The Geography of US/Cuba Relations

 

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90 miles of water separates the U.S. state of Florida from the nation of Cuba. Such a short distance, and yet, much contention.

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Recently, an entry about the potential for a tourism boom in Cuba was written on TheGeoScholar. With President Donald Trump rolling back changes that former President Barack Obama made towards US/Cuba diplomatic relations, particularly in tourism, it looks like such a boom will not be, at least as far as U.S. tourists are concerned.

Essentially, diplomatic relations between the U.S.A. and Cuba have been at a standstill since the 1960s. However, to understand such relations, understanding geography is a requirement.

Cuba is in a strategic position near Mexico, the Bahamas, and the USA. Mexico used to be part of the Spanish Empire alongside Cuba. Simultaneously, the USA expanded in size and influence while the Spanish Empire declined in influence and size. The Spanish Empire was still feared by the USA nonetheless. The British Empire was feared too. Bahamas was a British colony during the expansion of the USA. One fear was that trade routes out of New Orleans would be cut off around the Straits of Florida, where Cuba is located.  ew Orleans has long been a major port in the USA since the Louisiana Purchase. Its location means that ships would pass through the Straits of Florida. There was a fear that either the British Empire or the Spanish Empire could cut off trade routes. This is a major factor in the Spanish-American War taking place.

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There has also been influence by the USA via businesses having holdings in Cuba, particularly in the sugar industry. After the Cuban Revolution took place in the 1950s, the late Fidel Castro took power. After being declared a communist nation, the Soviet Union would use Cuba as a strategic position, being so close to the USA, and the USA and the Soviet Union being enemies of each other. The Soviet Union put missiles in Cuba. With Cuba being a Communist nation, an embargo was put on Cuba. Travel to Cuba via the USA restricted, business and diplomatic ties to Cuba frozen, and thus the current geopolitical situation.

In short, Cuba has a close position to the USA. This has played a major role in geopolitics. On one hand, proximity was one part of wanting to do business. On the other hand, there was also fear, especially with trade routes being a factor. And with

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Catalonia Referendum on Leaving Spain

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Spain is the 4th largest nation in Europe. Currently, there are 46,423,064 people living there. Politically, there is something going on that could affect whether or not the two stats mentioned remain this way.

Spain does not have provinces or states. Instead, Spain has 16 autonomous communities and 2 autonomous cities(Ceuta and Melilla). One of those autonomous communities is having a vote on whether or not to stay, or break from Spain.

That autonomous community is Catalonia. Catalonia is due to hold a referendum on Sunday, 1 October 2017. There will be a vote on whether or not Catalonia will remain part of Spain or become its own country. According to the Spanish Constitution of 1978, Catalonia, along with Galicia and the Basque region, has the definition as a nationality. Catalonia lost autonomy after the Spanish Civil War, and had no such autonomy under the rule of fascist dictator Francisco Franco. After Franco’s death, Catalonia would soon regain autonomy, and its people the recognition as a distinct people.

To put this in human geography terms, Catalans are the name of the people living in Catalonia. Spanish is the official language of Spain. For Catalonia, Spanish is spoken, but Catalan is the official language. Catalan people see themselves as a distinct people. Separatist sentiments are nothing new for Catalonia. This can be traced back to the Catalan Renaissance (Renaixença) of the 19th century. The goal was to revive the Catalan language and traditions. Some people started to demand independence from Spain.

The current upcoming referendum goes back to 2014, when Catalonia held a non-binding vote on self-determination. It was about Catalonia desiring to become a state. In the 2015 regional election, Carles Puigdemont was elected President of the Generalitat of Catalonia. He was the first to refuse to take the oath to the Spanish constitution and its current monarch, Felipe IV.

To understand more about Catalonia and the impact of an independent Catalonia, let’s look at the current geography. Catalonia is located in northeastern Spain on the Mediterranean Sea. Its capital and largest city is Barcelona. 7,522,596 people live in Catalonia. Catalonia has a land area of 32,108 sq km (12,397 sq mi). Catalonia is a highly industrialized region of Spain. Generating 200 billion euros, it has the highest GDP in Spain. Barcelona, Spain’s second largest city, is also home to one of Spain’s largest ports.

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However not everything is great. Its per capita income is 27,000 euros($30,000). This is lower than Madrid, the Basque County, and Navarre. Catalonia has lost almost 1,000 companies to other regions in Spain. Most have been relocating to Spain’s capital, Madrid. Catalonia is also the 2nd most expensive region in Spain to buy a new home. Catalonia’s economic credit rating is considered “non investment” grade. In 2012, Catalonia had the highest debt of Spain’s autonomous communities.

Even with some economic issues, Barcelona still leads Spain when it comes to employment. It is a major industrial center, port city, fashion and cultural center.

If Catalonia does become independent, it leaves much to consider. Currently, Catalonia is a major economic producer and industrial leader in Spain. Its high GDP within Spain leaves much to want to hold onto. Barcelona is the largest port city in Spain, as well as the largest city on the Mediterranean Sea. While Spain has other port cities, Barcelona is powerful. It has the 4th largest GDP of any city in the EU. If Catalonia does become independent, there leaves another question. Will Catalonia join the EU or not? If so, Barcelona will still remain part of the EU. Barcelona is a major producer of automobiles in Spain, and in Europe. It is a major center for tourism with its beaches and being the one of the busiest passenger ports in Europe. Barcelona is a major transportation hub.

Will the referendum pass? This could depend on many factors. So far, cultural ties are a major factor in the push for independence. Could Catalonia do without Spain? Could Spain do without Catalonia? What role will Barcelona play in the EU? Will it join the EU or not?