What is clear, as the smoke continues to swirl around President Obama’s decision to reestablish diplomatic ties with Cuba after 55 years of hostility, is that 55 years is a long time. Eisenhower was president way back then. Alaska and Hawaii were just entering the union in 1959 and Marilyn Monroe was sizzling in Some Like It Hot. After more than half a century of mistrust, estrangement, and turmoil, change will hardly come swiftly to the U.S.-Cuba relationship.
Still, some are chomping at the bit after Obama’s historic announcement. Congress still needs to approve the lifting of economic sanctions against Cuba and this is not a sure thing, especially after Raul Castro’s declaration on Saturday that communism is not dead in Cuba.
The Cuban exiles, meanwhile, who have made this country their home have established deep roots - in Miami mostly, but also in Tampa Bay, northern New Jersey and parts of New York, as well as in California, Texas, North Carolina and Georgia. More than two million Cuban Americans live in the U.S. and the majority in Miami has made Little Havana a bastion of Cuban culture, rich with its food, music and family-first focus.
As the new American-Cuban reality takes shape, here’s a look at some other key facts about Cuba:
11 million+: The population of Cuba, which includes the island of Cuba as well as the Isle of Youth and many smaller islands.
90 miles: The approximate distance from Cuba to the tip of Key West, Florida.
$121 billion: Cuba’s gross domestic product (2012 estimate).
69th: Where Cuba’s economy ranks globally right now.
$6,200: The average annual income in Cuba, according to the U.N.
$360 million: The current annual value of U.S. exports to Cuba (as of 2013). We sell Cuba roughly this amount in farm products, including rice corn and soybeans, according to the American Farm Bureau.
$4.3 billion: What those same exports may be worth annually after the new thaw, according to the Peterson Institute for International Economics.
0: Current annual value of Cuban exports of goods to the U.S.
$5.8 billion: What Cuban exports of goods to the U.S. annually may one day be worth.
99.8%: Cuba’s literacy rate, or the percentage of people age 15 and over who can read and write. Cuba has one of the highest literacy rates in the world.
165: The number of Cuban doctors currently working in West Africa on the Ebola outbreak under the World Health Organization (WHO). Cuba has offered more than 460 doctors and nurses in the battle against the virus.
50,000+: The number of Cuban health care workers toiling away in more than 66 countries. “Cuba is world-famous for its ability to train outstanding doctors and nurses,” said WHO director Margaret Chan in September.
23,000+: The number of physicians from low-income communities in 83 countries (including the U.S.) that have graduated from Cuba’s Latin American Medical School (ELAM). Currently some 10,000 are enrolled.
27%: The percentage of Cubans who currently have access to the Internet. That puts Cuba behind Iran and Kenya but ahead of Syria and Sudan.
200,000: The number by which annual family visits rose to Cuba from the U.S., after restrictions on family visits were lifted in 2009.
1 million: Potential number of annual U.S. tourists to Cuba if Congress approves lifting travel restrictions. The president can only relax requirements for “purposeful” travel, which includes family visits, journalism and education visits, and humanitarian and religious activities (there are 12 categories in all).
$400: The amount Americans who can now visit Cuba will be able to return with in Cuban goods. Just a quarter of this can be spent on alcohol and tobacco.
42,803 square miles: Cuba’s total size. It is the largest island in the Caribbean by far and the 17th largest island in the world. Within the Caribbean, Hispaniola (or Haiti and the Dominican Republic combined) come in at number two, at slightly over 29,000 square miles.
2,321 miles: Approximate length of Cuba’s coastline, including 400 beaches – a major reason the country has long been such a prime travel destination for Canadians and Europeans.
5 and counting: The number of major travel companies clamoring to do business in Cuba, including Delta Air Lines, JetBlue Airways, Hilton Worldwide, Marriott International and the Carnival Corporation – they all voiced interest this week.
10th in the world: Veradero Beach, Cuba’s main vacation destination and the world’s tenth best beach resort. It has 51 hotels (most of them with four- and five-star ratings) and has entertained over a million visitors a year since 2009, says Travel Trade Caribbean.
600-1300: Approximate number of calories in a traditional Cuban sandwich (roasted pork, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles and mustard on toasted Cuban bread), depending on its size and the amount of ingredients used.
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