This week, we’re shining the spotlight on another one of our Place of the Year 2015 shortlist contenders: Cuba. This year was rather significant for this Latin American country; for the first time in over five decades, the United States reopened diplomatic ties with Cuba, with the help of Pope Francis and the Vatican in late 2014. Now, controversy arises as concerned Cuban citizens worry about the impact that the incoming waves of tourists will have on its environment— specifically its coral reefs.
There’s a lot to know about Cuba, so in the spirit of highlighting this nominee, we’ve pulled together a list of interesting facts that we’d like to share.
1. Cuban exports include sugar, cigars, medicines, citrus fruits, fish, rum, and nickel oxide—the biggest export of the country.
2. Gender reassignment surgeries are covered under Cuba’s universal healthcare system, and have been since 2008.
3. Mountains and hills cover about a quarter of Cuba, with the highest mountain range, the Sierra Maestra, reaching 6,562 ft (2,000 m) above sea level.
4. Guantánamo Bay is technically leased to the United States for use; however, the Cuban government has not cashed any of the annual rent checks of $4,000, issued by the U.S. Treasury, since 1959.
5. Before 1959, US companies owned most of Cuba’s manufacturing industries but became government property under Fidel Castro’s rule.
6. During the Cuban insurrection, Cuban women would transport weapons through the country by sewing them into the pleats of their hoop skirts.
7. The tourism industry in Cuba employs about 100,000 people (many more if you include informal enterprises like prostitution) and generates around $2 billion annually.
Make sure to cast your vote on the shortlist for Place of the Year 2015 by 30 November.
Headline Image Credit: Cuba. Photo by Balint Földesi. CC BY 2.0 via Flickr.