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Posted by bender 03/10/2009 @ 20:12

Tags : cuba, caribbean, americas, world

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US earns Mexico's thanks over swine flu response - The Associated Press
It rebuked Cuba, Ecuador, Argentina and Peru for banning flights to Mexico, saying they were acting "incongruously with our traditional ties of friendship." France tried — and failed — to win a European Union-wide ban on flights to Mexico....
Detainee Released to Join Relatives in France - Washington Post
By Peter Finn and Julie Tate A Guantanamo Bay detainee who lent his name to a landmark Supreme Court case was released from custody today and flown out of the military base in Cuba to join relatives in France, according to government and diplomatic...
Despite embargo, Cuba imports daiquiris from US - The Associated Press
Not exactly humanitarian aid, but still among the items sold to Cuba under an agricultural waiver carved out of the decades-old US trade embargo. American businesses are raking in more than $700 million a year selling these and other products to the...
Pre-Castro Cuba comes back to life at annual fest -
BY DANIEL CHANG There is no turning back the clock on Cuba, but for those who grew up on the island -- and those who grew up hearing stories about it -- there are always memories. Cuba Nostalgia, a festival of Cuban culture concentrating on the...
Eye-opener: Are the Nuggets for real? - USA Today
In Denver today, they're invoking some of the city's oldest basketball names -- guys like Doug Moe and Dan Issel -- and saying hey, maybe we really are a basketball town. The Nuggets are headed to the Western Conference finals for the first time since...
US eager for Cuba's return to diplomatic fold: official - AFP
WASHINGTON (AFP) — Washington eagerly awaits Cuba's return to the inter-American diplomatic system, a top US official told a gathering at the Organization of American States Wednesday. "We look forward to the day when every country in the hemisphere,...
Cuba confirms its 1st swine flu case - USA Today
HAVANA (AP) — Cuba says a Mexican student who came to the island to study is its first confirmed case of swine flu. Cuba's Health Ministry said in statement read Monday on state television that a group of students from several Mexican states began...
Stern Said He Asked Cuban for an Apology - New York Times
By AP Stern spoke on Thursday before Game 6 between the Houston Rockets and the Los Angeles Lakers, touching on a variety of subjects but spending considerable time on Cuban's recent behavior. After the Mavericks' home loss to Denver on Saturday,...
Barbados Embassy for Cuba -
HAVANA, Cuba, May 15, 2009 - Barbados' Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Maxine McClean has announced plans to open an embassy in Cuba by September 1st this year. Speaking during a reception hosted by the Cuban/Caribbean...
Las Vegas-based Allegiant sets sights on – no kidding – Cuba - Las Vegas Sun
Although Cuba is less than 100 miles from US soil, few Americans have spent any time there because of travel restrictions imposed by the US Over the years, policies have changed dramatically depending on the shifting relationship this country has had...


Coat of arms of Cuba

The Republic of Cuba (IPA: /ˈkjuːbə/, Spanish: Cuba (help·info) or República de Cuba (help·info) Spanish pronunciation: ) is a country in the Caribbean. It consists of the island of Cuba (the largest and second-most populous island of the Greater Antilles), the island of Isla de la Juventud, and several adjacent small islands.

Havana is the largest city in Cuba and is the country's capital. Santiago de Cuba and Camagüey are also major Cuban cities. Better known smaller towns include: Baracoa (which was the first Spanish settlement on Cuba), Trinidad (a UNESCO world heritage site), and Bayamo.

Cuba is home to over 11 million people and is the most populous insular nation in the Caribbean. Its people, culture, and customs draw from diverse sources such as: the aboriginal Taíno and Ciboney peoples; the period of Spanish colonialism; the introduction of African slaves; and its proximity to the United States.

The name "Cuba" comes from the Taíno language and though the exact meaning is unclear, it may be translated either as "where fertile land is abundant" (cubao), or as "great place" (coabana).

The national flower is the "flor de mariposa" (Butterfly Flower) and the national bird is the Tocororo or Cuban Trogon.

Cuba is located in the northern Caribbean at the confluence of the Caribbean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. Cuba is south of the eastern United States and The Bahamas, west of the Turks and Caicos Islands and Haiti, east of Mexico and north of the Cayman Islands and Jamaica.

Cuba's main island, at 766 miles (1,233 km) long, is the world's 17th largest.

Cuba is an archipelago of islands located in the Caribbean Sea, with the geographic coordinates 21°3N, 80°00W. Cuba is the principal island, which is surrounded by four main groups of islands. These are the Colorados, the Sabana-Camagüey, the Jardines de la Reina and the Canarreos. The main island of Cuba constitutes most of the nation's land area or 105,006 km² (40,543 sq mi) and is the seventeenth-largest island in the world by land area. The second largest island in Cuba is the Isla de la Juventud (Isle of Youth) in the southwest, with an area of 3,056 km² (1,180 sq mi). Cuba has a total land area of 110,860 km² (42,803 sq mi).

The main island consists mostly of flat to rolling plains. At the southeastern end is the Sierra Maestra, a range of steep mountains whose highest point is the Pico Real del Turquino at 1,975 meters (6,480 ft).

The local climate is tropical, though moderated by trade winds. In general (with local variations), there is a drier season from November to April, and a rainier season from May to October. The average temperature is 21 °C in January and 27 °C in July.

The warm temperatures of the Caribbean Sea and the fact that the island of Cuba sits across the access to the Gulf of Mexico combine to make Cuba prone to frequent hurricanes. These are most common in September and October.

The most important Cuban mineral economic resource is nickel. Cuba has the second largest nickel reserves in the world after Russia. Sherritt International, a Canadian energy company, operates a large nickel mining facility in Moa. Another leading mineral resource is cobalt, a byproduct of nickel mining operations. Cuba is the fifth largest producer of refined cobalt in the world.

Recent oil exploration has revealed that the North Cuba Basin could produce approximately 4.6 billion barrels (730,000,000 m3) to 9.3 billion barrels (1.48×109 m3) of oil. In 2006, Cuba started to test-drill these locations for possible exploitation.

Fourteen provinces and one special municipality (the Isla de la Juventud) compose Cuba. These were formerly part of six larger historical provinces: Pinar del Río, Habana, Matanzas, Las Villas, Camagüey and Oriente. The present subdivisions closely resemble those of Spanish military provinces during the Cuban Wars of Independence, when the most troublesome areas were subdivided.

The provinces are further divided into 170 municipalities.

According to Cuba's Oficina Nacional de Estadisticas (ONE) 2002 Census, the Cuban population was 11,177,743, including 5,597,233 men and 5,580,510 women. The racial make-up was 7,271,926 whites, 1,126,894 blacks and 2,778,923 mulattoes (or mestizos).

The population of Cuba has very complex origins and intermarriage between diverse groups is general. Immigration and emigration have had noticeable effects on the demographic profile of Cuba during the 20th century. Between 1900 and 1930 close to a million Spaniards arrived from Spain; many of these and their descendants left after the Castro government took power.

The ancestry of White Cubans (65.05%) comes primarily from the ethnically diverse Spanish nations. During the 18th, 19th and early part of the 20th century large waves of Canarian, Catalan, Andalusian, Galician and other Spanish people emigrated to Cuba.

Other European people that have contributed include: French, Portuguese, Italians, Russians, British and Greeks.

The Chinese population in Cuba numbers 40,000, mostly descended from indentured laborers who arrived in the 19th century to build railroads and work in mines.

34,000 Indo-Pakistanis who also worked building railroads live in Cuba.

Of the thousands of Jewish immigrants who arrived before, during and after World War II, more than 90% have left Cuba.

Due in part to Cuba's Communist history 22,000 Russians live in Cuba.

Cuba also shelters a population of non-Cubans of unknown size. There is a population of several thousand North African teen and pre-teen refugees.

The Cuban government controls the movement of people into Havana on the grounds that the Havana metropolitan area (home to nearly 20% of the country's population) is overstretched in terms of land use, water, electricity, transportation, and other elements of the urban infrastructure. There is a population of internal migrants to Havana nicknamed "Palestinos" (Palestinians) who mostly hail from the eastern region of Oriente.

Cuba's birth rate (9.88 births per thousand population in 2006) is one of the lowest in the Western Hemisphere. Its overall population has increased continuously from around 7 million in 1961 to over 11 million now, but the rate of increase has stopped in the last few decades, and started falling in 2006, with a fertility rate of 1.43 children per woman. This drop in fertility is among the largest in the Western Hemisphere. Cuba has unrestricted access to legal abortion and an abortion rate of 58.6 per 1000 pregnancies in 1996 compared to a Caribbean average of 35, a Latin American average of 27, and a European average of 48. Contraceptive use is estimated at 79% (in the upper third of countries in the Western Hemisphere). With its high abortion rate, low birth rate, and aging population, Cuba's demographic profile more resembles those of former Communist Eastern European countries such as Poland or Ukraine rather than those of its Latin American and Caribbean neighbors. It is currently the only Latin American country with a shrinking population, and it and Puerto Rico are the only entities in Latin America with sub-replacement fertility.

Emigration from Cuba (sometimes referred to as 'the Cuban exodus') in the last half century has led more than two million Cubans of all social classes to the United States, and to Spain, Mexico, Canada, Sweden, and other countries.

Since 1959 many Cubans have emigrated to Miami, Florida, where a vocal, well-educated and economically successful exile community exists (see Cuban-American lobby).

The exodus that occurred immediately after the Cuban Revolution was primarily of the upper and middle classes that were predominantly white. This contributed to a demographic shift back in Cuba. The Exodus of 1980 demonstrated problems deriving from the lack of personal freedom and chronic economic austerity. Seeking to normalize migration between the two countries, particularly after the chaos that accompanied the Mariel boatlift, Cuba and the United States in 1994 agreed, in what is commonly called the 1994 Clinton-Castro accords, to limit emigration to the United States. The United States grants a specific number of visas to those wishing to emigrate; 20,000 have been granted since 1994. Cubans picked up at sea trying to emigrate without a visa are returned to Cuba while those that make it to U.S. soil are allowed to seek asylum. The U.S. Attorney General has discretion to grant permanent residence to Cuban natives or citizens seeking adjustment of status if they have been present in the United States for at least one year after admission or parole and are admissible as immigrants; In 2005 an additional 7,610 Cuban emigrants from Cuba entered the United States by September 30. Citizens of Cuba must obtain an exit permit before they may leave the country legally. Human Rights Watch has criticized the Cuban restrictions on emigration and its alleged keeping of children as "hostages" in order to prevent defection by Cubans traveling abroad. Over the years, thousands of Cubans ("balseros") have attempted to escape across the Florida Strait to reach the United States with many succeeding (over a hundred thousand in the Mariel Boatlift alone). It has been estimated that between 30,000 to 40,000 Cubans may have perished attempting to flee the island. This has led to a safer route through Mexico where organized traffickers ferry asylum seekers for a price.

The Cuban government strips almost all property from most of those leaving the island. Many prominent Cubans, including artists, professionals, sports stars, etc. traveling abroad, have chosen to defect and seek asylum in other countries.

Before the Castro regime, Cuba's wages were among the world's highest. Per capita income was about equal to Italy, and significantly higher than that of Japan. Despite massive Soviet subsidies for decades, incomes fell dramatically behind European countries. After losing subsidies, malnutrition resulted in an outbreak of diseases. Shortages and queues are rife. Wages, set by the Communist Party instead of market, range from 17 US dollars a month to doctor's 30 US dollars a month, on top of a few handouts such as a single bar of soap a month, some rice and "ground beef" that is more than 50 per cent soy. Pensions are perhaps the lowest in Western hemisphere - only a few dollars a month.

The Cuban Government adheres to socialist principles in organizing its largely state-controlled planned economy. Most of the means of production are owned and run by the government and most of the labor force is employed by the state. Recent years have seen a trend towards more private sector employment. By the year 2006, public sector employment was 78% and private sector 22%, compared to 91.8% to 8.2% in 1981. Capital investment is restricted and requires approval by the government. The Cuban government sets most prices and rations goods. Moreover, any firm wishing to hire a Cuban must pay the Cuban government, which in turn will pay the company's employee in Cuban pesos.

While the government of Cuba is theoretically opposed to class privilege, preferential treatment exists for those who are members of the Communist Party or who hold positions of power within the government. Access to transportation, work, housing, university education and better health care are a function of status within the government or the Communist Party.

From the late 1980s, Soviet subsidies for Cuba's state-run economy started to dry up. Before the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba depended on Moscow for sheltered markets for its exports and substantial aid. The Soviet Union had been paying above-market prices for Cuban sugar, while providing Cuba with petroleum at below-market prices. At one point, Cuba received subsidies amounting to six billion dollars. The removal of these subsidies sent the Cuban economy into a rapid depression known in Cuba as the Special Period. In 1992 the United States tightened the trade embargo. Some believe that this may have contributed to a drop in Cuban living standards which approached crisis point within a year.

Like some other Communist and post-Communist states following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba took limited free market-oriented measures to alleviate severe shortages of food, consumer goods, and services to make up for the ending of Soviet subsidies. These steps included allowing some self-employment in certain retail and light manufacturing sectors, the legalization of the use of the U.S. dollar in business, and the encouragement of tourism. In 1996 tourism surpassed the sugar industry as the largest source of hard currency for Cuba. Cuba has tripled its market share of Caribbean tourism in the last decade; as a result of significant investment in tourism infrastructure, this growth rate is predicted to continue. 1.9 million tourists visited Cuba in 2003, predominantly from Canada and the European Union, generating revenue of $2.1 billion. The rapid growth of tourism during the Special Period had widespread social and economic repercussions in Cuba. This has led to speculation of the emergence of a two-tier economy and the fostering of a state of tourist apartheid on the island. Infrastructure is in disarray. Water is available only half of the day and it's often contaminated. Electricity outages are common.

The Cuban government has significantly developed its medical tourism capabilities as a key means to generate income. For many years, Cuba has operated a special division of hospitals that treat foreigners and diplomats exclusively. Every year, thousands of European, Latin American, Canadian and American consumers visit for medical care at up to 80 percent less than U.S. costs. There are some who criticize Cuba's medical tourism industry because ordinary Cubans do not have access to the kind of quality healthcare that medical tourists receive.

Since 1959 Cuba has experienced slow growth in its Gross Domestic Product relative to other countries that were in a similar situation in the 1950s, stagnant trade. and amassed a significant debt amounting to some 16.62 billion in convertible currency and 15 to 20 billion dollars with Russia. Cuban citizens themselves have experienced a decrease in their caloric intake and a shortage of housing. Cuba has developed a unique urban farm system (the organopónicos) to compensate for the end of food imports from the Soviet Union.

For some time, Cuba has been experiencing a housing shortage because of the state's failure to keep pace with increasing demand. Moreover, the government instituted food rationing policies in 1962, which were exacerbated following the collapse of the Soviet Union and, according to supporters of the government, the tightening of the US embargo. Studies have shown that, as late as 2001, the average Cuban's standard of living was lower than before the downturn of the post-Soviet period. Paramount issues have been state salaries failing to meet personal needs under the state rationing system chronically plagued with shortages. As the variety and quantity of available rationed goods declined, Cubans increasingly turned to the black market to obtain basic food, clothing, household, and health amenities. The informal sector is characterized by what many Cubans call sociolismo. In addition, petty corruption in state industries, such as the pilferage of state assets to sell on the black market, is still common. In recent years, since the rise of Venezuela's Socialist President Hugo Chávez, Venezuelan economic aid has enabled Cuba to improve economically. Venezuela's assistance to the Cuban economy comes chiefly through its supply of up to 80,000 barrels (13,000 m3) of oil per day in exchange for professional services and agricultural products. In recent years, Cuba has rolled back some of the market oriented measures undertaken in the 1990s. In 2004 Cuban officials publicly backed the Euro as a "global counter-balance to the U.S. dollar", and eliminated the US currency from circulation in its stores and businesses. Increased US government restrictions on travel by Cuban-Americans and on the numbers of dollars they could transport to Cuba strengthened Cuban government control over dollars circulating in the economy. In the last decade Cubans had received between US$600 million and US$1 billion annually, mostly from family members in the U.S. This number is influenced by the fact that U.S. government forbids its citizens to send more than $1,200 to Cuba to immediate family members, and then only once per year.

