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Geography & Topography

Capital: Havana; 2,189,000

Area: 110,860 square kilometers (42,803 square miles)

Language: Spanish

Religion: Roman Catholic, Protestant, Jehovah’s Witness, Jewish, Santeria

Currency: Cuban peso


The largest island of the West Indies group (equal in area to Pennsylvania), Cuba is also the westernmost—just west of Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic), and 90 mi (145 km) south of Key West, Fla., at the entrance to the Gulf of Mexico. The island is mountainous in the southeast and south-central area (Sierra Maestra). It is flat or rolling elsewhere. Cuba also includes numerous smaller islands, islets, and cays. The Culture of Cuba is influenced by diverse and often complementary factors that accounts for the cultural diversity of Cuba. It is a meeting point of European, African, Chinese, and continental North American cultures.


Performing Arts


Music in Cuba is influenced by the musical styles of Spain, France, United States and America.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.

Traditional Cuban music was brought back to life and gained international exposure thanks to the ‘Buena Vista Social Club’ project. Another famous Cuban style of music is the ‘Son Cubano’, a unique genre that combines Spanish style songwriting including the Spanish guitar combined with African rhythms and percussion instruments of Bantu origin. This type of music was developed in the the 1930’s by bands such as ‘Orquesta Anacaona.’




The most recognizable instruments in traditional Cuban music are:

Cuban bongos

Bongos: Bongos consists of two small drums, of different sizes, held together by a strap or a piece of wood or metal that provides separation among their bodies or sound boxes. Each drum possesses a single membrane, or skin, and each one of these skins is tuned to a different pitch. The current system of tension (for tuning the skins) consists of metal rings and screws that form the shapes of hook and nuts. The drums are played together, never separate.



Marimbula: A large wooden box with holes on the front. There is a bridge that the metal fingers lay upon. On top of this a pressure bar holds the metal fingers in place. By plucking the metal fingers, sound vibrations are transmitted through the bridge and into the hollow body of the instrument. The body acts as a resonator amplifying the sound.


Examples of traditional Cuban dances are:


Bolero:The Cuban Bolero is a slow close dance in 2/4 timing from Santiago de Cuba. It has a very strong position in the world of traditional Cuban Music. The steps can be a mix of slow quick quick and quick quick quick quick. With a sliding step.



Some interesting facts:

  • The Cubans refer to their island as ‘El Cocodrilo’ – viewed from above Cuba is said to resemble a crocodile.
  • When Christopher Columbus first happened upon Cuba in 1492 he thought he had landed in China.
  • Butterfly Jasmine is the official Flower of Cuba. It represents purity, rebelliousness and independence. It flourishes in humidity. It can be found in the wild along river banks and lagoons. It is also a favorite garden flower.


Cuban Community in Australia:

More information on the Cuban community: