The Caribbean’s Best-Kept Secret
When people hear Cuba, they think Fidel Castro; dictatorship; discordant with America. But Cuba entails so much more. Its rich history is fraught with social unrest where the natives literally fought bloody wars clawing their way to independence.
Cuba is an island of staggering beauty. Located about 90 miles off of Key West’s famous Mile Zero, this island was once a playground for the richest Americans. Today Cuba is a time capsule where bright, polished 1950s’ cars drive the dusty streets. Its Caribbean location makes Cuba enjoy a mild, tropical climate almost year-round—70 – 81 degrees Fahrenheit.
Once the get-away spot for the wealthiest Americans, Cuba is now a throwback to the past with dusty streets and bright polished 1950s’ cars. The lingua franca of the island is Spanish, although many Cubans born in the 1950s and 1960s do have a working knowledge of Russian due to Cuba’s former diplomatic ties with the Soviet Union.
Cuba’s history has been anything but typical since its discovery by Columbus in 1492. The island served as an agricultural resource and Spanish colony up until it gained its independence from Spain after the Spanish-American War. Aside from President Fidel Castro and the current President Raul Castro, one of the most famous rulers in Cuban history was Fulgencio Batista. The latter served two separate terms from 1940 to 1959, until being overthrown by Castro’s revolution.
It was during the Batista years that Havana (the capital) became the glittering jewel of the Caribbean. Havana was the go-to weekend place for tourists to enjoy their rum & coke (the famous “Cuba Libre”) at the iconic Tropicana nightclub. To this day, one can still enjoy a late-night cabaret show at the club.
The city still holds its place as the cultural hub of Cuba. It is a mix of modern tastes and neoclassical turn-of-the-century architecture. The National Museum of Fine Arts, houses a collection of Cuban paintings from the 18th century onwards. There’s the Jose Martí Memorial Museum that’s dedicated to the famous poet and still exhibits his works and personal memorabilia. Lastly, visitors will also find stunning ballet performances at the Great Theatre of Havana.
Tourists who want to venture out of the big city, Baracoa is one of the most popular spots to visit. Located in the Guantanamo Province, Baracoa offers pristine beaches, flora, and fauna. It’s not only a place to find surf, and sun, it’s also where Columbus first landed. Visitors to the island can enjoy cultural sights like the Casa de la Cultura. This small place comes to life on Saturday evenings with displays of vibrant local paintings, sculptures, and dance shows that revolve around the traditional rhythms of guaguancó and yambú.
To appreciate the ecological splendors of Baracoa, visit the Parque Natural Majayára offers hiking and archaeological trails. For more natural beauty, visitors can also visit La Cueva del Paraíso, which is a series of caves (also housing a museum) that were once burial chambers for the indigenous Taíno Indians.
Cuba is no doubt the place to visit if you’re looking for a spot that offers warm, Caribbean waters and palms, as well as a rich cultural history. The good news is that getting there is only a flight away.