Wednesday, President Obama announced that, “the United States of America is changing its relationship with the people of Cuba.” Here are five facts you should know about the country that has been shrouded in mystery for the past 50 years.
1. Cuba has the equivalent population of Ohio and is slightly smaller than Pennsylvania.
2. The U.S. began imposing sanctions against Cuba after Fidel Castro seized power in 1959, nationalized the economy, and stole more than $1 billion in American assets on the island. Diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba broke off in 1961 as tensions between the two nations increased after Cuba signed a trade agreement with the Soviet Union.
3. Cuba’s constitution claims to allow religious freedom, but it’s checked by Article 62, which declares: “No recognized liberty may be exercised against the existence and aims of the socialist State and the nation’s determination to build socialism and communism.”
4. Roughly 56 percent of Cubans identify as Christian and eight percent as Evangelical. The Cuban Office of Religious Affairs (ORA) has authority over all religious groups in Cuba and it has a “consistently antagonistic relationship” with many of those groups, says Christian Solidarity Worldwide.
5. The celebration of Christmas was removed from the country’s calendar in 1969 because Castro thought the distraction was impeding sugar cane production, the island’s main export. Although traditionally a Christian country, Cuba was declared atheist during the revolution and so a generation or two have grown up without Christmas festivities. When he heard Pope John Paul II was planning a visit, Castro decided to allow Christmas to be observed as a national holiday once again. Unlike many Latin countries Christmas is not a big deal in Cuba: on Christmas day in Cuba children attend school and most shops, restaurants and markets stay open for regular business.
Other Articles in the 5 Facts Series:
Modern Slavery • HIV and AIDS • Thanksgiving • Cooperative Program • Military Suicides • Gambling in America • Truett Cathy • Hunger in America • Suicide in America • Christian Persecution • Civil Rights Act of 1964 • Supreme Court’s contraceptive mandate decision • Fathers and Fathers Day • Euthanasia in Europe • Marriage in America • March for Life • Abortion in America • ‘War on Poverty’