In 2005 Cuba had exports of $2.4 billion, ranking 114 of 226 world countries, and imports of $6.9 billion, ranking 87 of 226 countries. Its major export partners are the Netherlands 21.8%, Canada 21.6%, China 18.7%, Spain 5.9%. Major import partners are Venezuela 27%, China 15.8%, Spain 9.7%, Germany 6.5%, Canada 5.6%, Italy 4.4% and the US 4.4% (2006). Cuba's major exports are sugar, nickel, tobacco, fish, medical products, citrus, and coffee; imports include food, fuel, clothing, and machinery. Cuba presently holds debt in an amount estimated to be $13 billion, approximately 38% of GDP. According to the Heritage Foundation, Cuba is dependent on credit accounts that rotate from country to country. Cuba's prior 35% supply of the world's export market for sugar has declined to 10% due to a variety of factors, including a global sugar commodity price drop making Cuba less competitive on world markets. At one time, Cuba was the world's most important sugar producer and exporter. As a result of diversification, underinvestment and natural disasters, however, Cuba's sugar production has seen a drastic decline. In 2002 more than half of Cuba's sugar mills were shut down. Cuba's most recent sugar harvest of 1.1 million metric tons was its worst in nearly a century, comparable only to those of 1903 and 1904. Cuba holds 6.4% of the global market for nickel which constitutes about 25% of total Cuban exports. Recently, large reserves of oil have been found in the North Cuba Basin leading US Congress members Jeff Flake and Larry Craig to call for a repeal of the US embargo of Cuba.

Cuban music is very rich and is the most commonly known expression of culture. The "central form" of this music is Son, which has been the basis of many other musical styles like salsa, rumba and mambo and an upbeat derivation of the rumba, the cha-cha-cha. Rumba music originated in early Afro-Cuban culture. The Tres was also invented in Cuba, but other traditional Cuban instruments are of African and/or Taíno origin such as the maracas, güiro, marímba and various wooden drums including the mayohuacan. Popular Cuban music of all styles has been enjoyed and praised widely across the world. Cuban classical music, which includes music with strong African and European influences, and features symphonic works as well as music for soloists, has also received international acclaim thanks to composers like Ernesto Lecuona.

Havana, the Cuban capitol, was the heart of the rap scene in Cuba when it began in the 1990s. During that time, reggaetón was also growing in popularity. The formation of Cubanitos in 2002 by ex-members of pioneering “underground” rap group Primera Base was a pivotal moment in the emergence of reggaetón in the capital and a watershed in Cuban rap. In the wake of this successful bid for a higher commercial profile, most rappers have followed one of two paths: dancing with the enemy and embracing reggaetón, or resisting the new genre vociferously. The resisters deride reggaetón for being trite and mindless, for promoting pointless diversion and dancing over social commitment and reflection with its lack of meaningful lyrics. Rap, on the other hand, was seen as a way to lyrically express their opinions about things such as racism, sexism, peace, the environment, sexuality, poverty and social inequalities. Despite this controversy, reggaetón has become the dominant form of popular music among Cuban youth. The relationship between Cuban rap and reggaetón continues to be debated today.

In addition, Cuban reggaeton has in the mind of conventional musicians of Cuba, "sold out" on their established culture. Prior to reggaeton, Cuba had a long established professionalism in music towards the early and mid 90's. The release and popular acceptance of reggaeton has created many openings for those with little or no experience in music. Music in Cuba is not the same as it was before, and much of the new artists that are exposing their creations now utilize electronics, synthetic sounds and technology to create music that was otherwise unheard of. This, created much dissent among the professionalized music industry within Cuba.

Dance in Cuba has taken a major boost over the 1990s. Although lyrics may be censored, bodily movements and provocative dance can not be. Provocative dance allows inhabitants to free the mind and allows people of all social classes to rebel against the political and social injustices within the period. Although this has strayed from the conventional rap, bodily usage has become a commonly accepted form of rebellion among the young communities. Particularly "Perreo", an exotic and slightly different form grinding, has become one of the most accepted forms of dancing in clubs and music videos.

Cuban literature began to find its voice in the early 19th century. Dominant themes of independence and freedom were exemplified by José Martí, who led the Modernist movement in Cuban literature. Writers such as Nicolás Guillén and Jose Z. Tallet focused on literature as social protest. The poetry and novels of José Lezama Lima have also been influential. Writers such as Reinaldo Arenas, Guillermo Cabrera Infante, and more recently Daína Chaviano, Pedro Juan Gutiérrez, Zoé Valdés, and Leonardo Padura have earned international recognition in the postrevolutionary era, though many of these writers have felt compelled to continue their work in exile due to ideological control of media by the Cuban authorities.

Cuban cuisine is a fusion of Spanish and Caribbean cuisines. Cuban recipes share spices and techniques with Spanish cooking, with some Caribbean influence in spice and flavor. Now food rationing, which has been the norm in Cuba for the last four decades, restricts the common availability of these dishes. Traditional Cuban meal would not be served in courses; rather all food items would be served at the same time. The typical meal could consist of plantains, black beans and rice, ropa vieja (shredded beef), Cuban bread, pork with onions, and tropical fruits. Black beans and rice, referred to as Platillo Moros y Cristianos (or moros for short), and plantains are staples of the Cuban diet. Many of the meat dishes are cooked slowly with light sauces. Garlic, cumin, oregano and bay leaves are the dominant spices.

Haitian Creole is the second most spoken language in Cuba, where over 300,000 Haitian immigrants speak it. It is recognized as a language in Cuba and a considerable number of Cubans speak it fluently. Surprisingly enough, most of these speakers have never been to Haiti and do not possess Haitian ancestry, but merely learned it in the communities they lived in. In addition, there is a Haitian Creole radio station operating in Havana.

Cuba has many faiths representing the widely varying culture. Catholicism was brought to the island by the Spanish, and is the most dominant faith. After Fidel Castro took over, Cuba became atheistic and punished religious practice. Since the Fourth Cuban Communist Party Congress in 1991, restrictions have been eased and, according to the National Catholic Observer, direct challenges by state institutions to the right to religion have all but disappeared, though the church still faces restrictions of written and electronic communication, and can only accept donations from state-approved funding sources. The Roman Catholic Church is made up of the Cuban Catholic Bishops' Conference (COCC), led by Juan García Rodríguez, Archbishop of Camaguey. It has eleven dioceses, 56 orders of nuns and 24 orders of priests. In January 1998 Pope John Paul II paid a historic visit to the island, invited by the Cuban government and Catholic Church.

The religious landscape of Cuba is also strongly marked by syncretisms of various kinds. This diversity derives from West and Central Africans who were transported to Cuba, and in effect reinvented their African religions. They did so by combining them with elements of the Catholic belief system, with a result very similar to Brazilian Umbanda. Catholicism is often practised in tandem with Santería, a mixture of Catholicism and other, mainly African, faiths that include a number of cult religions. La Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre (the Virgin of Cobre) is the Catholic patroness of Cuban, and a symbol of the Cuban culture. In Santería, She has been syncretized with the goddess Ochún. The important religious festival La Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre is celebrated by Cubans annually on September 8. Other religions practised are Palo Monte, and Abakuá, which have large parts of their liturgy in African languages.

Protestantism, introduced from the United States in the 18th century, has seen a steady increase in popularity. Three hundred thousand Cubans belong to the island's 54 Protestant denominations. Pentecostalism has grown rapidly in recent years, and the Assemblies of God alone claims a membership of over 100,000 people. The Episcopal Church of Cuba claims 10,000 adherents. Cuba has small communities of Jews, Muslims and members of the Bahá'í Faith. Havana has just three active synagogues and no mosque. Most Jewish Cubans are descendants of Polish and Russian Ashkenazi Jews who fled pogroms at the beginning of the 20th century. There is, however, a sizeable number of Sephardic Jews in Cuba, who trace their origin to Turkey (primarily Istanbul and Thrace). Most of these Sephardic Jews live in the provinces, although they maintain a synagogue in Havana. In the 1960s almost 8,000 Jews left for Miami. In the 1990s approximately 400 Jewish Cubans relocated to Israel in a co-ordinated exodus using visas provided by nations sympathetic to their desire to move to Israel.

On October 12, 1492, Christopher Columbus claimed the island for Spain, and named it Isla Juana for Prince Juan. The island had been inhabited by Native American peoples known as the Taíno and Ciboney whose ancestors had come from South and possibly North and Central America at least several and perhaps 60 to 80 centuries before. The Taíno were farmers and the Ciboney were farmers and hunter-gatherers; some have suggested that copper trade was significant and mainland artifacts have been found.

In 1511 the first Spanish settlement was founded by Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar at Baracoa; other towns including the future capital of the island San Cristobal de la Habana (founded in 1515) soon followed.

The Spanish oppressed and enslaved the approximately 100,000 indigenous people that resisted conversion to Christianity and within a century they had all but disappeared. Most scholars now believe that infectious disease was the overwhelming cause of the population decline of the indigenous people.

Cuba was in Spanish possession for almost 400 years (circa 1511-1898). Its economy was based on plantation agriculture, mining and the export of sugar, coffee and tobacco to Europe and later to North America. As in other parts of the Spanish Empire, the small land-owning elite of Spanish-descended settlers held social and economic power, supported by a population of Spaniards born on the island (called Criollos by the Iberian born Spaniards), other Europeans and African-descended slaves.

In the 1820s, when the other parts of Spain's empire in Latin America rebelled and formed independent states, Cuba remained loyal, although there was some agitation for independence, leading the Spanish Crown to give it the motto "La Siempre Fidelisima Isla" (The Always Most Faithful Island). This loyalty was due partly to Cuban settlers' dependence on Spain for trade, protection from pirates, protection against a slave rebellion and partly because they feared the rising power of the United States more than they disliked Spanish rule.

Cuba's proximity to the U.S. has been a powerful influence on its history. Throughout the 19th century, Southern politicians in the U.S. plotted the island's annexation as a means of strengthening the pro-slavery forces in the U.S., and there was usually a party in Cuba which supported such a policy. In 1848 a pro-annexation rebellion was defeated and there were several attempts by annexation forces to invade the island from Florida. There were also regular proposals in the U.S. to buy Cuba from Spain.

Cuban independence from Spain was the motive for a rebellion in 1868 led by Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, a wealthy lawyer landowner from Oriente province who freed his slaves, proclaimed war and was named president of the Cuban Republic-in-arms. This resulted in a prolonged conflict known as the Ten Years' War between pro-independence forces and the Spanish army, allied with local supporters. There was much sympathy in the U.S. for the independence cause, but the U.S. declined to intervene militarily or to recognize the legitimacy of the Cuban government in arms, even though many European and Latin American nations had done so. In 1878 the Pact of Zanjón ended the conflict, with Spain promising greater autonomy to Cuba. After this conflict pro-independence agitation temporarily died down. In 1879-1880, Cuban patriot Calixto Garcia attempted to start another war, known as the Little War, but received little support.

Partly in response to U.S. pressure, slavery was abolished in 1886, although the African-descended minority remained socially and economically oppressed, despite formal civic equality granted in 1893. During this period rural poverty in Spain provoked by the Spanish Revolution of 1868 and its aftermath led to even greater Spanish emigration to Cuba. During the 1890s pro-independence agitation revived, fueled by resentment of the restrictions imposed on Cuban trade by Spain and hostility to Spain's increasingly oppressive and incompetent administration of Cuba. Few of Spain's promises for economic reform in the Pact of Zanjon were kept.

In April 1895 a new war was declared, led by the writer and poet José Martí who had organized the war over 10 years while in exile in the U.S. and proclaimed Cuba an independent republic — Martí was killed at Dos Rios shortly after landing in Cuba with the eastern expeditionary force. His death immortalized him and he has become Cuba's national hero. The 200,000 Spanish troops outnumbered a much smaller rebel army which relied mostly on guerilla and sabotage tactics. The Spaniards began a campaign of suppression. General Valeriano Weyler, military governor of Cuba, herded the rural population into what he called reconcentrados, described by international observers as "fortified towns." These are often considered the prototype for 20th century concentration camps. Between 200,000 and 400,000 Cuban civilians died from starvation and disease during this period in the camps. These numbers were verified by the Red Cross and U.S. Senator (and former Secretary of War) Redfield Proctor. U.S. and European protests against Spanish conduct on the island followed.

In 1897, fearing U.S. intervention, Spain moved to a more conciliatory policy, promising home rule with an elected legislature. The rebels rejected this offer and the war for independence continued.

The U.S. battleship Maine arrived uninvited in Havana on January 25, 1898 allegedly to offer protection to the 8,000 American residents in the island; the Spanish and their Cuban supporters saw this as intimidation. On February 15 the Maine exploded in Havana harbor, killing 266 men (including 81 foreigners). A naval court of inquiry on March 22, 1898, after examination of the ship, was "unable to obtain evidence fixing the responsibility for the destruction of the Maine upon any person or persons", the inference was widely drawn that if there was a submarine mine, the Spanish government had probably caused that mine to be laid. The facts are still disputed. Swept on a wave of nationalist sentiment, the U.S. Congress passed a resolution calling for intervention and President William McKinley was quick to comply.

As an outcome of the Spanish-American War, Spain ceded Cuba, along with Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and Guam to the U.S. under the 1898 Treaty of Paris.

Theodore Roosevelt, who had fought in the Spanish-American War and had some sympathies with the independence movement, succeeded McKinley as President of the United States in 1901 and abandoned the 20-year treaty proposal. Instead, the Republic of Cuba gained formal independence on May 20, 1902, with the independence leader Tomás Estrada Palma becoming the country's first president. Under the new Cuban constitution, however, the U.S. retained the right to intervene in Cuban affairs and to supervise its finances and foreign relations. Under the Platt Amendment, Cuba also agreed to lease to the U.S. the naval base at Guantánamo Bay.

In 1906, following disputed elections, an armed revolt led by Independence War Veterans defeated the meager government forces loyal to Estrada Palma and the U.S. exercised its right of intervention. The country was placed under U.S. occupation and a U.S. governor, Charles Edward Magoon, took charge for three years. Magoon's governorship in Cuba was viewed in a negative light by many Cuban historians for years thereafter, believing that much political corruption was introduced during Magoon's years as governor. In 1908 self-government was restored when José Miguel Gómez was elected President, but the U.S. retained its supervision of Cuban affairs.

In 1912 Partido Independiente de Color attempted to establish a separate black republic in Oriente Province. Perhaps because the group lacked sufficient weaponry, the main tactic was to set businesses and private residences on fire. The movement was a failure and General Monteagudo suppressed the rebels with considerable bloodshed. Historians differ on the interpretation of this circumstance.

Cuba shipped considerable quantities of sugar to Britain, avoiding U-boat attack, by the subterfuge of shipping sugar to Sweden. The Menocal government declared war on Germany very soon after the U.S. did, and as a result the Mexican government broke off relations with Cuba.

Machado's government had considerable local support despite its violent suppression of critics. However, it was during this period that Soviet intrusion into Cuban affairs began with the arrival in Cuba of Fabio Grobart.

Despite frequent outbreaks of disorder, constitutional government was maintained until 1930, when Gerardo Machado y Morales suspended the constitution. During Machado's tenure, a nationalistic economic program was pursued with several major national development projects undertaken (see Infrastructure of Cuba. Carretera Central and El Capitolio).

Machado's hold on power was weakened following a decline in demand for exported agricultural produce due to the Great Depression, and to attacks first by War of Independence veterans, and later by covert terrorist organizations, principally the ABC.

During a general strike in which the communist party took the side of Machado the senior elements of the Cuban army forced Machado into exile and installed Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, son of Cuba's founding father, as President. During September 4-5, 1933 a second coup (led by sergeants, most notably Fulgencio Batista) overthrew Céspedes, leading to the formation of the first Ramón Grau San Martín government. Notable bloody events in this violent period include the separate sieges of Hotel Nacional and Atares Castle (see Blas Hernandez). This government lasted 100 days but engineered radical socialistic changes in Cuban society and a rejection of the Platt amendment.

In 1934 Batista and the army, who were the real center of power in Cuba, replaced Grau with Carlos Mendieta y Montefur. In 1940 Batista decided to run for president himself. Because of a split with the leader of the opposition, Ramón Grau San Martín, Batista turned instead to the Communist Party of Cuba, which had grown in size and influence during the 1930s.

With the support of the communist-controlled labor unions, Batista was elected President and his administration carried out major social reforms. Several members of the Communist Party held office under his administration. Batista's administration formally took Cuba into World War II as a U.S. ally, declaring war on Japan on December 9, 1941, then on Germany and Italy on December 11, 1941. At the end of his term in 1944, in accordance with the constitution, Batista stepped down and Ramón Grau was elected to succeed him. Grau initiated increased government spending on health, education and housing. Grau's auténticos were bitter enemies of the Communists and Batista, which opposed most of Grau's programs.

Cuba was not greatly involved in combat during World War II; however it supplyed significant quantities of sugar and strategic manganese, and U.S. air bases were established; some Cuban freighters were sunk. During World War II the Nazis counterfeited vast sums of U.S. currency which was sent via the Dozenberg group to Cuba and other parts of Latin America.

