It’s official – we’ll be whisking you to Cuba from May next year. You’ve probably heard about the revolution and the rum, but here’s some stuff you didn’t know about the Caribbean isle…
Cuba is hot property right now, and we’re bringing it back for summer 2016. We’ll be flying into the main beach resort, Varadero, as well as putting on trips to the country’s vintage capital, Havana. Over the next week, we’ll be bringing you the lowdown on the so-called Pearl of the Antilles. First up, we’re lifting the lid on Cuba’s little-known facts…
1. New cars are marked up 400%
Cuba’s love of vintage cars may be down to money, rather than good looks. New cars come with a hefty price tag – so one that would cost $52,000 everywhere else, goes for $260,000 in Cuba. And, a ban on buying new cars wasn’t lifted until 2013. Those poor boy racers…
2. JFK bought 1,200 Cuban cigars before Cuba’s trading ban began
The sneaky US president made sure he stocked up on cigars before he signed off on the trade embargo against Cuba in 1960. He even checked they were safely in the White House before putting pen to paper.
3. Christmas didn’t become an official holiday in Cuba until 1997
Castro – better known as the Grinch – slapped a ban on Christmas when he came to power in 1959. He only put an end to it before the Pope’s visit in 1998.
4. Bacardi rum originated in Cuba
Bacardi was founded in Cuba in 1862, but the family-run company ended up getting exiled after the revolution. Luckily, they had already built plants in Puerto Rico and Mexico, just in case. Nowadays, you won’t find any Bacardi in Cuba – instead, all your rum needs are covered by Havana Club.
5. Fidel Castro was a big fan of John Lennon
Beatlemania really did spread everywhere, even to Cuba. There’s a sculpture of the band’s co-founder in Havana’s John Lennon Park. Tourists can cosy up next to the statue, which was unveiled by Castro in 2000. Weird fact – the sculpture is missing Lennon’s iconic glasses, as they kept getting stolen. But selfie fans needn’t fear – park security will lend you a pair for the perfect pic.
6. It’s home to the world’s smallest bird and frog
Tiny wildlife seems to be the norm in Cuba. Not only does it hold the Guinness World Record for the world’s smallest frog, it’s also home to the smallest bird. The Bee Hummingbird grows to a teeny 2 inches, while the Mount Iberia frog is just 10 millimetres in size.
7. It has one of the highest literacy rates in the world
In Cuba, 99.8% of people over 15 can read and write – and that’s compared to the global adult literacy rate of 84.1%. They really put us to shame with their curriculum, too. Pupils learn things like dance, gardening, health, hygiene and, of course, a bit of revolutionary history. Plus, all school meals and uniforms are free.
8. Fidel Castro ordered all Monopoly games to be destroyed when he came to power
To most of us, Monopoly is just an innocent – if somewhat tense – family game. But to Castro it was a symbol of American money and power. So, one of the first things he did was order every set to be destroyed.
9. Cubans love South Korean soap operas
Ok, so they might only have 4 channels to choose from, but Korean soaps are to Cuba what EastEnders is to us Brits. They’ve even taken over the more traditional Latin American ‘telenovelas’.
10. There has been a McDonald’s in Cuba at Guantanamo Bay since 1986.
It turns out you really can find the golden arches anywhere, including Guantanamo Bay. This one is surrounded by barbed wire and only accessible to staff at the base, but it’s the only one on the island.