Cuban People

Cuba People, Cubans or Cuban people (Spanish: Cubanos) are the inhabitants or citizens of Cuba. Cuba is a multi-ethnic nation, home to people of different ethnic and national backgrounds. As a result, some Cubans do not treat their nationality as an ethnicity but as a citizenship with various ethnicities and national origins comprising the “Cuban people.” Nearly all Cubans or their ancestors immigrated within the past five centuries.

Despite its multi-ethnic composition, the culture held in common by most Cubans is referred to as mainstream Cuban culture, a Western culture largely derived from the traditions of Western European migrants, beginning with the early Spanish settlers, along with other Europeans arriving later such as the Portuguese and French, along with West African culture which has somewhat influential despite the fact that most minority Afro-Cubans are of Haitian origin.


The population of Cuba was 11,167,325 inhabitants in 2012. The largest urban populations of Cubans in Cuba (2010) are to be found in Havana (2,135,498), Santiago de Cuba ( 425,851), Camagüey (305,845), Holguín (277,050), Guantanamo ( 207,857), and Santa Clara ( 205,812). According to Cuba’s Oficina Nacional de Estadisticas ONE 2002 Census, the population was 11,177,743, including:

  • 5,597,233 men and
  • 5,580,510 women.

The racial make-up was 7,271,926 whites, 1,126,894 blacks and 2,659,675 mulattoes. The Chinese population in Cuba is descended mostly from indentured laborers who arrived in the 19th century to build railroads and work in mines. After the Industrial Revolution, many of these labourers stayed in Cuba because they could not afford return passage to China.


The majority of the ancestry of White Cubans comes from Spain. During the 18th, 19th and early part of the 20th century especially, large waves of Canary Islanders, Galicians, and Catalans emigrated from Spain to Cuba. Other European nationalities which immigrated include: English, Scots, Russians, Poles, Portuguese, Romanians, Italians, Greeks, French, Germans and Irish. Eastern European Influence was mostly during the Cold War years and immigration from the British Isles was mostly in Pinar del Rio Province and Havana. There is a small remnant of a Jewish community.There is also significant ethnic influx from diverse Levantine peoples, especially Lebanese, Palestinians, Turks, and Syrians.

Afro-Cubans compose 10.08% of the population. Their origins are mainly Yoruba, dating back to the Atlantic slave trade, and more recently, Haitian.

Cubans of East Asian/Oriental origins make up 1.02% of the population. They are mostly of Chinese (especially Cantonese), Japanese or Korean origins.

Of the Taínos the number of those that claim decent have not been formally recorded. Most, however, live on the eastern part of the island. Some American Indians from the United States settled in Cuba in the 19th century (notably Cherokee, Choctaw and Seminole). There are no exact figures on their current descendants.

Cubans abroad

The United States is home to the largest number of Cubans outside Cuba, particularly in Miami and other major cities in Florida as well as in New Jersey, California and New York. Smaller numbers of Cubans live in Spain, Canada,Venezuela, and Puerto Rico.

After the founding of the republic in 1902, a considerable migration arrived from the Iberian peninsula to the island, between them were more than a few former Spanish soldiers who participated in the wars, and yet it never created an obstacle for the respect and affection of Cubans, who have always been proud of their origins.

In December 2008, Spain began accepting citizenship applications from the descendants of people who went into exile after its brutal 1936-39 Civil War, part of a 2007 law meant to address the painful legacy of the conflict. This new Historical Memory Law may grant up to 500,000 passports to Cubans of Spanish ancestry. Under the law, the descendants have until December 2011 to present themselves at the Spanish embassy in their home country and turn in documentation that proves their parents or grandparents fled Spain between 1936 and 1955. They do not need to relinquish their current citizenship.


Main article: History of Cuba

The first people known to have inhabited Cuba was the Siboney, an Amerindian people. They were followed by another Amerindian people, the Taíno who were the main population both of Cuba and other islands in The Antilles when Christopher Columbus first sighted the island in 1492. He claimed the islands for Spain and Cuba became a Spanish colony. It was to remain so until 1902 apart from a brief occupation by Britain in 1762, before being returned in exchange for Florida. Towards the end of the 19th century, Spain had lost most of its American possessions and a series of rebellions had shaken Cuba. This, in combined with calls for annexation of Cuba in the United States, led to the Spanish-American War, and in 1902 Cuba gained formal independence.

During the first decades of the 20th century, USA interests were dominant and in Cuba, leading to large influence over the island. This ended in 1959 when de facto leader Fulgencio Batista was ousted by revolutionaries led by Fidel Castro. Quickly deteriorating relations with the US led to Cuba’s alliance with the Soviet Union and Castro’s transformation of Cuba into a declared socialist republic. Castro has remained in power since 1959, first as Prime Minister then from 1976 as President of Cuba.

