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Cities in CUBA




Of the more than 11 million inhabitants (2017), 65% consider themselves white; about 25% are of Afro-Cuban origin (17% mestizos and mulattos) and 10% are black. The original Indian population has long since been absorbed into the other population groups. The birth rate is 10.7 per thousand, the death rate 8.7. (2017) 77% of Cuba's population lives in the cities, over 2.1 million of them in the capital Havana. Government policy is trying to counteract further urbanisation. The population is shrinking slightly by an average of -0.3% per year (2017). About 1.5 million Cuban refugees live in the United States (Florida).


One of the things that immediately strikes you in Cuba is the music. Wherever you are, you will hear music. In the cities and towns, you will find special music halls where music is often played 24 hours a day. In the streets, in the hotels and on the beach, music can be heard everywhere. Cuba without music is unthinkable. The music is characterised by powerful rhythms. This is often alternated with quiet ballads such as the Cuban evergreens 'Guantanamera' and 'Commandante Che Guevara'.

Buena Vista Social Club has become particularly famous. In 1996, American guitar legend Ry Cooder went to Cuba to make recordings with Cuban and African musicians. For one reason or another, however, the Africans did not make it there. Cooder was forced to continue the project with the Cubans. Together with composer and musician Juan de Marco Gonzalez, the man behind the famous Cuban group Sierrra Maestra, he brought together various Cuban artists in the Cuban Egrem studios. In just a few days, the beautiful CD Buena Vista Social Club was made, a worldwide bestseller and good for a Grammy Award. The very elderly Compay Segundo, Ibrahim Ferrer and Rubén Gonzalez, who had been making music in Cuba for years, became instantly world-famous.

Film maker Wim Wenders, a good friend of Ry Cooder, got the idea to make a documentary entitled Buena Vista Social Club. It is not directly the story of the recording of the CD. But it is a mix of recording sessions for a second CD, images from street life in Havana, interviews with singers and musicians and excerpts from the performances at Carré theatre in Amsterdam and Carnegie Hall in New York.

Super Grandpas

Elsewhere, the film shows one of the revolutionary slogans you see all over the streets of Cuba: "We believe in our dreams". It is precisely this idea that the film conveys at all times. In a wonderful excerpt, for example, we see how the very elderly Rubén Gonzalez plays the piano in a local music academy for a group of little girls, very young apprentice ballerinas, the new generation.

The super-abuelos, or super grandpas as they are called in Cuba, are very simple people, still living in their familiar neighbourhood. World success has not put them over the edge. In a striking way, they also show that in Cuba old people are not written off. They remain part of social life. They are appreciated for what they are. This also gives them an energy that we can hardly imagine in a very old person here. Compay Segundo, for example, tells us with a cheeky smile that he has five children and is working on a sixth, or explains what you can do about a hangover. Ibrahim Ferrer and Omara Ortuondo move across the stage sensually swaying their hips as if they had just fallen into each other's eyes yesterday. It is only when you see these very elderly bad boys that you realise the sexy double meaning of the various Buena Vista songs. A song about a fire in the room of the local beauty Tula and the fire brigade that has to come and extinguish it urgently, has not directly to do with a real fire but rather with the temperature of Tula... But to understand that, you first need to see Ibrahim Ferrer singing that story. If you want to take an unbiased dive into the Cuban zest for life, Buena Vista Social Club is an absolute must. But beware: you will undoubtedly come out of the auditorium in love with Cuba.


Cuba does not have a very sophisticated food culture. A lot of black beans and rice, sometimes with chicken. But there are many delicious exotic fruits.

The best place to eat (not that there are many other possibilities) is in a Paladar, which is a restaurant run by private persons, provided that it is not too big (the maximum number of seats is limited to 12). Usually, you can eat relatively well there for a price of about 5 to 7 US$.


Baijer,M / Cuba

Cuba : a short history
Cambridge University Press

Encarta Encyclopedie

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated June 2024
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