Official 1899–2002 Cuba Census
Race % 1899 1907 1919 1931 1943 1953 1981 2002
White 66.9 69.7 72.2 72.1 74.3 72.8 66.0 65.05
Black 14.9 13.4 11.2 11.0 9.7 12.4 12.0 10.08
Mulatto 17.2 16.3 16.0 16.2 15.6 14.5 21.9 24.86
Asian 1.0 0.6 0.6 0.7 0.4 0.3 0.1  ?

Immigration to Cuba

Between 1882 and 1898, a total of 508,455 people left Spain, and more than 750,000 Spanish immigrants left for Cuba between 1899 and 1923, with many returning to Spain.

Current demographics

According to the census of 2002, the population was 11,177,743, including 5,597,233 men and 5,580,510 women. The racial make-up was 7,271,926 whites, 1,126,894 blacks and 2,778,923 mulattoes (or mestizos). The population of Cuba has very complex origins and intermarriage between diverse groups is general. There is disagreement about racial statistics. The Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami says that 62% is black, whereas statistics from the Cuban census state that 65.05% of the population was white in 2002. The Minority Rights Group International says that “An objective assessment of the situation of Afro-Cubans remains problematic due to scant records and a paucity of systematic studies both pre- and post-revolution. Estimates of the percentage of people of African descent in the Cuban population vary enormously, ranging from 33.9 per cent to 62 per cent”.

Immigration and emigration have played a prominent part in the demographic profile of Cuba during the 20th century. During the 18th, 19th, and the early part of the 20th century large waves of Canarian, Catalan, Andalusian, Galician, and other Spanish people immigrated to Cuba. Between 1900 and 1930 close to a million Spaniards arrived from Spain. Other foreign immigrants include: French, Portuguese, Italian, Russian, Dutch, Greek, British, Irish, and other ethnic groups, including a small number of descendants of U.S. citizens who arrived in Cuba in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Cuba has a sizable number of Asian people who comprise 1% of the population. They are primarily of Chinese descent (see Chinese Cubans), followed by Filipino, Koreans and Vietnamese people. They are descendants of farm laborers brought to the island by Spanish and American contractors during the 19th and early 20th century. Afro-Cubans are descended primarily from the Kongo people. as well as several thousand North African refugees, most notably the Sahrawi Arabs of Western Sahara under Moroccan occupation since 1976.

Cuba‘s birth rate (9.88 births per thousand population in 2006is one of the lowest in the Western Hemisphere. Its overall population increased continuously from around 7 million in 1961 to over 11 million now, but the increase has stopped in the last few decades, and a decrease began in 2006, with a fertility rate of 1.43 children per woman. This drop in fertility is among the largest in the Western Hemisphere.[152] Cuba has unrestricted access to legal abortion and an abortion rate of 58.6 per 1000 pregnancies in 1996, compared to an average of 35 in the Caribbean, 27 in Latin America overall, and 48 in Europe. Contraceptive use is estimated at 79% (in the upper third of countries in the Western Hemisphere).

Cuba is officially a secular state. After having long maintained that churches were fronts for subversive political activity, the government reversed course in 1992, amending the constitution to characterize the state as secular instead of atheist. It has many faiths representing the widely varying culture. Roman Catholicism was the largest religion; it was brought to the island by the Spanish and remains the dominant faith, with 11 dioceses, 56 orders of nuns, and 24 orders of priests. In January 1998, Pope John Paul II paid a historic visit to the island, invited by the Cuban government and Catholic Church. The religious landscape of Cuba is also strongly marked by syncretisms of various kinds. Catholicism is often practiced in tandem with Santería, a mixture of Catholicism and other, mainly African, faiths that include a number of cults. La Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre (the Virgin of Cobre) is the Catholic patroness of Cuba, and a symbol of Cuban culture. In Santería, she has been syncretized with the goddess Oshun.

