Ropa vieja

Ropa vieja, which is Spanish for "Old Clothes," is a popular dish of the Canary Islands, Greater Miami and the Caribbean, especially Cuba.

The origin of ropa vieja is from the Canary Islands (Spain), which were the last place ships from Spain would stop on the way to the Americas. They were also the first place that Spanish ships coming from the Americas would stop en route back to Spain. Due to this, Canarian culture is very similar to the Caribbean as well as Spain. The Canarian Spanish dialect of Spanish spoken there is very similar to the Caribbean and sounds extremely close to the Cuban dialect, due to heavy and continuous immigration to the Caribbean, especially Cuba. This is how ropa vieja arrived in the Caribbean; with the Canarian immigrants. The original version of Ropa Vieja contained leftovers, but later became a shredded meat dish with garbanzo beans and potatoes in the Canary Islands.

Some versions in the Canary Islands contain beef or chicken or pork, or a combination of any of the three. Ropa vieja is widely prepared in the Caribbean today also. International travelers or internet surfers should not be surprised to see "ropa vieja" listed among traditional Panamanian cuisine as well as Cuban cuisine, Dominican cuisine. The dish is a national feature of Cuba, and does not have garbanzo beans or potatoes in Cuba; it is just the shredded meat in sauce. This shredded meat in sauce version is prepared in Venezuela and is called carne mechada. This is a part of the Venezuelan national dish, pabellon criollo, which includes the carne mechada, carotas negras (black beans), platano maduro frito (fried plantains), arroz blanco, (white rice), and sometimes arepitas (small arepas).

There are many theories as to how the dish was named. One of the more popular ones is a story about a man whose family was coming to his home for dinner. Being very poor, the man could not buy them enough food when they came. To remedy his situation, he went to his closet, gathered some old clothes (ropa vieja en español) and imbibed them with his love. When he cooked the clothes, his love for his family turned them into a wonderful beef stew. This story is Canarian Folklore and is one of the more popular stories for how the dish is named.

Fidel Castro - Political beginnings

In late 1945, Castro entered law school at the University of Havana. He became immediately embroiled in the political culture at the University, which was a reflection of the volatile politics in Cuba during that era.

Since the fall of president Gerardo Machado in the 1930s, student politics had degenerated into a form of gangsterismo dominated by fractious action groups, and Castro, believing that the gangs posed a physical threat to his university aspirations, experienced what he later described as "a great moment of decision." He returned to the university from a brief hiatus to involve himself fully in the various violent battles and disputes which surrounded university elections, and was to be implicated in a number of shootings linked to Rolando Masferrer's MSR action group. "To not return", said Castro later, "would be to give in to bullies, to abandon my beliefs". Rivalries were so intense that Castro apparently collaborated in an attempt on Masferrer's life during this period, while Masferrer, whose paramilitary group Les Tigres later became an instrument of state violence under Batista, perennially hunted the younger student seeking violent retribution.

In 1947, growing increasingly passionate about social justice, Castro joined the Partido Ortodoxo which had been newly formed by Eduardo Chibás. A charismatic figure, Chibás was running for president against the incumbent Ramón Grau San Martín who had allowed rampant corruption to flourish during his term.[citation needed] The Partido Ortodoxo publicly exposed corruption and demanded government and social reform. It aimed to instill a strong sense of national identity among Cubans, establish Cuban economic independence and freedom from the United States, and dismantle the power of the elite over Cuban politics. Though Chibás lost the election, Castro, considering Chibás his mentor, remained committed to his cause, working fervently on his behalf. In 1951, while running for president again, Chibás shot himself in the stomach during a radio broadcast. Castro was present and accompanied him to the hospital where he died.[13]

Fidel Castro's role in the circumstances surrounding the assassination of Jorge Eliécer Gaitán in Bogota, Colombia on April 9, 1948--and the massive riots that followed--has been the object of speculation by James M. Roberts of The Heritage Foundation. However, the following account seems to be generally agreed upon: In early April, Castro traveled to Bogotá for a political conference of Latin American students that coincided with the ninth meeting of the Pan-American Union Conference. The students had planned to use this opportunity to distribute pamphlets protesting United States dominance of the Western Hemisphere and to foment discontent. A few days after the conference began, the populist Colombian Liberal Party leader and presidential candidate Gaitán was shot by an unknown young man with a .32 caliber handgun, triggering massive riots in the streets in which many (mostly poor workers) were injured or killed.[citation needed] Rioting and looting spread to other cities in Colombia, beginning an era of turbulence that became known as "La Violencia". The students were caught up in the violence and chaos rocking the city, picking up rifles and roaming the streets distributing anti-United States material and stirring a revolt. When Castro was pursued by the Colombian authorities for his role in the riots, he took refuge in the Cuban Embassy and was flown back to Havana.

Castro returned to Cuba and married Mirta Díaz Balart, a student from a wealthy Cuban family through which he was exposed to the lifestyle of the Cuban elite. In 1950 he graduated from law school with a Doctor of Laws degree and began practicing law in a small partnership in Havana. By now he had become well known for his passionately nationalistic views and his intense opposition to the influence of the United States on Cuban internal affairs. Increasingly interested in a career in politics, Castro had become a candidate for a seat in the Cuban parliament when General Fulgencio Batista led a coup d'état in 1952, successfully overthrowing the government of President Carlos Prío Socarrás and canceling the election.

Batista established himself as de facto leader with the support of establishment elements of Cuban society and powerful Cuban agencies. His government was formally recognized by the United States, buttressing his power. Castro, nearing thirty, was now a politician without a legitimate platform and thus he broke away from the Partido Ortodoxo to marshal legal arguments based on the Constitution of 1940 to formally charge Batista with violating the constitution. His petition, entitled Zarpazo, was denied by the Court of Constitutional Guarantees and he was not allowed a hearing. This experience formed the foundation for Castro's opposition to the Batista government and convinced him that revolution was the only way to depose Batista.

Havana history - the founding of Havana

The current Havana area and its natural bay were first visited by Europeans during Sebastián de Ocampo's circumnavigation of the island, in 1509. Shortly thereafter, in 1510, the first Spanish colonists arrived from Hispaniola and began the conquest of Cuba.

Conquistador Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar founded Havana on August 25, 1515 on the southern coast of the island, near the present town of Surgidero de Batabanó. Between 1514 and 1519, the city had at least two different establishments. All attempts to found a city on Cuba's south coast failed. The city's location was adjacent to a superb harbor at the entrance to the Gulf of Mexico, and with easy access to the Gulf Stream, the main ocean current that navigators followed when traveling from the Americas to Europe. This location led to Havana’s early development as the principal port of Spain's New World colonies. An early map of Cuba drawn in 1514 places the town at the mouth of the river Onicaxinal, also on the south coast of Cuba. Another establishment was La Chorrera, today in the neighbourhood of Puentes Grandes, next to the Almendares River.

The final establishment, commemorated by El Templete, was the sixth town founded by the Spanish on the island, called San Cristobal de la Habana by Pánfilo de Narváez: the name combines San Cristóbal, patron saint of Havana, and Habana, of obscure origin, possibly derived from Habaguanex, an Indian chief who controlled that area, as mentioned by Diego Velasquez in his report to the king of Spain. A legend relates that Habana was the name of Habaguanex's beautiful daughter, but no known historical source corroborates this version.

Havana moved to its current location next to what was then called Puerto de Carenas (literally, "Careening Bay"), in 1519. The quality of this natural bay, which now hosts Havana's harbor, warranted this change of location. Bartolomé de las Casas wrote:

...one of the ships, or both, had the need of careening, which is to renew or mend the parts that travel under the water, and to put tar and wax in them, and entered the port we now call Havana, and there they careened so the port was called de Carenas. This bay is very good and can host many ships, which I visited few years after the Discovery... few are in Spain, or elsewhere in the world, that are their equal...

Shortly after the founding of Cuba's first cities, the island served as little more than a base for the Conquista of other lands. Hernán Cortés organized his expedition to Mexico from here. Cuba, during the first years of the Discovery, provided no immediate wealth to the conquistadores, as it was poor in gold, silver and precious stones, and many of its settlers moved to the more promising lands of Mexico and South America that were being discovered and colonized at the time. The legends of Eldorado and the Seven Cities of Gold attracted many adventurers from Spain, and also from the adjacent colonies, leaving Havana and the rest of Cuba largely unpopulated.

Interview with Che Guevara, 1964

Che Guevara in Guatemala

On July 7, 1953, Guevara set out again, this time to Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvador. In December 1953 he arrived in Guatemala where President Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán headed a democratically elected government that, through land reform and other initiatives, was attempting to end the latifundia system. Guevara decided to settle down in Guatemala so as to "perfect [him]self and accomplish whatever may be necessary in order to become a true revolutionary".

