The first inhabitants migrated in 3500BC and came from South America, later Arawak Indians also populated the island. After Columbus discovered in 1492, the Spanish crown conquered the island for centuries to come. Thousands of Indians died in wars with the Spanish people and due to imported European diseases. The number of indigenous people sank to about 5,000. African slave laborers were brought to Cuba, they had to work on animal farms and in the production of leather goods. In the 18th century British troops occupied the island. Spain lost the predominance over Cuba in the war against the USA in 1898. At the beginning of the 19th century Cuba finally gained its independence. The first President of the Republic of Cuba was Tomás Estrada Palma. In 1940 Fulgencio Batista became president, the dictator got the complete independence of Cuba from the USA. The revolutionary leader Fidel Castro took over the position of prime minister in 1959. In 2008, President Fidel Castro relinquished his position to his brother Raúl Castro.
The mixture of native, African and European influences in Cuba gives this island a lively culture that is known worldwide! The introduction of communism to the country in 1959 has had a big impact on the people – both positive and negative. Cuba’s history is reflected in its food, language, art, and, most of all, its music. All year round, it seems as if bands are everywhere in Havana. The main musical form is called son, which combines lively rhythms with classical guitar. Unlike most countries in Latin America, Cuba’s favourite sport is not football – it’s actually baseball! Baseball came to Cuba from the United States in the 1860s. Many international baseball stars have come from Cuba, and the Cuban national team is one of the best in the world.
Havana Cigar Festival - Havana hosts this event annually during February. The festival lasts five days, with activities including: tours of cigar factories, a trade fair, various seminars focusing on production, distribution and history of Havanos cigars, cigar tastings, an instruction class on how to roll a Habano, and visits to tobacco plantations.
Havana Carnival - A mixture of social classes parading down the streets of Havana dressed in elaborate masks and costumes.
International Ballet Festival - enjoy the performances and the works of prestigious figures of the world of dance and witness the high level reached by the Cuban ballet, occurs once every two years.
International Film Festival - festival that focuses on the promotion of Latin American filmmakers
January 1st is the Día de la Liberación and therefore a holiday celebration. May 1st is the Día de los trabajadores (Labor Day). July 25th, 26th, and 27th is the Día de la Rebeldá Nacional (anniversary of the revolution) and widely celebrated. October 10th marks the Inicio de la Guerras por la Independencia (the beginning of the War for Independence).
Cuban cuisine is mostly a combination of African, Spanish and Caribbean dishes. Most dishes will be comprised of beans and rice. Local vegetables like yucca, corn, potatoes and tomatoes are often combined with squash, chicken, cabbage or pork. Seafood is often quite expensive and available in most local restaurants or hotel restaurants.