When the Spaniards arrived there, at the end of the century. XV, the island was sparsely inhabited, and soon the indigenous population was decimated, especially by epidemics. Poor in precious metals, Cuba did not particularly attract the attention of the colonizers, who, however, made Havana, thanks to its well-protected natural port, one of the major ports of call in Latin America. And even when the island was later used by the Spaniards to practice extensive livestock farming, it remained practically semi-populated. Still in the middle of the century. XVIII counted just over 150,000 residents; it was the extension of the sugar cane plantations that determined the effective population of Cuba. Lacking local labor, about a million Africans were brought there, as well as a few tens of thousands of Chinese peasants; the island, however, remained substantially “white”, also due to the subsequent strong immigration of European colonists, especially Spanish, in the first half of the century. XX; whites represented 70% of the total population, while populations of African origin were only 12.4%, i mulattos 17.3% and Asians the remaining 0.3%.
With the passing of time the characteristics of the ethnic composition have then gradually changed: at the beginning of the century. XXI whites make up about 65.2% of the population, while mulattos rose to 24.4% and blacks settled at around 10.4%. At the end of the century. XIX, Cuba had just over one and a half million residents, but, thanks precisely to the massive immigration of Europeans, in 1920 this figure had already doubled; over the next sixty years the population had more than tripled to cross the 10 million ab threshold. in the year 2000. The rate of increase was accelerating, from an average 1.6% in the 1930s to 2.1% in the following decade: the latter value remained almost constant until 1970. And while, in the first phase, birth rate and both high mortality rates were added to conspicuous immigrant contributions, after the advent of the Castro regime, when the migratory movement reversed its trend (600,000 units in less than fifteen years), it was the largely positive demographic balance that supported the growth: birth rate higher than 35% and mortality rate of 5-6% in the 1960s. After that, the natural movement gradually cooled down, so that, in the 1990s, the rate of population increase was reduced to 0.5% per year, as a result of a significant contraction in births, then falling to 0.3% per year. in the early years of the century. XXI.
Although the serious economic crisis that began in 1991 has profoundly affected the standard of living of the Cuban population, the main demographic and social parameters are still at a level similar to that of many industrialized countries. In addition to a decidedly modest annual rate of increase, from this point of view second only to that of Trinidad and Tobago, Cuba has the lowest infant mortality rate in all of Latin America. Even migratory flows are strictly controlled by the authorities, however the protracted economic crisis continues to push thousands of Cubans to leave the island with rafts and other makeshift boats (the so-called ” balseros ”) but also with regular flights and across the Mexican border especially to the United States; there are also Cuban refugees in Canada and other Latin American countries. The arrival of immigrants on the coast of Florida it is one of the reasons for the friction in relations between Cuba and the United States, where numerous anti-Castro groups are active, also supported by the authorities through special programs. In this context of relative demographic stability, one of the few elements of change is given by the constant increase of the urban population which, in conjunction with the economic crisis, has amplified the problem of reducing food stocks, as the workforce in the countryside has disappeared. There is therefore a need to reverse the migratory flow towards the city, above all as a possible solution in order not to jeopardize the island’s food self-sufficiency. According to itypetravel, the greatest concentrations of population, in fact, correspond to the richest cane cultivation areas, as well as to the area gravitating to the capital, whose industrial and commercial activities are a strong demographic attraction.
The phenomenon of urbanization is also taking place throughout the country; over 8 million residents they now live in cities (77% of the population). To stem it, the government has launched incentive measures for those who decide to return to the countryside, offering plots of land and establishing special permits for entry into the capital. The population density is 102.01 residents / km² and, except for the area of the capital where 2908 residents / km² are concentrated, there are no great differences between the different areas of the country. Among the cities, Havana clearly predominates, which is one of the main metropolises of the entire Caribbean area and welcomes more than 2 million residents in its vast urban agglomeration. Thanks to the well-equipped port and the numerous industries it hosts (tobacco factories, breweries, an oil refinery, a steel mill, etc.), the capital has well diversified and relevant economic functions, as well as playing a prominent role in the cultural field, political and administrative. Santiago de Cuba follows in importance, an ancient rival of Havana and home to various industries. Main cities of the interior are: Santa Clara and Camagüey, active sugar industry centers located on the highway that crosses the entire island from W to E; Holguín, which developed due to its proximity to large chromium deposits; Guantánamo, a large agricultural market located 25 km from the base of the same name, which the United States still occupies due to an agreement in 1903. Facing the sea is Cienfuegos, the natural outlet of Santa Clara; Minor but still important functions have finally Pinar del Río, seat of tobacco factories, and the maritime centers of Manzanillo, on the Gulf of Guacanayabo, and of Matanzas, in the province of the same name. Metropolitan locations are Havana and Santiago de Cuba, suffragan Matanzas, Pinar del Río, Camagüey, Cienfuegos-Santa Clara and Holguín.