Grau completed his presidential term, and in 1948 was succeeded by Carlos Prío Socarrás, who had been Grau's minister of labor and was particularly hated by the Communists. Corruption is generally believed to have increased under Prío's administration; however not all accusations of corruption were proven, and Eduardo Chibás, leader of the Ortodoxo party to which Fidel Castro belonged, committed suicide when his allegations were not substantiated. Corruption is partially attributed to the influx of gambling money into Havana, which became a safe haven for mafia operations. Prío carried out major reforms such as founding a National Bank and stabilizing the Cuban currency. The influx of investment fueled a boom which did much to raise living standards across the board and create a prosperous middle class in most urban areas, although the gap between rich and poor became wider and more obvious.

The 1952 election was a three-way race. Roberto Agramonte of the Ortodoxos party led in all the polls, followed by Dr Aurelio Hevia of the Auténtico party, and running a distant third was Batista, seeking a return to office. Both Agramonte and Hevia had decided to name Col. Ramon Barquin to head the Cuban armed forces after the elections. Barquin, then a diplomat in Washington, DC, was a top officer who commanded the respect of the professional army and had promised to eliminate corruption in the ranks. Batista feared that Barquin would oust him and his followers, and when it became apparent that Batista had little chance of winning, he staged a coup on March 10, 1952 and held power with the backing of a nationalist section of the army as a “provisional president” for the next two years. Justo Carrillo told Barquin in Washington in March 1952 that the inner circles knew that Batista had aimed the coup at him; they immediately began to conspire to oust Batista and restore democracy and civilian government in what was later dubbed La Conspiracion de los Puros de 1956 (Agrupacion Montecristi). In 1954 Batista agreed to elections. The Partido Auténtico put forward ex-President Grau as their candidate, but he withdrew amid allegations that Batista was rigging the elections in advance.

Fidel Castro directed a failed assault on the Moncada Barracks, in Santiago de Cuba, and on the smaller Carlos Manuel de Cespedes Barracks on July 26, 1953.

In April 1956 Batista had given the orders for Barquin to become General and chief of the army. But he decided to move forward with the coup to rescue the morale of the armed forces and the Cuban people. On April 4, 1956 a coup by hundreds of career officers led by Col. Barquin was frustrated by Rios Morejon. The coup broke the backbone of the Cuban armed forces. The officers were sentenced to the maximum terms allowed by Cuban Martial Law. Barquin was sentenced to solitary confinement for eight years. La Conspiración de los Puros resulted in the imprisonment of the commanders of the armed forces and the closing of the military academies. Without Barquin's officers the army's ability to combat the revolutionary insurgents was severely curtailed.

On December 2, 1956 a party of 82 revolutionaries, led by Castro, landed in a yacht named Granma with the intention of establishing an armed resistance movement in the Sierra Maestra. The yacht had come from Mexico, where Castro had been exiled and where his army was strengthened with the help of Ernesto Che Guevara, who became one of the most important people in the Cuban revolution and one of Castro's closest allies. Castro had gone to Mexico after serving two years of a 20-year prison sentence for his part in the 1953 attack on the Moncada Barracks. Castro received his pardon from Batista on the request of the Archbishop of Santiago, Monseñor Enrique Perez Serantes and Senator Rafael Diaz-Balart, at the time Fidel Castro's brother-in-law. After the landing, Batista launched a campaign of repression against the opposition, which only served to increase support for the insurgency. With Barquin's professional officers in La Prison Modelo de Isla de Pinos in the Gulf of Mexico, the army lacked the leadership and will to fight the insurgents.

Through 1957 and 1958 opposition to Batista grew, especially among the upper and middle classes and students, among the hierarchy of the Catholic Church and in many rural areas. In response to Batista's plea to purchase better arms from the U.S. to root out insurgents in the mountains, the United States government imposed an arms embargo on the Cuban government on March 14, 1958. By late 1958 the rebels had broken out of the Sierra Maestra and launched a general insurrection, joined by hundreds of students and others fleeing Batista's crackdown on dissent in the cities. When the rebels captured Santa Clara, East of Havana, Batista decided the struggle was futile and fled the country to exile in Portugal and later Spain. Batista named Gen. Eulogio Cantillo chief of the army and gave him instructions not to release Barquin and his officers. Nevertheless, Barquin, who had the backing of the U.S., was rescued from Isla de Pinos and assumed the post of chief of Staff (serving as chief of the armed forces and de facto President of Cuba for a short period) in an effort to establish order. He negotiated the symbolic change of command between Camilo Cienfuegos, Che Guevara, Raul Castro and his brother Fidel Castro, after the Supreme Court decided that the Revolution was the source of law and its representative should assume command. With fewer than 300 men, Camilo took over the post from Barquin who in Camp Colombia alone commanded 12,000 professional soldiers. Castro's rebel forces entered the capital on January 8, 1959. Shortly afterwards Dr Manuel Lleo Urrutia assumed power.

Fidel Castro became prime minister of Cuba in February 1959. In its first year, the new revolutionary government expropriated private property with little or no compensation, nationalised public utilities, tightened controls on the private sector and closed down the gambling industry. The government also evicted many US citizens, including mobsters (who, in collaboration with Batista, ran the gambling casinos in Havana) from the island. Some of these measures were undertaken by Fidel Castro's government in the name of the program outlined in the Manifesto of the Sierra Maestra, while in the Sierra Maestra. However, he failed to enact one element of his reform program, which was to call elections under the Electoral Code of 1943 within the first 18 months of his time in power and to restore all of the provisions of the Constitution of 1940 that had been suspended under Batista.

Castro flew to Washington, D.C. in April 1959, but was not met by President Eisenhower, who attended a golf tournament instead. Questions about the nature of the new government were raised by Summary executions of thousands of suspected Batista supporters and members of the opposition following show trials, the seizure of privately owned businesses and the rapid demise of the independent press.

The nationalization of private property and businesses, totaling about $25 billion U.S. dollars and, particularly, U.S.-owned companies (to an excess of 1960 value of US $1.0 billions) aroused hostility within the US Eisenhower administration. Anti-Castro Cubans began to leave their country in great numbers and formed a burgeoning expatriate community in Miami. The United States government became increasingly hostile towards the Castro-led government throughout 1959.

In 1961, John F. Kennedy became President of the United States. He supported the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, which led to closer ties between Cuba and the Soviet Union. One immediate strategic result of the Cuban-Soviet alliance was the decision to place Soviet medium-range and intermediate-range ballistic missiles in Cuba. This precipitated the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. The Kennedy administration, confronted with a next-door nuclear threat from the Soviet Union, denounced the missiles at the United Nations and demanded their immediate withdrawal. The idea to place missiles in Cuba was brought up either by Castro or Khrushchev, but agreed by the USSR for the reason that the U.S. had their nuclear missiles placed in Turkey and the Middle East. With minutes to go until the Soviet ships carrying a further shipment of missiles reached a United States Navy blockade (which was referred to as a "quarantine," as blockades are acts of war), the Soviets backed down, and made a agreement with Kennedy in which all missiles were to be withdrawn from Cuba and the U.S. would secretly remove its missiles from Turkey and elsewhere in the Middle East within a few months. Kennedy also agreed not to invade Cuba in the future.

In 1965 Castro merged his revolutionary organizations with the Communist Party, of which he became First Secretary, with Blas Roca as Second Secretary. Roca was succeeded by Raúl Castro, who, as Defense Minister and Fidel's closest confidant, became and has remained the second most powerful figure in the government. Raúl Castro's position was strengthened by the departure of Che Guevara to launch unsuccessful attempts at insurrectionary movements in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and then Bolivia, where he was killed in 1967. Osvaldo Dorticós Torrado, President of Cuba from 1959 to 1976, was a figurehead of little importance. Castro introduced a new constitution in 1976 under which he became President himself, while remaining chairman of the Council of Ministers.

Although Cuba's relations with the Soviet Union deteriorated considerably during the mid 1960s, relations between the two countries improved following the Cuban government's endorsement of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. As a result, the Soviet Union increased its aid to Cuba. Indeed, through the 1970s and 1980s, the Soviets were prepared to subsidise all this in exchange for the strategic asset of an ally under the nose of the United States and the undoubted propaganda value of Castro's considerable prestige in the developing world.

During the 1970s Castro moved onto the world stage as a leading spokesperson for Third World “anti-imperialist” governments. He provided invaluable military assistance to pro-Soviet forces in Angola (see Cuba in Angola), Ethiopia, Yemen and other African and Middle Eastern trouble spots. Although the bills for these expeditionary forces were paid by the Soviets, the significant size of the force placed a considerable strain on Cuba's fragile economy, which was adversely affected by the loss of manpower. Cuba's economic growth was also hampered by its dependence on sugar exports, which forced the Soviets to provide further economic assistance by buying the entire Cuban sugar crop, even though domestic producers in the Soviet Union grew enough sugar beet to supply domestic demand. In exchange the Soviets had to supply Cuba with all its fuel, since it could not import oil from any other source.

By the 1970s the ability of the U.S. to keep Cuba isolated was declining. Cuba had been expelled from the Organization of American States in 1962 and the OAS had cooperated with the U.S. trade boycott for the next decade, but in 1975 the OAS lifted all sanctions against Cuba and both Mexico and Canada broke ranks with the U.S. by developing closer relations with Cuba. Both countries said that they hoped to foster liberalization in Cuba by allowing trade, cultural and diplomatic contacts to resume — in this they were disappointed, since there was no appreciable easing of repression against domestic opposition. Castro did stop openly supporting insurrectionist movements against Latin American governments, although pro-Castro groups continued to fight the military dictatorships which then controlled most Latin American countries.

The Cuban exile community in the U.S. grew in size, wealth and power and politicized elements effectively opposed liberalization of U.S. policy towards Cuba, and have been accused of many terrorist acts, including the bombing of civilian Cubana flight 455 in 1976, resulting in the death of all 73 passengers. However, the efforts of the exiles to foment an anti-Castro movement inside Cuba, let alone a revolution there, met with limited success. On Sunday, April 6, 1980 ten thousand Cubans stormed the Peruvian embassy in Havana seeking political asylum. On Monday, April 7 the Cuban government granted permission for the emigration of Cubans seeking refuge in the Peruvian embassy. On April 16 500 Cuban citizens left the Peruvian Embassy for Costa Rica. On April 21 many of those Cubans started arriving in Miami via private boats and were halted by the US State Department on April 23. The boat lift continued, however, since Castro allowed anyone who desired to leave the country to do so through the port of Mariel and this emigration became known as the Mariel boatlift. The Cuban government took the opportunity to empty Cuban prisons of all serious offenders, place them on boats and dupe the US into accepting them. Many formerly incarcerated individuals established themselves in Miami, Florida, and help to account for the high crime rate in that area. In all, over 125,000 Cubans emigrated to the United States before the flow of vessels ended on June 15.

The fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 dealt Cuba a giant economic blow. It led to another unregulated exodus of asylum seekers to the United States in 1994, which eventually slowed to a few thousand a year thanks to U.S.-Cuban accords; it again increased in 2004-06 although at a far slower rate than before.

Castro's popularity, which is difficult to assess, was severely tested by the aftermath of the Soviet collapse (a time known in Cuba as the Special Period). The loss of the nearly five billion US Dollars which the Soviet government provided to the Cuban government in the form of a guaranteed export market for Cuban sugar and cheap oil, had a significant impact on the country's economy.

As in all Communist countries, the collapse of the Soviet Union caused a crisis in confidence for those who believed that the Soviet Union was successfully “building socialism” and providing a model that other countries should follow. However, this event, even combined with a tightening of the embargo by the US government, was insufficient to undermine Cuban Communist society. There were numerous popular uprisings in the early 1990s, the most notable of which was the "Maleconazo" of 1994. By the later 1990s the situation in the country had stabilized.

By then Cuba had more or less normal economic relations with most Latin American countries and had improved relations with the European Union, which began providing aid and loans to the island. China also emerged as a new source of aid and support. Cuba also found new allies in President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela and President Evo Morales of Bolivia, both major oil and gas exporters.

On July 31, 2006 Fidel Castro delegated his duties as President of the Council of State, President of the Council of Ministers, First Secretary of the Cuban Communist Party and the post of commander in chief of the armed forces to his brother and First Vice President, Raúl Castro. This transfer of duties was described as temporary while Fidel Castro recovered from surgery undergone after suffering from an "acute intestinal crisis with sustained bleeding". Castro was too ill to attend the nationwide commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Granma boat landing on December 2, 2006, which fueled speculation that Castro had stomach cancer, though Spanish doctor Dr. García Sabrido stated that his illness was a digestive problem and not terminal, after an examination of the subject on Christmas Day.

On January 31, 2007 footage of Castro meeting Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez was broadcast, in which, according to international media reports, Castro "appeared frail but stronger than three months ago". On February 19, 2008 Castro announced that he was resigning as President of Cuba. On February 24, 2008 Raúl Castro was elected as the new President. In his acceptance speech, Raúl Castro promised that some of the restrictions that limit Cubans' daily lives would be removed.

Following enactment of the Socialist Constitution of 1976, adopted without following procedures laid out in the Constitution of 1940, the Republic of Cuba was defined as a socialist republic. This constitution was replaced by the Socialist Constitution of 1992, the present constitution, which claimed to be guided by the ideas of José Martí, and the political ideas of Marx, Engels and Lenin. The constitution also ascribes to the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) the role of "leading force of society and of the state". The first secretary of the Communist Party, is concurrently President of the Council of State (President of Cuba) and President of the Council of Ministers (sometimes referred to as Prime Minister of Cuba). Members of both councils are elected by the National Assembly of People's Power. The President of Cuba, who is also elected by the Assembly, serves for five years and there is no limit to the number of terms of office.

The Supreme Court of Cuba serves as the nation's highest judicial branch of government. It is also the court of last resort for all appeals from convictions in provincial courts.

Cuba's national legislature, the National Assembly of People's Power (Asamblea Nacional de Poder Popular), is the supreme organ of power; 609 members serve five-year terms. The assembly meets twice a year, between sessions legislative power is held by the 31 member Council of Ministers. Candidates for the Assembly are approved by public referendum. All Cuban citizens over 16 who have not been found guilty of a criminal offense can vote. Article 131 of the Constitution states that voting shall be "through free, equal and secret vote". Article 136 states: "In order for deputies or delegates to be considered elected they must get more than half the number of valid votes cast in the electoral districts". Votes are cast by secret ballot and counted in public view. Individual vote totals, which are invariably high, are not verified by non-partisan, independent, or non-state organs and observers. Nominees are chosen at local gatherings from multiple candidates before gaining approval from election committees. In the subsequent election, there is one candidate for each seat, who must gain a majority to be elected.

No political party is permitted to nominate candidates or campaign on the island, though the Communist Party of Cuba has held five party congress meetings since 1975. In 1997 the party claimed 780,000 members, and representatives generally constitute at least half of the Councils of state and the National Assembly. The remaining positions are filled by candidates nominally without party affiliation. Other political parties campaign and raise finances internationally, while activity within Cuba by oppositional groups is minimal and illegal. While the Cuban constitution has language pertaining to freedom of speech, rights are limited by Article 62, which states that "None of the freedoms which are recognized for citizens can be exercised contrary to... the existence and objectives of the socialist state, or contrary to the decision of the Cuban people to build socialism and communism. Violations of this principle can be punished by law." Because the means of production are in the hands of the state and under the control of the government, there have been numerous cases in which violations of this law have cost dissidents their employment. Because of these conditions, opponents of the present Cuban government sustain Cuban elections are neither free nor fair.

Cubans participate in the community-based Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, which play a central role in daily life. These groups are designed to coordinate public projects, ensure that the population remains loyal to the government's specific brand of socialism, and act as neighbourhood watchdogs against "counter-revolutionary" activities. Two of Cuba's most prominent politicians have resigned from their Communist party and government posts after they were sacked from the cabinet, according to letters published by the Cuban media.

Carlos Lage and Felipe Perez Roque were apparently accused by Fidel Castro, the former president, of being seduced by the "honey of power" after they were sacked as part of a government reshuffle.

Lage said in his letter, which was dated as being written on Tuesday, that he would also leave his more important post of vice-president on the Council of State, Cuba's top policy body.

He also resigned from the Communist party's central committee and political bureau, effectively removing himself from political life in Cuba.

Perez Roque, the former foreign minister, said he would also quit the Council of State, the National Assembly and the party central committee.

Perez Roque, left, Lage were former allies of Fidel Castro At least 20 officials were moved, demoted or promoted by Raul Castro, the Cuban president, on Monday, in a move the government said was intended to make Cuba's government more compact and functional and to work towards "perfecting" the Cuban system.

In an apparent reference to Perez Roque and Lage, Fidel Castro said in an article on a government website on Tuesday the two had developed ambitions that led them to "an undignified role".

Castro, who resigned the Cuban presidency last year due to ill health, also said the men were removed as "the external enemy filled itself with expectations for them," although it was not clear who this referred to.

