Historically, Cuban culture was influenced by European settlers, a more open immigration policy and once stronger connections to the developing world but, since the Cuban Revolution, which led to embargoes, poverty and massive emigration, the country has become more isolated over the decades.

While people are generally respectful and friendly, there are still racial tensions between darker- and lighter-skinned Cubans of European or African decent. Regardless, they speak to their elders and strangers in formal Spanish, greet their friends with a hug and believe in the importance of education, culture and family.

Cubans are proud of who they are, where they've been and they look to the future with optimism. Well, many of them do. Those that don't either left the country already or spend a lot of their time secretly building makeshift rafts to "sail" north through shark-infested waters.

Cubans love both traditional music and the contemporary tunes of the outside world. While teenagers bob their head to rap and hip hop, they still love those classic Cuban sounds that have become instantly recognizable around the world. From ornate architecture, paintings and sculptures to theater groups that travel the world, art and drama both have firm footing in the island nation.

And, unlike other regime-controlled countries, Cubans are sexually liberated and that sensuality shows in the way they dress and dance. The women can be as seductive and aggressive as the men, showing off their bodies on the dance floor, beaches and sidewalks. That said, the women prefer the cooler months of the rainy season where they can get away with wearing more stylish clothing and footwear without overheating in the tropical sun.

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