In Guatemala City, Guevara sought out Hilda Gadea Acosta, a Peruvian economist who was well-connected politically as a member of the left-leaning American Popular Revolutionary Alliance (APRA). She introduced Guevara to a number of high-level officials in the Arbenz government. Guevara also established contact with a group of Cuban exiles linked to Fidel Castro through the July 26, 1953 attack on the Moncada Barracks in Santiago de Cuba. During this period he acquired his famous nickname, due to his frequent use of the Argentine interjection "che", which is used in much the same way as "hey" or "pal".

Guevara's attempts to obtain a medical internship were unsuccessful and his economic situation was often precarious. On May 15, 1954 a shipment of Škoda infantry and light artillery weapons was sent from Communist Czechoslovakia for the Arbenz Government and arrived in Puerto Barrios, prompting a CIA-sponsored coup attempt. Guevara was eager to fight on behalf of Arbenz and joined an armed militia organized by the Communist Youth for that purpose, but frustrated with the group's inaction, he soon returned to medical duties. Following the coup, he again volunteered to fight, but soon after, Arbenz took refuge in the Mexican Embassy and told his foreign supporters to leave the country. After Hilda Gadea was arrested, Guevara sought protection inside the Argentine consulate, where he remained until he received a safe-conduct pass some weeks later and made his way to Mexico.

The overthrow of the Arbenz regime cemented Guevara's view of the United States as an imperialist power that would oppose and attempt to destroy any government that sought to redress the socioeconomic inequality endemic to Latin America and other developing countries. This strengthened his conviction that Marxism achieved through armed struggle and defended by an armed populace was the only way to rectify such conditions.

Ibrahim Ferrer & Omara Portuondo - Silencio

Havana - Hotel Los Frailes

Hotel Los Frailes - Hotel Description
On the narrow alleys of Old Havana, the Los Frailes Inn stands just a few steps away from the majestic convent of Saint Francis of Assisi and the populous Old Square. The former mansion of the fourth Marquis and Captain of the French Navy, Don Pedro Claudio Duquesne, once visited by the finest nobility, ecclesiastical dignitaries, military authorities, renowned artists, the best of Cuban and foreign society, has become today the perfect place to enjoy the voice of silence and meditation in the pleasant afternoons of the old city.

Right at the entrance, a copper sculpture of a monk welcomes visitors, inviting them to an imaginary trip to a medieval abbey.

Its lobby bar, comfortable rooms - only the 4 mini-suites have balconies - and quiet courtyard, decorated with outstanding works of art, its enigmatic and intimate atmosphere combined with the suggestive sound of a water fountain, invite you to contemplation and meditation in this exclusive inn.

Nearby places of interest: Saint Francis of Assisi Square, Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi, Museum of Religious Art, Museum of Rum, Cafe Taberna "Benny Moré", Mesón de la Flota Restaurant, Plaza Vieja (Old Square), Santo Angel Restaurant, House of Alexander V. Humboldt, Church of San Francisco de Paula, Historical Museum of Sciences "Carlos J. Finlay", Convent of Saint Claire. Nearest airport: Havana's "José Martí" International Airport, 20 Km./ 12.42 miles.

Address: Calle Teniente Rey No. 8 e/ Mercaderes y Oficios. Ciudad de La Habana.

COMPAY SEGUNDO - La Negra Tomasa

Raúl Castro

Raúl Modesto Castro Ruz (born June 3, 1931) is the President of the Cuban Council of State and the head of state of Cuba. The younger brother of Fidel Castro, he is also Second Secretary of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC), and Commander in Chief (Maximum General) of the Armed Forces (Army, Navy, and Air Force).

On July 31, 2006, Raúl Castro assumed the duties of President of the Council of State in a temporary transfer of power due to Fidel Castro's illness. According to the Cuban Constitution Article 94, the First Vice President of the Council of State assumes presidential duties upon the illness or death of the president.

Raúl Castro was elected President at the 24 February 2008, National Assembly session, as Fidel Castro had announced his intention not to stand for President again on 19 February 2008.

Son of Spanish immigrant Ángel Castro and Lina Ruz, a Cuban woman of Galician ancestry, Raúl is the youngest of the three Castro brothers. He also has four sisters, Angela, Juanita, Enma, and Agustina, and two half siblings, Lidia and Pedro Emilio, who were raised by Ángel Castro's first wife. Persistent rumors supported by former CIA analyst Brian Latell are taken to suggest that Batista army loyalist Felipe Miraval, nicknamed "el Chino" is Raúl's, but not Fidel's, father. As youngsters, the Castro brothers were expelled from the first school they attended. Like Fidel, Raúl later attended the Jesuit School of Colegio Dolores in Santiago and Colegio Belén in Havana. Raúl, as an undergraduate, studied social sciences. Whereas Fidel excelled as a student, Raúl's performance was mostly mediocre. Raúl was a committed socialist and joined the Socialist Youth, an affiliate of the Soviet-oriented Cuban Communist Party, Partido Socialista Popular (PSP). The brothers participated actively in sometimes violent student political actions. In 1953, Raúl was a member of the 26th of July Movement that attacked the Moncada Barracks, and he spent 22 months in prison as a result of this action. During his exile in Mexico, he participated in the preparations of the expedition of the ship Granma, embarking for Cuba on December 2, 1956.

It was during the period in Mexico that Raúl reportedly befriended Ernesto "Che" Guevara in Mexico City and brought him into Fidel's circle of revolutionaries. Raúl also established contact with Soviet KGB agent Nikolai Leonov, whom he had met two years earlier during a trip to the Soviet-bloc nations. That relationship would persist until the Castro brothers successfully assumed power in Cuba.

Raúl was one of the few survivors of the disastrous Granma landing. He was part of the tiny group of survivors who managed to reach a safe haven in the Sierra Maestra mountains (see the Cuban Revolution). As Fidel's brother and trusted right-hand man he was given progressively bigger commands. On February 27, 1958, Raúl was made comandante and assigned the mission to cross the old province of Oriente leading a column of guerrillas to open, to the northeast of that territory, the "Frank País Eastern Front."

As a result of Raúl's "Eastern Front" operations he was not involved in the pivotal Operation Verano (which came close to destroying the main body of fighters but ended up a spectacular victory for Fidel). However, Raúl's forces remained active and grew over time. By October 1958, after being reinforced by Fidel, the two brothers had about 2,000 fighters and they were operating freely throughout Oriente province. In December, while Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos were operating around Santa Clara, Fidel and Raúl's army laid siege to Maffo (capturing it on December 30th). Their victorious army then headed to Santiago de Cuba, the capital of Oriente province.

Thanks to the loss of Santa Clara, Batista fled Cuba on night of December 31-January 1. The two Castro brothers with their army arrived on the outskirts of Santiago de Cuba and said their forces would storm the city at 6 PM January 1 if it did not first surrender. The commander (Colonel Rego Rubido) surrendered Santiago de Cuba without a fight. The war was over and Fidel was able to take power in Havana when he arrived on January 6, 1959.

Raúl's abilities as a military leader during the revolution are hard to see clearly. Unlike Che Guevara or Cienfuegos, Raúl had no significant victories he could claim credit for on his own. The last operations (which were clearly successful) were conducted with his older brother Fidel present (and in command).

After Batista's fall, Raúl was responsible for overseeing the summary execution of "scores" of soldiers loyal to deposed president Fulgencio Batista.

Raúl Castro Ruz was a member of the National Leadership of the Integrated Revolutionary PO Organizations (established July 1961; dissolved March 1962) and of the United Party of the Socialist Revolution of Cuba (established March 1962; dissolved October 1965). He has been a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba and the Second Secretary of its Politburo since the Party's formation in October 1965; also, the First Vice President of the Cuban Council of State, of the National Assembly of the Popular Power and of the Council of Ministers since these were created in 1976. He was appointed Minister of the Revolutionary Armed Forces when the Ministry was founded in October 1959 and served in that capacity until February 2008; he is also the nation's highest ranking general. Castro is credited with persuading his older brother to implement agricultural market reforms in the early 1990s which increased the food supply, after the Soviet Union fell and its generous subsidies to Cuba stopped.

On July 31, 2006, Fidel Castro's personal secretary Carlos Valenciaga announced on state-run television that Fidel Castro would provisionally hand over the duties of President of the Council of State of Cuba, First Secretary of the Communist Party and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces to Raúl Castro while Fidel underwent and recovered from intestinal surgery to repair gastrointestinal bleeding.

