Cuba - Is a large Caribbean island nation under communist rule, is known for its
white-sand beaches, rolling mountains, cigars and rum. Its colorful capital, Havana,
features well-preserved Spanish colonial architecture within its 16th- century core, Old
Havana, loomed over by the pre-revolutionary Capitolio. Salsa emanates from the city's
dance clubs and cabaret shows are performed at the famed Tropicana.
Prior to Spanish colonization in the late 15th century, Cuba was inhabited by Amerindian
tribes. It remained a colony of Spain until the Spanish-American War of 1898, which led
to nominal independence as a de facto United States protectorate in 1902. As a fragile
republic, Cuba attempted to strengthen its democratic system, but mounting political
radicalization and social strife culminated in the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista in 1952.