By Elizabeth PancavaThe Cuban population is a melting pot of ethnic mixes from every corner of the world. In the early days, slaves crossbred with Spanish masters, creating the mulattos of today. Later, people of Russian, Chinese and European descend created the makeup of today’s Cuba. Nevertheless, three dominant roots melt, giving the shape to the Cuban nation, gradually creating the current ethnic society.The first of these roots is that of the aborigines inhabitants; their ethic contribution was reduced by the impact of the conquest and the colonization process. It is for this reason that the more significant roots in the Cuban nationality are Spanish and African. The first was the result of migration from the metropolis, which has been going on throughout history more or less regularly.During the first centuries, after the conquest, most groups came from Castille mainly from southern Spain. Later, massive migration arrived from the Canary Islands,Galicia, and Catalonia. More recently and during the last century, Eastern European and Chinese immigrants have further enriched what is the unique racial mix that makes up the Cuba today. The African roots left a particular mark in the shapeup of the Cuban culture. They were Yoruba, Mandingas,Congos, Carabalies, and Bantu. As the slaves were arriving to work in the plantation, new cultural associations among the African communities themselves were born. As mentioned, at the plantations, before abolition of slavery, a process of syncretism among the slaves and “masters,” created this new culture and genetic mix, different from its origins.In the present definitions of the Cuban culture, these three roots shape the basis of traditions, culture, and popular believes. Hundreds of young vendors tramp up and down the streets of Havana, selling cigars, newspapers, and flowers. They even shine shoes and sharpen scissors. Cuba has been under an economic embargo imposed by the United States since the early sixties. That has caused economic difficulties for the country. Furthermore, Cuba lost a major economic partner in 1991 when the Soviet Union collapsed. The government was forced to declare a “special period,” and it was meant to last only five years.The economy gradually recovered in the late nineteen nineties after Cuba used its natural beauty to attract millions of tourists each year. With the arrival of tourism, Cubans learned how to live with a pocket full of “pesos” and dreams full of dollars. The massive entry of tourists has resulted into a healthy economy. Because of that, the U.S. dollar was made legal for Cubans on July 26, 1996. Cubans have kept the culinary arts alive despite economic hardships and the excessive prices for basic commodities. Primary education lasts for six years. Secondary education is divided into basic secondary education and pre-university secondary education. At the end of the basic secondary education, pupils can choose between pre-university education and technical or professional education. Those who complete pre-university education are awarded the Bachelor of Arts or Science. Technical training leads to two levels of qualifications skilled worker and middle- level technician. Successful completion of this cycle gives the student access to the technological institutes. Universities, higher institutes, higher pedagogical institutes, centers of higher education, and higher polytechnic institutes that provide higher education are public. The Minister of Education is responsible for policy in matters of undergraduate and postgraduate education. It controls teaching, methodology courses, programs, and the allocation of student’s places, as well as the specialization courses offered by centers of higher education, which come under the control of other ministries. All institutions have the same status.Elizabeth Pancava is a retired teacher who lives in Sanford, near Orlando, Florida.