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Cuban Society, Culture, Customs, Religion and People


Although Christopher Columbus (on 27 October 1492) officially discovered Cuba, aboriginal tribesmen (Taino) lived in modern-day Cuba for centuries before this date. However, notwithstanding Columbus’s discovery of Cuba in 1492, it was not until 1510 that the founding farther of Cuba, Diego de Velazquez, officially founded the Colony of Cuba (as a colony of Spain). At that time he also founded the great city of Santiago de Cuba (Cuba’s first capital city), as well as six others.

Since 1510 Cuba has became a popular port of call for ships sailing between Europe, Africa, Central America and North America. Consequently, today Cuba has a magnificent diversity of cultures and customs. Nevertheless, Fidel Castro’s overthrow of Fulgencio Batista’s 20-years of dictatorship on 1 January 1959, and his replacement of the brutal dictator with a Marxist/communist form of government, has resulted in Cuba being polarized by the Western world over the last few decades.

Cuban People
Due in no small part to the rich history of Cuba, its population is made of a wide tapestry of indigenous people. However, by far the largest part of the population of Cuba today, which currently stands at 11.3 million, are Spanish descendants (60 per cent). The remainder of Cuba’s population is made up of descendants from Cuba’s slave trade (Africans make-up 11 per cent of the population) and those of mixed race (accounting for 22 per cent of the population).

Insofar as the gender make-up of Cuba is concerned, amazing Cuba has an almost identical number of males and females.

Cuban Education System
Cuba proudly boasts one of the best education systems in Latin America – with over 97 per cent of its population being literate. In order to achieve this, Cuban children are normally required to attend school (as a compulsory requirement) between the ages of 6 and 15 – when they’ll receive a Secondary School Completion Diploma and may elect to leave school.

Students who wish to continue their studies can do so at either a Technical Secondary School or Upper Secondary School, until they reach the age of 18. Students who complete their Upper Secondary School studies, are entitled to attend university, which is free to all students. A university course in Cuba usually last between 4 and 5 years.

Having said this, as a communist country, it should be noted that large parts of Cuba’s education system focus on alternative forms of education; such as mechanics, farming, etc. In this regard, students are required, under Cuba’s education system, to spend at least part of each year working the land.

Cuban Health System
Cuba has one of the best possible healthcare systems in Latin American and the Caribbean. As a communist country, the healthcare provided is also free (to Cubans).
Aside from its extensive array of hospitals, Cuba also as a good selection of pharmacies - known locally as “farmacias”. Most of the big farmacias, are open 24 hours a day.

Cuban Religion
Although Cuba has in place an unashamed communist regime, approximately half of its population (47 per cent) still consider themselves to be practicing Catholics. Thus, the importance of Catholicism on Cuban life cannot be underplayed and can be evidenced by the fact that Pope John Paul the Second officially visited Cuba in 1997 – thereby becoming the first Catholic Pope to officially visit communist Cuba.

Besides its largely Catholic population, Cuba also has a small number of practicing Protestants (4 per cent) and Santeria (2 per cent). Overall then, it would be a fair remark to suggest that, even as a communist country, Cuba (and in particular Cubans) still retains deep religious beliefs.

Cuban Customs
Cuba is possibly best known around the world for 3 things: communism; sport (boxing and baseball) and music. However, Cuba really does have much more of a tradition-based custom than these. For example, food is important to Cubans; arts (both still and moving) are important to Cubans and fiesta time is important to Cubans.

Aside from those more mainstream cultural norms that you may see in Cuba, Cuba also has a few more select customs. A traditional Cuban wedding would be among these more select cultural norms.

* Cubans and marriage
As a Catholic country you would think that Cubans took marriage serious. On the contrary, since the communist revolution, Cuba has one of the highest divorce rates in Latin America – if not the world! Many argue that the reason for this is because of the fiesta fun had at a wedding is far greater than the fun had remaining married to someone. Whatever the case may be, many Cubans in their mid-30s are into their third marriage!

* Cuba: the wedding ceremony
As a communist country, the wedding ceremony in Cuba is a civil one. It is also fairly painless and over with quickly. However, in line with modern Cuban tradition, the procession to the wedding ceremony, and from the ceremony, can be colorful and exotic occasions. Going to the wedding usually entails being part of a large procession of people wishing the newly weds bliss in their married lives together. Following the wedding ceremony there is usually a large fiesta at which the traditional wedding cake is presented. Many a Cuban will spend (comparatively) a fortune on making sure that both the drive to the ceremony and the wedding cake are memorable occasions at their wedding.

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