Perez Roque, who had been Havana's chief diplomat since May 1999, was replaced by Bruno Rodriguez, his deputy.

And Lage was replaced as cabinet secretary by General Jose Amado Ricardo Guerra, a former top military official.

Lage had been credited with helping to save Cuba's economy by implementing economic reforms after aid from the Soviet Union ended in the early 1990s, while Perez Roque was once personal secretary to Fidel and a former leader of the Communist party's youth organisation.

Under Fidel Castro, and partially because of invasions, assassination attempts and terrorist attacks, Cuba became a highly militarized society. From 1975 until the late 1980s Soviet military assistance enabled Cuba to upgrade its military capabilities. Since the loss of Soviet subsidies Cuba has scaled down the numbers of military personnel, from 235,000 in 1994 to about 60,000 in 2003. The government now spends roughly 1.7% of GDP on military expenditures.

From its inception the Cuban Revolution defined itself as internationalist. Within a year after the revolution Cuba took on civil and military interventions in different parts of the southern hemisphere; supporting anti-colonial liberation movements, leftist governments, and insurgencies against dictatorships and democratic governments as well. Although still a third world country itself, Cuba mingled in African, Central American and Asian countries' affairs with military, health and "educational" (that is, communist indoctrination) resources.

As early as September 1959, Valdim Kotchergin (or Kochergin), a KGB agent, was seen in Cuba. Jorge Luis Vasquez, a Cuban who was imprisoned in East Germany, states that the Stasi trained the personnel of the Cuban Interior Ministry(MINIT).

Examples of international intrigue in Cuba, dating to the Gerardo Machado regime, when Marxist Pole Fabio Grobart first entered the island, are given by Roger Fontaine.

The Cuban government's military intrusions in Latin America have been extensive. The Sandinista National Liberation Front in Nicaragua, which overthrew the Somoza dictatorship in 1979, was openly supported by Cuba and can be considered its greatest success in Latin America. In May 1967, Cuba became the first and only country to launch a military attack against democratic Venezuela in the 20th century, whereby a vessel carrying heavily armed milicianos with a cargo of weapons to foster guerrilla warfare, disembarked in the coast next to the town of Machurucuto, Miranda State; they were immediately overwhelmed and captured by the Venezuelan Army.

One of the earliest interventions was the failed insurgency led by Ernesto Guevara in Bolivia in 1967. Lesser known actions include the 1959 missions into the Dominican Republic and Panama. Almost all countries in Latin America, most of which had right-wing dictatorships at the time, witnessed this. Arnaldo Ochoa, the eventual commander of Cuban forces in Angola, is said to be the only survivor of the Camilo Cienfuegos contingent sent on the doomed expedition to the Dominican Republic.

The alleged presence of "armed Cuban military advisors" on the island of Grenada was given as a reason for the US invasion of the island and the overthrow of its democratically-elected government in 1981. The US State Department estimated 50 Cubans were killed and 59 wounded following the invasion.

In Africa Cuba supported 17 "liberation" movements or leftist governments. In some countries it suffered setbacks, such as in eastern Zaire (Simba Rebellion), but in others Cuba had significant successes. Major engangements took place in Algeria, Zaire, Yemen, Ethiopia, Guinea-Bissau and Mozambique. Among all the countries Cuba ever supported, Angola takes an exceptional position (see Cuba in Angola and Namibia).

Since Cuba became a socialist republic in 1961 the United States Government has initiated various measures against Cuba's government, applying standards on Cuba which some believe it did not apply to countries with equally poor human rights records, including other Communist countries such as Vietnam and China. These measures have had a considerable political and economic effect on the island; they have been designed to encourage Cubans to remove the leadership and to undertake political change towards liberal democracy. The most significant of these measures was the United States embargo against Cuba and the subsequent Helms-Burton Act of 1996. The US government, its supporters and other observers contend that the Cuban government does not meet the minimal standards of a democracy, especially through its lack of multi-party contests for seats and the limitations on free speech that limit a candidate's ability to campaign. The Cuban government, its supporters and other observers within and outside Cuba argue that Cuba has a form of democracy, citing the extensive participation in the nomination process at the national and municipal level.

The US government funds Radio Marti and TV Marti, both of which include news and cultural programming intended for residents of Cuba..

In 2000 the Trade Sanctions Reform and Enhancement Act allowed exports directly from the United States to Cuba in the areas of food and medical products with approval from the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the U.S. Department of Commerce.

The Cuban government has been accused of numerous human rights abuses, including torture, arbitrary imprisonment, unfair trials, and extrajudicial executions (a.k.a. "El Paredón"). Dissidents complain of harassment and torture. While the Cuban government placed a moratorium on capital punishment in 2001, it made an exception for perpetrators of an armed hijacking 2 years later. Groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have issued reports on Cuban prisoners of conscience. Opponents claim the Cuban government represses free expression by limiting access to the Internet.

Human Rights Watch claims that the true number of political prisoners may be understated. According to them, political prisoners, along with the rest of Cuba's prison population, are confined to jails with substandard and unhealthy conditions. In the last weeks of March 2003 the Cuban government sentenced 75 members of the opposition to prison terms of up to 28 years. The activists were charged with "disrespect" toward the Revolution, “treason,” and “giving information to the enemy”. The numbers of recognized political prisoners varies over time. All former political prisoners are subject to arbitrary re-arrest. Political arrests continue.

The Ladies in White is an opposition movement in Cuba consisting of spouses and other relatives of jailed dissident. The women protest the imprisonments by attending Mass each Sunday wearing white dresses and then silently walking through the streets dressed in white clothing. The color white is chosen to symbolize peace. The movement received the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought from the European Parliament in 2005.

People are forbidden from assembling. This is enforced by "Rapid Brigades", consisting of members of the army and police in plain clothes, who are designed to beat and disperse any demonstrators within minutes.

Cuba's ranking was 169th on the Press Freedom Index 2008 compiled by the Reporters Without Borders. The censorship limits accuracy of information about Cuba. Listening to American radio stations is forbidden.

The authorities have called Internet "the great disease of 21st century". As a result of computer ownership bans, computer ownership rates are among the world's lowest. Right to use Internet is granted only to selected people and these selected people are monitored. Connecting to the Internet illegally can lead to a five-year prison sentence.

Cubans are forbidden to leave their country. Even discussion it carries a six-month prison sentence.

The Communist Party keeps family members of escaped Cubans as hostages.

The Communist Party has established an institutional discrimination of Cuban blacks and mulattoes. Discussion about it censored. Although the population is now mainly black or mulatto and young, its rulers form "a mainly white gerontocracy".

Esteban Morales Dominguez has pointed to the institutionalized racism in his book "The Challenges of the Racial Problem in Cuba" (Fundación Fernando Ortiz). The book was promptly banned in Cuba. It shows a growing impoverishment of the population as a whole and emphasizes that Black Cubans are disproportionately suffering from the Communist regime. In the countryside, a staggering 98% of the land is in the hands of white Communist elite. Most blacks are unemployed. A survey showed that white Cubans believe that blacks are "less intelligent than whites" (58%) and "devoid of decency" (69%). Racial Politics in Post-Revolutionary Cuba discusses the racial ideology prevalent in the Communist Cuba.

There are unions in Cuba, with a membership totaling 98% of the island's workforce. Unions do not register with any state agency, and are self financed from monthly membership dues. Their supporters claim that union officers are elected on an open basis, and differing political views are found within each of the unions. However, all unions are part of an organization called the Confederación de Trabajadores Cubanos (Confederation of Cuban Workers, CTC), which does maintain close ties with the state and the Communist Party. Supporters claim that the CTC allows workers to have their voice heard in government; opponents claim that the government uses it to control the trade unions and appoint their leaders. The freedom of workers to express independent opinions is also a subject of debate. Supporters of the system argue that workers' opinions have in fact shaped government policy on several occasions, as in a 1993 proposal for tax reform, while opponents, citing studies by international labor organizations, point out that workers are required to pledge allegiance to the ideals of the Communist Party, and argue that the government systematically harasses and detains labor activists, while prohibiting the creation of independent (non-CTC affiliated) trade unions, that the leaders of attempted independent unions have been imprisoned, and that the right to strike is not recognized in the law.

Strong ideological content is present. Educational and cultural policy is based on Marxist ideology. A file is kept on children's "revolutionary integration" and it accompanies the child for life. University options will depend on how well the person is integrated to Marxist ideology as well as a permission from the "Committee for the Defense of the Revolution". The Code for Children, Youth and Family states that a parent who teaches ideas contrary to communism can be sentenced to three years in prison.

Historically, Cuba has ranked high in numbers of medical personnel and has made significant contributions to world health since the 19th century.

Before the Castro regime, Cuba was one of the leaders in terms of life expectancy, and the number of doctors per thousand of the population ranked above Britain, France and Holland. In Latin America it ranked in third place after Uruguay and Argentina. The mortality rate was the third lowest in the world. According to the World Health Organization, the island had the lowest infant mortality rate of Latin America.

The new Cuban government asserted that universal healthcare was to become a priority of state planning and progress was made in rural areas. However, an overall worsening in terms of disease and infant mortality was observed in the 1960s. Recovery occurred by the 1980s. Like the rest of the Cuban economy, Cuban medical care suffered from severe material shortages following the end of Soviet subsidies in 1991.

Challenges include low pay of doctors, poor facilities, poor provision of equipment, and frequent absence of essential drugs. Ordinary Cubans rely on sociolismo (black market, relationships, and corruption) to overcome these problems.

Doctors have no sphygmomanometers, sterile gloves, sterile water for diluting injections, syringes, soap, or disinfectants such as alcohol. Cuba's life expectancy ranking was 76th in 2008 (shared with Panama), close to Paraguay (73th) or Dominica (78th). Since the recovery, Cuba's epidemiological profile is closer to first-world countries. Incidence of AIDS is the lowest in the Western Hemisphere; each pregnant woman receives an HIV test, and Cubans with AIDS receive a full course of AZT produced in Cuba. In 1992, Cuba ranked at the median level in the Human Development Index created by the United Nations Development Programme. Cuba's 2008 Human Development Index ranking was 48th, close to Argentina, Uruguay or Costa Rica. Cuba had the world's 13th lowest infant mortality rate in 1957; Cuba's ranking was only 54th] in 2008.

The Pan American Health Organization's examined the WHO statistics and concluded that these statistics are prepared by each government and published unchanged by WHO; thus some journalists called them into question. The CIA World Factbook cites life expectancy and infant mortality rates that are similar to those for the USA. Given the extensive and specific data, which have been promptly published in Cuba since 1970, the high rate of autopsies and the low number of deaths attributed to undefined causes (an important indicator for the accuracy of vital statistics), a high level of confidence can be placed in Cuban health statistics. Cuban officials have acknowledged that some health care indicators worsened during the 1990s after the loss of Soviet aid and while the United States embargo of health supplies remained in effect.

A separate, second division of hospitals cares specifically for foreigners and diplomats. While tourists can get health care from public clinics on an emergency basis, they are expected to use a fee-for-service health care network called "Servimed" for non-emergency health care needs. There are about 40 Servimed health care centers across the island. Many foreigners travel to Cuba for reliable and affordable health care.

Thousands of physicians work as taxi drivers, waiters in tourist facilities, and other hard currency occupations. Cuba provides medical care as foreign aid, providing free care to victims of disasters, including 16,000 victims of Chernobyl, and sends medical teams to scores of poor nations, numbering some 26,000 medical personnel as of 2005. Teams of Cuban doctors have been sent to Haiti and the poorest nations of Africa to fight malaria, TB, and HIV. In 1996, at the request of the South African government, Cuba sent 600 English-speaking doctors to make up for the shortfall caused by the emigration of white South African doctors after the end of apartheid. By 2002, 80 percent of the doctors in rural South Africa were Cuban. Cuba has had up to ten percent of its doctors serving abroad, fielding more doctors than the World Health Organization. Cuban doctors have won a reputation for being willing to endure primitive living conditions, for being able to improvise when equipment and supplies are lacking, and for maintaining warm relationships with the local population.

Cuba spends about twice as much of its GDP on health care (about 6.6 percent) as the Latin American average. It maintains a high ratio of doctors to patients, about one doctor per 150 families in 2001. Being from a country with very few social discrepancies, Cuban doctors are not well-paid by the standards of capitalist countries. The San Francisco Chronicle, The Washington Post, and NPR have all reported on Cuban doctors defecting to other countries.According to the San Francisco Chronicle, at least 63, and perhaps hundreds of the approximately 20,000 Cuban doctors sent to work in the barrios in Venezuela, have defected, in part because their salary in Cuba is only $15 per month. The United States has announced a policy of preference for Cuban medical workers who seek asylum.

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Music of Cuba


The Caribbean island of Cuba has developed a wide range of creolized musical styles, based on its cultural origins in Europe and Africa. Since the nineteenth century its music has been hugely popular and influential throughout the world. It has been perhaps the most popular form of world music since the introduction of recording technology.

The music of Cuba, including the instruments and the dances, is mostly of European (Spanish) and African origin. Most forms of the present day are creolized fusions and mixtures of these two great sources. Almost nothing remains of the original Indian traditions, except in some of the place names, such as Guanabacoa. Maracas are probably native in origin.

Large numbers of African slaves and European (mostly Spanish) immigrants came to Cuba and brought their own forms of music to the island. European dances and folk musics included zapateo, fandango, paso doble and retambico. Later, northern European forms like minuet, gavotte, mazurka, contradanza, and the waltz appeared among urban whites. There was also an immigration of Chinese indentured laborers later in the 19th century.

Fernando Ortíz, the first great Cuban folklorist, described Cuba's musical innovations as arising from the interplay ('transculturation') between African slaves settled on large sugar plantations and Spanish or Canary Islanders who grew tobacco on small farms. The African slaves and their descendants reconstructed large numbers of percussive instruments and corresponding rhythms. The most important instruments were the drums, of which there were originally about fifty different types; today only the bongos, congas and batá drums are regularly seen (the timbales are descended from kettle drums in Spanish military bands). Also important are the cajons, wooden boxes made from fish crates in Matanzas or fruit boxes in Oriente, and the claves, two short hardwood staves. Cajons were used widely during periods when the drum was banned. In addition, there are other percussion instruments in use for African-origin religious ceremonies. Chinese immigrants contributed the corneta china (Chinese cornet), a Chinese reed instrument which is still played in the comparsas, or carnival groups, of Santiago de Cuba.

The great instrumental contribution of the Spanish was their guitar, but even more important was the tradition of European musical notation and techniques of musical composition. Hernando de la Parra's archives give some of our earliest available information on Cuban music. He reported instruments including the clarinet, violin and vihuela. There were few professional musicians at the time, and fewer still of their songs survive. One of the earliest is Ma Teodora, by a freed slave, Teodora Gines of Santiago de Cuba, who was famous for her compositions. It comes to us as the Son de la Ma Teodora.

The piece is said to be similar to ecclesiastic European forms and 16th century folk songs.

Cuban music has its principal roots in Spain and West Africa, but over time has been influenced by diverse genres from different countries. Important among these are France (and its colonies in the Americas), the United States, Puerto Rico. Reciprocally, Cuban music has been immensely influential in other countries, contributing not only to the development of jazz and salsa, but also to Argentinian tango, Ghanaian high-life, West African Afrobeat, and Spanish Nuevo flamenco.

The African beliefs and practices certainly influenced Cuba's music. Polyrhythmic percussion is an inherent part of African life & music, as melody is part of European music. Also, in African tradition, percussion is always joined to song and dance, and to a particular social setting. It is not simply entertainment added to life, it is life. The result of the meeting of European and African cultures is that most Cuban popular music is creolized. This creolization of Cuban life has been happening for a long time, and by the 20th century, elements of African belief, music and dance were well integrated into popular and folk forms.

Among internationally heralded composers of the "serious" genre can be counted the Baroque composer Esteban Salas y Castro (1725–1803), who spent much of his life teaching and writing music for the Church. He was followed in the Cathedral of Santiago de Cuba by the priest Juan París (1759–1845). París was an exceptionally industrious man, and an important composer. He encouraged continuous and diverse musical events.

In the 19th century, several major composers came from Cuba. These included Manuel Saumell (1818–1870), the father of Cuban criole musical development. He helped transform the contradanza, and had a hand in the habanera, the danzon, the guajira, the criolla and other forms.

Laureano Fuentes (1825–1898) came from a family of musicians and wrote the first opera to be composed on the island, La hija de Jéfe (the Chief's daughter). This was later lengthened and staged under the title Seila. His numerous works spanned all genres. Gaspar Villate (1851–1891) produced abundant and wide-ranging work, all centered on opera. José White (1836 –1918), a mulatto of a Spanish father and an Afrocuban mother, was a composer and a violinist of international merit. He learnt to play sixteen instruments, and lived, variously, in Cuba, Latin America and Paris. His most famous work is La bella cubana, a habanera.

