Cuba at a Crossroads (02:51)
Castro's 1959 revolution has shaped the island's culture. The Communist regime is opening to trade for economic stability while attempting to preserve a socialist way of life.
Cuban Embargo (02:37)
Citizens of the world's only Communist island have had to use their ingenuity to survive U.S. economic sanctions. For decades, the Soviet Union provided food, fuel and medical supplies.
Cuba's Special Period (03:04)
The Soviet Union's collapse severed the island's economic lifeline. Castro launched a tourism campaign and allowed islanders to open private restaurants—but sourcing ingredients was difficult due to food shortages.
Cuba's Green Revolution (03:38)
During the Special Period, hunger drove islanders to grow their own food. The initiative provides cheap organic produce today—but private restaurants must buy from state markets and are banned from advertising.
Varadero Peninsula (03:02)
Cuba's foreign owned luxury resorts provide government revenue. Tourists are sheltered from locals struggling to survive on state subsidies and selling goods on the black market.
Cuban Tourist Enterprises (01:34)
A local artisan has a special government license to sell his crafts at Varadero resorts—bridging the state and private economies.
Cuba's Nouveau Riche (01:42)
Citizens receiving funds from relatives in the U.S. are allowed to patronize Varadero resorts off-season—but most islanders live in poverty.
Cuban Ballet (03:39)
Links to the Soviet Union fostered a national passion for the classical art form that inspires citizens. The best dancers from Havana's prestigious National Ballet School enjoy celebrity status.
Cuba's National Ballet Academy (02:54)
The Havana dance school’s traditional approach includes dormitory accommodations and 8 hours of daily training. Professionals are allowed to travel abroad; the state rewards them to discourage defection.
Cuban Healthcare System (04:03)
Despite economic sanctions, citizens have a right to free healthcare—a priority of Castro's revolution. Doctors are recognized internationally as experts; visit a regional hospital in Pinar del Rio offering herbalist treatments.
Traditional Cuban Medicine (02:12)
When Soviet medical supplies were cut off during the Special Period, islanders turned to herbal remedies. Natural laboratories have flourished in Pinar del Rio, due to limited development.
Medicinal Green Revolution (02:17)
Organic farms cultivate traditional plants for hospitals in Pinar del Rio. Despite limited access to modern drugs, Cubans are extremely healthy—and herbal treatments are being developed for serious illnesses.
Cuban Religion (03:35)
Spanish Catholicism and African beliefs blended to form Santeria. The Communist regime has recently allowed public worship; Santiago de Cuba locals celebrate the Caridad del Cobre Virgin, who also represents an African goddess.
Commercializing Santeria (04:14)
Santeria priest Abolado la Guet's reputation depends on accurate spiritual readings. He is concerned by Havana career priestesses called Babalawo who charge tourists for showy rituals.
Tourism is changing Cuba's image. A new musical trend has drawn government criticism for its American rap influences; local band Kola Loca uses creative distribution methods to bypass censorship.
Kola Loca (03:33)
Hailing from the "son" capital of Santiago de Cuba, the reggaeton group incorporates Caribbean rhythms and socially conscious lyrics. Despite a large fan base, government censorship blocks them from a record deal.
Evolving Cuban Communism (02:25)
For 50 years, Castro has isolated the island to protect his regime—but tourism and private enterprise signal change. Maintaining social equality will be a challenge as Cuba joins the global community.
Credits: Cuba: Islands and Life (00:30)
Credits: Cuba: Islands and Life
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