Despite the best efforts of the power to its north,
the sun still shines on Cuba. It's the Caribbean's largest and least
commercialized island and one of the world's last bastions of communism.
The island's relative political isolation has prevented it from
being overrun by tourists, and locals are sincerely friendly to
those who do venture in - even blockade runners from the US get
a warm welcome! The Helms-Burton Act has allowed Cuba to find its
place in the post-Soviet world gradually, without the sudden destabilizing
shock of mass consumer tourism from the United States. It's only
a matter of time before American-imposed travel and trade barriers
fall. No doubt millions will come when flights from Miami resume.
Clearly, the time to go is now.
Although you can't quite hear the colonial architecture
peeling in the streets, even Cuba's larger towns are pretty relaxed.
The most frenetic it gets is in the middle of an enthusiastic chachachá,
and the loudest it gets is behind one of the huge finned American
cars chugging the streets. If you want it even quieter, Cuba's backcountry
and beaches are perfect chillout destinations for hikers, swimmers,
spelunkers or those who just want to smoke a fine cigar under a
Full country name: Republic of Cuba
Area: 110,860 sq km
Population: 11 million
Capital city: Havana (pop 2,200,000)
People: 60% Spanish descent, 22% mulatto, 11% African descent, 1% Chinese
Religion: 47% Catholic, 4% Protestant, 2% Santería (many Catholics also practice Santería)
Government: Communist republic
Head of State: Raúl Castro
GDP: US$20 billion
GDP per head: US$2000
Annual growth: 2.5%
Major industries: Sugar, minerals, tobacco, agricultural, medicine & tourism
Major trading partners: Western Europe, Latin America, Russia, China, Iran & North Korea