Images spéciales
Carte de Cuba
Drapeau de Cuba
Fidel Castro, ancien Président de Cuba
Rencontre américo-cubaine entre Barack Obama et Raul Castro

General presentation

Map of CubaCuba or the Republic of Cuba, a former Spanish colony, has been a socialist republic since 1959. It defines itself as a socialist republic. The Communist Party of Cuba, created in 1965, is the "leading force". Cuba is located in the northern part of the Caribbean archipelago near the Bahamas and the United States (Florida) to the north, the Turks and Caicos Islands and Haiti to the east and Jamaica and the Cayman Islands to the south.

The total area of the island is 110,860 square kilometers (42,803 sq. mi.) and the population of 11,312,587 inhabitants in 2022. The population lives mainly in the cities, especially in Havana, the island's capital.

The official language is Spanish.

To this day, the origin of the name Cuba remains disputed. According to some sources, the origin is Taino, a people who lived on the island before the arrival of the Europeans. There is also uncertainty about the word in the Taino language from which the name Cuba was taken. Could it be "cubao" which means "where the fertile land is abundant" or "coabana" which means "big land" or last choice "cubanacán" which means "central place".

There are two currencies on the island: the Cuban peso and the Cuban convertible peso. The GDP per capita in 2020 was 9,477.9 USD.

Flag of CubaThe president of Cuba is Miguel Diaz-Canel. The country is divided into 15 provinces: Holguín, Santiago de Cuba, Villa Clara, Granma, Pinar del Rio, Matanzas, Guantanamo, Las Tunas, Sancti Spíritus, Ciego de Avilla, Camagüey, Cienfuegos and Havana.

Cuba has several other islands: Cayo Ensenacho, Cayo Guilermo, Cayo Largo, Cayo Romano, Cayo Santa Maria and Cayo Coco. It also has more than 1,600 islets!

The country is mostly flat with the Sierra Maestra as a summit which culminates at the Turquino peak at 1,974 meters.


Cuba is believed to have been inhabited since the 4th millennium BC. The first inhabitants would be the indigenous Guanajatabeys who would have inhabited the island for centuries before seeing the arrival of several waves of immigrants such as the Tainos and the Ciboneys. They would come from other Caribbean islands. The Tainos and Ciboneys are part of the Arawak group.

When they arrived, they settled in the eastern tip of the island before expanding to the west. They eat corn, sweet potatoes and make bread with cassava and harvest yuca roots for this purpose.

They also harvest cotton and tobacco. It is estimated that 350,000 people lived on the island when the Spaniards arrived.

Christopher Columbus approached the island on October 27, 1492 at the eastern tip of the island, but it was in 1494 during his second voyage that he set foot on land, stopping at several islets, notably the one that became Guantanamo Bay.

The island was not immediately conquered by the Spaniards, who initially settled in Hispaniola in the east of Cuba. The colonization of Cuba began in 1511 when Diego Velazquez de Cuéllar left Hispaniola to found the first Spanish colony in Cuba. The Tainos living on the island were fiercely opposed to the colonists. Huatey, the chief of the Tainos, and several tribal leaders were captured after a long war and were burned alive.

After a 3-year war, the Spaniards are the only owners of the island. In 1514, the Spaniards will settle in what became Havana.

Numerous massacres take place and the Tainos who survive flee in the mountains and the surrounding islands. The last survivors are captured and forced to live in reserves. One of them is the reserve of Guanabacoa which is today a suburb of Havana.

The Spaniards organized the colonization of the island and, faced with the lack of manpower, they turned to Africa to bring in slaves to work on the plantations.

It should be noted that despite the very tense relations between the Tainos and the Spaniards, the former showed the latter how to make tobacco and consume it in the form of cigars.

Tobacco and sugar were the first crops established on the island. Nevertheless, the cultivation of sugar cane was difficult on the island due to the very strict commercial laws in Spain and the restrictions on access to the slave trade. Cuba had to reserve the exclusivity of its sugar for Spain and could not negotiate with other European powers.

The sugar trade progressed after the Haitian revolution when French colonists fled the island of Hispaniola and settled in Cuba with their slaves and their expertise in sugar refining and coffee growing.

It was not until the 19th century, however, that Cuba became one of the most important sugar producers after priority was given to improving sugar production technologies. The producers had no choice either. After the British had abolished the transatlantic slave trade, they put pressure on the Spanish to ban it in their colonies as well.

In 1817, the slave trade was banned in the Spanish colonies from 1820 in exchange for a check from London. This encouraged Cuban planters to bring in as many slaves as possible before the ban. Thus, between 1816 and 1820, more than 100,000 new slaves were captured and enslaved on the island. Despite the ban, the smuggling trade continued on a large scale. Slavery was abolished in 1886, one of the last abolitions in the Americas.

