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Context

CUBA’S geographic location and size have helped to define its unique history and culture. Christopher Columbus visited Cuba, the largest of the Caribbean islands, on his first voyage to the New World in 1492. Although the island did not contain the large deposits of gold later found on the Spanish mainland, the Spaniards were not disappointed. They soon realized that the island’s geographic position was as valuable as any precious metal. Cuba is situated at the crossroads of three important water passages: the straits of Florida, the Yucatan channel, and the windward passage. Whoever governs the island also controls the adjacent waterways. The first governor of the island, Diego Velázquez, founded the capital city of Havana. By 1519 this port city had become a strategic center for exploring the continent and returning to the mother country. In the contemporary period, the island’s proximity to the United States has forced it to play an unwanted role in U.S. foreign policy, influencing many decisions made by the U.S. government. (For example, Kennedy’s Alliance for Progress was a reaction to Castro’s influence in Latin America, the presence of Soviet missiles in Cuba helped to define U.S.-Soviet relations, and the Elián González affair is helping to clarify U.S. immigration policy.)

Spaniards, Africans, and Chinese make up the island’s population and culture. To obtain economic wealth and improve their social position, Spaniards enslaved the native inhabitants of the island. Hard work beyond physical limitations and exposure to previously unknown diseases practically eliminated Cuba’s native Tainos and Ciboneys. West Coast Africans soon replaced the Amerindian population. They first accompanied the Spanish conquerors

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Culture and Customs of Cuba
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Series Foreword ix
  • Introduction xi
  • Preface xvii
  • 1 - Context 1
  • 2 - Religion 19
  • 3 - Social Customs 33
  • 4 - Broadcasting and Print Media 57
  • 5 - Cinema 79
  • 6 - Literature 99
  • 7 - Performing Arts 133
  • 8 - Art 153
  • References 171
  • Glossary 173
  • Selected Bibliography 177
  • Index 183
  • About the Author 193
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