In 1492, Christopher Columbus landed on and claimed the island now occupied by Cuba, for the Kingdom of Spain. Cuba remained a territory of Spain until the Spanish–American War ended in 1898, andgained formal independence from the U.S. in 1902. A fragile democracy, increasingly dominated by radical politics eventually evolved, solidified by the Cuban Constitution of 1940, but was definitely quashed in 1952 by former president Fulgencio Batista, and an authoritarian regime was set up, intensifying and catalyzing already rampant corruption, political repression and crippling economicregulations. Batista was ousted in January 1959 by the July 26 movement, and a new administration under Fidel Castro established, which had by 1965 evolved into a single-party state under the revived Communist Party of Cuba, which holds power to date.
Cuba is home to over 11 million people and is the most populous island nation in the Caribbean, as well as the largest by area. However, thepopulation density is lower than in most Caribbean countries. Its people, culture, and customs draw from diverse sources, such as the aboriginal Taíno and Ciboney peoples, the period of Spanish colonialism, the introduction of African slaves and its proximity to the United States.
Cuba has a 99.8% literacy rate, an infant death rate lower than some developed countries, and an averagelife expectancy of 77.64. In 2006, Cuba was the only nation in the world which met the WWF's definition of sustainable development; having an ecological footprint of less than 1.8 hectares per capita and a Human Development Index of over 0.8 for 2007.
The name Cuba comes from the Taíno language. The exact meaning of the name is unclear but it may be translated either aswhere fertile land is abundant (cubao), or great place (coabana). Authors who believe that Christopher Columbus was Portuguese state that Cuba was named by Columbus for the ancient town of Cuba in the district of Beja in Portugal.
Main articles: History of Cuba and Timeline of Cuban history
Sketch of a Taíno woman, also known as the Arawak by theSpanish
Cuba was inhabited by Native American people known as the Taíno, also called Arawak by the Spanish, and Guanajatabey and Ciboney people before the arrival of the Spanish. The ancestors of these Native Americans migrated from the mainland of North, Central and South America several centuries earlier. The native Taínos called the island Caobana. The Taíno were farmers and the Ciboney werefarmers, fishers and hunter-gatherers.
After first landing on an island then called Guanahani on October 12, 1492, Christopher Columbus landed on Cuba's northeastern coast near what is now Baracoa on October 27 or 28. He claimed the island for the new Kingdom of Spain and named Isla Juana after Juan, Prince of Asturias. In 1511, the first Spanishsettlement was founded by Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar at Baracoa; other towns soon followed including the future capital of San Cristobal de la Habana which was founded in 1515. The native Taínos were working under the encomienda system, which resembled a feudal system in Medieval Europe. Within a century the indigenous people were virtually wiped out due to multiple factors, including...