5 Things You Didn’t Know About Cuba

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRAVEL TRIVIA)

 

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Cuba

When many people think about Cuba, their mind goes to rum, cigars and Fidel Castro. But there is so much more to this Caribbean island than that! It is an interesting and exciting place, and it is only within the last five years that U.S. citizens have been able to legally travel there. Here are five things about Cuba that you probably didn’t know.

Christmas Was Once Banned in Cuba

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When The Grinch – ehem, I mean, Fidel Castro – came to power, he went right to work banning things that everyone loves, like Monopoly and, yes, even Christmas. He declared the entire country atheist and abolished Christmas and the paid work holiday that went with it because he wanted people to work on harvesting sugar instead of celebrating and giving gifts. After 30 long, sad years for the people of Cuba, whose population is truly largely a Catholic one, the Pope visited Havana and convinced Castro to reinstate Christmas. Even though it was January at the time, Cuban citizens ran right out to buy the Christmas trees and religious statues they weren’t allowed to have before. It is unclear whether Castro’s heart grew three sizes that day, but it seems unlikely.

Cubans Only Recently Got the Right to Buy a New Car

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If you have ever wondered why Cuba is full of so many classic, 1950s-style cars, the answer might make you a bit sad. Beginning in 1959, Cubans were not allowed to buy a new car, so there were no cars on the streets newer than the 1959 models. In 2013, though, the laws changed, and citizens were able to start buying new cars without getting special permission from the state. The only problem? These cars are marked up by 400 percent, with prices running between $91,000 and $262,000. The average monthly earnings for a citizen of Cuba is equivalent to between 20 and 30 U.S. dollars, making owning a new car an impossible dream for most.

Cuba Once Had a Toilet Paper Shortage

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In 2009, Cuba faced a crisis that no one else wants to think about: a shortage of toilet paper. While this seems a bit preposterous for a country like the U.S., keep in mind that Cuba produces some of its own toilet paper but has to import the rest. In 2009, the country did not have enough natural resources to make its own toilet paper and was also facing an economic crisis. Luckily the country eventually recovered enough to allow people to stock up on this bathroom essential, but it was surely a tough few months.

Cuba Is Home to the Largest Colony of Flamingos

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Cuba is home to many beautiful and rare species of birds, including the bee hummingbird, the smallest bird in the world. The birds stay here because the habitat is both perfect for their needs and located within protected areas. Flamingos are no exception, with the largest colony in the Western Hemisphere nesting in Cuba’s wetlands. In Humedal Rio Maximo-Caguey in particular, nearly 70,000 nesting flamingos have given birth to more than 50,000 chicks. That is one big feathery family!

Hardly Anyone in Cuba Can Access the Internet

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While travelers can usually buy a scratch-off card that allows them to use the internet, as a rule, internet is hard to come by in Cuba. In 2011, a study reported that only around five percent of the population was able to access the worldwide web instead of just a government-created intranet that didn’t let them view anything that their leader didn’t want them to see. It was only in 2008 that Cubans were allowed to start buying computers at all, even if the prices were ridiculously high. The number of internet users has surely increased as technology has advanced, but it is highly likely that our friends in Cuba won’t be reading this article.

Shanghai And China Bid Farewell To Their Old Friend Fidel Castro

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI DAILY NEWS)

Shanghai bids farewell to old friend Castro

DOZENS of somber local residents visited the Consulate General of Cuba in Shanghai yesterday to pay their respects to late Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro, who passed away on November 25.

According to consulate officials, approximately 180 mourners have flocked to the consulate in remembrance of Castro, who is affectionately nicknamed “lao ka,” or “Old Castro.”

The consulate has converted a room into a tribute site, where members of the public paid homage to the deceased Cuban leader by either signing the condolence book or pledging loyalty to his socialist cause. The public mourning period runs through noon tomorrow.

One of the many visitors was Xu Ming, a professor teaching at Shanghai-based Donghua University. During an emotionally charged visit to the consulate yesterday, Xu, 63, waxed nostalgic as he crooned a popular old song about the camaraderie between China and Cuba in the 1960s.

Like many of his generation, Xu grew up listening to those songs and reading about the exploits of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara in textbooks and newspapers.

“With utmost sadness I learned of Mr Castro’s death in the newspapers,” Xu said as he signed the condolence book.

While the funeral cortege is carrying Castro’s remains on a four-day journey to their final resting place in Santiago de Cuba, where it all began for the 1959 revolution that catapulted him to power, Castro and his legacies are also being remembered in Shanghai, which he visited in 1995 and 2003.

“His death is not just a loss to the Cuban people, but to Chinese people and the whole world as well,” said Xu.

Castro is widely revered among Chinese as an icon who inspired generation after generation of youths with his romantic revolutionary ideals and struggles against imperialism.

“He is uniquely responsible for leading Cuba away from the US sphere of influence,” he said.

This isn’t easy considering the decades of economic hardship caused by the US blockade, which eased a little but hasn’t been entirely lifted, he told Shanghai Daily.

Standing in a room full of wreathes and elegiac couplets sent by local officials, citizens and Cuban expats in Shanghai and adjoining provinces, Xu said Cuba has demonstrated that a sovereign country can adhere to its own political system in spite of all the hostility from a formidable adversary.

“Although Fidel is physically gone, his ideas will be with us forever, and he will stay in our hearts forever because of what he did for the people and for the motherland,” said Lisbet Quesada Luna, Consul General of Cuba in Shanghai. “He devoted his deepest love to the motherland.”