fidel castro obama economy cuban tourism beaches loved ones Caribbean islands peso diplomatic relations war cold war russia ussr satellite cuban missile crisis soviet russia
Cubans dance to live music on a beach on the outskirts of Havana September 1, 2012. Cuba's beaches are an attraction for tourists the world over, whether they are foreigners paying thousands of dollars to reach them, or Cubans paying as little as five dollars for a three-day vacation in a seaside cabin.Reuters file

Last November, the Miami Herald carried a report on how tourism in Cuba was thriving with American tourist arrivals flocking Havana.

The country is in the spotlight as its leader Fidel Castro passed away on Saturday at the age of 90.

In the first five months of calendar year 2015, 51,000 Americans visited Cuba, up significantly from 37,000 in the corresponding period in 2014, the publication said, citing estimates by José Luis Perelló Cabrera, an economist at the University of Havana's tourism faculty.

In the first nine months of 2015, Cuba received about 2.59 million visitors, compared to 3 million in calendar year 2014, according to Cuba's National Office of Statistics and Information, said the Miami Herald.

The American city of Miami's proximity to Havana is well-known. "My fellow Americans, the city of Miami is only 200 miles or so from Havana. Countless thousands of Cubans have come to Miami -- on planes and makeshift rafts; some with little, but the shirt on their back and hope in their hearts. Today, Miami is often referred to as the capital of Latin America," Obama said in his December 17, 2014 address to fellow Americans.

fidel castro obama economy cuban tourism beaches loved ones Caribbean islands peso diplomatic relations war cold war russia ussr satellite cuban missile crisis soviet russia
Tourists exercise in the water in the Santa Maria Key Resort in central Cuba April 4, 2013. People pay a lot of money to visit the Caribbean island that has been mostly off limits the past half century even though it is just 90 miles (145 km) from Florida.Reuters file

Obama exhorted the people of the two countries to open a new chapter in their relations.

To the Cuban people, America extends a hand of friendship. Some of you have looked to us as a source of hope, and we will continue to shine a light of freedom. Others have seen us as a former colonizer intent on controlling your future. José Martí once said, 'Liberty is the right of every man to be honest.' Today, I am being honest with you. We can never erase the history between us, but we believe that you should be empowered to live with dignity and self-determination. Cubans have a saying about daily life: 'No es facil' -- it's not easy. Today, the United States wants to be a partner in making the lives of ordinary Cubans a little bit easier, more free and more prosperous," Obama said.

He visited Cuba in March this year.

fidel castro obama economy cuban tourism beaches loved ones Caribbean islands peso diplomatic relations war cold war russia ussr satellite cuban missile crisis soviet russia
U.S. President Barack Obama and his family react along with Cuban President Raul Castro to an exhibition baseball game between the Cuban National team and the MLB Tampa Bay Rays at Estadio Latinoamericano in Havana March 22, 2016.Reuters file

Obama, in the December 2014 address, also spoke about a slew of measures to boost US-Cuba economic relationship and businessmen of the two countries. "I believe that American businesses should not be put at a disadvantage, and that increased commerce is good for Americans and for Cubans. US financial institutions will be allowed to open accounts at Cuban financial institutions. And it will be easier for U.S. exporters to sell goods in Cuba," the US President said.

fidel castro obama economy cuban tourism beaches loved ones Caribbean islands peso diplomatic relations war cold war russia ussr satellite cuban missile crisis soviet russia
A cigar enthusiast smokes a cigar made by himself at a rolling lesson during the XVII Habanos Festival in Havana, February 25, 2015. Cuban cigar-maker Habanos S.A. envisions gaining 25 percent to 30 percent of the U.S. premium cigar market if the United States lifts its trade embargo on Cuba, potentially selling 70 million to 90 million cigars per year, the company said.Reuters file

Here is Cuba at a glance (according to the World Bank, Pew Research)

Population: 11.38 million people (2015)

Economy: $77.2 billion* (2013)

Currency: Peso

fidel castro obama economy cuban tourism beaches loved ones Caribbean islands peso diplomatic relations war cold war russia ussr satellite cuban missile crisis soviet russia
Tourists take pictures atop a double decker sightseeing bus in Havana January 15, 2015. The United States announced sweeping new rules that will significantly ease sanctions on Cuba, opening up the communist-ruled island to expanded U.S. travel, trade and financial activities.Reuters file

Private and cooperative sector generated 25.3 percent of GDP in 2012

Government investment represented 9.1 percent of GDP in 2012

More than 424,000 Cubans (8.6 percent of all workers) were classified as self-employed in 2013, according to Cuban government data

fidel castro obama economy cuban tourism beaches loved ones Caribbean islands peso diplomatic relations war cold war russia ussr satellite cuban missile crisis soviet russia
A man tries to adjust the windshield wiper of his Lada while driving in the rain in Havana February 8, 2015. The former Soviet Union began exporting its cheaply built models to Cuba in the 1970s until production began to peter out a decade ago. Very little evidence of Soviet influence remains in Cuba, except the spunky little Russian-made Lada cars, famous for rattling chassis but sturdy engines.Reuters file

Imports: Petroleum, foodstuffs, machinery and equipment, and chemicals

Exports: Services such as doctors and teacher working overseas

Trading partners (exports): Canada, Venezuela, China, Spain and Netherlands

Trading partners (imports): Venezuela, China, Spain, Brazil and Canada

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  • Italian tourist Ornella Vitale walks on the beach in Santa Maria, on the outskirts of Havana, March 18, 2016.Reuters file
  • Tourists compare skin tans on Havana's seafront boulevard "El Malecon" in Havana July 4, 2013.Reuters file