The Republic of Cuba is an island nation in the Caribbean consisting of the main island of Cuba, the Isla de la Juventud, and several archipelagos. Havana is the largest city in Cuba and the country’s capital with Santiago de Cuba as the second largest city.
In 1492, Christopher Columbus landed on and claimed the island now occupied by Cuba, for the Kingdom of Spain and remained a territory of Spain until the Spanish American War ended in 1898, and gained formal independence from the U.S. in 1902. Between 1953 and 1959 the Cuban Revolution occurred, removing the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista. A new government led by Fidel Castro was later set up. The current Cuban government is considered by the 2010 Democracy Index as “authoritarian”.
Cuba is the most populous island nation in the Caribbean, as well as the largest by area. 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.
Before the 1959 Revolution, Cuba was a popular tourist destination for United States citizens, mainly due to the large number of casinos catering to gamblers put up by the American mafia. Revolutionaries claim the Batista dictatorship was a government that neglected many of its own citizens health and welfare in order to maintain itself in power.
Many Americans had beach homes during the summer and rich American companies owned large factories and land with the cooperation of Fulgenicio Batista, the ruling military dictator. Since the Revolution, Cuba has been subjected to a trade and economic embargo by the United States. Since 2009, US citizens with relatives living in Cuba have been allowed to visit Cuba.
After 1959, Cuban tourism was mostly for Cubans only, and the facilities were not renewed until the 1990s, when Cuba lost financial backing from the defunct Soviet Union and opened its doors to foreign tourism. Now many European, Canadian, and even American visitors come to the island. In the typical tourist regions like Varadero and Holguin a lot of modern 3-star to 5-star hotels are available, while in less popular tourist regions visitors are still able to rent rooms in many Cuban homes (called casas particulares).
Due to several long-standing factors (e.g. bureaucratic ineffectiveness, the U.S. embargo, lack of resources, and the loss of Soviet subsidies) much of the country’s infrastructure is in need of repair. In major tourist destinations there will generally be few problems with either power or water, although such outages may occur.
Electricity outages have been common in Cuba, except in tourist facilities that have a generator. 2006 was designated the Year of the Energy Revolution in Cuba, and many small generators have been installed in an attempt to avoid blackouts. Since Venezuela began providing Cuba with cheap oil and the refinery in Cienfuegos relaunched, the energy situation has improved. Many tourist accommodations offer 220V as well as 110V power sources.