Capital | Havana
Population | 11,477, 459 (July 2010 est.)
Area | 110,860 SQ KM
Official Language | Spanish
Holidays | Triumph of the Revolution, 1 January (1959)
Currency | Cuban pesos (CUP)
Time Zone | UTC -5
Best Time to Visit | November to May – to avoid the heat and hurricanes
Connecting with the Culture | Walking along Havana’s Malecon on a warm night. Dancing the salsa (or pretending to) in a nightclub. Taking in a baseball game in Cuba’s Major League. Smoking a cigar and drinking mojitos… just because.
Read | Trading with the Enemy: A Yankee Travels Through Castro’s Cuba by Tom Miller.
Listen | to the Buena Vista Social Club, a group of legendary Cuban musicians, some as old as their nineties or Polo Montanez’s Guajiro Natural.
Watch | Fresa y Chocolate, 1995’s hit Havana comedy directed by Tomas Gutierrez and Juan Carlos Tabio.
Eat | ajiaco stew, featuring potatoes, meat, plantains, corn, old beer and anything else lying around.
Drink | a minty, sweet rum mojito
In a Word | No es facil (‘it’s not easy’, applied to virtually everything)
Characteristics | cigars; communists; rum; salsa; Fidel; poverty; sex; the Buena Vista Social Club.
Surprises | Many people actually like communism; everything is priced in US dollars and more expensive than you think; TV soap operas are the biggest show in town; Cubans drive how they want, where they want.
NEWS ABOUT CUBA:
Fidel Castro, excommunicated in 1962, meets with Pope Benedict
(HN, 3/28/12) - When the late pope John Paul 2 met with Fidel Castro in Cuba in 1998, the church had high hopes it could help bring fast political change to the island, as his visit had to his native Poland. That never happened. Only 1/2 of Cubans identify as Catholic today, which was once officially Atheist & fewer than 10% actually practice. Nearly 15 years later, Pope Benedict XVI is wrapping up a 3-day trip to the island having met with both Castro brothers - Raul & Fidel - current & former Presidents of Cuba. The pope's visit, his 1st to Spanish-speaking Latin America, started in Mexico. He arrived in Cuba on Monday to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Cuba's patron saint, Our lady of Charity el Cobre. (Read more at CSM)