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Isla de la Juventud

Coordinates: 21°45′N 82°51′W / 21.750°N 82.850°W / 21.750; -82.850 (Isla de la Juventud){{#coordinates:21|45|N|82|51|W|type:isle_region:CU|| |primary |name=Isla de la Juventud }}

Isla de la Juventud
Special Municipality of Cuba
Country Cuba
Capital Nueva Gerona
 • Total 2,419 km2 (934 sq mi)
Population (2010-12-31)[1]
 • Total 86,420
 • Density 36/km2 (93/sq mi)
Time zone EST (UTC-5)
Area code(s) +53-061
File:Isla de la Juventud.jpg
Satellite image of the island

Isla de la Juventud[2] (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈizla ðe la xuβenˈtuð]; English: Isle of Youth) is the second-largest Cuban island and the seventh-largest island in the West Indies (after Cuba itself, Hispaniola, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Trinidad, and Andros Island). The island was called the Isle of Pines (Isla de Pinos) until it was renamed in 1978. The island has an area Script error: No such module "convert". and is 50 km south of the island of Cuba, across the Gulf of Batabanó. The island lies almost directly south of Havana and Pinar del Río and is a Special Municipality (2,419 km2), not part of any province. The Isle of Youth is, therefore, administered directly by the central government of Cuba. The island has only one municipality, also named Isla de la Juventud.

The largest of the 350 islands in the Canarreos Archipelago (Archipiélago de los Canarreos), the island has an estimated population of 100,000. The capital and largest city is Nueva Gerona in the north, and the second-largest and oldest city is Santa Fe in the interior. Other communities include Columbia, La Demajagua (formerly Santa Bárbara),[3] Mac Kinley, Cuchilla Alta, Punta del Este, Sierra de Caballos and Sierra de Casas.


Little is known of the pre-Columbian 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 first became known to Europeans in 1494 during Christopher Columbus's second voyage to the New World. Columbus named the island La Evangelista and claimed it for Spain; the island would also come to be known as Isla de Cotorras ("Isle of Parrots") and Isla de Tesoros ("Treasure Island") at various points in its history.

Pirate activity in and around the area left its trace in English literature. Both Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson and Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie are rooted in part on accounts of the island and its native and pirate inhabitants, as well as long dugout canoes (which were often used by pirates as well as indigenous peoples) and the American crocodile (Crocodylus acutus) on the island.

Following the victory of the United States in the Spanish–American War, Spain dropped all claims to Cuba under the terms of the 1898 Treaty of Paris. The ownership of Isla de la Juventud was left undetermined by the sixth article of the Platt Amendment, which defined independent Cuba's boundaries, and this led to competing claims to the island by the United States and Cuba.[4] In 1907, the U.S. Supreme Court decided, in Pearcy v. Stranahan, that control of the island was a political decision, not a judicial one.[5] In 1916 the publication of a pamphlet "Isle of Pines: American or What?" called for the annexation or purchase of the island to settle the issue.[6]

The Hay-Quesada Treaty, signed in 1904, which recognized Cuban ownership of the island, was ratified by the U.S. Senate in 1925 over the objections of the small colony of American planters and traders on the island.[7]

Geography and economy

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 black sand beach was formed by volcanic activity.

The island has a mild climate, but is known for frequent hurricanes. It is a popular tourist destination, with many beaches and resorts, including Bibijagua Beach. Until the Cuban government expropriated all foreign-owned property in the early 1960s, much land was owned by Americans, and the island contained a branch of the Hilton Hotels chain.


In 2004, the Special Municipality of Isla de la Juventud had a population of 86,637.[8] With a total area of Script error: No such module "convert".,[9] the Municipality had a population density of Script error: No such module "convert"..


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.


From 1953 to 1955, Cuban leader Fidel Castro was imprisoned in the Presidio Modelo on the Isla de Pinos by the regime of Fulgencio Batista after leading the failed July 1953 attack on the Moncada Barracks in the Oriente Province. After the Cuban Revolution, the same facility was used to imprison counterrevolutionaries, and people allegedly otherwise opposing the revolution. Huber Matos (a comandante in the revolutionary army who attempted to resign) and Armando Valladares were also imprisoned there. Valladares' memoir, Against All Hope, provides vivid descriptions of harsh conditions and cruel treatment of prisoners of conscience or political prisoners.[10] Matos says he was tortured there.[11]

Presidio Modelo is now closed, and turned into a museum. It has been replaced by more modern prisons. These include (MIS = minimum security prison; COR = correctional):

  • 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)



  1. ^ a b "Lugar que ocupa el territorio según la superficie y la población" (PDF). Una MIRADA a Cuba (in Spanish). Oficina Nacional de Estadísticas. Cuba. 2010. 
  2. ^ Directorate of Intelligence (16 August 2007). "The World Factbook — Cuba". Retrieved 2007-09-03. 
  3. ^ Invalid language code. Historical infos about Santa Bárbara and La Demajagua on EcuRed
  4. ^ "The Isle of Pines". New York Times. November 16, 1905. Retrieved 2013-11-09. The 'secession' from Cuba of a few American residents of the Isle of Pines is an incident of which National good faith and self-respect, we think, will compel the Government at Washington to take, not approving, but adverse notice. 
  5. ^ Tucker 2009, p. 525
  6. ^ "Would Annex The Isle of Pines". New York Times. August 18, 1916. Retrieved 2013-11-09. The proposed purchase by the United States of the Danish West Indies for $25,000,000 has started a renewal of agitation by American residents of the Isle of Pines for its purchase or acquisition from Cuba by the United States. The Isle of Pines Chamber of Commerce has issued a pamphlet entitled "Isle of Pines: American or What?" 
  7. ^ Cuba's Island of Dreams: Voices from the Isle of Pines and Youth
  8. ^ (2004). "2004 Population trends, by Province and Municipality" (in español). Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2007-10-02. 
  9. ^ Government of Cuba (2002). "Population by Special Municipality" (in español). Retrieved 2007-10-02. 
  10. ^ Armando Valladares, Against All Hope (New York: Knopf, 1986)
  11. ^ "Huber Matos, a Moderate in the Cuban Revolution". American Experience. PBS. 2004-12-21. Retrieved 2011-01-26. 


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