs. Son is a style of popular dance music that originated in the Oriente province of Cuba. It is the foundation of modern salsa. Some of the derivations of son and other folkloric Cuban music styles are Guajira, Bolero, Cha-Cha, Conga, Zapateo, Danzón, Cuban Jazz, Mozambique, Pachanga, Pilón, Rumba, Changüí, Mambo, and more.

Cuban cuisine is the result of a mixture of African and Spanish culinary traditions; with some Chinese elements added to it in the 19th century. The national dish is called Ajiaco. It is a thick soup made with meat, mainly pork, and different kinds of vegetables and tubers.
The taste will depend on the vegetables and seasoning used, varying by season and location. Other typical Cuban dishes include: Lechon asado en pala – pork broiled on a stick over an open fire; Moros y cristianos - rice and black beans; Picadillo a la habanera - Havana mincemeat.

Cuban tobacco is grown and harvested in several regions of the country. Farming of the delicate tobacco plant requires experience and technique.
Vistas, true ancient works of Cuban art, are the leaves packed with the cigars for protection once the box is opened. Cigars have rings or bands, lithographic labels of a specific trade name, which represents their quality seal. In the city of Pinar del Río, every year there is a celebration honouring the cigar’s importance in the economic, social, and cultural development of the country.

The Guayabera, a typical Cuban garment, is a vest used by farmers and is said to bring wisdom if used on important dates. But now it has also become a fashion garment and every Cuban has one in his or her wardrobe and it has been developed in several styles.

There are few places in the world with as many paradisiacal beaches and cayos (cays) as Cuba and as beautiful as the ones in this amazing Caribbean Island. Tourism of these areas is the main source of revenue in the Cuban economy. Some of these places include Varadero Beach, Cayo Coco and Cayo Guillermo, Cayo Santa Maria, Guardalayaca Beach, and Santa Lucia Beach.

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Cayo Coco Beach

SOURCES

http://go.hrw.com/atlas/norm_map/cuba.gif (physical geog -image)
https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/cu.html (physical geog)
http://en.mercopress.com/2008/02/19/fidel-castro-resigns-as-president-of-cuba-gramma-published (politics)
http://blogs.abcnews.com/politicalpunch/2009/04/president-ob-14.html(politics)
http://edition.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/10/25/bush.cuba/ (politics)

http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/review/review_summer_02/txt677cuba.html (developmental issues)
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/4583668.stm(developmental issues)

http://cubasocialista.com/ed3.htm (developmental Issues)
http://aida.developmentgateway.org/aida/CountryView.do~iso3=CUB (developmental Issues)
http://nylatinojournal.com/home/politics/americas/in_cuba_women_confront_gender_roles.html (developmental Issues)
http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/cuba/economy.htm (economy)
http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/2886.htm (economy)
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/country_profiles/1203299.stm (economy)
https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/cu.html
(economy)
http://www.newint.org/issue301/slim.htm (sectors)
http://www.historyofcuba.com/history/havana/lperez2.htm
(sectors)
http://santiago.freedomlab.org/wp-content/uploads/2008/03/map-of-cuba.jpg (image)
http://www.umich.edu/~ac213/student_projects07/baseball/cuba-flag.gif (image)
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http://www.nationsencyclopedia.com/Americas/Cuba-ENVIRONMENT.html (environment)
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http://www.cuba.com (culture and unique features)

http://www.bestbeachesincuba.co.uk/ (culture and unique features)
http://www.mamborama.com/cuba_music.html (culture and unique features)