With the loosening of economic restrictions on Cuba and the recent visit by President Obama, a thaw in relations between Cuba and the United States appears to be going swimmingly.
As restrictions are eased, inevitably tourism by Americans may resume. It is, of course, difficult to untangle politics from the last half-century of the United States’ relationship with Cuba, but there are many facts about the island nation that you may not know!
Cuba is host to many flora and fauna, and has been known for centuries for its incredible fertility. The word “Cuba” actually comes from an indigenous language, and it means “abundant fertile land.” Cuba has no indigenous species, either plant or animal that are poisonous to humans. There are also a great number of oddities, including the Bee Hummingbird, which is one of the smallest birds on the planet at less than 2 inches in length!
There are other ecological rarities as well, including the Manjuarí, a fish that has prehistoric roots!
The country also has a unique species of crocodile, named unsurprisingly the Cuban Crocodile, that is endangered and also can leap out of the water, making it an animal that we’re both extremely terrified of, and kind of sympathetic to at the same time.
The island has also been called in Spanish El Caimán or El Crocodrilo because of its alleged resemblance to a crocodile.
Food and Drink
Cuba is known for its food, drink, and of course its cigars. Regarding Cuban food, typically recipes are passed down through oral traditions and experience; rarely are they written down.
A popular drink in Cuba and most of Latin America is the Cuba Libre, which is rum, coke, and a lime wedge.
Amusingly enough, the drink is not called this in the country, but is rather called, the “mentirita” or “little lie.” Additionally, Coca Cola is banned from sale on the island.
Regarding rum, after 1960, Bacardi was chased off the island and its factory and assets were seized in Santiago. Today, the rum manufacturer runs its operations out of Puerto Rico.
Of course, when people think about Cuba, cigars come to mind. The island makes millions of the product, and celebrates it as part of its heritage.
Fun fact about the embargo, in 1961, right before signing the order, President Kennedy bought over 1,200 Cuban cigars.
With the gradual thawing of relations with the country, Americans, if they are allowed to visit, are allowed to bring back up to $100 worth of cigars.
While newer cars have been allowed on the island in recent years, the majority of the cars that are legally owned are from before 1959, which means that the streets of Havana are teeming with a slew of old American classic cars.
Until 2008, Cubans were not allowed to own cell phones or buy their own computers, and today only a small number have access to the uncensored internet, however, things have been changing.
While things on the island have steadily been improving, Cuba does still have many issues that will need to be sorted out in the next few years, and while a resumption of relations with the United States may be beneficial, only time will tell what will come of it. The politics and history of the country make Cuba both an interesting destination and also a complicated one, and the state of affairs is emotionally charged for many, both in the country and in exile. Anyone planning a trip to the country, should it become possible, should bear this in mind.