Cruising in Cuba

Background

The native Amerindian population of Cuba began to decline after the European discovery of the island by Christopher COLUMBUS in 1492 and following its development as a Spanish colony during the next several centuries. Large numbers of African slaves were imported to work the coffee and sugar plantations, and Havana became the launching point for the annual treasure fleets bound for Spain from Mexico and Peru. Spanish rule, marked initially by neglect, became increasingly repressive, provoking an independence movement and occasional rebellions that were harshly suppressed.

It was US intervention during the Spanish-American War in 1898 that finally overthrew Spanish rule. The subsequent Treaty of Paris established Cuban independence, which was granted in 1902 after a three-year transition period. Fidel CASTRO led a rebel army to victory in 1959; his iron rule has held the regime together since then. Cuba's Communist revolution, with Soviet support, was exported throughout Latin America and Africa during the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s.

The country is now slowly recovering from a severe economic recession in 1990, following the withdrawal of former Soviet subsidies, worth $4 billion to $6 billion annually. Cuba portrays its difficulties as the result of the US embargo in place since 1961. Illicit migration to the US - using homemade rafts, alien smugglers, air flights, or via the southwest border - is a continuing problem. The US Coast Guard intercepted 2,712 individuals attempting to cross the Straits of Florida in fiscal year 2005.

Geography

Location: Caribbean, island between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, 150 km south of Key West, Florida
Geographic coordinates: 21 30 N, 80 00 W
Map references: Central America and the Caribbean
Area: total: 110,860 sq km
Land: 110,860 sq km
Water: 0 sq km
Land boundaries: total: 29 km
Border countries: US Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay 29 km; note: Guantanamo Naval Base is leased by the US and remains part of Cuba

Coastline

3,735 km

Maritime claims

Territorial sea: 12 nm
Exclusive economic zone: 200 nm

Climate

Tropical; moderated by trade winds; dry season (November to April); rainy season (May to October)

Terrain

Mostly flat to rolling plains, with rugged hills and mountains in the southeast

Elevation extremes

Lowest point: Caribbean Sea 0 m
Highest point: Pico Turquino 2,005 m

Economy

The government continues to balance the need for economic loosening against a desire for firm political control. It has rolled back limited reforms undertaken in the 1990s to increase enterprise efficiency and alleviate serious shortages of food, consumer goods, and services. The average Cuban's standard of living remains at a lower level than before the downturn of the 1990s, which was caused by the loss of Soviet aid and domestic inefficiencies. The government in 2005 strengthened its controls over dollars coming into the economy from tourism, remittances, and trade. External financing has helped growth in the mining, oil, construction, and tourism sectors.

Transportation

Airports: 170 (2005)
Airports - with paved runways: total: 78
over 3,047 m: 7
2,438 to 3,047 m: 9
1,524 to 2,437 m: 18
914 to 1,523 m: 7
under 914 m: 37 (2005)
Airports - with unpaved runways: total: 92
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 29
under 914 m: 62 (2005)
Pipelines: gas 49 km; oil 230 km (2004)
Railways: total: 4,226 km
standard gauge: 4,226 km 1.435-m gauge (140 km electrified)
note: an additional 7,742 km of track is used by sugar plantations; about 65% of this track is standard gauge; the rest is narrow gauge (2004)
Roadways: total: 60,858 km
paved: 29,820 km (including 638 km of expressway)
unpaved: 31,038 km (1999)

Waterways

240 km (2005)

Merchant marine

Total: 11 ships (1000 GRT or over) 33,932 GRT/48,791 DWT
By type: bulk carrier 2, cargo 2, chemical tanker 1, passenger 1, petroleum tanker 3, refrigerated cargo 2
Foreign-owned: 1 (Spain 1)
Registered in other countries: 17 (The Bahamas 1, Cyprus 3, Netherlands Antilles 1, Panama 8, Spain 1, unknown 3) (2005)

Sailing Specifics: Ports and terminals

Cienfuegos, Havana, Matanzas  

Other Sailing Destinations in the Region

Anguilla - Antigua and Barbuda - Aruba - Bahamas - Barbados - British Virgin Islands - Cayman Islands - Cuba - Dominica - Dominican Republic - Grenada - Guadeloupe - Haiti - Jamaica - St. Kitts and Nevis - St. Lucia - Martinique - Montserrat - Netherlands Antilles - Puerto Rico - Trinidad and Tobago - Turks and Caicos - St. Vincent and the Grenadines - Virgin Islands (USA)

Further Reading

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