Cuba boasts an abundant and fascinating history, from classic cars to legendary revolutionaries. Uncover more about this fascinating nation with these interesting facts about Cuba!
Cuba is home to one of the tiniest birds on earth: Zunzuncito (bee hummingbird). Ernest Hemingway spent 20 years living and writing in Cuba – two of his classic novels The Old Man and the Sea and For Whom the Bell Tolls are set there.
1. It’s the most literate country in the world
Many associate Fidel Castro with totalitarianism and refusal of free speech. Yet his supporters laud his progressive approach to social care as one reason Cuba boasts impressive health and education systems.
Castro’s revolution relied heavily on literacy campaigns as one of its centerpieces to transform Cuba. Volunteer teachers from urban universities were recruited into what became known as Castro’s “army”, working with people living in rural areas where literacy rates could drop as low as 23 percent. They encouraged rural schools to increase literacy rates through this campaign.
Cuba owes much of its literacy success to this program, which was implemented through UNESCO ratings as one of its five priorities for literacy promotion worldwide – the United States currently sits 22nd.
Participants of the literacy campaign saw it as more than simply an effort to boost literacy rates; they gained insight into their host country while developing more insight into education career options available there. It even inspired women who defied gender norms to serve as volunteer teachers against their families’ wishes!
As a result of the campaign, Bolivia now boasts the highest proportion of female teachers among Latin American countries – an amazing feat which demonstrates how individual commitment can make a significant impact.
2. It’s home to the world’s smallest bird
Cuba is an incredible place for wildlife watching, boasting some of the tiniest bird species on earth. Home to world’s smallest hummingbird (Bee Hummingbird) and one of its tiniest owls – Cuban Pygmy Owl. Not to be outdone, Cuba is also home to 27 bat species (3 of which are endemic) as well as 142 reptiles and 45 amphibians that boast many unique traits that are hard to come by anywhere else in nature.
Cuba boasts several wildlife hotspots, such as the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Sierra Maestra and Barocoa’s Wetlands, both designated World Heritage sites by UNESCO. Over 100 plant species are found there – many endemic to Cuba itself – with various endangered animals such as Antillean Manatees and Critically Endangered Hawksbill Turtles also present.
Cuba is home to one of the most unique birds on Earth: the Bee Hummingbird, an exquisite creature which weighs less than two grams and measures two and a quarter inches long. It makes an unforgettable sight.
Bee Hummingbirds feed on various flowering plants and are an integral pollinator in their region. What makes Bee Hummingbirds even more intriguing is their ability to alter the hue of their head and throat feathers with colors to attract mates.
Bee hummingbirds can be found throughout Cuba, with high concentrations in eastern mountains and swamps. Though easy to spot from above, this bird often hides within vegetation in flat lowland areas where it hides among low trees; its presence can also be witnessed among the mogotes that characterize much of central and western Cuba.
3. It’s home to some of the best fishing in the world
Cuba is a place of breathtaking flats that stretch far into the horizon, where tailing bonefish cruise shallow tidal estuaries, permit happily tip and twirl in foamy currents and rolling tarpon cast shadows across bluewater. A country rich in lush jungles, emerald beaches and charming colonial villages – Cuba boasts nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites that make its vibrant people even more welcoming than its spectacular landscapes.
Cuba offers anglers some of the world’s finest fishing opportunities. Anglers flock here in search of permit, bonefish and tarpon; all incredibly difficult fish to catch yet known for hard fighting sportfish fights that make Cuba one of the best fishing spots worldwide.
If you have ever seen Extreme Fishing with Robson Green on television, then you know he loves fishing Cuba. In fact, an entire episode was dedicated to this beautiful island and you can watch Robson face some difficult tarpon as well as catch some prize Bonefish and Permit in Cuba.
With American travel restrictions gradually relaxing, now is an opportune time to visit Cuba and see for yourself what the hype is all about. Just avoid hurricane season (June to November). Prepare yourself for an adventure of a lifetime by getting a Cuban visa stamped into your passport; happier fish = happier fly fishermen.
4. It’s home to some of the oldest cars in the world
After Cuba’s Revolution in 1959, the US imposed a trade embargo that prevented Cubans from accessing new cars, leaving many older models on the road that now serve as living museums of their time. Even without access to modern car parts these vehicles still function and showcase Cuba’s mechanical ingenuity.
As Cuba has recently started importing more modern cars from China, South Korea and Japan – most often used by diplomats and government officials – you might see more modern European or Asian cars on its streets. However, keep an eye out as these may also appear!
At the height of American car era in Havana during the 1950s, many Cubans owned American-made Cadillac, Chevrolet and Ford models as status symbols and could purchase them through high-end establishments in Havana.
Due to US embargo imposed in 1962, Cubans could no longer purchase cars or spare parts from America, leading them to use components from various other nations; an example would be an engine from Russia fitted into a 1952 Chevy.
Preserving old cars through using foreign parts that can be found more affordably has given rise to an entire new generation of mechanics in Cuba who specialize in adapting foreign parts into classic vehicles and retrofitting them with modification techniques that would never be seen back home. It’s commonplace now to see them working away on engines or exhaust systems fixing things that would normally go overlooked back home.
5. It’s home to some of the best dominoes in the world
Dominoes is Cuba’s favorite pastime and can be found being played all across the island nation. From parks to porches to streets, groups of people gather in parks or porches or streets to participate. Dominoes is enjoyed by people of all genders, races and ages throughout Cuba – so much so that the International Federation of Dominoes hosted its inaugural World Championship event there in 2003!
Most Cuban domino players use a double-nine set of 55 domino tiles to play partnership domino (Domino de Parejas). Each player teams with another person and plays one tile each round; when starting out the highest double dealt makes the initial play while subsequent rounds depend on how they were drawn; it is common for teams to engage in several simultaneous games while in some cases best-of-three structures may be applied if there are too many people wanting to play at once.
“Monja” is a traditional individual domino game using 28 tiles that is played exclusively in Oriente, the eastern portion of the island known for its sugar cane fields and being the starting point of its struggle for independence. The name derives from phonetic pronunciation of five in Spanish which becomes “cinco,” and also alludes to how domino players consider seven unlucky like it does in Western culture.
Though some may perceive domino as just another game, most Cubans view it with greater significance and view it more than just as a way to kill time. Domino brings people together, fosters friendships and can even provide aid during times of crisis – as Bruno Hourin, from Arroyo Naranjo puts it: “Domino is more than just a game: It is also an art form and holds eternal historical value”.