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Information on Cuba
 
 
Cuban Identity:
According to historians, there have been various definitions given to the name of Cuba. However, the Cuban people do not pay much attention to the origin of the name of the country. The Cuban people are proud of their nation, born out of the multiracial background, African, European, Asian and criollo in a cultural synchronism that has ended up as the Cuban identity. Among them, sprouted from a mixture of centuries; funny character of its people, smile and the pleasure of its fast conversation of the island’s Spanish full of its own slang.

The Cuban people are cheerful and musical, proud of its traditions and customs. Its imprint is sealed in its talent and heroic deed. Cubans are friendly, enthusiastic, generous, abnegated, open, witty, artful; passionate of what is theirs, disinterested, with deep love for life. Its inhabitants have a high level of education and have access to a national system of free education throughout the country.

Political and Administrative Division

The Republic of Cuba is made up of 14 provinces, 169 municipalities and the Special Municipality of the Isle of Youth. From west to east the provinces are: Pinar del Rio, Havana, City of Havana, Matanzas, Cienfuegos, Villa Clara, Sancti Spiritus, Ciego de Avila, Camaguey, Las Tunas, Holguin, Granma, Santiago de Cuba and Guantanamo.

Demography:
The Cuban population is 11, 241, 291 million, according to the last census carried out in 2002. The urban population is 75.9 percent. The cities with over one million inhabitants are the City of Havana, Santiago de Cuba and Holguin, making the capital the largest in population with 2, 201, 610 people.

Language:
Spanish is the official language in the country, although with its particular characteristics, that differ with the rest of the Spanish speaking nations. There many exclusive words and idioms. There are no dialects or second language in Cuba. However each region has different phonetics and expressions.

Culture:
Cuban culture is the result of a transcultural process that has been underway for centuries, as a result of the mixture which created the Cuban nationality with a universal dimension. The country is rich of artistic manifestations confirming the ethnicity of the island. Different religious believes converge in each of the components.

Cuba is the owner of a vast culture which has contributed nationally and internationally with important figures in practically all of the cultural manifestations. Different genres like literature, music, dance and art have left their imprint in the world. Different publications and institutions have for years promoted the cultural estate of the nation and its creators.

In a tour through its cities, a visitor can witness the architectural values of century old buildings and old villas and cities, many of them declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. The fortifications of the Spanish military engineering of the colonial period can be seen in many of the country’s cities. Across the island, there is a constant environment of cultural, social and historic traditions but above all the hospitality of the Cuban people.

The island is currently the site of important internationally recognized cultural events like the International Ballet Festival, Theater Festival, Art Biennial, International Book Fair, Popular Music Festivals like Bolero and Danzon, Cuba Disco, International Film Festival of the New Latin American Cinema and Caribbean Festival among others. There are also various traditional popular fiestas, among them the famous carnivals of the eastern city of Santiago de Cuba, the Romerías de Mayo, Charangas de Bejucal and the Parrandas de Remedios.

Religion:
Cuba currently coexists with a number of religious beliefs. The religious activity is practiced freely and there is freedom of creed.

Catholicism has lasted for centuries until our times, expanding itself throughout the island. Due to the slave deal during the colonial stage different religious manifestations was introduced to Cuba, according to the different nations that arrived from Africa. Derived from the Yoruba culture the so called Regla Ocha was born, popularly known as Santería that has as the center of its beliefs the combination of orishas (deities) with different myths and attributes. There are also Afro-Cuban beliefs among them the Abakuá Secret Society.

Protestantism was introduced in the country a bit late, due to the obstruction of the colonists that were protecting the Catholic Church. Protestants began to multiply across the island during the first 50 years of the republic and today the number of believers of the Protestant Church has increased. There are Pentecostal, Methodist, Presbyterian, among others.

There are also Jews which belong to the Cuban Hebrew Community.

Health:
The Cuban people have a primary health care system working throughout the island, considered unique in Latin America. The health services are free for all Cubans. The island has an extensive network of health centers among them, policlinics, hospitals and family doctors offices in addition to specialized institutions.