Many commentators consider Raúl Castro to be a political hardliner who will maintain the Communist Party of Cuba's political power at all costs. However, there are others who believe that he is more pragmatic than his older brother and more willing to institute free market-oriented economic policies. It is speculated that he favours a variant of the current Chinese political and economic model for Cuba in the hopes of preserving some elements of the socialist system. However, none of these speculations has ever been confirmed by Raúl himself.

Several commentators, including some writers on the The Wall Street Journal, call Castro "uncharismatic and widely feared," with a "cold efficien[t]" style. He is accused of the persecution of dissidents and homosexuals. Additionally, some have speculated about Raúl's ill health, specifically alcoholism, raising doubts about his future leadership.

Raúl, considered much less charismatic than his brother Fidel Castro, has remained largely out of public view during the transfer of duty period. His few public appearances included hosting a gathering of leaders of the Non-Aligned nations in September 2006, and leading the national commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Granma boat landing, which also became Fidel's belated 80th birthday celebrations.

In a speech to university students, Raúl stated that a communist system in Cuba would remain, and that "Fidel is irreplaceable, unless we all replace him together."

On May 1, 2007, Raúl presided over the May Day celebrations in Havana. According to Granma the crowd reached over one million participants, with delegations from over 225 organizations and 52 countries.

While Fidel Castro historically mesmerized his countrymen with dramatic, extemporaneous speeches stretching over hours, brother Raúl is known for his businesslike, unanimated delivery, rarely bothering to look up from prepared texts. So Raúl offers, after the resignation of his brother Fidel, announced February 19, 2008, a quieter Castro voice.

On February 24, 2008, the National Assembly elected Raúl president of Cuba. Raúl delivered his inaugural address shortly afterward.

Taking his brother's place as President of Cuba in February 2008, Raúl Castro's government has been carrying out many changes. Unlike his brother, Raúl Castro has, among others things, allowed ordinary citizens to buy DVD-players, PC's, scooters and other energy-consuming products. He has also signed two United Nations human rights agreements, given unused state land for farming, freed many prisoners and loosened up travel restrictions for Cubans.

A few weeks after the 1959 victory, Castro married Vilma Espín Guillois, a former MIT chemical engineering student and veteran of the revolution who in 1960 became president of the Cuban Federation of Women. They have three daughters (Déborah, Mariela and Nilsa) and one son (Alejandro). Their daughter Mariela currently heads the Cuban National Center for Sex Education. Vilma Espín died on June 18, 2007, a daughter and some relatives of Raúl are believed to reside in Italy.

In an interview in 2006, following his assumption of presidential duties, Raúl Castro commented on his public profile stating: "I am not used to making frequent appearances in public, except at times when it is required … I have always been discreet, that is my way, and in passing I will clarify that I am thinking of continuing in that way."

BUENA VISTA SOCIAL CLUB - Chan Chan

Religion in Cuba

Religion in Cuba reflects the island’s diverse cultural elements. Cuba is traditionally a Catholic country. In some instances Catholicism is much modified and influenced through syncretism. A common syncretic belief is Santería, which originated in Cuba and spread to neighboring islands; it shows similarities to Brazilian Umbanda and has been receiving a degree of official support.

Santería developed out of the traditions of the Yoruba, one of the African peoples who were imported to Cuba during the 16th through 19th centuries to work on the sugar plantations. Santería blends elements of Christianity and West African beliefs and as such made it possible for the slaves to retain their traditional beliefs while appearing to practice Catholicism. Cuba’s patron saint, La Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre (Our Lady Of Charity) is a syncretism with the Santería goddess Ochún. The important religious festival "La Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre" is celebrated by Cubans annually on 8 September. Other religions practised are Palo Monte, and Abakuá, which have large parts of their liturgy in African languages.

After the revolution of 1959, Cuba became an officially atheistic state and restricted religious practice. From 1959 to 1961 eighty percent of the professional Catholic priests and Protestant ministers left Cuba for the United States. Relationships between the new government and congregations were tense, the new Cuban government was very limiting and suspicious of church operations, blaming them for collaboration with the CIA during the Bay of Pigs invasion and stockpiling arms provided for a "counter-revolution".

Since 1992, restrictions have been eased and direct challenges by state institutions to the right to been eased somewhat, though the church still faces restrictions of written and electronic communication, and can only accept donations from state-approved funding sources. The Roman Catholic Church is made up of the Cuban Catholic Bishops' Conference (COCC), led by Jaime Lucas Ortega y Alamino, Cardinal Archbishop of Havana. It has eleven dioceses, 56 orders of nuns and 24 orders of priests.

On January 1998, Pope John Paul II paid a historic visit to the island, invited by the Cuban government and Catholic Church.

Public health in Cuba

The Cuban government operates a much-lauded national health system and assumes full fiscal and administrative responsibility for the health care of its citizens. Historically, Cuba has long ranked high in numbers of medical personnel and has made significant contributions to world health since the 19th century. However, after the Batista government fell in 1959 nearly half of Cuba's 6,000 to 6,500 physicians were among those who left the country, requiring the rebuilding of the health care system. A network of community based primary health care clinics was built across the country with many new clinics in previously under-served rural areas. The number of women doctors has increased dramatically and, as of 2001, women made up more than half the student body at Havana's medical school.

Cuba stands out among third world nations in addressing children's health care. Whereas in most third world nations, death rates in the first five years greatly exceed those of developed nations, primarily due to malnutrition, diarrhea, and parasitic diseases, Cuba's epidemiological profile is closer to that of the United States or United Kingom. Incidence of AIDS is the lowest in the western hemisphere, with each pregnant woman being tested for HIV/AIDS and receiving a full course of AZT produced in Cuba. In 1992 Cuba ranked at the median level in the human development index created by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). The key measurements were life expectancy, educational attainment, and per capita income. Of 174 nations indexed, Cuba ranked 30th in life expectancy with an average 75.3 years, above Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay. It also ranked high in literacy but had only about half the per capita income of Chile, the Latin American leader in income. According to World Health Organization (WHO) statistics, life expectancy and infant mortality rates in Cuba have been comparable to Western industrialized countries since such information was first gathered in 1957. According to the UNICEF Child Survival: State of the World's Children 2008 Report, Cuba ranks 175 among the world's nations in infant mortality, with 7 deaths per 1000 live births, with Canada ranking better at 180, and the United States ranking worse, at 174 with 8 deaths per 1000 live births.

In depth examination of WHO statistics for Cuba reveals that these statistics are prepared by each government and published unchanged by WHO; thus they have been called into question. Nevertheless, the CIA World Factbook cites life expectancy and infant mortality rates that are similar to those for the USA. It is not clear what sources the CIA used for this, since the data presented seems to be equivalent to that published by the Cuban government; this has led to suggestions that material prepared by Ana Belen Montes (a convicted Castro government agent, arrested in 2001) is still being used by the CIA. However, given the extensive and specific data, which have been promptly published in Cuba since 1970, the high rate of autopsies and the low number of deaths attributed to undefined causes (an important indicator for inaccurate vital statistics), a high level of confidence can be placed in Cuban health statistics. Cuban officials have acknowledged that some health care indicators worsened during the 1990s after the loss of Soviet aid and while the United States embargo of health supplies remained in effect.

A separate, second division of hospitals cares specifically for foreigners and diplomats. While tourists can get health care from public clinics on an emergency basis, they are expected to use a fee-for-service health care network called "Servimed" for non-emergency health care needs. There are about 40 Servimed health care centers across the island. Many foreigners travel to Cuba for reliable and affordable health care.

Cuba provides medical care as foreign aid, providing free care to victims of disasters, including 16,000 victims of Chernobyl, and sends medical teams to scores of poor nations, numbering some 26,000 medical personnel as of 2005. Teams of Cuban doctors have been sent to Haiti and the poorest nations of Africa to fight malaria, TB, and HIV. In 1996, at the request of the South African government, Cuba sent 600 English-speaking doctors to make up for the shortfall caused by the emigration of South African doctors. By 2002 80 percent of the doctors in rural South Africa were Cuban. Cuba has had up to ten percent of its doctors serving abroad, fielding more doctors than the World Health Organization. Cuban doctors have won a reputation for being willing to endure primitive living conditions, for being able to improvise when equipment and supplies are lacking, and for maintaining warm relationships with the local population.

Cuba spends about twice as much of its GDP on health care, about 6.6%, as the Latin American average, maintaining a ratio, as of 2001, of one doctor per 150 families. Nevertheless, Cuban doctors are not well-paid by international standards. The San Francisco Chronicle, The Washington Post, and NPR have all reported on Cuban doctors defecting to other countries. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, at least 63, and perhaps hundreds of the approximately 20,000 Cuban doctors sent to work in the barrios in Venezuela, have deserted, in part, because their salary in Cuba is only $15 per month. The United States has announced a policy of preference for Cuban medical workers who seek asylum.

