|a republic and the largest island in the Caribbean, at the entrance to the Gulf of Mexico: became a Spanish colony after its discovery by Columbus in 1492; gained independence after the Spanish-American War of 1898 but remained subject to US influence until declared a people's republic under Castro in 1960; subject of an international crisis in 1962, when the US blockaded the island in order to compel the Soviet Union to dismantle its nuclear missile base. Sugar comprises about 80 per cent of total exports; the economy was badly affected by loss of trade following the collapse of the Soviet Union and by the continuing US trade embargo. Language: Spanish. Religion: nonreligious majority. Currency: peso. Capital: Havana. Pop: 11 328 000 (2004 est). Area: 110 922 sq km (42 827 sq miles)|
Note: The sinking of the United States battleship Maine in Havana harbor led to the Spanish-American War in 1898.
Note: Fidel Castro took control of the Cuban government in 1959. The United States broke off relations with Cuba in 1961, after Castro exhibited strong left-wing leanings, established a system of military justice, and confiscated American investments in banks, industries, and land. Cuba then formed a close attachment to the Soviet Union.
Note: In 1961, under the administration of John F. Kennedy, American-trained Cuban exiles attempted to invade Cuba, landing at the Bay of Pigs, only to be easily defeated by Castro's forces. The Kennedy administration was sharply criticized for the Bay of Pigs fiasco.
Note: The Cuban missile crisis of 1962 occurred as a result of a Soviet buildup of medium-range missiles (capable of striking targets in the United States) in Cuba.
Note: In 1980, Cuban refugees began pouring into the United States when Castro allowed free emigration.
Note: The collapse of communism in eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union has left Cuba as one of the last communist states.