Friday, July 30, 2021

17 things about Cuba you may not know

Cuba is an island nation located in the Caribbean area. Despite of its humility size, Cuba has a characteristic culture and will impress anyone who visits it. 17 things following here will unveil something that maybe you are still unknown.

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Cuba is on everybody's lips lately. The country has seen huge tourism booms since the improvement of US-Cuba relations and relaxed travel laws. If it's on your wishlist, here are a few things that might surprise you about this beguiling country.

It has a huge population

Cuba is the most populated country in the Caribbean, with more than 11 million residents.

One country, two currencies

That’s right, Cuba has not one but two currencies. The Cuban peso (CUP) and the Cuban convertible peso (CUC) are both legal tender on the island, with the latter worth 25 times as much as the CUP. While most Cubans are paid in CUP, nearly all goods are priced in CUC.

The island has a nickname

Cuba is often referred to as El Caiman or El Cocodrilo (Spanish for alligator) on account of its shape when seen from above.

It's the home of rum

Bacardi, the spirit maker of rum, Dewar’s Scotch and Grey Vodka, was actually founded in Cuba. However, the brand moved its operations to Puerto Rico after Fidel Castro came to power.

Hemingway found his inspiration there

Ernest Hemingway wrote For Whom The Bell Tolls and The Old Man and the Sea while he lived in Cuba. He often stayed at the Hotel Ambos Mundos in La Habana (pictured).

There was no Christmas in Cuba

Christmas did not become an official holiday in Cuba until 1997. This was introduced by former leader Fidel Castro as a gesture of goodwill in honour of Pope John Paul II’s visit.

Cuba breeds doctors

There are so many doctors in Cuba they’re often sent to other countries that have a shortage. The country has 90,000 of them to serve its population of 11 million. That's eight for every 1,000 citizens – which according to the World Bank is more than double the rate in the US (2.5) and the UK (2.7).

There's top notch healthcare

In Cuba healthcare is free and seen as a fundamental human right, guaranteed by the state. Despite spending a fraction of what the United States spends on healthcare (the World Bank reports Cuba spends $431 per head per year compared with $8,553 in the US) Cuba has a lower infant mortality rate than the US and a similar life expectancy.

Hitchhiking is easy and legal

Forget buses, lots of Cubans engage in the nationalised hitchhiking system which came about in the 1990s. At the time buses were scarce and it was illegal to buy cars, so the government made it mandatory for government vehicles to pick up hitchhikers.

There are lots of cool vintage cars

One of Cuba’s most distinctive anachronisms has always been streets full of classic cars like Chevrolets, Buicks and Fords. Why? Because up until 2014 it was forbidden to purchase cars manufactured abroad.

Monopoly has been banned

It’s said that when Fidel Castro seized power in Cuba, he immediately ordered all sets of the game Monopoly to be destroyed.

They burn dolls at New Year

On New Year’s Eve, it’s tradition for Cubans to burn dolls in order to symbolise forgetting bad times and looking forward to new and good times during the New Year.

It's all about ballet and baseball

Two of the nation’s biggest passions are baseball and ballet. The latter is funded by the government, which pays for ballet training and subsidies tickets to performances.

Some soft drinks are banned

Cuba is one of two countries where the sale of Coca-Cola is prohibited. Although it was one of the first countries outside the US to receive its own bottling plant in 1906, when the Castro government began seizing private companies in the 1960s Coke made a swift exit, with not a drop being served in the country since.

Unusual etiquette

Blowing your nose in public in Cuba is considered extremely rude.

Cubans aren't having enough kids

The country has one of the lowest birth rates in the Western Hemisphere. Falling dramatically since the 1970s, in 2013 only 9.51 babies per 1,000 Cubans were born.

Taking pictures can be illegal

While reports vary on whether it’s actually illegal or not, taking photos of anything associated with the police or military is certainly frowned upon and could result in you losing your camera.

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