During the middle years of the 19th century, a young American musician came to Havana: Louis Moreau Gottschalk (1829–1869), whose father was a Jewish businessman from London, and his mother a white creole of French Catholic background. Gottschalk was brought up mostly by his black grandmother and nurse Sally, both from Dominique. He was a piano prodigy who had listened to the music and seen the dancing in Congo Square, New Orleans from childhood. His period in Cuba lasted from 1853 to 1862, with visits to Puerto Rico and Martinique squeezed in. He composed many creollized pieces, such as the habanera Bamboula (Danse de negres) (1844/5), the title referring to a bass Afro-Caribbean drum; El cocoye (1853), a version of a rhythmic melody already present in Cuba; the contradanza Ojos criollos (Danse cubaine) (1859) and a version of María de la O, which refers to a Cuban mulatto singer. These numbers made use of typical Cuban rhythmic patterns. At one of his farewell concerts he played his Adiós a Cuba to huge applause and shouts of 'bravo!' Unfortunately his score for the work has not survived. In February 1860 Gottschalk produced a huge work La nuit des tropiques in Havana. The work used about 250 musicians and a choir of 200 singers plus a tumba francesa group from Santiago de Cuba. He produced another huge concert the following year, with new material. These shows probably dwarfed anything seen in the island before or since, and no doubt were unforgettable for those who attended.

It was Ignacio Cervantes (1847–1905), who was probably most influenced by Gottschalk. Trained in Paris, he did much to assert a sense of Cuban musical nationalism in his compositions. Aaron Copland once referred to him as a "Cuban Chopin" because of his Chopinesque piano compositions. Cervantes' reputation today rests almost solely upon his famous forty-one Danzas Cubanas, of which Carpentier said "occupy the place that the Norwegian Dances of Grieg or the Slavic Dances of Dvořák occupy in the musics of their respective countries". Cervantes' never-finished opera, Maledetto, is forgotten.

The early 20th century saw the beginning of an independent Cuba (independence from both Spain and the USA: 1902).

After his student days, Caturla lived all his life in the small central town of Remedios, where he became a lawyer to support his growing family. He had relationships with a number of black women and fathered eleven children by them, which he adopted and supported. His Tres danzas cubanas for symphony orchestra was first performed in Spain in 1929. Bembe was premiered in Havana the same year. His Obertura cubana won first prize in a national contest in 1938. Caturla was a fine man, and an example of a universal musician, happily combining classical and folkloric themes with modern musical ideas. He was murdered at 34 by a young gambler who was due to be sentenced only hours later.

Gonzalo Roig (1890–1970), was a major force in the first half of the century. A composer and orchestral director, he qualified in piano, violin and composition theory. In 1922 he was one of the founders of the National Symphony Orchestra, which he conducted. In 1927 he was appointed Director of the Havana School of Music. As a composer he specialized in the zarzuela, a musical theatre form, very popular up to World War II. In 1931 he co-founded a Bufo company (comic theatre) at the Marti Theatre in Havana. He was the composer of the most well-known Cuban zarzuela, Cecilia Valdés, based on the famous 19th century novel about a Cuban mulata. It was premiered in 1932. He founded various organizations and wrote frequently on musical topics.

One of the greatest Cuban pianist/composers of the twentieth century was Ernesto Lecuona (1895–1963). Lecuona composed over six hundred pieces, mostly in the Cuban vein, and was a pianist of exceptional quality. He was a prolific composer of songs and music for stage and film. His works consisted of zarzuela, Afro-Cuban and Cuban rhythms, suites and many songs which became latin standards. They include Siboney, Malagueña and The Breeze And I (Andalucía). In 1942 his great hit Always in my heart (Siempre en mi Corazon) was nominated for an Oscar for Best Song; it lost out to White Christmas. The Ernesto Lecuona Symphonic Orchestra performed the premiere of Lecuona's Black Rhapsody in the Cuban Liberation Day Concert at Carnegie Hall on 10 October 1943.

Although, in Cuba, many composers have written both classical and popular creole types of music, the distinction became clearer after 1960, when (at least initially) the regime frowned on popular music and closed most of the night-club venues, whilst providing financial support for classical music rather than creole forms. From then on most musicians have kept their careers on one side of the invisible line or the other. After the Cuban Revolution in 1959, a new crop of classical musicians came onto the scene. The most important of these is guitarist Leo Brouwer, who made significant innovations in classical guitar, and is currently the director of the Havana Symphonic Orchestra. His directorship in the early 1970s of the Cuban Institute of Instrumental and Cinematographic Arts (ICAIC) was instrumental in the formation and consolidation of the nueva trova movement. Manuel Barrueco is also a classical guitarist of international renown.

Cuban-born classical pianists include many who have recorded with the world's greatest symphonies, including Jorge Bolet (friend of Rachmaninoff and Liszt specialist), Horacio Gutierrez (former Tchaikovsky Competition silver medalist), and prize-winning pianist and owner of the "Elan" classical CD company, Santiago Rodriguez, a Russian-music specialist. Cuban-born classical pianist Zeyda Ruga Suzuki has been recorded on labels in Japan and Canada.

From the 18th century (at least) to modern times, popular theatrical formats used, and gave rise to, music and dance. Many famous composers and musicians had their careers launched in the theatres, and many famous compositions got their first airing on the stage. In addition to staging some European operas and operettas, Cuban composers gradually developed ideas which better suited their creole audience. Recorded music was to be the couduit for Cuban music to reach the world. The most recorded artist in Cuba up to 1925 was a singer at the Alhambra, Adolfo Colombo. Records show he recorded about 350 numbers between 1906 and 1917.

The first theatre in Havana opened in 1776. The first Cuban-composed opera appeared in 1807. Theatrical music was hugely important in the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century; its significance only began to wane with the change in political and social weather in the second part of the 20th century. Radio, which began in Cuba in 1922, helped the growth of popular music because it provided publicity and a new source of income for the artists.

Zarzuela is a small-scale light operetta format. Starting off with imported Spanish content (List of zarzuela composers), it developed into a running commentary on Cuba's social and political events and problems. Zarzuela has the distinction of providing Cuba's first recording artist: the soprano Chalía Herrera (1864–1968) made, outside Cuba, the first recordings by a Cuban artist. She recorded numbers from the zarzuela Cadíz in 1898 on unnumbered Bettini cylinders.

Zarzuela reached its peak in the first half of the twentieth century. A string of front-rank composers such as Gonzalo Roig, Eliseo Grenet, Ernesto Lecuona and Rodrigo Prats produced a series of hits for the Regina and Martí theatres in Havana. Great stars like the vedette Rita Montaner, who could sing, play the piano, dance and act, were the Cuban equivalents of Mistinguett and Josephine Baker in Paris. Some of the best known zarzuelas are La virgen morena (Grenet), Nina Rita (Grenet and Lecuona), María la O, El batey, Rosa la China (all Lecuona); Gonzalo Roig with La Habana de noche; Rodrigo Prats with Amalia Batista and La perla del caribe; and above all, Cecilia Valdés (the musical of the most famous Cuban novel of the nineteenth century, with music by Roig and script by Prats and Agustín Rodríguez). Artists who were introduced to the public in the lyric theatre include Caridad Suarez, María de los Angeles Santana, Esther Borja and Ignacio Villa, who had such a round, black face that Rita Montaner called him Bola de Nieve ('Snowball').

So the bufo theatre became the birthplace of the typically Cuban musical form, the guaracha.

Vernacular theatre of various types often includes music. Formats rather like the British Music Hall, or the American Vaudeville, still occur, where an audience is treated to a pot-pourri of singers, comedians, bands, sketches and speciality acts. Even in cinemas during the silent movies, singers and instrumentalists would appear in the interval, and a pianist would play during the films. Bola de Nieve and María Teresa Vera are two stars who played in cinemas in their early days. Burlesque was also common in Havana before 1960.

The guaracha is a genre of rapid tempo and with lyrics. It originated in Bufo comic theatre in the mid-19th century, and during the early 20th century was often played in the brothels of Havana. The lyrics were full of slang, and dwelt on events and people in the news. Rhythmically, guaracha exhibits a series of rhythm combinations, such as 6/8 with 2/4.

Many of the early trovadores, such as Manuel Corona (who worked in a brothel area of Havana), composed and sung guarachas as a balance for the slower boleros and canciónes. The satirical lyric content also fitted well with the son, and many bands played both genres. In the mid-20th century the style was taken up by the conjuntos and big bands as a type of up-tempo music. Today it seems no longer to exist as a distinct musical form; it has been absorbed into the vast maw of Salsa. Singers who can handle the fast lyrics and are good improvisors are called guaracheros or guaracheras.

Pepe Sánchez, born José Sánchez (1856–1918), is known as the father of the trova style and the creator of the Cuban bolero. He had no formal training in music. With remarkable natural talent, he composed numbers in his head and never wrote them down. As a result, most of these numbers are now lost for ever, though some two dozen or so survive because friends and disciples transcribed them. His first bolero, Tristezas, is still remembered today. He also created advertisement jingles before radio was born. He was the model and teacher for the great trovadores who followed him.

José 'Chicho' Ibáñez (1875–1981) was even longer-lived than Garay. Ibáñez was the first trovador to specialize in the son; he also sung guaguancos and pieces from the abakuá.

The composer Rosendo Ruiz (1885–1983) was another long-lived trovador. He was the author of a well-known guitar manual. Alberto Villalón (1882–1955), and Manuel Corona (1880–1950) were of similar stature. Garay, Ruiz, Villalón and Corona are known as the four greats of the trova, though the following trovadores are also highly regarded.

Patricio Ballagas (1879–1920); María Teresa Vera (1895–1965), Lorenzo Hierrezuelo (1907–1993), Ñico Saquito (Antonio Fernandez: 1901–1982), Carlos Puebla (1917–1989) and Compay Segundo (Máximo Francisco Repilado Muñoz: 1907–2003) were all great trova musicians. El Guayabero (Faustino Oramas: 1911–2007) was the last of the old trova.

Trova musicians often worked in pairs and trios, some of them exclusively so (Compay Segundo). As the sexteto/septeto/conjunto genre grew many of them joined in the larger groups. And let's not forget the Trio Matamoros, who worked together for most of their lives. Matamoros was one of the greats.

This is a song and dance form quite different from its Spanish namesake. It originated in the last quarter of the 19th century with the founder of the traditional trova, Pepe Sánchez. He wrote the first bolero, Tristezas, which is still sung today. The bolero has always been a staple part of the trova muusician's repertoire.

Originally, there were two sections of 16 bars in 2/4 time separated by an instrumental section on the Spanish guitar called the pasacalle. The bolero proved to be exceptionally adaptable, and led to many variants. Typical was the introduction of sychopation leading to the bolero-moruno, bolero-beguine, bolero-mambo, bolero-cha. The bolero-son became for several decades the most popular rhythm for dancing in Cuba, and it was this rhythm that the international dance community picked up and taught as the wrongly-named 'rumba'.

The Cuban bolero was exported all over the world, and is still popular. Leading composers of the bolero were Sindo Garay, Rosendo Ruiz, Carlos Puebla, Rafael Hernández (Puerto Rico) and Agustin Lara (Mexico).

Canción means 'song' in Spanish. It is a popular genre of Latin American music, particularly in Cuba, where many of the compositions originate. Its roots lie in Spanish, French and Italian popular song forms. Originally highly stylized, with "intricate melodies and dark, enigmatic and elaborate lyrics" The canción was democratized by the trova movement in the latter part of the nineteenth century, when it became a vehicle for the aspirations and feelings of the population. Canción gradually fused with other forms of Cuban music, such as the bolero.

Despite such fusions, the canción never has the full-blooded Afro-Cuban percussion which marks so much Cuban popular music.

The waltz (El vals) arrived in Cuba by 1814. It was the first dance in which couples were not linked by a communal sequence pattern. It was, and still is, danced in 3/4 time with the accent on the first beat. It was originally thought scandalous because couples faced each other, held each other in the 'closed' hold, and, so to speak, ignored the surrounding community. The waltz entered all countries in the Americas; its relative popularity in the 19th century Cuba is hard to estimate.

Indigenous Cuban dances did not use the closed hold with couples dancing independently until the danzon later in the century, though the guaracha might be an earlier example. The walz has another characteristic: it is a 'travelling' dance, with couples moving round the arena. In latin dances, progressive movement of dancers is confined to dances derived from street celebrations such as conga.

The rural music of Cuba as played and sung by peasants, whether white, black or mulatto. All forms of música campesina make use of the guitar, and its variations. There is usually some percussion, and on occasion the accordion (acordeón de botones). While remaining mainly unchanged in its forms (thus provoking a steady decline in interest among the Cuban youth), some artists have tried to renew música campesina with new styles, lyrics, themes and arrangements.

Typical dance of the Cuban campesino or guajiro, of Spanish origin. A dance of pairs, involving tapping of the feet, mostly by the man. Illustrations exist from previous centuries, but the dance is now defunct. It was accompanied by tiple, guitar and güiro, in combined 6/8 and 3/4 rhythm, accented on the first of every three quavers.

Punto is a rural form of music derived from a local form of décima and verso called punto guajiro or punto cubano. It has been popularized by artists like Celina González, and has become an influence on modern son. Albita Rodríguez, now in Miami, began her career as a punto singer.

First, a genre of Cuban song similar to the punto and the criolla. It contains bucolic countryside lyrics, rhyming, similar to décima poetry. Music a mixture of 3/4 and 6/8 rhythms. According to Sánchez de Fuentes, its first section is in a minor key, its second section in a major key.

Secondly, it is now used mostly to describe slow dance music in 4/4 time, a fusion of the son and the guajira. Guillermo Portabales was the outstanding singer-guitarist in this genre.

Criolla is a type of Cuban music and song; the term is said to derive from canción criolla, or creole song. This genre developed in the late 19th century, and is similar to some other forms of that period, such as the canción, the guajira and the bolero. Criollas usually consist of a short introduction, followed by two sections of sixteen bars each. They are written in a slow tempo in 6/8 time. Many criollas were first heard in the bufo theatre.

The contradanza is an important precursor of several later popular dances. It arrived in Cuba in the late 18th century from Europe where it had been developed first as the English country dance, and then as the French contradanse. The origin of the word is a corruption of the English term. Manuel Saumell wrote over fifty contradanzas (in 2/4 or 6/8 time), in which his rhythmic and melodic inventiveness was astonishing.

The contradanza is a communal sequence dance, with the dance figures conforming to a set pattern. The selection of figures for a particular dance would usually be set by a master of ceremonies or dance leader. There would be two parts of 16 bars each, danced in a line or square format. The tempo and style of the music was bright and fairly fast. The earliest Cuban composition of a contradanza is San Pascual bailon, published in 1803. The Cubans developed a number of creolized version, such as the paseo, cadena, ostenido and cadazo. This creolization is an early example of the influence of the African traditions in the Caribbean. Most of the musicians were black or mulatto (even early in the 19th century there were many freed slaves and mixed race persons living in Cuban towns).

The contradanza supplanted the minuet as the most popular dance until from 1842 on, it gave way to the habanera, a quite different style.

This, the child of the contradanza, was also danced in lines or squares. It was also a brisk form of music and dance which could be in double or triple time. A repeated 8-bar paseo was followed by two 16-bar sections called the primera and segunda. One famous composer of danzas was Ignacio Cervantes, whose forty-one danzas cubanas were a landmark in musical nationalism. This type of dance was eventually replaced by the danzón, which was, like the habanera, much slower and more sedate.

The habanera developed out of the contradanza in the early 19th century. Its great novelty was that it was sung, as well as played and danced. Its development was at least partly due to the influence of French-speaking immigrants. The Haitian revolution of 1791 led to many colonial French and their slaves fleeing to Oriente. The cinquillo is one important rhythmical pattern which made its first appearance at this time.

The dance style of the habanera is slower and more stately than the danza; by the 1840s there were habaneras written, sung and danced in Mexico, Venezuela, Puerto Rico and Spain. Since about 1900 the habanera has been a relic dance; but the music has a period charm, and there are some famous compositions, such as Tu, versions of which have been recorded many times.

Versions of habanera-type compositions have appeared in the music of Ravel, Bizet, Saint-Saëns, Debussy, Fauré, Albeniz. The rhythm is similar to that of the tango, and some believe the habanera is the musical father of the tango.

The European influence on Cuba's later musical development is represented by danzón, an elegant musical form that was once more popular than the son in Cuba. It is a descendent of the creollized Cuban contradanza. The danzón marks the change which took place from the communal sequence dance style of the late eighteenth century to the couple dances of later times. The stimulus for this was the success of the once-scandalous walz, where couples danced facing each other and independently from other couples, not as part of a pre-set structure. The danzón was the first Cuban dance to adopt such methods, though there is a difference between the two dances. The walz is a progressive ballroom dance where couples move round the floor in an anti-clockwise direction; the danzón is a 'pocket-handkerchief' dance where a couple stays within a small area of the floor.