Rum grades

The grades and variations used to describe rum depend on the location that a rum was produced. Despite these variations the following terms are frequently used to describe various types of rum:

  • Light Rums, also referred to as light, silver, and white rums. In general, light rum has very little flavor aside from a general sweetness, and serves accordingly as a base for cocktails. Light rums are sometimes filtered after aging to remove any color. The Brazilian immensely popular Cachaça belongs to this type.
  • Gold Rums, also called amber rums, are medium-bodied rums which are generally aged. These gain their dark color from aging in wooden barrels (usually the charred white oak barrels that are the byproduct of Bourbon Whiskey).
  • Spiced Rum: These rums obtain their flavor through addition of spices and, sometimes, caramel. Most are darker in color, and based on gold rums. Some are significantly darker, while many cheaper brands are made from inexpensive white rums and darkened with artificial caramel color.
  • Dark Rum, also known as black rum, classes as a grade darker than gold rum. It is generally aged longer, in heavily charred barrels. Dark rum has a much stronger flavor than either light or gold rum, and hints of spices can be detected, along with a strong molasses or caramel overtone. It is used to provide substance in rum drinks, as well as color. In addition to uses in mixed drinks, dark rum is the type of rum most commonly used in cooking.
  • Flavored Rum: Some manufacturers have begun to sell rums which they have infused with flavors of fruits such as mango, orange, citrus, coconut, and lime which is a lime rum found in Sweden. These serve to flavor similarly themed tropical drinks which generally comprise less than 40% alcohol, and are also often drunk neat or on the rocks.
  • Overproof Rum is rum which is much higher than the standard 40% alcohol. Most of these rums bear greater than 75%, in fact, and preparations of 151 to 160 proof occur commonly.
  • Premium Rum: As with other sipping spirits, such as Cognac and Scotch, a market exists for premium and super-premium rums. These are generally boutique brands which sell very aged and carefully produced rums. They have more character and flavor than their "mixing" counterparts, and are generally consumed without the addition of other ingredients.

Camagüey

Camagüey is a city and municipality in central Cuba and is the nation's third largest city. It is the capital of the Camagüey Province. After almost continuous attacks from pirates the original city (founded as Santa María del Puerto del Príncipe around 1515 on the northern coast) was moved inland in 1528. The new city was built with a confusing lay-out of winding alleys that made it easier to defend it from any raiders. There are many blind alleys and forked streets that lead to squares of different sizes. There is only one exit from the city; should pirates ever return and succeed in entering the city, the hope was that the local inhabitants would be able to entrap and kill them.

The symbol of the city of Camagüey is the clay pot or tinajón, used to capture rain water to be used later, keeping it fresh. Clay pots are literally everywhere, some as small as a hand, some large enough for two people to stand up in, either as monuments or for real use. Local legend has it that if you drink water from a girl's personal tinajón, you will fall in love with the girl and never leave her.The main secondary education institutions are the University of Camagüey & the Instituto Pedagójico de Camagüey.

In 2004, the municipality of Camagüey had a population of 324,921. With a total area of 1,106 km² (427 sq mi), it has a population density of 293.8/km² (760.9/sq mi).

Camagüey is the birthplace of Ignacio Agramonte (1841), an important figure of the Ten Years' War against Spain in 1868–1878. Agramonte drafted the first Cuban Constitution in 1869, and later, as a Major General, formed the fearsome Camagüey cavalry corps that had the Spaniards on the run. He died in combat in May 11, 1873; his body was burned in the city because the Spanish feared the rebels would attack the city to recover his body.

The outline of Ignacio Agramonte's horseback statue in the Park that bears his name is a symbol of Camagüey. It was set there in 1911, uncovered by his widow, Amalia Simoni.

The Plaza of the Revolution features a bronze Agramonte standing followed by his troops.

The city is also the birthplace of the Cuban national poet Nicolás Guillén.

Camagüey is also the hometown of volleyball player Mireya LuisThe old city layout resembles a real maze, with narrow, short streets always turning in a direction or another. After Henry Morgan burned the city in the 17th century, it was designed like a maze so attackers would find it hard to move around inside the city.

Camagüey has its own international airport, Ignacio Agramonte International Airport. Most tourists going or leaving to the Beach of Santa Lucía do so through the airport.

Although it is not the only grammar school in the City, The Preuniversitario or sometimes called "vocational school" IPVCE - Preuniversitario Institute of Sciences Maximo Gomez Baez, is the largest of its kind in the province of Camaguey.

To become part of their enrolment must conduct a college entrance exam to complete the preparation of the Basic Secondary Education, (7 th to 9 th grade).

During the 3 years following receive intensive preparation for the next test of entry to University.

The center is so extensive that receives the category of city school.

Their students, during the period of 3 years (10th to 12th grade), are influenced not only in academia but rather create bonds of brotherhood that accompany a lifetime.

This centre is homologous to other existing in the rest of the country's provinces, and certainly forms bonds of friendship that endures for a lifetime, but on the other hand, separate the formation of a teenager in the family.

In Camagüey (city), for example there are very few possibilities of making high school from externally. With the exception of several schools for athletes (such as ESPA, EIDE & Manuel Fajardo) and The School of Art, and the Military School (better known as Camilitos) the only other option is the IPVCE or pre-university in Sierra de Cubitas (over 100 km from the city), located in the country site, in which students must perform agricultural work such as collecting oranges.

In November 2007 opens IPVCE.org, website dedicated to collecting and alumni of this institution purports to be the meeting point of all vocational transiting through the network.

Conquest of Cuba - Arrival of African slaves

The Spanish established sugar and tobacco as Cuba's primary products, and the island soon supplanted Hispaniola as the prime Spanish base in the Caribbean. The expansion of agriculture tempered by the rapid erosion of the native populations meant that further field labor was required. African slaves were then imported to work the plantations as field labor. However, restrictive Spanish trade laws made it difficult for Cubans to keep up with the 17th and 18th century advances in processing sugar cane pioneered in British Barbados and French Saint Domingue (Haiti). Spain also restricted Cuba's access to the slave trade, which was dominated by the British, French, and Dutch. One important turning point came in the Seven Years' War, when the British conquered the port of Havana and introduced thousands of slaves in a ten month period. Another key event was the Haitian Revolution in nearby Saint-Domingue, from 1791 to 1804. Thousands of French refugees, fleeing the slave rebellion in Saint Domingue, brought slaves and expertise in sugar refining and coffee growing into eastern Cuba in the 1790 and early 1800s.

In the 1800s, Cuban sugar plantations became the most important world producer of sugar, thanks to the expansion of slavery and a relentless focus on improving the island's sugar technology. Use of modern refining techniques was especially important because the British abolished the slave trade in 1807 and, after 1815, began forcing other countries to follow suit. Cubans were torn between the profits generated by sugar and a repugnance for slavery, which they saw as morally, politically, and racially dangerous to their society. By the end of the nineteenth century, slavery was abolished.

However, leading up to the abolition of slavery, Cuba gained great prosperity from its sugar trade. Originally, the Spanish had ordered regulations on trade with Cuba, which kept the island from becoming a dominant sugar producer. The Spanish were interested in keeping their trade routes and slave trade routes protected. Nevertheless, Cuba's vast size and abundance of natural resources made it an ideal place for becoming a booming sugar producer. When Spain opened the Cuban trade ports, it quickly became a popular place. New technology allowed a much more effective and efficient means of producing sugar. They began to use water mills, enclosed furnaces, and steam engines to produce a higher quality of sugar at a much more efficient pace than elsewhere in the Caribbean.

The boom in Cuba's sugar industry in the nineteenth century made it necessary for Cuba to improve its means of transportation. Planters needed safe and efficient ways to transport the sugar from the plantations to the ports, in order to maximize their returns. Many new roads were built, and old roads were quickly repaired. Railroads were built early and changed the way that perishable sugar cane (within one or two days after the cane is cut easily crystalizable sucrose sugar has "inverted" to turn into far less recoverable glucose and fructose sugars) is collected and allowing more rapid and effective sugar transportation. It was now possible for plantations all over this large island to have their sugar shipped quickly and easily. The prosperity seen from the boom in sugar production is a major reason that Cuban ethnicity became further enriched by new influx of Spanish migrants. Many Spaniards immigrated to Cuba, calling it a place of refuge.

