We’ve recently announced new itineraries calling on Havana, Cuba. This is a game-changer for many cruisers, especially well-traveled folks who’ve already visited most Caribbean islands. Cuba is unlike any other Caribbean destination, and we can’t wait to explore it with you. Here are ten fun facts about Cuba to inspire your vacation planning!
Cuba is bigger than you think.
Cuba is the largest island in the Caribbean, with an area of 42,800 square miles. It’s often called El Caiman, Spanish for alligator because that’s what the island looks like from an aerial view. Can you see it?
Those classic cars are running against all odds.
Cuba’s famous for its plethora of classic American cars. Strolling the streets of Havana, you’ll see brands like Oldsmobile, Buick, Ford, and Plymouth. Beginning in 1959, Cubans were not able to import foreign cars. In recent years, restrictions have been loosened. Keeping these vintage cars running on spare and custom parts is a true testament to the innovative approach to mechanics on the island!
Ernest Hemingway was a fan.
Ernest Hemingway wrote The Old Man and the Sea and For Whom The Bell Tolls while living in Cuba. Hemingway bought Finca Vigía, an estate just outside Havana, in 1940 and lived there for more than twenty years. Hemingway wrote thousands of letters at his estate, spent time fishing in the Gulf Stream, and frequented The Floridita Bar. Want to know more? Check out our Ernest Hemingway blog here.
We bet you’ve heard of these famous Cubans.
Celebrities born in Cuba include singer Gloria Estefan and her husband, musician Emilio Estefan, actor Andy Garcia, baseball player Jose Canseco, and performer Desi Arnaz.
Cubans love baseball.
The most popular sport in Cuba is baseball. It was introduced to the island in 1864, and the Cuban League was created in 1878. Baseball became associated with the Cuban identity, as the country struggled to win its independence from Spain. Today’s Cuban National League is one of the best in the world and has won gold medals at the 1992 and 1996 Olympics.
Cuba has one of the highest literacy rates in the world.
Cuba has a literacy rate of 99.8%, among the highest in the world. The Cuban Literacy Campaign was a yearlong effort to end illiteracy following the Cuban Revolution. Prior to 1959, literacy in Cuba was between 60% and 76%. By the end of the campaign, over 700,000 adults had been taught to read – raising the literacy rate to 96%. Volunteers who worked on the Cuban Literacy Campaign went on to help with literacy campaigns in fifteen other countries. In 2006, UNESCO awarded a Cuban organization with the King Sejong Literacy Prize.
Cuban cigars are world-renowned.
Cuba is famous for its fantastic cigars. Now, Americans are allowed to return home with $100 worth of Cuban cigars – that’s about four good cigars, max. A single cigar takes about 100 steps to complete, and are hand-rolled. Each Cuban cigar comes with a stamp of authenticity that features the Cuban flag and a picture of a tobacco plantation. Learn more about Cuban cigars by reading this blog.
Approximately 368 species of birds are found in Cuba, including 25 that are unique to the island. Cuba is home to the world’s smallest bird, the Bee Hummingbird. It’s only about two inches in length, so keep your eyes peeled!
Cuban’s primary religion is Catholicism, but some Cubans practice Santeria.
The Santeria religion is an Afro-Caribbean religion that grew out of the slave trade in Cuba. It’s based on Yoruba beliefs, with some Roman Catholic influences. Santeria translates to “Worship of Saints”. The religion is focused on the relationship between humans and mortal deities called Orishas. An Orisha is a manifestation of Olodumare, or God. Orishas are associated with several Catholic saints. Practitioners of Santeria often wear all white, and a colorful beaded necklace that represents the Orisha at the center of his or her worship. In Havana, the Santeria Church of Nuestra Senora de Regla is famous for its black Madonna statue inside.
You can find a Beatle in a Havana park.
A bronze statue of John Lennon sitting on a bench can be found in Havana’s John Lennon Park. It was unveiled in 2000, on the twentieth anniversary of Lennon’s assassination. There is an inscription that reads: Dirás que soy un soñador pero no soy el único – a Spanish translation of the Imagine song lyrics “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one”.
These ten fascinating facts about Cuba only scratch the surface of what this amazing country has to offer! We can’t wait to show you around in person. Click here to learn more about our Cuba cruises.