Cuba is among the 6 countries in the world that produces interferon. Its anti meningitis vaccines type B and C and anti hepatitis type B are internationally recognized.

There is an important network of scientific and research centers that contribute to the development of the health sector in Cuba.

Education:
In 1961, Cuba carried out a literacy campaign throughout the island. The Cuban education system is free of charge for everyone and constitutionally obligatory until 12th grade. In the island’s provinces there are different education centers at all levels: primary, secondary, polytechnic, pre-university, university and specialized education for the physically challenged. It also includes, other technical and professional education that make up the teachers, art instructors, physical education and sports, vocational schools and art professionals among others. Plus others of international character like the Latin American and Caribbean Pedagogical Institute, the Latin American School of Medicine among others.

Sports:
Cuba is a sports power in the world. Some of the best disciplines are baseball (national sport), boxing and among the top in volleyball. Important renowned figures have contributed in all disciplines.

Cubans also stand out in other sporting events like track and field, fencing, judo, Greco and free style wrestling, chess and weight lifting. The island is the site of important national and international sporting events each year.

Currency:
The official currency is the Cuban peso, whose import and export is prohibited. In addition to the Cuban peso, the convertible peso (CUC) circulates on the island and has a major value and is considered a hard currency with the same force inside Cuba as the USD did in November 2004, whose circulation since then has been prohibited.

We suggest visitors bring along with them any other hard currency than the USD because once you make the exchange at the Exchange Offices or Banks you will be deducted 10%. It is better to use EURO.

The currency exchange can be carried out in any bank network, in hotels and in exchange offices, called CADECA. You can find an exchange office at the airport where you can change your money for CUC. Before departing the island you must change the remaining CUC to hard currency of your choice.

There are also the ATM machines where you can obtain CUC through magnetic, credit or debit cards, such as MASTERCARD, VISAS as long as they are expedited by European banks or others that are not American.

The value of the CUC compared with the Cuban peso and the rest of the international currency is officially established by the Cuban National Bank. Its exchange rate oscillates according to the values of the hard currency like the USD, EURO, the GBP internationally among others.

With enough stability the exchange rate between the CUC and the USD from 2005 has been maintained in the following values: 1 CUC: 1.08 USD, but if you would directly change USD for CUC, in addition to the official exchange rate, the US dollar would include a tax of 10 %, meaning that 1 CUC would be approximately 1.20 USD. On its part, for 1 EUR you receive approximately between 1.11 and 1.16 CUC.

The CUC bills exist in the following denominations: 1, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100. There are also coins of 1, 5, 10, 25 and 50 cents as well as a coin of 1 convertible peso.

We do not recommend changing hard currency into national peso, ONLY in CUC (convertible peso).

Communications and Transportation:
There is a network of telephone services that allows direct communication with any part of the world and inside the national territory. To call direct to Cuba do the following:

- Dial the prefix to exit the country of origin.
- Dial Cuba’s country code:
- Dial the number of the province.
- Then dial the phone number.

You can also find cell phones in Cuba. To call abroad on a cell phone dial the exit number, country code and cell number which always begins with 5 followed by 7 digits.

The cell service does not cover the whole country, but the majority of the regions on the island. The generalized system is CECOM. Although at this moment you can use all of the international frequencies, the strongest is 900 MZ.

In Cuba like any other country, a visitor can rent a cell phone at the airport or any ETECSA office in different parts of the city.

There are also telephone cards to make local, inter provincial and international calls.

In Cuba a visitor can rent cars, bikes, motorcycles or use a bus. The country has 17 airports, in addition to a network of highways and roads (some 50 000 km, of which some 14 000 km are highways and cemented roads), that connects small towns with tourism regions. There are charter flights and aerotaxi services you can rent.

There is also a broad network of taxis in all of the City of Havana and other main cities. The taxis are equipped with meters that will tell you how much you should pay in CUC.

Viazul is the bus company that has a national service. Its routes communicate to many cities with acclimatized and comfortable buses. You can consult and learn about the itineraries and prices at the Viazul offices in the city of Havana.

 
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