Cuba is one of the most sought after tourist destinations in the Caribbean for its stunning beaches, rich history and lore and incredible music scene. Whether you plan to visit or are just brushing up on your Cuban knowledge, there’s much more to this sunny paradise than cigars and Castro. Here are seven interesting facts about Cuba.
7 of the Most Interesting Facts About Cuba
1. Christmas Was Illegal
At the height of Castro’s communist regime, Cuba functioned as an atheist state. By ’69, Castro has officially abolished Christmas, and for 30 years it was not recognized as an official holiday. During this time, Christmas was referred to as Las Navidades Silenciadas (The Silent Christmases). Following the historic visit of Pope John Paul II’s visit to Cuba, Christmas resumed.
2. Cuba boasts one of the world’s highest literacy rates
Coming in at 99.8, Cuba holds one of the highest literacy rates around the globe. Following the Cuba Revolution, Castro launched an initiative known as the Cuban Literacy Campaign to abolish illiteracy and make education accessible to everyone, especially those from marginalized groups. To this day, it’s still considered a “remarkable success.”
3. It’s home to the world’s smallest bird
Cuba boasts an impressive amount of endemic bird species – 25, in fact. Among them are the bee hummingbird, which is the smallest bird in the world. At just 6 cm max, the tiny bird is famous for its vibrant iridescent colours and can sometimes be mistaken for an insect.
4. It’s the largest island in the Caribbean
At 109,884 square kilometres, Cuba is the largest island in the Caribbean. And it’s not by a hair, either. The next largest island is the Dominican Republic which comes in at just 49,000 square kilometres.
Thanks to its size, the coastline is no joke. With over 200 bays and 250 beaches, the Cuban coastline spans over 5,600 miles.
5. Baseball is a big deal
Its origins of popularity throughout the island are a hot topic, but it’s mostly understood that it became popular thanks to Cuban students returning home after studying at universities in the USA. Then, in the late 1800s, Spaniards banned the sport which unironically only made it more popular. Over the years it became a symbol of the struggle for independence from Spain. To this day, whether for its nostalgia or entertainment, it’s still the most popular sport on the island.
6. Cuba has an impressive amount of UNESCO sites
Cuba boasts not 7, not 8, but 9 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. One of the most popular is the Desembarco del Grandma National Park, famous for its sea cliffs and limestone terraces. Several others are famous for their cultural importance, such as Old Havana, Ciñales Valles and Cienfuegos.
7. Santeria is the second most popular religion
Throughout the colonial era, thousands of African slaves arrived at the Caribbean to work on plantations. To this day, Cuban and African culture and intrinsically linked with one another. Specifically in the name of religion. One of the main elements of Cuban-Afro culture is Santeria, which contains a mix of traditions between the Yoruba and Roman Catholic faiths.