The danzón was developed, according to one's point of view, either by Manuel Saumell or by Miguel Faílde in Matanzas, the official date of origin being 1879. Failde's was an orquesta típica, a form derived from military bands, using brass, kettle-drums &c. The later development of the charanga was more suited to the indoor salon and is an orchestral format still popular today in Cuba and some other countries. The charanga uses double bass, cello, violins, flute, piano, timbal and guiro. This change in instrumental set-up is illustrated in Early Cuban bands.

From time to time in its 'career', the danzón acquired African influences in its musical structure. It became more synchopated, especially in its third part. The credit for this is given to José Urfé, who worked elements of the son into the last part of the danzón in his composition El bombin de Barreto (1910). Both the danzón and the charanga line-up have been strongly influential in later developments.

The danzón was exported to popular acclaim throughout Latin America, especially Mexico. It is now a relic, both in music and in dance, but its highly orchestrated descendents live on in charangas that would hardly be recognized by Faílde and Urfé. Juan Formell has had a huge influence through his reorganization of first Orquesta Revé, and later Los Van Van.

Early danzons were purely intrumental. The first to introduce a vocal part was Aniceto Diaz in 1927 in Matanzas: Rompiendo la rutina. Later, the black singer Barbarito Diez joined the charanga of Antonio Ma. Romeu in 1935 and, over the years, recorded eleven albums of danzonetes. All later forms have included vocals.

The son, said Cristóbal Díaz, is the most important genre of Cuban music, and the least studied. It can fairly be said that son is to Cuba what the tango is to Argentina, or the samba to Brazil. In addition, it is perhaps the most flexible of all forms of Latin-American music. Its great strength is its fusion between European and African musical traditions. Its most characteristic instruments are the Cuban guitar known as the tres, and the well-known double-headed bongó; these are present from the start to the present day. Also typical are the claves, the Spanish guitar, the double bass (replacing the early botija or marimbula), and early on, the cornet or trumpet and finally the piano.

The son arose in Oriente, the eastern part of the island, merging the Spanish guitar and lyrical traditions with African percussion and rhythms. We now know that its history as a distinct form is relatively recent. There is no evidence that it goes back further than the end of the nineteenth century. It moved from Oriente to Havana in about 1909, carried by members of the Permanente (the Army), who were sent out of their areas of origin as a matter of policy. The first recordings were in 1918.

In addition, the son has again and again changed the older danzón to make it more syncopated and creole in style, starting in 1910 through the danzón-mambo and the cha-cha-cha to complex modern arrangements which are almost impossible to categorize.

The son varies widely today, with the defining characteristic a syncopated bass pulse that comes before the downbeat, giving son and its derivatives (including salsa) its distinctive rhythm; this is known as the anticipated bass. Son lyrics were originally decima (ten line), octosyllabic verse, and performed in 2/4 time, but diversified hugely from the 1920s. See clave for the son's underpinning structure.

Changuí is a type of son from the eastern provinces (area of Santiago de Cuba and Guantánamo), formerly known as Oriente. Because these early groups did not write down and publish their music, it is unclear how the changuí originated, and whether it is a precursor to the mainstream son or not. Changuí has been characterised by its strong emphasis on the downbeat, and is often fast and very percussive.

Changuí exists today in the form of half-a-dozen small groups, mostly from Guantanamo. The instrumentation is similar to that of the early son groups who set up in Havana before 1920. These son groups, for example the early Sexteto Boloña and Sexteto Habanero, used either marimbulas or botijas as bass instruments before they changed over to the double bass, musically a more flexible instrument.

It is an open question whether the changui represents a genuinely distinctive music, or whether it is simply an archaic form of son artificially preserved by state support. Some modern orchestras, such as Orquesta Revé, have claimed changuí as their main influence. Whether this is accurate, or not, is unclear.

The history of jazz in Cuba was obscured for many years; however it has become clear that its history in Cuba is virtually as long as its history in the USA.

Much more is now known about early Cuban jazz bands, though a full assessment is plagued by the lack of recordings. Migrations and visits to and from the USA and the mutual exchange of recordings and sheet music kept musicians in the two countries in touch. In the first part of the 20th century there were close relations between musicians in Cuba and those in New Orleans. The orchestra leader in the famous Tropicana Club, Armando Romeu Jr, was a leading figure in the post-WWII development of Cuban jazz. The phenomenon of cubop and the jam sessions in Havana and New York organized by Cachao created genuine fusions which still influence musicians today.

This section discusses music of African heritage in Cuba.

Clearly, the origin of African groups in Cuba is due to the island's long history of slavery. Compared to the USA, slavery started in Cuba much earlier, and continued for decades afterwards. Cuba was the last country in the Americas to abolish the importation of slaves, and the second last to free the slaves. In 1807 the British Parliament outlawed slavery, and from then on the British Navy acted to intercept Portuguese and Spanish slave ships. By 1860 the trade with Cuba was almost extinguished; the last slave ship to Cuba was in 1873. The abolition of slavery was announced by the Spanish Crown in 1880, and put into effect in 1886. Two years later, Brazil abolished slavery.

1. The Congolese from the Congo basin and SW Africa. Many tribes were involved, all called Congos in Cuba. Their religion is called Palo. Probably the most numerous group, with a huge influence on Cuban music.

2. The Oyó or Yoruba from modern Nigeria, known in Cuba as Lucumí. Their religion is known as Regla de Ocha (roughly, 'the way of the spirits') and its syncretic version known as Santería. Culturally of great significance.

3. The Calibars from part of Nigeria and Camaroon. These semi-Bantú groups are known in Cuba as Carabali, and their religious organization as Abakuá. The street name for them in Cuba was Ñáñigos.

4. The Dahomey, from Benin. They were the Fon, known as arará in Cuba. The Dahomeys were a powerful and terrible people who practised human sacrifice and slavery long before Europeans got involved, and even more so during the Atlantic slave trade.

5. Haitian immigrants to Cuba arrived at various times up to the present day. Leaving aside the French, who also came, the Africans from Haiti were a mixture of groups who usually spoke creolized French: and religion was known as vodú.

6. From part of modern Liberia and the Ivory Coast came the Gangá.

7. Senegambian people (Senegal, Gambia), but including many brought from Sudan by the Arab slavers, were known by a catch-all word: Mandinga. The famous musical phrase Kikiribu Mandinga! refers to them.

The roots of most Afro-Cuban musical forms lie in the cabildos, self-organized social clubs for the African slaves, separate cabildos for separate cultures. The cabildos were formed mainly from four groups: the Yoruba (the Lucumi in Cuba); the Congolese (Palo in Cuba); Dahomey (the Fon or Arará). Other cultures were undoubtedly present, more even than listed above, but in smaller numbers, and they did not leave such a distinctive presence.

Cabildos preserved African cultural traditions, even after the abolition of slavery in 1886. At the same time, African religions were transmitted from generation to generation throughout Cuba, Haiti, other islands and Brazil. These religions, which had a similar but not identical structure, were known as Lucumi or Regla de Ocha if they derived from the Yoruba, Palo from Central Africa, Vodú from Haiti, and so on. The term Santeria was first introduced to account for the way African spirits were joined to Catholic saints, especially by people who were both baptized and initiated, and so were genuinely members of both groups. Outsiders picked up the word and have tended to use it somewhat indiscriminately. It has become a kind of catch-all word, rather like salsa in music.

All these African cultures had musical traditions, which survive erratically to the present day, not always in detail, but in general style. The best preserved are the African polytheistic religions, where, in Cuba at least, the instruments, the language, the chants, the dances and their interpretations are quite well preserved. In what other American countries are the religious ceremonies conducted in the old language(s) of Africa? They certainly are in Lucumí ceremonies, though of course, back in Africa the language has moved on. What unifies all genuine forms of African music is the unity of polyrhythmic percussion, voice (call-and-response) and dance in well-defined social settings, and the absence of melodic instruments of an Arabic or European kind.

Not until after the Second World War do we find detailed printed descriptions or recordings of African sacred music in Cuba. Inside the cults, music, song, dance and ceremony were (and still are) learnt by heart by means of demonstration, including such ceremonial procedures conducted in an African language. The experiences were private to the initiated, until the work of the ethnologist Fernándo Ortíz, who devoted a large part of his life to investigating the influence of African culture in Cuba. The first detailed transcription of percussion, song and chants are to be found in his great works.

There are now many recordings offering a selection of pieces in praise of, or prayers to, the orishas. Much of the ceremonial procedures are still hidden from the eyes of outsiders, though some descriptions in words exist.

Rumba is a music of Cuban origin, but entirely African in style, using only voice, percussion and dance. It is a secular musical style from the docks and the less prosperous areas of Havana and Matanzas. Rumba musicians use conga drums, palitos to play a cáscara rhythm, claves and call and response vocals. It is seldom seen nowadays except for the performances of professional groups on set occasions. This may bear some relation to the Cuban government's dislike of unplanned happenings on the streets of Havana. Also, the tide may be running against purely African traditions in Cuba and elsewhere as societies become more integrated.

There were three basic rumba forms in the last century: columbia, guaguancó and yambú. The Columbia, played in 6/8 time, was danced only by men, often as a solo dance, and was swift, with aggressive and acrobatic moves. The guagancó was danced with one man and one woman. The dance simulates the man's pursuit of the woman. The yambú, now a relic, featured a burlesque of an old man walking with a stick. All forms of rumba are accompanied by song or chants.

Religious traditions of African origin have survived in Cuba, and are the basis of music, song and dance quite distinct from the secular music and dance. Traditions of Yoruban origin are known as Lucumi or Regla de Ocha; traditions of Congolese origin are known as Palo. There are also, in the Oriente region, forms of Haitian ritual together with its own instruments, music &c.

In Lukumí ceremonies, consecrated batá drums are played at ceremonies, and gourd ensembles called abwe. In the 1950s, a collection of Havana-area batá drummers called Santero helped bring Lucumí styles into mainstream Cuban music, while artists like Mezcla and Lázaro Ros melded the style with other forms, including zouk.

The Kongo cabildo uses yuka drums, as well as gallos (a form of song contest), makuta and mani dances, the latter being closely related to the Brazilian martial dance capoeira.

Conga: an adaptation of comparsa music for the dance-floor. Eliseo Grenet may be the person who first created this music, but it was the Lecuona Cuban Boys who took it round the world. The conga became, and perhaps still is, the best-known Cuban music and dance style for non-latins.

Mozambique: a comparsa-type dance music developed by Pello el Afrokan (Pedro Izquiero) in 1963. It had a brief period of high popularity, peaked in 1965, and was soon forgotten. Apparently, to make it work properly, it needed 16 drums plus other percussion, dancers...

Black immigrants from Haiti have settled in Oriente and established their own style of music, called the tumba francesa, which uses its own type of drum, dance and song. This survives to the present day in Santiago de Cuba.

Son music came to Havana, probably early in the century. By the 1920s it was one of the most popular forms in Cuba: recordings of the Sexteto Boloña exist from 1918. In the 1930s recordings by famous groups like the Septeto Nacional and the Trío Matamoros went round the world. Son was urbanized, with trumpets and other new instruments, leading to its tremendous influence on most later forms of Cuban music. In Havana, influences such as American popular music and jazz via the radio were also popular.

The son sextetos gave way to the septetos, including guitar or tres, marímbulas or double bass, bongos, claves and maracas. The trumpet was introduced in the latter part of the 1920s to improve the sonority, that is, mainly to increase the sound. Lead singers improvised lyrics and embellished melody lines while the claves laid down the basic clave rhythm.

The son has always had a wide range of interpretations, from the Oriente style, where even the lyrics could be Afrocuban, with reference to various santos and rituals, to the silky salon style of groups like Conjunto Palmas y Canas. It was, and still is, played by individual trovadores, conjuntos and big bands.

In the 1930 Don Azpiazú had the first million-selling record of Cuban music: the Peanut Vendor (El Manisero), with Antonio Machín as the singer. This number had been orchestrated and included in N.Y. theatre by Azpiazú before recording, which no doubt helped with the publicity. The Lecuona Cuban Boys became the best-known Cuban touring ensemble: they were the ones who first used the conga drum in their conjunto, and popularized the conga as a dance. Xavier Cugat at the Waldorf Astoria was highly influential. In 1941 Desi Arnaz popularized the comparsa drum (similar to the conga) in the U.S with his performances of Babalú. There was a real 'rumba craze' at the time.

Later, Machito set up in New York and Miguelito Valdés also arrived there. By 1950, New York had a native-born musician leading a top orchestra, and playing Cuban music: Tito Puente.

In the 1940s, Chano Pozo formed part of the bebop revolution in jazz, playing conga and other Afro-Cuban drums. Conga was integral part of what became known as Latin jazz, which began in the 1940s among Cubans in New York City.

Arsenio Rodriguez, one of Cuba's most famous tres players and conjunto leaders, emphasised the son's African roots by adapting the guaguanco style, and by adding a cowbell and conga to the rhythm section. He also expanded the role of the tres as a solo instrument.

In the late 1930s and 40s, the danzoneria Arcaño y sus Maravillas incorporated more syncopation and added a montuno (as in son), paving the way for transforming the music played by charanga orchestras.

The big band era arrived in Cuba in the 1940s, and became a dominant format which survives even today. Two great arranger-bandleaders deserve special credit for this. One, Armando Romeu Jr, led the Tropicana Caberet orchestra for 25 years, starting in 1941. He had experience playing with visiting American jazz groups as well as a complete mastery of Cuban forms of music. In his hands the Tropicana presented not only Afrocuban and other popular Cuban music, but also Cuban jazz and American big band compositions. Later he conducted the Orquesta Cubana de Musica Moderna.

The other arranger who introduced the big band style to Cuban music was the famous Damaso Perez Prado, who had a number of hits which sold more 78s than any other latin music of the day. He took over the role of pianist/arranger for the Orquesta Casino de la Playa in 1944, and immediately began introducing new elements into its sound. The orchestra began to sound more Afrocuban, and at the same time Prado took influences from Stravinsky, Stan Kenton and elsewhere. By the time he left the orchestra in 1946 he had put together the elements of his big band mambo.

Benny Moré, considered by many as the greatest Cuban singer of all time, was at his heyday in the 1950s. He was gifted with an innate musicality and fluid tenor voice which he colored and phrased with great expressivity. Although he could not read music, Moré was a master of all the genres, including son montuno, mambo, guaracha, guajira, cha cha cha, afro, canción, guaguancó, and bolero. His orchestra, the Banda Giganta, and his music, was a development – more flexible and fluid in style – of the Perez Prado orchestra, with which he had sung in 1949–1950.

Three great innovations based on Cuban music hit the USA after WWII: the first was Cubop, the latest latin jazz fusion. In this, Mario Bauza and the Machito orchestra on the Cuban side and Dizzy Gillespie on the American side were prime movers. The rumbustious conguero Chano Pozo was also important, for he introduced jazz musicians to basic Cuban rhythms. Cuban jazz has continued to be a significant influence.

The mambo first entered the United States around 1950, though ideas had been developing in Cuba and Mexico City for some time. The mambo as understood in the United States and Europe was considerably different from the danzón-mambo of Orestes "Cachao" Lopez, which was a danzon with extra synchopation in its final part. The mambo which became internationally famous was a big band product, the work of Perez Prado, who made some sensational recordings for RCA in their new recording studios in Mexico City in the late 1940s. About 27 of those recordings had Benny Moré as the singer, though the best sellers were mainly instrumentals. The big hits included Que rico el mambo (Mambo Jambo); Mambo #5; Mambo #8; Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White. The later (1955) hit Patricia was a mambo/rock fusion. Mambo of the Prado kind was more a descendent of the son and the guaracha than the danzón. In the U.S. the mambo craze lasted from about 1950 to 1956, but its influence on the bugaloo and salsa that followed it was considerable.

Violinist Enrique Jorrín invented the chachachá in the early 1950s. This was developed from the danzón by increased syncopation. The chachachá became more popular outside Cuba when the big bands of Perez Prado and Tito Puente produced arrangements which attracted the popular taste of American and European audiences.

Along with "Nuyoricans" Ray Barretto and Tito Puente and others, several waves of Cuban immigrants introduced their ideas into US music. Among these was Celia Cruz, a guaracha singer. Others were active in Latin jazz, such as percussionist Patato Valdés of the Cuban-oriented "Tipíca '73", linked to the Fania All-Stars. Several former members of Irakere have also become highly successful in the USA, among them Paquito D'Rivera and Arturo Sandoval. Tata Güines, a famous conguero, moved to New York City in 1957, playing with jazz players such as Dizzy Gillespie, Maynard Ferguson, and Miles Davis at Birdland. As a percussionist, he performed with Josephine Baker and Frank Sinatra. He returned to Cuba in 1959 after Fidel Castro came to power in the Cuban revolution which he helped fund by contributions from his earnings as a musician.

