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17 Crazy Cuba Facts That Will Refresh Your Memory After A 56-Year-Long Embargo

President Obama recently reopened the long sealed doors to our neighbors in Cuba after a 56-year-long embargo. What began as a prisoner swap led to the possibility that the U.S. and Cuba will reopen embassies, and maybe even re-establish trade.

When I heard this news, I quickly realized I don’t really know much about Cuba. As a kid, it was almost like they purposefully kept it out of our school curriculum. Since we’re becoming friends again, I figured that we better study up on the country. With that in mind, here are some weird and interesting facts about Cuba.

1. Cuba is one of two countries forbidden to sell Coca-Cola products. The other is North Korea.

2. The U.S. pays Cuba $4,085 a month for Guantanamo Bay. Cuba has yet to cash any of the checks.

3. When he was 12 years old, Fidel Castro wrote President Roosevelt a letter asking him to send a $10 bill because he had never seen one before.

4. Just before he signed the embargo against Cuba, President John F. Kennedy bought 1,200 Cuban cigars.

5. Cuba has one of the highest literacy rates in the world at 99.8 percent. The U.S. is slightly less at just 99 percent.

6. Fidel Castro was born on Friday the 13th.

7. In 2009, the U.S. government created a fake, Twitter-esque company as a way to gain information on the Cuban people. They also spent $630,000 on Facebook likes for Cuban pro-America pages.

8. Fidel Castro once estimated that he saves about 10 work days every year by not shaving.

9. If you’re hitchhiking in Cuba, government vehicles are legally required to pick you up.

10. The CIA once planned to expose Fidel Castro to a chemical that would cause his beard to fall out.

11. Only 5% of Cubans have access to the Internet.

12. One of Fidel Castro’s first acts as leader of Cuba was ordering all games of Monopoly to be destroyed.

13. Cubans were forbidden to own cell phones until 2008.

14. Cuba had over 150 nuclear weapons at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

15. There is an over-abundance of doctors in Cuba, so much so that the government often sends them around the world to places that need them most.

16. Fidel Castro was a huge fan of John Lennon, and even commissioned a statue of him, saying that he was a “true revolutionary.”

17. Christmas was not an official holiday in Cuba until 1997, when Pope John Paul II came to visit.

It’s crazy that Cuba is such a mystery, even though the country is only 90 miles away from Florida. That’s slightly less than the distance between Philadelphia and New York City, yet we know so little about the place. Hopefully, we get to learn more in the coming months and years.