Official Cuban migration to the U.S

Year of Immigration

White Black Other Asian Number
1959–64 93.3 1.2 5.3 0.2 144,732
1965–74 87.7 2.0 9.1 0.2 247,726
1975–79 82.6 4.0 13.3 0.1 29,508
1980 80.9 5.3 13.7 0.1 94,095
1981–89 85.7 3.1 10.9 0.3 77,835
1990–93 84.7 3.2 11.9 0.2 60,244
1994–2000 85.8 3.7 10.4 0.7 174,437
Total 87.2 2.9 10.7 0.2 828,577

Three hundred thousand Cubans belong to the island’s 54 Protestant denominations. Pentecostalism has grown rapidly in recent years, and the Assemblies of God alone claims a membership of over 100,000 people. Cuba has small communities of Jews, Muslims and members of the Bahá’í Faith. Most Jewish Cubans are descendants of Polish and Russian Ashkenazi Jews who fled pogroms at the beginning of the 20th century. There is a sizeable number of Sephardic Jews in Cuba who trace their origin to Turkey. Most of these Sephardic Jews live in the provinces, although they maintain a synagogue in Havana.

Cuban migration

In the last half-century, several hundred thousand Cubans of all social classes have emigrated to the United States, Spain, the United Kingdom, Canada, Mexico, and other countries. On 9 September 1994, the U.S. and Cuban governments agreed that the U.S. would grant at least 20,000 visas annually in exchange for Cuba’s pledge to prevent further unlawful departures on boats.


The official language of Cuba is Spanish and the vast majority of Cubans speak it. Spanish as spoken in Cuba is known as Cuban Spanish and is a form of Caribbean Spanish. Lucumi, a dialect of the West African language Yoruba, is also used as a liturgical language by practitioners of Santería, and so only as a second language .Haitian Creole is the second largest language in Cuba, and is spoken by Haitian immigrants and their descendants. Other languages spoken by immigrants include Catalan and Corsican.



The University of Havana was founded in 1728 and there are a number of other well-established colleges and universities. In 1957, just before Castro came to power, the literacy rate was fourth in the region at almost 80% according to the United Nations, higher than in Spain. Castro created an entirely state-operated system and banned private institutions. School attendance is compulsory from ages six to the end of basic secondary education (normally at age 15), and all students, regardless of age or gender, wear school uniforms with the color denoting grade level. Primary education lasts for six years, secondary education is divided into basic and pre-university education.

Higher education is provided by universities, higher institutes, higher pedagogical institutes, and higher polytechnic institutes. The Cuban Ministry of Higher Education operates a scheme of distance education which provides regular afternoon and evening courses in rural areas for agricultural workers. Education has a strong political and ideological emphasis, and students progressing to higher education are expected to have a commitment to the goals of Cuba. Cuba has provided state subsidized education to a limited number of foreign nationals at the Latin American School of Medicine. Internet access is limited. The sale of computer equipment is strictly regulated. Internet access is controlled, and e-mail is closely monitored.


Historically, Cuba has ranked high in numbers of medical personnel and has made significant contributions to world health since the 19th century. Today, Cuba has universal health care and although shortages of medical supplies persist, there is no shortage of medical personnel.Primary care is available throughout the island and infant and maternal mortality rates compare favorably with those in developed nations.

Post-Revolution Cuba initially experienced an overall worsening in terms of disease and infant mortality rates in the 1960s when half its 6,000 doctors left the country. Recovery occurred by the 1980s. The Communist government asserted that universal health care was to become a priority of state planning and progress was made in rural areas. Like the rest of the Cuban economy, Cuban medical care suffered from severe material shortages following the end of Soviet subsidies in 1991, followed by a tightening of the U.S. embargo in 1992.

Challenges include low pay of doctors (only $15 a month), poor facilities, poor provision of equipment, and frequent absence of essential drugs. Cuba has the highest doctor-to-population ratio in the world and has sent thousands of doctors to more than 40 countries around the world.

According to the UN, the life expectancy in Cuba is 78.3 years (76.2 for males and 80.4 for females). This ranks Cuba 37th in the world and 3rd in the Americas, behind only Canada and Chile, and just ahead of the United States. Infant mortality in Cuba declined from 32 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in 1957, to 10 in 1990–95.Infant mortality in 2000–2005 was 6.1 per 1,000 live births (compared to 6.8 in the United States).

The quality of public healthcare offered to citizens is regarded as the “greatest triumph” of Cuba’s socialist system.