Cuba failed to prosper before the 1760s due to Spanish trade regulations. Spain had set up a monopoly in the Caribbean and their primary objective was to protect this. They did not allow the islands to trade with any foreign ships. Spain was primarily interested in the Caribbean for its gold. The Spanish crown thought that if the colonies traded with other countries it would not itself benefit from it. This slowed the growth of the Spanish Caribbean. This effect was particularly bad in Cuba because Spain kept a tight grasp on it. It held great strategic importance in the Caribbean. As soon as Spain opened Cuba's ports up to foreign ships, a great sugar boom began that lasted until the 1880s. The Island was perfect for growing sugar. It is dominated by rolling plains, with rich soil, and adequate rainfall. It is the largest island in the Caribbean, its relatively low mountains and large plains are suitable for roads, and railroads, and it has the best ports in the area. By 1860, Cuba was devoted to growing sugar. The country had to import all other necessary goods. They were dependent on the United States who bought 82 percent of the sugar. Cubans resented the economic policy Spain implemented in Cuba, which was to help Spain and hurt Cuba. In 1820, Spain abolished the slave trade, hurting the Cuban economy even more and forcing planters to buy more expensive, illegal, and troublesome slaves (as demonstrated by the events surrounding the ship Amistad).

Conquest of Cuba - Early Spanish colonization

The first sighting of a Spanish boat approaching the island was on October 28, 1492, probably at Baracoa on the eastern point of the island. Christopher Columbus, on his first voyage to the Americas, sailed south from what is now The Bahamas to explore the northeast coast of Cuba and the northern coast of Hispaniola. During a second voyage in 1494, Columbus passed along the south coast of the island, landing at various inlets including what was to become Guantánamo Bay. With the Papal Bull of 1493, Pope Alexander VI commanded Spain to conquer, colonize and convert the Pagans of the New World to Catholicism. On arrival, Columbus observed the Taíno dwellings, describing them as “looking like tents in a camp. All were of palm branches, beautifully constructed”.

The Spanish began to create permanent settlements on the island of Hispaniola, east of Cuba, soon after Columbus's arrival in the Caribbean, but it wasn't until 1509 that the coast of Cuba was fully mapped by Sebastián de Ocampo. In 1511, Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar set out with three ships and an army of 300 men from Hispaniola to form the first Spanish settlement in Cuba, with orders from Spain to conquer the island. The settlement was at Baracoa, but the new settlers were to be greeted with stiff resistance from the local Taíno population. The Taínos were initially organized by cacique (chieftain) Hatuey, who had himself relocated from Hispaniola to escape the brutalities of Spanish rule on that island. After a prolonged guerrilla campaign, Hatuey and successive chieftains were captured and burnt alive, and within three years the Spanish had gained control of the island. In 1514, a settlement was founded in what was to become Havana.

Clergyman Bartolomé de Las Casas observed a number of massacres initiated by the invaders as the Spanish swept over the island, notably the massacre near Manzanillo of the inhabitants of Caonao. According to his account, some three thousand villagers had traveled to Manzanillo to greet the Spanish with loaves, fishes and other foodstuffs and were "without provocation, butchered". The surviving indigenous groups fled to the mountains or the small surrounding islands before being captured and forced into reservations. One such reservation was Guanabacoa, which is today a suburb of Havana.

In 1513, Ferdinand II of Aragon issued a decree establishing the encomienda land settlement system that was to be incorporated throughout the Spanish Americas. Velázquez, who had become Governor of Cuba relocating from Baracoa to Santiago de Cuba, was given the task of apportioning both the land and the indigenous Cubans to groups throughout the new colony. The scheme was not a success, however, as the Cubans either succumbed to diseases brought from Spain such as measles and smallpox, or simply refused to work preferring to slip away into the mountains. Desperate for labor to toil the new agricultural settlements, the Conquistadors sought slaves from surrounding islands and the continental mainland. But these new arrivals followed the indigenous Cubans by also dispersing into the wilderness or suffering a similar fate at the hands of disease.

Despite the difficult relations between the local Cubans and the new Europeans, some cooperation was in evidence. The Spanish were shown by the Native Cubans how to nurture tobacco and consume it in the form of cigars. There were also many unions between the largely male Spanish colonists and indigenous women. Their children were called mestizos, but the Native Cubans called them Guajiro, which translates as "one of us". Although modern day studies have revealed traces of Taíno DNA in individuals throughout Cuba, the population was effectively destroyed as a culture and civilization after 1515. The local Indian population left their mark on the language and placenames of the island, however. The name of Cuba itself and Havana were derived from neo-Taino dialect, and Indian words such as Tobacco, Hurricane and Canoe continue to be used today.

Spoken languages

As with much of America, spanish is spoken in Cuba. After the 1959 Revolution, the term "compañero/compañera", meaning comrade, came to gradually replace the traditional "señor/señora" as the universal polite title of address for strangers. A significant number of Afro-Cubans as well as mulatto Cubans speak Haitian Creole. Haitian Creole is the second most spoken language as well as a recognized one in Cuba with approximately 300,000 speakers. Haiti was a French colony, and the final years of the 1791-1804 Haitian Revolution brought a wave of French settlers fleeing with their Haitian slaves to Cuba.

Many words from Cuban Amerindian languages have entered common usage in both Spanish and English, such as the Taíno words canoa, tabaco and huracán.

When speaking to the elderly, or to strangers, Cubans speak more formally as a sign of respect. They shake hands upon greeting someone and farewelling them. Men often exchange friendly hugs (abrazos) and it is also common for both men and women to greet friends and family with a hug and a kiss on the cheek. Informalities like addressing a stranger with 'mi corazón' (my heart), 'mi vida' (my life), or 'cariño' (dear) are common.

Music in Cuba

Cuban music is the basis for many other Latin American musical styles, such as Salsa. The main musical form is Son, but they also listen to rock. The Caribbean island of Cuba has been influential in the development of multiple musical styles in the 19th and 20th centuries. The roots of most Cuban musical forms lie in the cabildos, a form of social club among African slaves brought to the island. The cabildos were formed from the Igbos, Araras, Bantu, Carabalies, Yorubas, and other civilizations/tribes. Cabildos preserved African cultural traditions, even after the Emancipation in 1886 forced them to unite with the Roman Catholic church. At the same time, a religion called Santería was developing and had soon spread throughout Cuba,Haiti and other nearby islands. Santería influenced Cuba's music, as percussion is an inherent part of the religion. Each orisha, or deity, is associated with colors, emotions, Roman Catholic saints and drum patterns called toques. By the 20th century, elements of Santería music had appeared in popular and folk forms.

Cuban music has its principal roots in Spain and West Africa, but over time has been influenced by diverse genres from different countries. Most important among these are France, the United States, and Jamaica. Reciprocally, Cuban music has been immensely influential in other countries, contributing not only to the development of jazz and salsa, but also to Argentinian tango, Ghanaian high-life, West African Afrobeat, and Spanish "nuevo flamenco". Cuban music of high quality includes "classical" music, some with predominantly European influences, and much of it inspired by both Afro-Cuban and Spanish music. Several Cuban-born composers of "serious" music have recently received a much-deserved revival. Within Cuba, there are many popular musicians working in the rock and reggaeton idioms.

Cuban folk music is very diverse and have been influenced by many different cultures. The coming together of Spanish peoples, slaves from Africa, and the remaining indigenous populations of the Caribbean created many different cultural groups throughout the Caribbean.

Cuban hip-hop is one of the newest genres of music to be embraced not only by the country's youth but by the established government. Initially, hip-hop was shunned by the country because of its affiliation to America and capitalism. As more Cuban youth and rappers put their own energy and style into the music and the government stopped associating the music with materialism, Cuban hip-hop eventually became the voice of a new generation. In fact, "the Cuban government now sees rap music - long considered the music of American imperialism - as a road map to the hearts and minds of the young generation". This music represents a new way for Cuban youth to express their own ideas on relevant political and social issues. Their lyrics contain messages that force people to rethink race and identity in Cuba. This is seen by many as rebellious because it calls attention to the fact that the Cuban government encourages its citizens to believe in a color-blind society, when skin color truly plays a major role in everyday life. In essence, Cuban hip-hop can be considered the revolution of this new generation that grew up on the island after the fall of the Soviet Union and communism, where "rebels use lyrics, not guns,...they dance instead of march" and where "its soldiers are rappers [and] their missions are poverty and racism".

Hoyo de Monterrey cigars

Hoyo de Monterrey is the name of two brands of premium cigar, one produced on the island of Cuba for Habanos SA, the Cuban state-owned tobacco company, and the other produced in Honduras for General Cigar.

In 1831, Don José Gener y Batet emigrated to Cuba from Spain at the age of thirteen, where he worked on his uncle's plantation in Vuelta Abajo. Twenty years later, he would open his own cigar factory in Havana and begin producing his own cigar line, La Escepción. In 1865, after using his factory's profits to acquire one of the best tobacco farms in Vuelta Abajo, he registered a cigar line named for it: Hoyo de Monterrey.

