Isle of Youth

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The Isla de la Juventud (English: Isle of Youth) is the largest island of Cuba after Cuba proper. The island is 3,056 km² (1,180 miles²) and lies 100 km to the southwest of mainland Cuba, almost directly south of Havana and separated by the Batabanó Gulf. The island is a special municipality (municipio especial) of the Province of Havana and the largest of the 672 islands in the Canarreos Archipelago. The population is around 100,000. The largest city is Nueva Gerona, the capital, in the north, followed by La Fe in the centre. Until 1978, the island was called the Isle of Pines (Spanish: Isla de Pinos).



Little is known of the Precolombian history of the island, though a cave complex near the Punta del Este beach preserves 235 ancient drawings made by the native population. The island was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1494, who named it La Evangelista and claimed it for Spain. It would also come to be known Isla de Cotorras ("Isle of Parrots") and Isla de Tesoros ("Treasure Island") at various points in its history.

The island was ceded to the United States after the Spanish-American War of 1898. Because its name was omitted from the Platt Amendment, which defined Cuba's boundaries, it was claimed by the United States as well as by Cuba. Finally, in 1907, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that the island did not belong to the United States. A treaty was finally signed between the United States and Cuba in 1925.

Geography and economy

Map Of Isle of Youth
Map Of Isle of Youth
Winblad and Lattin family near Santa Barbara, Isle of Pines, Cuba circa 1914
Winblad and Lattin family near Santa Barbara, Isle of Pines, Cuba circa 1914

Much of the island is covered in pine forests, which is the source of the island's large lumber industry. The northern region of the island has low ridges from which marble is quarried, while the southern region is an elevated plain. Agriculture and fishing are the island's main industries, with citrus fruit and vegetables being grown. A beach having black soil is present having been formed from volcanic activity.

The island has a mild climate, but is known for being hit by hurricanes. It is a popular tourist destination, with many beaches and resorts, including Bibijagua Beach. Until the U.S. embargo on Cuba levied in the early 1960s, much land was owned by Americans.


The main transportation to the island is by boat or aircraft. Hydrofoils (kometas) and motorized catamarans will make the trip in between two and three hours. A much slower and larger cargo ferry takes around six hours to make the crossing, but is cheaper. The province has only one municipality, also named Isla de la Juventud.


From 1953 to 1955, Cuban leader Fidel Castro was imprisoned in the Presidio Modelo on the Isla de la Juventud by the regime of Fulgencio Batista after leading the failed attack on the Moncada Barracks in the Oriente province in July 1953. Later, Castro used this same facility to imprison "counterrevolutionaries" and dissidents, such as Huber Matos, once a supporter of the revolution, who claimed he had been tortured there. [1] ( Presidio Modelo is now closed, replaced by other, more modern prisons. These include:

  • Prison El Guayabo MIS
  • Center for Reeducation of Minors COR
  • Correctional Los Colonos COR
  • Paquito Rosales Cueto (1 y 11) COR
  • Prison la 60 (Columbia) COR

pt:Isla de la Juventud

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