The Cuba my parents used to talk about

Before Castro destroyed the Cuban economy with “hope and change,” the island enjoyed a lot of prosperity with an economy that would produce a middle-class and educated people.

Let’s check out Cuba before Castro:

In the 1950’s Cuba was, socially and economically, a relatively advanced country, certainly by Latin American standards and, in some areas, by world standards.

  • Cuba’s infant mortality rate was the best in Latin America — and the 13th lowest in the world.
  • Cuba also had an excellent educational system and impressive literacy rates in the 1950’s.
  • Pre-Castro Cuba ranked third in Latin America in per capita food consumption.
  • Cuba ranked first in Latin America and fifth in the world in television sets per capita.
  • Pre-Castro Cuba had 58 daily newspapers of differing political hues and ranked eighth in the world in number of radio stations.  


  • Cuba’s infant mortality rate of 32 per 1,000 live births in 1957 was the lowest in Latin America and the 13th lowest in the world, according to UN data. Cuba ranked ahead of France, Belgium, West Germany, Japan, Austria, Italy, and Spain.
  • In 1955, life expectancy in Cuba was among the highest at 63 years of age; compared to 52 in other Latin American countries, 43 in Asia, and 37 in Africa.
  • In terms of physicians and dentists per capita, Cuba in 1957 ranked third in Latin America, behind only Uruguay and Argentina — both of which were more advanced than the United States in this measure. Cuba’s 128 physicians and dentists per 100,000 people in 1957 was the same as the Netherlands, and ahead of the United Kingdom (122 per 100,000 people) and Finland.

Cuba has been among the most literate countries in Latin America since well before the Castro revolution, when it ranked fourth.

So why are so many of our Cuban parents educated?  Maybe it’s because they came from a country with high levels of education!

We’ve never said that pre-Castro Cuba was perfect.  We just remind you that people leaving in rafts was not a part of that Cuba that my parents grew up in. 

It should not come as a shock to anyone familiar with Cuban history that it was such a diverse country. Cuba benefited from large numbers of Spanish and other European immigrants, who came to the island in the 19th and 20th centuries, as related by Dr. Carlos Eire

Between 1900 and 1930, the first three decades of Cuban independence, about one million immigrants flooded into the island, mostly European, and mostly northern Spaniards. 

This population tsunami also included Asians, Levantines, and Jews. 

These immigrants doubled the population of the island and changed its complexion, literally. Tens of thousands of immigrants continued to flow into Cuba every year after that, up to 1958. Immigration from the U.S. was comparatively slight, but in 1958 there were more Americans living in Cuba than Cubans in the U.S.A. Emigration from Cuba was minimal during this half century.

By the way, it was a lot of those Americans living in Cuba who had their properties and investments confiscated by the communists.  They are still waiting for compensation! 

So our parents had a lot to talk and share with us about that Cuba that we saw in black and white photos. It was a wonderful island subsequently destroyed by communism.

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3 thoughts on “The Cuba my parents used to talk about”

  1. That Cuba was destroyed by the “revolution” and ended long ago. It will not come back, the same way a murdered person will not come back. So, whenever you hear the bit about “reconciliation,” you’re being asked to reconcile with willful and deliberate murder by people who were never brought to account, never paid for what they did and never even admitted guilt nor asked for forgiveness–the worst Cubans ever.

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