Filín was a Cuban fashion of the 1940s and 1950s, influenced by popular music in the USA. The word is derived from feeling. It describes a style of post-microphone jazz-influenced romantic song (crooning). Its Cuban roots were in the bolero and the canción. Some Cuban quartets, such as Cuarteto d'Aida and Los Safiros, modelled themselves on U.S. close-harmony groups. Others were singers who had heard Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan and Nat King Cole. Filín singers included César Portillo de la Luz, José Antonio Méndez, who spent a decade in Mexico from 1949 to 1959, Frank Domínguez, the blind pianist Frank Emilio Flynn, and the great singers of boleros Elena Burke and the still-performing Omara Portuondo, who both came from the Cuarteto d'Aida. The filín movement originally had a place every afternoon on Radio Mil Diez. Some of its most prominent singers, such as Pablo Milanés, took up the banner of the nueva trova.

Modern Cuban music is known for its relentless mixing of genres. For example, the 1970s saw Los Irakere use batá in a big band setting; this became known as son-batá or batá-rock. Later artists created the mozambique, which mixed conga and mambo, and batá-rumba, which mixed rumba and batá drum music. Mixtures including elements of hip hop, jazz and rock and roll are also common, like in Habana Abierta's rockoson.

The triumph of the Cuban Revolution in 1959 signalled the emigration of many musicians to Puerto Rico, Florida and New York, and in Cuba the protection (and control) of artists by the Socialist state, and the monopoly state-owned recording company EGREM. The Castro government abolished copyright laws in Cuba after the Revolution, closed many of the venues where popular music used to be played (eg night clubs), and so indirectly threw many musicians out of work. Young musicians now studied classical music and not popular music. In Cuba, the Nueva Trova movement (including Pablo Milanés) reflected the new leftist ideals. The state took over the lucrative Tropicana Club, which continued as a popular attraction for foreign tourists until 1968, when it was closed along with many other music venues. Tourism was almost non-existent for over two decades. Traditional Cuban music could be found in local Casas de la Trova. Musicians, if in work, were full-time and paid by the state after graduating from a conservatory. The fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, and the loss of its support for Cuba changed the situation quite a bit. Tourism became respectable again, and so did popular music for their entertainment. Musicians were even allowed to tour abroad and earn a living outside the state-run system.

Famous artists from the Cuban exile include Celia Cruz and the whole conjunto she sang with, the Sonora Matancera. 'Patato' (Carlos Valdes), Cachao, La Lupe, Arturo Sandoval, Willy Chirino, Paquito D'Rivera and Gloria Estefan are some others. Many of these musicians, especially Cruz, became closely associated with the anti-revolutionary movement, and as 'unpersons' – see 1984 (book) – have been omitted from the standard Cuban reference books, and their subsequent musical recordings are never on sale in Cuba.

Salsa was the fourth innovation based on Cuban music to hit the USA, and differed in that it was initially developed in the USA, not in Cuba. Because Cuba has so many indigenous types of music there has always been a problem in marketing the 'product' abroad to people who did not understand the differences between rhythms that, to a Cuban, are quite distinct. So, twice in the 20th century, a kind of product label was developed to solve this problem. The first occasion was in the 1930s after the Peanut Vendor became an international success. It was called a 'rumba' even though it really had nothing to do with genuine rumba: the number was obviously a son pregon. The label 'rumba' was used outside Cuba for years as a catch-all for Cuban popular music.

The second occasion happened during the period 1965-1975 in New York, as musicians of Cuban and Puerto-Rican origin combined to produce the great music of the post Cha-cha-cha period. This music acquired the label of 'salsa'. No-one really knows how this happened, but everyone recognised what a benefit it was to have a common label for son, mambo, guaracha, guijira, guaguanco &c. Cubans have always said "Salsa is just a name for our music"; but over time salsa bands worked in other influences. For example, in the late 60s Willie Colon developed numbers that made use of Brazilian rhythms. N.Y. radio programmes offered 'salsarengue' as a further combination. Later still 'Salsa romantica' was the label for an especially sugary type of bolero.

The question of whether or not salsa is anything more than Cuban music has been argued over for more than thirty years. Initially, not much difference could be seen. Later it became clear that not only was New York salsa different from popular music in Cuba, but salsa in Venezuela, Columbia and other countries could also be distinguished. It also seems clear that salsa has receded from the great position it achieved in the late 1970s. The reasons for this are also much disputed.

Paralleling nueva canción in Latin America is the Cuban Nueva trova, which dates from about 1967/68, after the Cuban Revolution. It differed from the traditional trova, not because the musicians were younger, but because the content was, in the widest sense, political. Nueva trova is defined by its connection with Castro's revolution, and by its lyrics, which attempt to escape the banalities of life by concentrating on socialism, injustice, sexism, colonialism, racism and similar 'serious' issues. Silvio Rodríguez and Pablo Milanés became the most important exponents of this style. Carlos Puebla and Joseíto Fernández were long-time old trova singers who added their weight to the new regime, but of the two only Puebla wrote special pro-revolution songs.

Nueva Trova had its heyday in the 1970s, but was already declining before the fall of the Soviet Union. Examples of non-political styles in the Nueva Trova movement can be found, for example, Liuba María Hevia whose lyrics are focused on more traditional subjects such as love and solitude, sharing with the rest a highly poetical style. On the other side of the spectrum, Carlos Varela is famous in Cuba for his open criticism of some aspects of Castro's revolution.

The Nueva Trova, initially so popular, suffered both inside Cuba, perhaps from a growing disenchantment with one-party rule, and externally, from the vivid contrast with the Buena Vista Social Club film and recordings. Audiences round the world have had their eyes opened to the extraordinary charm and musical quality of the older forms of Cuban music. By contrast, topical themes that seemed so relevant in the 1960s and 70s now seem dry and passé. Even Guantanamera has been damaged by over-repetition in less skilled hands. All the same, those pieces of high musical and lyrical quality, amongst which Puebla's Hasta siempre Comandante stands out, will probably last as long as Cuba lasts.

Son remains the basis of most popular forms of modern Cuban music. Son is represented by long-standing groups like Septeto Nacional, which was re-established in 1985, Orquesta Aragón, Orquesta Ritmo Oriental and Orquesta Original de Manzanillo. Sierra Maestra, is famous for having sparked a revival in traditional son in the 1980s. Nueva trova still has influence, but the overtly political themes of the 1960s are well out of fashion. Meanwhile, Irakere fused traditional Cuban music with jazz, and groups like NG La Banda, Orishas and Son 14 continued to add new elements to son, especially hip hop and funk, to form timba music; this process was aided by the acquisition of imported electronic equipment. There are still many practitioners of traditional son montuno, such as Eliades Ochoa, who have recorded and toured widely as a result of interest in the son montuno after the Buena Vista Social Club success.

In the 1990s, increased interest in world music coincided with the post-Soviet Union periodo especial in Cuba, during which the economy began opening up to tourism. Orquesta Aragon, Charanga Habanera and Cándido Fabré y su Banda have been long-time players in the charanga scene, and helped form the popular timba scene of the late 1990s. The biggest award in modern Cuban music is the Beny Moré Award.

Cubans have never been content to hear their music described as salsa, even though it is crystal clear that this was a label for their music. For the most part, timba equals salsa cubana, though there are claims that it is something more. Since the early 1990s timba has been used to describe popular dance music in Cuba, rivalled only lately by Reggaetón. Though derived from the same roots as salsa, timba has its own characteristics, and is intimately tied to the life and culture of Cuba, and especially Havana.

A true watershed event was the release of Buena Vista Social Club (1997), a recording of veteran Cuban musicians organized by the American musician and producer, Ry Cooder. Buena Vista Social Club became an immense worldwide hit, selling millions of copies, and made stars of octogenarian Cuban musicians such Ibrahim Ferrer, Rubén González, and Compay Segundo, whose careers had been damaged by the consequences of the revolution of 1959.

Buena Vista resulted in several followup recordings and spawned a film of the same name, as well as tremendous interest in other Cuban groups. In subsequent years, dozens of singers and conjuntos made recordings for foreign labels and toured internationally.

The huge international response stirred some resentment amongst younger musicians who felt that their work, and the evolution of forty years, was being ignored. The truth is that audiences round the world have been charmed by the extraordinary quality of Cuban music from the golden period of 1945 to 1959, when reworked, recorded and presented with modern methods. The phenomenon does pose some interesting questions about present-day music in Cuba, but that is no fault of the audience.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba lost the special barter facilities which had previously applied. The economy, still under pressure from the U.S. trade embargo, went into decline. Poverty became more widespread and visible in Cuba. In the 1990s, some Cubans start to protest this situation by means of rap and hip-hop. The rappers become a 'revolution within a revolution'. . In Cuba, hip hop is useful to describe their life, whereas in American hip hop superficiality and "bling bling" are worshipped.

During the Special Period, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Cuban government then took steps to improve the economy. Havana's music venues started to cater for tourists as well as locals. Before that time tourists were quite a rareity. When hip-hop emerged, the Cuban government opposed the vulgar image that rappers portrayed, but later recognized (1999) it might be better to have hip-hop under the influence of the Ministry of Culture as an "authentic expression of Cuban Culture".

Unlike salsa, which is an indigenous dance music, rap music in Cuba is culturally of foreign origin. Although some rap groups have prided themselves in remaining loyal to true hip hop essence, others (like the Orishas, the only Cuban rap group to succeed in Latin America) have been criticized for using salsa beats to generate commercial appeal.

Like hip hop, Reggaeton from Puerto Rico is a new genre for the Cubans. The advent of web software helped to distribute music unofficially. Both lyrics and dance movements have been criticised. Reggaeton musicians responded by making songs that defended their music. Despite their efforts, the Ministry of Culture has ruled that reggaeton is not to be used in teaching intuitions, parties and at discos.

Hip-hop being tolerated by the government of Cuba is something out of the ordinary, because performers are provided with venues and equipment by the government. The Cuban rap and hip-hop scene sought out the involvement of the Ministry of Culture in the production and promotion of their music, which would otherwise have been impossible to accomplish. By 1999, the Cuban government had endorsed Cuban hip-hop as "authentic Cuban Culture", and the advent of the Cuban Rap Agency in 2002 provided the Cuban rap scene with a state-sponsored record label, magazine, and Cuba's own hip-hop festival.

Under this scheme, the government supports rap and hip-hop groups by giving them time on mass media outlets in return for hip-hop artists limiting self expression and presenting the government in a positive way. The hip-hop artists talk about everyday life in Cuba. However, most critics believe that the Cuban Rap Agency will hide people's opinions of the Cuban government. The government evidently recognises that rap and hip-hop is a growing form of music in Cuba, and would in any event be difficult or impossible to eliminate.

The references below are source material for all aspects of traditional Cuban popular music; the titles in Spanish are those which have not been translated into English.

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Healthcare in Cuba

1900 The Hospital de San Felipe in Havana, a healthcare educational facility built by the religious order San Juan de Dios in the mid 19th century

The Cuban government operates a national health system and assumes fiscal and administrative responsibility for the health care of all its citizens. No private hospitals or clinics are permitted. The present Minister for Public Health is José Ramón Balaguer.

Before the Cuban Revolution, Cuba had the third-highest number of doctors per capita in Latin America, the mortality rate was the third lowest in the world, and the island had the lowest infant mortality rate of Latin America. However, appromimately half of all doctors left the country for the United States following the revolution, leading to an overall worsening in terms of disease and infant mortality rates in the 1960s. Recovery occurred by the 1980s. The health care system suffered from losing massive Soviet subsidies in 1991. The US embargo against Cuba has also contributed. Cuba has one of the highest life expectancy rates in the region, with the average citizen living to 76.

Challenges include low pay of doctors (only 15 dollars a month), poor facilities, poor provision of equipment, and frequent absence of essential drugs. Cubans often rely on sociolismo (black market, relationships, and corruption) to overcome these problems.

As was true of the other indigenous societies of the Americas, Cuban traditional medicine existed before the Spanish conquest. High status traditional practitioners were called Bohiques. After colonization, Cuban medicine followed the Spanish tradition which was inherited from the Moors, who drew upon classical Greek and Roman medical practices, which were inherited from the Ancient Egyptians, such as Imhotep. Chinese medicine has also been practiced in Cuba, the most famous was the 19th century doctor Cham Bom Biam or “El Medico Chino”.

Modern Western Medicine has been practiced in Cuba by formally trained doctors since at least the beginning of the 19th Century and the first surgical clinic was established in 1823. Cuba has had many world class doctors, including Carlos Finlay, who determined how Yellow fever was spread under the direction of Walter Reed, James Carroll, and Aristides Agramonte. During the period of U.S presence (1898–1902) yellow fever was essentially eliminated due to the efforts of Clara Maass and surgeon Jesse W. Lazear.

By the 1950s, the island had some of the most positive health indices in the Americas, not far behind the United States and Canada. Cuba was one of the leaders in terms of life expectancy, and the number of doctors per thousand of the population ranked above Britain, France and Holland. In Latin America it ranked in third place after Uruguay and Argentina. There remained marked inequalities however. Most of Cuba's doctors were based in the relatively prosperous cities and regional towns, and conditions in rural areas, notably Oriente, were significantly worse. Only 8% of the rural population had access to healthcare. The mortality rate was the third lowest in the world. According to the World Health Organization, the island had the lowest infant mortality rate of Latin America.

Following the Revolution, an increase in disease and infant mortality was observed in the 1960.. The new Cuban government asserted that universal healthcare was to become a priority of state planning. In 1960 revolutionary and physician Che Guevara outlined his aims for the future of Cuban healthcare in an essay entitled "On Revolutionary Medicine", stating: "The work that today is entrusted to the Ministry of Health and similar organizations is to provide public health services for the greatest possible number of persons, institute a program of preventive medicine, and orient the public to the performance of hygienic practices." These aims were hampered almost immediately by an exodus of almost half of Cuba’s physicians to the United States, leaving the country with only 3,000 doctors and 16 professors in University of Havana’s medical college. Beginning in 1960, the Ministry of Public Health began a program of nationalization and regionalization of medical services.

Cuba's doctor to patient ratio grew significantly in the latter half of the 20th century, from 9.2 doctors per 10,000 inhabitants in 1958, to 58.2 per 10,000 in 1999. In the 1960s the government implemented a program of almost universal vaccinations. This helped eradicate many contagious diseases including polio and rubella, though some diseases increased during the period of economic hardship of the 1990s, such as tuberculosis, hepatitis and chicken pox. Other campaigns included a program to reduce the infant mortality rate in 1970 directed at maternal and prenatal care.

In 2007, Cuba announced that it has undertaken computerising and creating national networks in Blood Banks, Nephrology and Medical Images. Cuba is the second country in the world with such a product, only preceded by France. Cuba is preparing a Computerised Health Register, Hospital Management System, Primary Health Care, Academic Affairs, Medical Genetic Projects, Neurosciences, and Educational Software. The aim is to maintain quality health service free for the Cuban people, increase exchange among experts and boost research-development projects. An important link in wiring process is to guarantee access to Cuba's Data Transmission Network and Health Website (INFOMED) to all units and workers of the national health system.

Like the rest of the Cuban economy, Cuban medical care has suffered from severe material shortages following the end of Soviet subsidies and the ongoing United States embargo against Cuba that began after the Cuban agrarian reform.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the chance of a Cuban child dying at five years of age or younger is 7 per 1000 live births in Cuba, while it's 8 per 1000 in the US. WHO reports that Cuban males have a life expectancy at birth of 75 years and females 79 years. In comparison, the US life expectancy at birth is 75 and 80 years for males and females, respectively. Cuba's infant mortality rate is lower than the US with 5 deaths per thousand in Cuba versus 7 per thousand in the US. Cuba has nearly twice as many physicians as the U.S. -- 5.91 doctors per thousand people compared to 2.56 doctors per thousand, according to WHO.

Abortion rates, which are high in Cuba, increased dramatically during the 1980s, but had almost halved by 1999 and declined to near 1970s levels of 32.0 per 100 pregnancies. The rate is still among the highest in Latin America and also one explanation for the low infant mortality rate.

Among adults less than 49 years old, accidents are the leading cause of death, though occupational accidents have declined significantly in the last decade. The suicide rate is 18.2 per 100,000 and the homicide rate is 7.0 per 100,000. The rates of suicide in the island are the highest in Latin America and have been among the highest in the region and the world since the nineteenth century. Cuban-American suicide rates in Miami are lower than other Miami groups, according to the anti-Castro Cuban American National Council. Among older adults heart disease and cancer predominate as causes of mortality. General mortality has been "characterized by a marked predominance of causes associated with chronic noncommunicable diseases", according to the Pan American Health Organization.