Literally translating from Spanish to English as "the hole of Monterrey" in reference to the concave terrain favored by growers of premium tobacco, the brand became incredibly popular, especially in the British market, and José Gener's factory subsequently became one of the largest factories in Cuba. In 1900, Gener died in Spain and his daughter Lutgarda Gener took over the business and it would stay in the family for another thirty years.

In 1931, the Gener family sold their cigar brands in order to focus more on their sugar cane properties. The firm of Fernández, Palicio y Cía bought the Hoyo de Monterrey and La Escepción brands and added them to their impressive lineup, which already included Punch and Belinda. Around this time in the 1940s, the Le Hoyo series (along with the Chateaux series which would later be used to create the Davidoff cigar line) was created for Swiss distributor A Dürr Co.. After the death of partner Ramón Fernández, Fernando Palicio became sole proprietor of the business and by 1958 his cigar lines accounted for 13% of all Havana cigar exports.

After the government of Cuba expropriated the company from its owners, Fernando Palicio fled Cuba for Florida, where he subsequently sold his cigar lines to the Villazon family, which continued to make Punch, Hoyo de Monterrey, and Belinda cigars in their Tampa, Florida factory from Honduran tobacco for the American market.

Hoyo de Monterrey continued production in Cuba and in Honduras and is still a popular, globally-marketed Cuban cigar line. Among connoisseurs, the Épicure No. 2, Double Coronas, and Le Hoyo series are particularly prized.

Being a globally-marketed brand, Hoyo de Monterrey has been chosen for Habanos' annual Edición Limitada releases since 2000. Of interesting note is the Particular, which had some production problems during the first Edición Limitada lineup in 2000 with few of the cigars getting out to vendors. This prompted Habanos to release it again the next year, the only Edición Limitada cigar so far to have had this happen. In 2004, a new size was added to the Hoyo de Monterrey line, the Petit Robusto, which also wore a slightly-redesigned Hoyo de Monterrey cigar band.

Hoyo de Monterrey also produces two machine-made cigarillos: the Mini and the Midi.

The following list of vitolas (sizes) within the Hoyo de Monterrey line lists their measurements in English and metric, their vitolas de galera (factory name), and their conventional name in American cigar slang.

Hand-Made Vitolas

  • Double Corona - 7 5/8" x 49 (194 x 19.45 mm) Prominente, a double corona
  • Churchill - 7" x 47 (178 x 18.65 mm) Julieta, a churchill
  • Épicure No. 1 - 5 5/8" x 46 (143 x 18.26 mm) Corona Gorda, a toro
  • Épicure No. 2 - 4 7/8" x 50 (124 x 19.84 mm) Robusto, a robusto or rothschild
  • Petit Robusto - 4 1/8" x 50 (102 x 19.84 mm) Petit Robusto, a petit robusto
  • Hoyo Corona - 5 5/8" x 42 (142 x 16.67 mm) Corona, a corona
  • Short Hoyo Corona - 5 1/8" x 42 (129 x 16.67 mm) Mareva, a petit corona

Machine-Made and Hand-Finished Vitolas

  • Palma Extra - 5 1/2" x 40 (140 x 15.87 mm) Crema, a corona
  • Coronation - 5 1/8" x 42 (129 x 16.67 mm) Petit Corona, a petit corona

The Le Hoyo Series

  • Le Hoyo des Dieux - 6 1/8" x 42 (155 x 16.67 mm) Corona Grande, a long corona
  • Le Hoyo du Député - 4 3/8" x 38 (110 x 15.08 mm) Trabuco, a short panetela
  • Le Hoyo du Gourmet - 6 3/4" x 33 (170 x 13.10 mm) Palma, a slim panetela
  • Le Hoyo du Maire - 3 7/8" x 30 (100 x 11.91 mm) Entreacto, a small panetela
  • Le Hoyo du Prince - 5 1/8" x 40 (130 x 15.87 mm) Almuerzo, a petit corona
  • Le Hoyo du Roi - 5 5/8" x 42 (142 x 16.67 mm) Corona, a corona

Edición Limitada Releases

  • Particular (2000 and 2001) - 9 1/4" x 47 (235 x 18.65 mm) Gran Corona, a presidente or giant
  • Pirámide (2003)- 6 1/8" x 52 (156 x 20.64 mm) Pirámide, a pyramid or torpedo
  • Épicure Especial (2004) - 5 1/2" x 50 (141 x 19.84 mm) Gordito, a robusto extra
  • Regalos (2007) - 5 1/3" x 56 Coronas Extra, a grand corona

Che Guevara - early years

Ernesto Guevara was born on 14 June 1928 in Rosario, Argentina, the eldest of five children in a family of Basque and Irish descent. Growing up in a family with leftist leanings, Guevara was introduced to a wide spectrum of political perspectives even as a boy. Though suffering from the crippling bouts of asthma that were to afflict him throughout his life, he excelled as an athlete. He was an avid rugby union player and earned himself the nickname "Fuser"—a contraction of "El Furibundo" (raging) and his mother's surname "de la Serna"—for his aggressive style of play. Ernesto was also nicknamed "Chancho" (pig) by his schoolmates, because he rarely bathed, and proudly wore a "weekly shirt".

Guevara learned chess from his father and began participating in local tournaments by the age of 12. During his adolescence and throughout his life he was passionate about poetry, especially that of Neruda, Keats, Machado, Lorca, Mistral, Vallejo, and Whitman. He could also recite Kipling's "If" and Hernández's "Martín Fierro" from memory. The Guevara home contained more than 3,000 books, which allowed Guevara to be an enthusiastic and eclectic reader, with interests including Marx, Faulkner, Gide, and Verne. He also enjoyed reading Nehru, Kafka, Camus, Lenin, and Sartre; as well as France, Engels, Wells, and Frost.

As he got older he developed an interest in the Latin American writers Quiroga, Alegria, Icaza, Dario, and Asturias. Many of these author's ideas he would catalog in his own handwritten notebooks of concepts, definitions, and philosophies of influential intellectuals. These included composing analytical sketches of Buddha and Aristotle, along with examining Bertrand Russell on love and patriotism, Jack London on society, and Nietzsche on the idea of death. Sigmund Freud's ideas also fascinated him as he quoted him on a variety of topics from dreams and libido, to narcissism and the oedipus complex.

In 1948, Guevara entered the University of Buenos Aires to study medicine. While still a student in 1951, Guevara took a year off from his medical studies to embark on a trip traversing South America by motorcycle with his friend Alberto Granado, with the final goal of spending a few weeks volunteering at the San Pablo Leper colony in Peru, on the banks of the Amazon River. Guevara used notes taken during this trip to write an account entitled The Motorcycle Diaries, which later became a New York Times best-seller, and was adapted into a 2004 award-winning film of the same name.

Witnessing the widespread poverty, oppression and disenfranchisement throughout Latin America, and influenced by his readings of Marxist literature, Guevara began to view armed revolution as the solution to social inequality. By trip's end, he also viewed Latin America not as separate nations, but as a single entity requiring a continent-wide liberation strategy. His conception of a borderless, united Hispanic America sharing a common 'mestizo' Hispanic America was a theme that prominently recurred during his later revolutionary activities. Upon returning to Argentina, he completed his studies and received his medical diploma in June of 1953.

Eliades Ochoa

Eliades Ochoa(born June 22, 1946) is a Cuban guitarist and singer in Loma de la Avispa, Songo La Maya in the east of the country near Santiago.

He began playing the guitar when he was six and in 1978 he joined Cuarteto Patria, a band that has played since 1940. His roots are in guajira (Cuban country music) and he still wears his trademark cowboy hat. He plays the tres, and also a variant called cuatro (with two additional strings). His involvement with the Buena Vista Social Club and the Wim Wenders film of the same name, has led him to worldwide fame.

In 1998 he recorded the album CubAfrica with Manu Dibango, in 1999 the album Sublime Ilusión, and in 2004 he recorded the song Hemingway with the Dutch band Bløf, which appeared on their 2006 album Umoja.

Santiago de Cuba

Santiago de Cuba is the capital city of Santiago de Cuba Province in the south-eastern area of the island nation of Cuba, some 540 miles (869 km) east south-east of the Cuban capital of Havana.

The municipality extends over 1,023.8 square kilometers (395 sq mi), and contains the communities of El Caney, Guilera, Antonio Maceo, Bravo, Castillo Duany, Leyte Vidal and Moncada.

Historically Santiago de Cuba has long been the second most important city on the island after Havana, and still remains the second largest. It is on a bay connected to the Caribbean Sea and is an important sea port. In 2004 the city of Santiago de Cuba had a population of about 494,337 people

Santiago de Cuba was founded by Spanish conquistador Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar on June 28, 1514. In 1516 the settlement was destroyed by fire, and was immediately rebuilt. This was the starting point of the expeditions led by Juan de Grijalba and Hernán Cortés to the coasts of Mexico in 1518, and in 1538 by Hernando de Soto's expedition to Florida. The first cathedral was built in the city in 1528. From 1522 until 1589 Santiago was the capital of the Spanish colony of Cuba.