Culture and traditions

The culture of Cuba reflects the island’s influences from various cultures, primarily European (Spanish), Taino, and African. This is evident in the direct and dynamic yet open and witty humorous idiosyncrasy of most Cubans. However, during the period of the republic (1901–1959) Cuban culture was also heavily influenced by USA. This was evident in music, sports, architecture, finances, among others. In some aspects many Cubans saw Cuban culture more closely related to American than Mexican or other neighbouring Latin American nations. During the revolutionary period (1959-) as Cuba was surprisingly and abruptly declared a communist state; Cuba was internally isolated and exposed to a Russian presence. However, this presence only contributed to the dictatorial formation, nature, and structuring of the new Stalinist Cuban regime but left very little, if any, cultural contribution.Main article: Culture of Cuba

Unarguably one of the most distinctive parts of Cuban culture is Cuban music and dancing, being well-known far outside the country. Well known Latin music styles such as mambo, salsa, rumba, cha,cha,cha, bolero, and son originated in Cuba. The origins of much of Cuban music can be found in the mix of Spanish and West African music, while American musical elements such as trombones and big band were also significant elements in the formation of Cuban music. Cuban literature includes some of the most well-known names of the islands, such as writer and independence hero José Martí in the late 19th century. More contemporary Cuban authors include Daína Chaviano, Pedro Juan Gutiérrez, Antonio Orlando Rodríguez, Zoé Valdés and Leonardo Padura.

The Spanish language is spoken by virtually all Cubans on the island itself. Cuban Spanish is characterised by the reduction of several consonants, a feature that it shares with other dialects of Caribbean Spanish as well as the Canary Islands. Many Cuban-Americans, while remaining fluent in Spanish, use American English as one of their daily languages.

The influence of the Canary Islands

Many words in traditional Cuban Spanish can be traced to those of the Spanish spoken in the Canary Islands. Many Canary Islanders emigrated to Cuba and had one of the largest parts in the formation of the Cuban dialect and accent. There are also many elements from other areas of Spain such as Andalucian, Galician, Asturian, Catalan, as well as some African influence. Cuban Spanish is very close to Canarian Spanish. Canarian emigration has been going on for centuries to Cuba, and were also very numerous in emigration of the 19th, and 20th centuries.


A woman smoking a cigar in Old Havana

Through cross emigration of Canarians and Cubans, many of the customs of Canarians have became Cuban traditions and vice versa. The music of Cuba has become part of the Canarian culture as well, such as mambo, salsa, son, and punto Cubano. Because of Cuban emigration to the Canary Islands, the dish “moros y cristianos”, or simply known as “moros”,(black beans and rice mixed together with traditional spices, different from “frijoles negros”, which is a thick black bean soup served over white rice) can be found as one of the foods of the Canary Islands; especially the island of La Palma. Canary Islanders were the driving force in the cigarindustry in Cuba, and were called “Vegueros.” Many of the big cigar factories in Cuba were owned by Canary Islanders. After the Castro revolution, many Cubans and returning Canarians settled in the Canary islands, among them were many cigar factory owners such as the Garcia family. The cigar business made its way to the Canary Islands from Cuba, and now the Canary Islands are one of the places that are known for cigars alongside Cuba, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, and Honduras. The island of La Palma has the greatest Cuban influence out of all seven islands. Also, La Palma has the closest Canarian accent to the Cuban accent, due to the most Cuban emigration to that island.

Many of the typical Cuban replacements for standard Spanish vocabulary stem from Canarian lexicon. For example, guagua (bus) differs from standard Spanish autobús the former originated in the Canaries and is an onomatopoeia stemming from the sound of a Klaxon horn (wah-wah!). The term of endearment “socio” is from the Canary Islands. An example of Canarian usage for a Spanish word is the verb fajarse (“to fight”). In standard Spanish the verb would be pelearse, while fajar exists as a non-reflexive verb related to the hemming of a skirt. Cuban Spanish shows strong heritage to the Spanish of the Canary Islands.

Many names for food items come from the Canary Islands as well. The Cuban sauce mojo, is based on the mojos of the Canary Islands where the mojo was invented. Also, Canarian ropa vieja is the father to Cuban ropa vieja through Canarian emigration. Gofio is a Canarian food also known by Cubans, along with many other kinds.



The flag of Cuba is red, white and blue and was first adopted by Narciso López on a suggestion by the poet Miguel Teurbe Tolón. The design incorporates three blue stripes, representing the three provinces of the time (Oriente, La Habana, and Pinar del Río), and two white stripes symbolizing the purity of the patriotic cause. The red triangle stands for the blood shed to free the nation. The white star in the triangle stands for independence.

Narciso Lopez, Miguel Teurbe Tolón, José Aniceto Iznaga Borrell, his nephew José Maria Sánchez Iznaga, Cirilo Villaverde y Juan Manuel Macías, designed the flag of Cuba and swore to fight to the death for Cuban independence from Spain.