While preventive medical care, diagnostic tests and medication for hospitalised patients are free, some aspects of healthcare are paid for by the patient. Items which are paid by patients who can afford it are: drugs prescribed on an outpatient basis, hearing, dental, and orthopedic processes, wheelchairs and crutches. When a patient can obtain these items at state stores, prices tend to be low as these items are subsidised by the state. For patients on a low-income, these items are free of charge..

According to the UNAIDS report of 2003 there were an estimated 3,300 Cubans living with HIV/AIDS (approx 0.05% of the population). In the mid-1980s, when little was known about the virus, Cuba compulsorily tested thousands of its citizens for HIV. Those who tested positive were taken to Los Cocos and were not allowed to leave. The policy drew criticism from the United Nations and was discontinued in the 1990s. Since 1996 Cuba began the production of generic anti-retroviral drugs reducing the costs to well below that of developing countries. This has been made possible through the substantial government subsidies to treatment.

In 2003 Cuba had the lowest HIV prevalence in the Americas and one of the lowest in the world. The UNAIDS reported that HIV infection rates for Cuba were 0.1%, and for other countries in the Caribbean between 1 - 4%. Education in Cuba concerning issues of HIV infection and AIDS is implemented by the Cuban National Center for Sex Education.

In recent years because of the increase in prostitution and lack of prevention, STD's have increased significantly.

During the 90s the ongoing United States embargo against Cuba caused problems due to restrictions on the export of medicines from the US to Cuba. In 1992 the US embargo was made more stringent with the passage of the Cuban Democracy Act resulting in all U.S. subsidiary trade, including trade in food and medicines, being prohibited. The legislation did not state that Cuba cannot purchase medicines from U.S. companies or their foreign subsidiaries; however, such license requests have been routinely denied. In 1995 the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States informed the U.S. Government that such activities violate international law and has requested that the U.S. take immediate steps to exempt medicine from the embargo. The Lancet and the British Medical Journal also condemned the embargo in the 90s.

A 1997 report prepared by Oxfam America and the Washington Office on Latin America, Myths And Facts About The U.S. Embargo On Medicine And Medical Supplies, concluded that the embargo forced Cuba to use more of its limited resources on medical imports, both because equipment and drugs from foreign subsidiaries of U.S. firms or from non-U.S.sources tend to be higher priced and because shipping costs are greater. The Democracy Act of 1992 further exacerbated the problems in Cuba's medical system. It prohibited foreign subsidiaries of U.S. corporations from selling to Cuba, thus further limiting Cuba's access to medicine and equipment, and raising prices. In addition, the act forbids ships that dock in Cuban ports from docking in U.S. ports for six months. This drastically restricts shipping, and increases shipping costs some 30%.

However, in 2000 the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act was passed, and the US is now the single largest source for imported food. The Cuban American National Foundation state that the US embargo does not include medicines and medical supplies to the Cuban people. It also states that should Cuba choose not to purchase from the U.S., it can purchase any medicine or medical equipment it needs from other countries. Such third-country transactions only cost an estimated 2%-3% more than purchases from the U.S. as a result of higher shipping costs.

The US government states that since 1992, 36 out of 39 license requests from U.S. companies and their subsidiaries for sales of medical items to Cuba have been approved. The dollar amount of these sales is over $1,600,000. Furthermore, the U.S. government licensed more than $227 million in humanitarian donations of medicines and medical supplies to Cuba between 1993 and 1997. There are other factors beside the embargo explaining the lack of imports, in particular Cuba's lack of hard currency. Those with dollars can easily buy medicines and food in Cuba from Latin America and Canada. Cuba defaulted on its debt to Western banks in 1986 and lacks access to the international credit system in order to get foreign currency. In addition, the collapse of the Soviet Union caused the loss of several billions of dollars in yearly subsidies and overnight required hard currency for all imports.

According to the World Health Organization, Cuba provides a doctor for every 170 residents, and has the second highest doctor to patient ratio in the world after Italy. All fiscal and administrative aspects of health care in Cuba are run by the state; no private hospitals or clinics are permitted, and medical workers are required to work for the state. Historically, Cuba has long ranked high in numbers of medical personnel; in 1957, before the revolution, it ranked third in Latin America and ahead of many European nations. Medical professionals are not paid high salaries by national or international standards. In 2002 the mean monthly salary was 261 pesos, thus 1.5 times the national mean. A doctor’s salary in the late 1990s was equivalent to about US$15-20 per month in purchasing power. Therefore, many prefer to work in different occupations, generally in the lucrative tourist industry (e.g. taxi drivers), where earnings could be 50 to 60 times more.

The San Francisco Chronicle, The Washington Post, and NPR have all reported on Cuban doctors defecting to other countries. , , According to the San Francisco Chronicle, one of the reasons that Cuban doctors defect is because their salary in Cuba is only $15 per month.

The difficulty in gaining access to certain medicines and treatments has led to healthcare playing an increasing role in Cuba's burgeoning black market economy, sometimes termed "sociolismo". According to former leading Cuban neurosurgeon and dissident Dr Hilda Molina, "The doctors in the hospitals are charging patients under the table for better or quicker service." Prices for out-of-surgery X-rays have been quoted at $50 to $60. Such "under-the-table payments" reportedly date back to the 1970s, when Cubans used gifts and tips in order to get health benefits. The harsh economic downturn known as the "Special Period" in the 1990s aggravated these payments. The advent of the "dollar economy", a temporary legalisation of the dollar which led some Cubans to receive dollars from their relatives outside of Cuba, meant that a class of Cubans were able to obtain medications and health services that would not be available to them otherwise.

Because the education of physicians came to exceed the country's internal requirements, Cuba has been able to export primary care practitioners and specialists for periods of service in other Third World nations. Cuban doctors have therefore played a role in many regions of the world. Cuba's missions in 68 countries are manned by 25,000 Cuban doctors, and medical teams have assisted victims of both the South Asian Tsunami and the Pakistan earthquake. Cuba currently exports considerable health services and personnel to Venezuela in exchange for subsidized oil. Nearly 2,000 Cuban doctors are currently working in Africa in countries including South Africa, Gambia, Guinea Bissau and Mali. Since the Chernobyl nuclear plant exploded in 1986, more than 20,000 children from Ukraine, Belarus and Russia have traveled to Cuba for treatment of radiation sickness and psychologically based problems associated with the radiation disaster. In response to the 2005 Hurricane Katrina disaster, Castro offered to send a "brigade" of 1,500 doctors to the US to provide humanitarian aid. Though this offer was never accepted, the brigade was later expanded and christened the Henry Reeve Brigade after the American who fought for Cuba's independence in Ten Years' War.

Cuban doctors play a primary role in the Mission Barrio Adentro (Spanish: "Mission Into the Neighborhood") social welfare program established in Venezuela under current Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez. The program, which is popular among Venezuela's poor and is intended to bring doctors and other medical services to the most remote slums of Venezuela, has not been without its detractors. The Venezuelan Medical Association has criticised the appointment of Cuban doctors to high-ranking positions, and protests have taken place in the capital Caracas by Venezuelan medical staff who fear that the Cubans are a threat to Venezuelan jobs. Questions have also been raised by protestors about the level of Cuban medical qualifications, and there have been claims that the Cubans are "political agents" who have come to Venezuela to indoctrinate the workforce.

Cuban government sends only married doctors. Spouse and children are forced remain in Cuba.

Doctors are monitored by police and intelligence agents. The Cuban government uses relatives as hostages to prevent doctors from defecting.

Hundreds of doctors sent to Venezuela have fled to neighboring Colombia, where they have sought temporary asylum.

Operación Milagro (Operation Miracle) is a joint health programme between Cuba and Venezuela, set up in 2005. The initiative is part of the Sandino commitment, which sees both countries coming together with the aim of offering free ophthalmology operations to an estimated 6 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean. The project is also part of ALBA (Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas). Under the agreement, patients from Venezuela and other Latin American nations, are flown to into Cuba for eye surgeries and other major treatments. This is part of a package which includes the Cuban personnel sent to Venezuela (see above) and the fact 90,000 barrels of crude oil per day at preferential rates. In late 2005, Operación Milagro was extended to Panamanians, and in June 2006 to Nicaraguans. All flights, accommodation and food are funded by the Venezuelan government. The scheme was intended to expand to 500,000 operations a year in 2006.

Opponents of the Cuban government accuse it of sending the doctors to Venezuela for political motives.

Cuba attracts nearly 20000 paying health tourists, generating revenues of around $40m a year for the Cuban economy. Cuba has been serving health tourists from around the world for more than 20 years. The country operates a special division of hospitals specifically for the treatment of foreigners and diplomats. Foreign patients travel to Cuba for a wide range of treatments including eye-surgery, neurological disorders such as multiple sclerosis and Parkinsons disease, cosmetic surgery, addictions treatment, retinitis pigmentosa and orthopaedics. Most patients are from Latin America, Europe and Canada, and a growing number of Americans also are coming. Cuba also successfully exports many medical products, such as vaccines. By 1998, according to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, the Cuban health sector had risen to occupy around two percent of total tourism. Some of these revenues are in turn transferred to health care for ordinary Cubans, although the size and importance of these transfers is both unknown and controversial. At one nationally prominent hospital/research institute, hard currency payments by foreigners have financed the construction of a new bathroom in the splanic surgery wing; anecdotal evidence suggests that this pattern is common in Cuban hospitals.

Economic constraints and restrictions on medicines have forced the Cuban health system to incorporate alternative and herbal solutions to healthcare issues, which can be more accessible and affordable to a broader population In the 1990’s, the Cuban Ministry of Public Health officially recognized natural and traditional medicine and began its integration into the already well established Western medicine model. Examples of alternative techniques used by the clinics and hospitals include: flower essence, neural and hydromineral therapies, homeopathy, traditional Chinese medicine (i.e. acupunctural anesthesia for surgery), natural dietary supplements, yoga, electromagnetic and laser devices. Children begin studying the multiple uses of medicinal plants in primary school, learning to grow and tend their own plots of aloe, chamomile, and mint, and later they conduct scientific studies about their uses. Radio and Television programs instruct people on how to relieve common stomach upset and headaches by pressing key points. Cuban bio-chemists have produced a number of new alternative medicines, including PPG (policosanol), a natural product derived from sugarcane wax that is effective at reducing total cholesterol and LDL levels, and Vimang a natural product derived from the bark of mango trees.

The Cuban Ministry of Health produces a number of medical journals including the ACIMED, the Cuban Journal of Surgery and the Cuban Journal of Tropical Medicine. Because the U.S. government restricts investments in Cuba by U.S. companies and their affiliates, Cuban institutions have been limited in their ability to enter into research and development partnerships.

In April 2007, the Cuba IPV Study Collaborative Group reported in the New England Journal of Medicine that inactivated (killed) poliovirus vaccine was effective in vaccinating children in tropical conditions. The Collaborative Group consisted of the Cuban Ministry of Public Health, Kourí Institute, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Pan American Health Organization, and the World Health Organization. This is important because countries with high incidence of polio are now using live oral poliovirus vaccine. When polio is eliminated in a country, they must stop using the live vaccine, because it has a slight risk of reverting to the dangerous form of polio. The collaborative group found that when polio is eliminated in a population, they could safely switch to killed vaccine and be protected from recurrent epidemics. Cuba has been free of polio since 1963, but continues with mass immunization campaigns.

In 2006, BBC flagship news programme Newsnight featured Cuba's Healthcare system as part of a series identifying "the world's best public services". The report noted that "Thanks chiefly to the American economic blockade, but partly also to the web of strange rules and regulations that constrict Cuban life, the economy is in a terrible mess: national income per head is minuscule, and resources are amazingly tight. Healthcare, however, is a top national priority" The report stated that life expectancy and infant mortality rates are pretty much the same as the USA's. Its doctor-to-patient ratios stand comparison to any country in Western Europe. Its annual total health spend per head, however, comes in at $251; just over a tenth of the UK's. The report concluded that the population's admirable health is one of the key reasons why Castro is still in power. In fact, a recent poll carried out by the Gallup Organization's Costa Rican affiliate — Consultoría Interdisciplinaria en Desarrollo (CID) — found that about three-quarters of Cuban citizens are positive about their country's education and healthcare systems.

In 2000, Secretary General of the United Nations Kofi Annan stated that "Cuba should be the envy of many other nations" adding that achievements in social development are impressive given the size of its gross domestic product per capita. "Cuba demonstrates how much nations can do with the resources they have if they focus on the right priorities - health, education, and literacy." The Kaiser Family Foundation, a non-governmental organization that evaluated Cuba’s healthcare system in 2000-1 described Cuba as "a shining example of the power of public health to transform the health of an entire country by a commitment to prevention and by careful management of its medical resources" President of the World Bank James Wolfensohn also praised Cuba's healthcare system in 2001, saying that "Cuba has done a great job on education and health", at the annual meeting of the Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Wayne Smith, former head of the US Interests Section in Havana identified "the incredible dedication" of Cubans to healthcare, adding that "Doctors in Cuba can make more driving cabs and working in hotels, but they don't. They're just very dedicated". Dr. Robert N. Butler, president of the International Longevity Center in New York and a Pulitzer Prize-winning author on aging, has traveled to Cuba to see firsthand how doctors are trained. He said a principal reason that some health standards in Cuba approach the high American level is that the Cuban system emphasizes early intervention. Clinic visits are free, and the focus is on preventing disease rather than treating it. Furthermore, London's The Guardian newspaper lauded Cuba's public healthcare system for what it viewed as its high quality in a Sept. 12, 2007 article.

In 2001, members of the UK House of Commons Health Select Committee travelled to Cuba and issued a report that paid tribute to "the success of the Cuban healthcare system", based on its "strong emphasis on disease prevention" and "commitment to the practice of medicine in a community".

The Parliament of the United Kingdom also drew up an analysis of the key features of Cuba's healthcare system, drawing comparisons with the state funded National Health Service (NHS). The overall conclusion was that many of the features identified would not have occurred had there not been an obvious commitment to health provision demonstrated by the protection and proportion of the budget given the health care. The study concluded the following.

Complaints have arisen that foreign "health tourists" paying with dollars and senior Communist party officials receive a higher quality of care than Cuban citizens. Former leading Cuban neurosurgeon and dissident Dr Hilda Molina asserts that the central revolutionary objective of free, quality medical care for all has been eroded by Cuba's need for foreign currency. Molina says that following the economic collapse known in Cuba as the Special Period, the Cuban Government established mechanisms designed to turn the medical system into a profit-making enterprise. This creates an enormous disparity in the quality of healthcare services between foreigners and Cubans leading to a form of tourist apartheid. In 1998 she said that foreign patients were routinely inadequately or falsely informed about their medical conditions to increase their medical bills or to hide the fact that Cuba often advertises medical services it is unable to provide. Others makes similar claims, also stating that senior Communist party and military officials can access this higher quality system free of charge. In 2005, an account written by Cuban exile and critic of Fidel Castro, Carlos Wotzkow, appeared showing apparent unsanitary and unsafe conditions in the "Clínico Quirúrgico" of Havana;the article claims that health care for Cubans occurs in worse conditions in the rest of the country.

WWWW in Canadian newspaper National Post, based interviews of Cubans, finds that in reality even the most common pharmaceutical items, such as Aspirin and antibiotics are conspicuously absent or only available on the black market. Surgeons lack basic supplies and must re-use latex gloves. Patients must buy their own sutures on the black market and provide bedsheets and food for extended hospital stays. The Cuban government blames the shortages on the embargo and states that those with more severe chronic diseases receive medicines. However, other sources suggest that also those with such diseases lack medicines. It is also suggested that in some cases the local non-dollar stocks have been shipped abroad.

An article in The Boston Globe, partially based on interviews with Cubans, argues that the massive export of doctors and other medical personal to Venezuela in exchange for oil has caused shortages in Cuba. Regarding Operación Milagro, "It's all the Venezuelans who need cataracts surgery first, and then the Cubans if there's any time left", said Georgina, 60, a retired Havana clerk.

A recent ABC-TV 20/20 report on Healthcare, based on footage taken from within the island, criticized Michael Moore's portrayals of the Cuban Healthcare system. The report highlights the dilapitated conditions of some hospitals that are accessible to regular Cubans by pointing to the bleak conditions of hospital rooms and the filthy conditions of the facilities. The report also addressed the quality of care available to Cubans by arguing that patient neglect was a common phenomenon. Finally, in discussing the infant mortality rate, the report highlights the government's alleged efforts to promote abortions of potentially infirm fetuses and other alleged government efforts to manipulate the rate.

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Source : Wikipedia