The city was plundered by French forces in 1553, and by British forces under Christopher Myngs in 1662.

On June 12, 1766, the city was almost destroyed by an earthquake.

The city experienced an influx of French immigrants in the late 18th century and early 19th century, many coming from Haiti after the Haitian slave revolt of 1791. This added to the city's eclectic cultural mix, already rich with Spanish and African culture.

It was also the location where Spanish troops faced their main defeat at San Juan Hill on July 1, 1898, during the Spanish-American War. Spain later surrendered to the United States after the destruction of its Atlantic fleet just outside Santiago's harbor.

Cuban poet, writer, and national hero, José Martí, is buried in Cementerio Santa Efigenia.

Santiago was also the home of the revolutionary hero, Frank Pais. On July 26, 1953, the Cuban Revolution began with an ill-prepared armed attack on the Moncada Barracks by small contingent of rebels led by Fidel Castro. Shortly after this disastrous incident, País began talking with students and young working people informally, drawing around him what became an extremely effective urban revolutionary alliance. This developed into highly organized cells coordinating a large scale urban resistance that became instrumental in the success of the Cuban Revolution.

País' group prepared carefully, accruing weapons, collecting money, collecting medical supplies. They published a cheap newsletter that reported news that criticized the government, attempting to counter Batista's censorship.

In the summer of 1955, País’ organization merged with Castro's July 26 Movement. País became the leader of the new organization in Oriente province.

On 1 January 1959, Fidel Castro proclaimed the victory of the Cuban Revolution from a balcony on Santiago de Cuba's city hall.

Until a rearrangement of province boundaries in 1976, Santiago de Cuba was the capital of Cuba's Oriente Province, which included the present day provinces of Holguín, Las Tunas, Guantánamo, Granma and Santiago de Cuba.

The local citadel of San Pedro de la Roca is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List as "the most complete, best-preserved example of Spanish-American military architecture, based on Italian and Renaissance design principles".

The Baconao Park was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage Biosphere Reserve List in 1987.

In 2004, the municipality of Santiago de Cuba had a population of 494,337. With a total area of 1,024 km² (395.4 sq mi), it has a population density of 482.8/km² (1,250.4/sq mi).

Pre-Columbian Cuba

Guanajatabeyes

The earliest inhabitants of Cuba were the Guanajatabey people, who migrated to the island from the forests of the South American mainland as long ago as 5300 BC. The Guanajatabeyes, who numbered about 100,000, were hunters, gatherers, and farmers. They were to cultivate cohiba (tobacco), a crop upon which the island's economy would one day depend. Spanish conquistador Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar later observed that the Guanajatabeyes were "without houses or towns and eating only the meat they are able to find in the forests as well as turtles and fish." Though the Guanajatabeyes are now considered to be a distinct population, early anthropologists and historians mistakenly believed that they were the Ciboney people who occupied areas throughout the Antilles islands of the Caribbean. More recently, researchers have speculated that the Guanajatabeyes may have migrated from the south of the United States, evidenced by similarities of artifacts found in both regions. Some studies ascribe a role to these original inhabitants in the extinction of the islands' megafauna, including condors, giant owls, and eventually ground sloths.

Further evidence suggests that the Guanajatabeyes were driven to the west of the island by the arrival of two subsequent waves of migrants, the Taíno and Ciboney. These groups are sometimes referred to as neo-Taíno nations. The new arrivals had migrated north along the Caribbean island chain from the Orinoco delta in Venezuela. These two groups were prehistoric cultures in a time period during which humans created tools from stone, yet they were familiar with gold (caona) and copper alloys (guanín).

Taíno and Ciboney cultures

The Taíno and Ciboney were part of a cultural group commonly called the Arawak, which extended far into South America. Initially the new arrivals inhabited the eastern area of Baracoa before expanding across the island. Traveling Dominican clergyman and writer Bartolome de las Casas estimated that the Cuban population of the neo-Taíno people had reached 200,000 by the time of the late fifteenth century. The Taíno cultivated the yucca root, harvested it and baked it to produce cassava bread. They also grew cotton and tobacco, and ate maize and sweet potatoes. According to Las Casas, they had "everything they needed for living; they had many crops, well arranged".

Omara Portuondo

Omara Portuondo (born 1930) is a Cuban singer whose career has spanned over half a century.

Portuondo was born in October 1930 in Havana, one of three sisters; her mother came from a wealthy Spanish family, and had created a scandal by running off with and marrying a black professional baseball player. Omara started her career in 1945 as a dancer at Havana's Tropicana Club (following her older sister, Haydee). The two sisters used to sing for family and friends, however, and after a brief time in a band called Loquibambia Swing, in 1952 they got together with two friends (Elena Burke and Moraima Secada) and formed the singing group Cuarteto D'Aida, backed by pianist Aida Diestro. The group had considerable success, touring the United States, performing with Nat King Cole at the Tropicana, and recording an album for RCA Victor.

In 1959 Portuondo recorded a solo album, Magia Negra, involving both jazz and Cuban music. This didn't, however, mark the beginning of a solo career, and although Haydee left the group in 1961 in order to live in the U.S., Omara continued singing with Cuarteto las d'Aida until 1967.

In 1967 Portuondo embarked on a solo career, and in the same year represented Cuba at the Sopot Festival in Poland, singing Juanito Marquez' "Como un Milagro". Alongside her solo work, in the 1970s she sang with charanga band Orquesta Aragon, and toured with them both in the Communist and non-Communist worlds.

In 1974 she recorded, with guitarist Martin Rojas, what would become one of her most critically acclaimed albums in which she sings praises to Salvador Allende and the people of Chile a year after the military coup led by General Augusto Pinochet. Among many other hits from the album, she also praises the work of Ernesto "Che" Guevara in the beautiful "Hasta Siempre Comandante".

During the 1970s and 1980s Portuondo enjoyed considerable success at home and abroad, with tours, albums (including one of her most lauded recordings in 1984 with Adalberto Alvarez), film roles, and her own television series. Her international profile was due to soar, however, in 1996.

Portuondo sang (duetting with Ibrahim Ferrer) on the album Buena Vista Social Club in 1996. This led, not only to more touring (including playing at Carnegie Hall with the Buena Vista troupe) and her appearance in Wim Wenders' film The Buena Vista Social Club, but to two further albums for the World Circuit label: Buena Vista Social Club Presents Omara Portuondo (2000) and Flor de Amor (2004). In July 2005 she presented a symphonic concert of her most important repertoire at the Berlin Festival Classic Open Air am Gendarmenmarkt for an audience of 7,000. The entire program was specially orchestrated by Roberto Sánchez Ferrer, a conductor/pianist with whom she had worked during her early years at Havana's Tropicana Club. Scott Lawton conducted the Deutsches Filmorchester Babelsberg. In 2007 she is performing the title role to sold out audiences in Lizt Alfonso's dance musical "Vida", the story of modern Cuba through the eyes and with the memories of an old woman. In this same year, her performance at the Montreal Jazz Festival was released on DVD. She recorded in 2008 a duets album with brazilian singer Maria Bethania, namaed Maria Bethania e Omara Portuondo.

Discography

  • 1950s: Amigas (by the Cuarteto las d'Aida)
  • 1996: Palabras
  • 1996: Buena Vista Social Club
  • 1997: Omara Portuondo & Martin Rojas
  • 1997: A Toda Cuba le Gusta (by the Afro-Cuban All Stars)
  • 1999: Desafios (with Chucho Valdés)
  • 1999: Oro Musical
  • 1999: Magia Negra
  • 1999: Buena Vista Social Club Presents Ibrahim Ferrer
  • 2000: Buena Vista Social Club Presents Omara Portuondo
  • 2000: Roots of Buena Vista
  • 2000: La Colección Cubana
  • 2001: Pensamiento
  • 2001: La Sitiera
  • 2001: You
  • 2002: 18 Joyas Ineditas
  • 2002: La Gran Omara Portuondo
  • 2002: La Novia del Filin
  • 2002: Dos Gardenias
  • 2004: Flor De Amor
  • 2005: Lágrimas Negras (Canciones y Boleros)
  • 2007: Singles
  • 2008: Maria Bethania e Omara Portuondo

Fidel Castro - childhood and education

Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz was born on a sugar plantation in Birán, near Mayarí, in the modern-day province of Holguín – then a part of the now-defunct Oriente province. He was the third child born to Ángel Castro y Argiz, a Galician immigrant from the impoverished northwest of Spain who became relatively prosperous through work in the sugar industry and successful investing. His mother, Lina Ruz González, who was a household servant, was also of Galician background. Angel Castro was married to another woman, Maria Luisa Argota, until Fidel was 17, and thus Fidel as a child had to deal both with his illegitimacy and the challenge of being raised in various foster homes away from his father's house.

