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Cuba, largest and most western island of the West Indies. It forms, with various adjacent islands, the Republic of Cuba. Cuba occupies a central location between North and South America and lies on the lanes of sea travel to all countries bounded by the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico.
For most of its history, Cuba's fertile soil and abundant sugar and tobacco production made it the wealthiest island of the Caribbean. The Spanish conquest eliminated the indigenous people in Cuba but introduced African slaves from the Congo, Guinea, and Nigeria. In the 19th century, Chinese laborers joined the working class. In the 20th century immigrants from the United States, Spain, and the USSR added to the ethnic mix.
Officially, 67 percent of the population is white and of Spanish descent, and 33 percent is black or mulatto. However, many people who record themselves as white have mixed ancestry. Almost all of the people are native born. Since 1959 racial distinctions have blurred as the Castro government has worked to eliminate race and class prejudices.The official language is Spanish, but immigration has left pockets of Haitians and Jamaicans in Cuba who speak French patois and creole English (hybrid languages created by the mixture of European and African languages). Both English and Russian are spoken and understood in major cities.
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