How Much Do You Know about Cuba?

Torrance Grey

Image: shutterstock

About This Quiz

Cuba ... in the American imagination, it's a land of mystery and glamour and maybe danger, ever since its borders closed to trade and tourism (at least, direct tourism) after the Revolution. 

Certainly, Cuba is a land of paradoxes. Ethnically, there is no such thing as a "typical Cuban." Though many Cubans have Spanish blood, because of early colonization, many also have the blood of the early Taino people. Nearly half are black, or partly of African descent, because of the slaves imported to work the sugar plantations, and immigrants from neighboring Haiti. 

In terms of religion, Cuba was officially "atheist" for many years after the communist regime took over, yet Catholicism remained the faith practiced by a majority of everyday Cubans. Beyond that, a sizable minority practices Santeria, a mix of Christian tenets and Yoruba (West African) polytheistic beliefs. Under the Castro regime (first Fidel's, and now his brother Raul's), many Cubans live in poverty, the towns and cities are in ruins (except for those areas that attract tourists), and time has pretty much stood still since the 1950s.

How much do you know about this complex, poorly-understood island nation? We've got a quiz to test you on all things Cuba, from its history and geography to its cuisine and culture. So, if you can't afford the price of a sanctioned "educational tourism" trip, then settle in and be an armchair tourist with our quiz!


Cuba is located in which sea?

Cuba is a Caribbean nation. Ethnically and culturally, it is considered to be part of Latin America.

True or false? Cuba shares half an island with another country, the Dominican Republic.

It's Haiti which shares an island with the Dominican Republic. That island, also in the Caribbean Sea, is the island of Hispaniola.

Which of these is NOT a Cuban city?

Belmopan is the capital of Belize. It has a population of about 17,000 -- less than many U.S. towns!

True or false? Havana is the capital of Cuba.

In some countries, the political capital is not the best-known city or the cultural capital. Not so of Cuba, where political, cultural and economic life are all chiefly centered around Havana.

Which of these islands is NOT a neighbor of Cuba?

The other three are Caribbean islands. Sardinia is off the coast of Italy.

Who is the current leader of Cuba?

Fidel Castro died in 2016. Raul Castro is his brother, who was involved in the Cuban Communist party since the revolutionary days.

Which of these is a major export product?

Like other tropical nations, Cuba produces a lot of coffee, sugar, and tobacco. Apples require a more temperate climate.

Cuba was a colony of which nation from the 15th to the 19th century?

This shouldn't surprise you if you know that Spanish is Cuba's official language. Cuba gained a nominal freedom after the Spanish-American war, in which it became a U.S. protectorate.

What was the name of the final non-Communist leader of Cuba?

His full name was Fulgencio Batista. He was U.S.-supported, but his autocratic style of governing led to a revolution.

In what year was Batista overthrown?

Batista served -- or ruled -- from 1952 to 1959, when the revolutionaries finally succeeded in ousting him. He was replaced by longtime president Fidel Castro.

Which of these was a co-leader of the Cuban Revolution alongside Fidel Castro?

Che Guevara was a ​complicated figure. He was born in Argentina and had Irish blood, and was a physician and a writer as well as a revolutionary. He was killed in Bolivia by CIA-backed forces.

What is "Granma"?

Granma was first the province, then the yacht, then the Communist newspaper. It's in that last capacity that it is probably best known.

In what year was the Cuban Missile Crisis?

The Cuban Missile Crisis was a standoff with the United States over the placement of Soviet ballistic missiles on Cuban soil. Cuba wanted to deter another U.S. invasion, while the Soviets were reacting to the placement of U.S. ballistic missiles in Turkey and Italy.

Who was president of the U.S. during the missile crisis?

JFK negotiated with Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev to a peaceful solution. Kennedy had been elected in 1960​ and was assassinated the following year, In Dallas, Texas.

Which of these Cuban products is very popular, and illicitly exported, worldwide?

For many years, it was the sign of the true "man of the world" that he could get you some "Cubans." Now, with trade laws loosening up, this isn't such a big deal. In addition, the cigars of other countries really don't lag behind in quality as much as people think.

The largest religious affiliation in Cuba is _____.

Though Cuba officially declared itself atheist after the Revolution, a majority of the people (about 65 percent today) clung to their Catholic faith. Cuba dropped the "officially atheist" designation in 1992.

True or false? The U.S. military owns land and stations troops in Cuba.