Castro has two brothers, Ramón and Raúl, and four sisters, Angelita, Juanita, Enma, and Agustina, all of whom were born out of wedlock. He also has two half siblings, Lidia and Pedro Emilio who were raised by Ángel Castro's first wife.

Fidel was not baptized until he was 8, also very uncommon, bringing embarrassment and ridicule from other children. Ángel Castro finally dissolved his first marriage when Fidel was 15 and married Fidel’s mother. Castro was formally recognized by his father when he was 17, when his surname was legally changed to Castro from Ruz, his mother’s name. Although accounts of his education differ, most sources agree that he was an intellectually gifted student, more interested in sports than in academics, and spent many years in private Catholic boarding schools, finishing high school at El Colegio de Belén, a Jesuit school in Havana in 1945. While at Belén, the 21-year-old Castro pitched on the school's baseball team. There are persistent rumors that Castro was scouted for various U.S. baseball teams, but there is no evidence that this ever actually happened.

Varadero

Varadero is a resort town in the province of Matanzas, Cuba, and one of the largest resort areas in the Caribbean. Varadero is also called Playa Azul, meaning "blue beach" in Spanish.

It is situated on the Hicacos Peninsula, between the Bay of Cárdenas and the Straits of Florida, some 140 km east of Havana, at the eastern end of the Via Blanca highway. The peninsula is only 1.2 km wide at its widest point and is separated from the island of Cuba by the Kawama Channel. This spit of land however extends more than 20 kilometers from the mainland in a northeasterly direction and its tip, Punta Hicacos, is the northernmost point of the island of Cuba. At the northeastern end of the peninsula there is a nature reserve with virgin forests and beaches. The Hicacos Point Natural Park is a 3.12 km² (1.2 sq mi) ecological preserve established in 1974. It contains the 250 m (820 ft) long Cave of Ambrosio, Mangón Lake (home to 31 species of birds and 24 species of reptiles) and the ruins of the La Calavera (The Skull) Salt Works (one of the first salt works to be constructed by the Spanish in the New World). The cays developed off shore, such as Cayo Piedras and Cayo Cruz del Padre are the western most part of the Sabana-Camaguey Archipelago.

Juan Gualberto Gómez Airport, situated west of the peninsula, is Varadero's airport. It is the second-most-important airport of the island after José Martí Airport in Havana, and serves international and domestic flights.

The first mention of Varadero was in 1555. The place was first used as a dry dock (Spanish: varadero) and the salt mines of the peninsula (closed in 1961) supplied most of the Spanish Latin America Fleet since 1587. However, the foundation date of Varadero as city was only on December 5, 1887, when ten families from the city of Cárdenas obtained a permission to build their vacation homes between today's 42nd and 48th Street.

It was established as a municipality (Spanish: municipio) at the administrative re-distribution of July 3, 1976 from territories previously part of Cárdenas.

Varadero is first and foremost a tourist resort town, boasting more than 20 km of white sandy beaches. Tourism grew in the early 1930s as Irénée du Pont Nemours, an American millionaire, built his estate on the peninsula. But the first tourists visited Varadero as early as the 1870s, and for years it was considered an elite resort. When in 1910 started the annual rowing regatta, five years later the first Hotel, named Varadero and later Club Nautico, was build. The first hotel boom started in the 1950s. After the Cuban Revolution in 1959, the beach's many mansions were expropriated from their rich owners. As a symbol for the new integrated tourism for Cubans and foreign visitors of all social classes, the Park of the 8000 cubicles (Parque de las 8000 Taquillas) was build in 1960. The visitors could leave their belongings in the basement of the park, had access to sanitary installations and gastronomic services at the first floor, and could rent bath articles and swimsuits. At the Park the marginated parts of the population, including women, found a paid work. The surroundings of the Park became the center of the city. Between the 1960s and 1980s Varadero transformed itself into a cultural centre. During those years the central park (8000 Taquillas) (located between 44th and 46th Street) saw countless concerts, festivals and sporting events. Many famous and infamous people have stayed in Varadero, like Mafia boss Al Capone.The 1990s brought the start of another hotel building campaign, mostly in the 4 and 5 star segment. Many of the hotels are operated or co-owned by foreign businesses like Melia, Barcelo, TRYP, etc. (France's Club Med used to have a property but has since left Varadero.) Parallel to the opening to the international tourism, the local population got more and more supplanted from the communal and economic key positions that were staffed with cadres from other parts of Cuba. As a consequence, Varadero has lost a lot of its social and cutltural life and its traditions. The central park, the cinema and various cultural meeting places were neglected in favor of a hotel-centred all-inclusive-tourism and finally closed. Unique events like the Internation Carnival, an initative of Cubans and Foreigners started in the 1980s, were also liquidated.

Its most valued resource; the beach, has added natural attractions such as the caves and rasp, and a rosary of virgin keys easily accessed. Unfortunately those natural resources today show a lack of care and maintenance and have already lost a lot of ecologic value and attraction. Nevertheless these riches of natural scenery overshadow Varedero's status as the most northern portion of the territory, and other attractions of cultural, historical and environmental character in the vicinity like the cities of Matanzas and Cárdenas, the Peninsula of Zapata and the resort of San Miguel de los Baños. The concept of the Convention Center Plaza America thought as a destination for congresses and to attract tourism has mostly failed. Varadero, which is a free port, possesses conditions for scuba diving, deep-sea fishing, yachting and other water sports.

Varadero receives about 500,000 visitors per year.

As of 2007, Varadero is primarily visited by European, Latin American and Canadian tourists. The number of U.S. tourists visiting Varadero, although increasing, has been limited because of the restrictions that make it illegal for U.S. citizens to visit Cuba as tourist.

Unlike many other Cuban tourism centers, Cubans can visit Varadero even if the all-inclusive-policy restricts the free access to most of the hotels.

In 2007, the municipality of Varadero had a population of about 20,000 between the Hicacos peninsula (7,000) and the two incorporated localities of Santa Marta and Boca de Camarioca. With a total area of 32 km² (12.4 sq mi), it has a population density of 771.3/km² (1,997.7/sq mi).

Che Guevara

Ernesto "Che" Guevara (June 14, 1928 – October 9, 1967), commonly known as Che Guevara, El Che, or simply Che, was an Argentine Marxist revolutionary, politician, author, physician, military theorist, and guerrilla leader. After his death, his stylized image became an ubiquitous countercultural symbol worldwide.

As a young medical student, Guevara travelled throughout Latin America and was transformed by the endemic poverty he witnessed. His experiences and observations during these trips led him to conclude that the region's ingrained economic inequalities were an intrinsic result of monopoly capitalism, neo-colonialism, and imperialism, with the only remedy being world revolution. This belief prompted his involvement in Guatemala's social reforms under President Jacobo Arbenz, whose eventual CIA-assisted overthrow solidified Guevara’s radical ideology.

Later, in Mexico, he met Fidel Castro and joined his 26th of July Movement. In December 1956, he was among the revolutionaries who invaded Cuba under Castro's leadership with the intention of overthrowing U.S.-backed Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista. Guevara soon rose to prominence among the insurgents, was promoted to Comandante, and played a pivotal role in the successful guerrilla campaign that deposed Batista. Following the Cuban revolution, Guevara oversaw the revolutionary tribunals and executions of suspected war criminals from the previous regime. Later he served as minister of industry and president of the national bank, before traversing the globe as a diplomat to meet an array of world leaders on behalf of Cuban socialism. He was also a prolific writer and diarist, with one of his most influential works being a manual on the theory and practice of guerrilla warfare. Guevara left Cuba in 1965 to incite revolutions first in an unsuccessful attempt in Congo-Kinshasa and then in Bolivia, where he was captured with the help of the CIA and executed.

Both notorious for his harsh discipline and revered for his unwavering dedication to his revolutionary doctrines, Guevara remains an admired, controversial, and significant historical figure. As a result of his death and romantic visage, along with his invocation to armed class struggle and desire to create the consciousness of a "new man" driven by "moral" rather than "material" incentives; Guevara evolved into a quintessential icon of leftist inspired movements, as well as a global merchandising sensation. He has been mostly venerated and occasionally reviled in a multitude of biographies, memoirs, books, essays, documentaries, songs, and films. Time Magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century, while an Alberto Korda photograph of him entitled Guerrillero Heroico, was declared "the most famous photograph in the world."