Before this abolition, Cuba had become the ideal place to become a sugar producer, an industry that was booming. Spain had opened Cuban commercial ports to all European powers and thus became a popular place.

The new technology made it possible to produce sugar more efficiently and with better quality than in other Caribbean islands. They used water mills, closed ovens and steam engines.

The means of transportation were also improved to facilitate the transport of sugar from the plantation to the ports and maximize revenues. Railroads were quickly built.

Throughout this period, Cuba, like the other Caribbean islands, was of course the object of covetousness on the part of the other European powers, which saw its vast territory as a major asset for the establishment of plantations. Thus, pirates, buccaneers and also French privateers will frequently attack the island.

The port of Havana was attacked in 1628 by the Dutch; in 1662, an English pirate and his crew captured and briefly occupied Santiago de Cuba, the eastern part of the island.

In 1741, the British Royal Navy attacked and captured the island of Guantanamo Bay, but despite the 4,000 members of the British troops, they were forced to capitulate by Spanish troops who forced them to abandon the conquest of the island and flee to Jamaica.

This was only a postponement for the British, who tried again without success in 1748 and 1762.

In 1762, the 4,000 members of the expedition succeeded in their coup in Havana and the Spaniards capitulated. The British occupation will strengthen Havana's connections and trade with North America.

One year after its capture, Cuba was returned to the Spaniards in the Treaty of Paris in exchange for Florida, which then became a British colony. Florida will return to Spain in 1781 after a Spanish expedition with the presence of Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Dominicans and Cuban troops.

Thus, it exported in turn tobacco, coffee and then sugar cane, which provided Cuba with a major part of its resources. In order to exploit sugar cane, the colonists resorted to the use of slaves from Africa from 1513 onwards. In 1620, Cuba produced 550 tons of sugar cane.

In 1763, there were 32,000 slaves. Sugar, without being negligible, was far from French colonies such as Saint-Domingue and English colonies such as Jamaica. In addition, Cuba was still a small colony. In the summer of 1762, the capital was conquered by the English who were to possess the island for 9 months. However, this short passage marked the history of the island, which saw the commercial restrictions with the English colonies being abolished.

At the end of the Treaty of Paris in 1763, Cuba was returned to the Spaniards and Florida was given to the British. More than a century later, in 1886, slavery which had greatly enriched the local Creole aristocracy was abolished.

The other major change would be the various struggles for independence, notably with the Ten Years' War that began in 1868. The United States intervened in the Cuban War of Independence, which had claimed 200,000 lives since 1895, or one-eighth of the population, and occupied the island from 1898 to 1902 and again from 1905 to 1909. They continued to interfere until 1934.

Fidel Castro, former President of CubaIn 1956, Fidel Castro, a revolutionary and opponent of the current power, took the head of the rebel army and overthrew the dictator Fulgencio Batista then in power. The Americans recognized Castro's power, but relations between the two countries quickly soured. Indeed, an attempt to land refugees trained by the CIA in April 1961 in the Bay of Pigs ended in failure. They accused the Cuban authorities of being responsible for the sinking of the ship and put in place an economic embargo on February 7, 1962. They also renounced invading the island. The USSR's missile affair in the context of the Cold War did not help matters.

Cuba was to suffer the longest economic embargo in history. Fidel Castro led the island until July 31, 2006 before handing over power to his brother Raul Castro Ruz. The latter put in place various actions (authorization of the American-Cubans to visit their islands and to transfer money) favouring an appeasement of the relations between Cuba and the United States.

U.S.-Cuban meeting between Barack Obama and Raul CastroFor their part, the United States decided to release three Cuban agents suspected of spying for the Cuban government arrested in Miami in September 1998, the American and Cuban Presidents, Barack Obama and Raul Castro met in April 2015 and the embassies of both states were reopened in July 2015.

Despite all these diplomatic advances, the embargo is still largely maintained in Cuba and only a vote by the U.S. Congress could change this.

2018 was marked by the handover of power between Raul Castro and Miguel Díaz-Canel. For the first time in over half a century, the head of state was no longer a member of the Castro family.


Despite the decades-long U.S. embargo, Cuba has been able to significantly improve the well-being of its people. Indeed, the inhabitants have one of the best education and health systems in the world. Moreover, their research in the field of medicine has been recognized by international bodies and rewarded with Nobel Prizes in medicine.

In recent months, relations with the United States have improved, embassies have been reopened and a normalization of international relations is underway. The island, which has one of the most important tourist sectors, welcomed several million North American tourists in 2016.

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