This has to be one of the stranger chapters in world politics. The U.S. began leasing land in Cuba's Guantanamo Bay long before the Revolution, and the naval base never closed down, even after the two countries became enemies.

The Guantanamo Bay base became controversial and newsworthy during what war?

The Guantanamo base was often in the news in the 2000s. Critics objected to the detention of Iraqi and Afghan prisoners who weren't demonstrably involved in terrorism, as well as the "enhanced" interrogation techniques to which prisoners were subjected.

Which of these authors lived in Cuba for years?

Hemingway lived in Cuba during the pre-Revolution years. He set what was perhaps his best book, "The Old Man and the Sea," there.

What banana-like fruit is a staple in Cuban cooking?

Plantains (or platanos, which means banana in Spanish) are shaped like bananas, but their texture is different and they cannot be eaten raw. If you're curious, you can find them in most supermarkets.

About how many Cubans have emigrated since the 1959 revolution?

This might not seem like a lot, but consider that the island's population was about 7 million when Fidel Castro took power. That puts the number in perspective.

True or false? The U.S. tried to assassinate Fidel Castro.

This one is true. A congressional committee found evidence of at least eight attempts to kill the troublesome foreign leader, including talks with mafia figures about the possibility of an old-fashioned "hit."

What year was the Mariel boatlift?

The Mariel boatlift was a mass emigration of Cubans to the United States. Cuba announced that anyone who wanted to leave could legally do so, precipitating the mass exodus, when emigration had previously been slow but steady.

The name "Mariel" comes from a ____.

Mariel is a coastal town and harbor in Cuba. Its proximity to Havana made it the common departure point during the mass emigration.

About how many people live in Cuba today?

Cuba's population is low for its land area. This is partly due to the steady exodus of people after the Revolution and a low birth rate.

Which of these colors is NOT on the Cuban flag?

The Cuban flag is red, white and blue, just like the Union Jack, the U.S. flag, the French flag, and quite a few others. They're popular colors!

Which of these is a native (pre-Spanish) people of Cuba?

To be more specific, the largest group was the Ciboney Taino, who lived in the central part of the island. "Taino" is a larger designation for people who were indigenous to several Caribbean islands, including Hispaniola and the Antilles.

The largest community of expatriate Cubans in the U.S. is in ______.

We include the nearby city of Hialeah in Miami; it's within the larger Miami-Dade County metro area. Telemundo, the Spanish-language network, is based there.

A large minority segment of Cuba's population are descendants of ____ Africans.

The West African influence is still seen in the practice of Santeria in Cuba. Santeria blends tenets of Christianity with West African beliefs.

What are the ingredients of a traditional Cuba Libre?

Let's unpack what's wrong here! Communist Cubans are drinking Coca-Cola, the flagship drink of capitalism.

Cuba is rich in which of these less-likely export goods?

Cuba has about 7 percent of the world's nickel. Cobalt is found in combined form with nickel, and is used in alloys and batteries.

Which foreign country sends the most tourists to Cuba?

Technically, they aren't "sent," but come to vacation or for educational reasons. In 2016, more than 1 million Canadians visited Cuba, far more than Germany or the U.S., who came in at about a quarter million each.

The name of the popular Cuban dish, "ropa vieja," literally means what?

For a beloved dish, it doesn't have a very respectful name! Ropa vieja is made of stewed, shredded flank steak with tomatoes and spices.

If you are being served "moros y cristianos," what are you having?

"Moros y cristianos" means "moors and christians," because the beans are usually black and the rice is white. Did we mention Cuba has some colorful names for its favorite foods?

Which of these does NOT belong in a Cuban sandwich?

The Cuban sandwich is becoming almost as much an American food as a Cuban one, given its popularity in Florida. But lettuce is an Americanization that many purists consider unacceptable. A good "mixto" is meat, cheese, butter and bread, with a pickle as the only vegetable.

About HowStuffWorks Play

How much do you know about dinosaurs? What is an octane rating? And how do you use a proper noun? Lucky for you, HowStuffWorks Play is here to help. Our award-winning website offers reliable, easy-to-understand explanations about how the world works. From fun quizzes that bring joy to your day, to compelling photography and fascinating lists, HowStuffWorks Play offers something for everyone. Sometimes we explain how stuff works, other times, we ask you, but we’re always exploring in the name of fun! Because learning is fun, so stick with us!

Explore More Quizzes