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island, run parallel to the northern coast. A third large but scattered group of mountains, of lesser altitude, is located in the middle of the island, centering in the eastern part of Las Villas Province. In addition, there are a number of smaller groups scattered over the island.
Between the mountain regions and the coasts and in the valleys are many fairly level areas with excellent soil. In the extreme western part of the island on the slopes between the mountains and the southern coast lie the famous vegas, where Vuelta Abajo tobacco is produced. The plains and valleys in the west-central part are also devoted largely to crops, while in the east-central part, especially in the Province of Camagüey, are extensive plains or sabanas, with poorer and shallower soil covered with natural pasture and used largely for cattle ranching.
Cuba has about 2,000 miles of coast line. The north coast is mostly steep and rocky, and the central section is bordered by innumerable sparsely populated islands and reefs of coral formation covered with mangrove trees. The southern coast, with the exception of the eastern end, is generally low and swampy. West of Cienfuegos along the southwestern coast of Las Villas Province lies the immense Zapata Swamp, about 100 miles long and as much as 35 miles wide at the widest place.
Rivers are generally short, narrow, and shallow and are navigable, if at all, only for short distances. Since the island is very narrow, there are only two watersheds, to the north and to the south. The northern coast, being higher, has the shorter rivers.
The soils are generally fertile and friable clays and sandy clays, but vary widely as to types. Some types are different from any found in the United States. The color varies from red to brown, gray, and black. One of the most extensive and outstanding types is the Matanzas red clay, its color varying from brick-red to purple-red because it contains relatively large quantities of iron oxide. This soil is generally deep and is underlain by porous limestone permitting ready drainage. Even though it contains an unusually high percentage of clay, it is friable and may be worked soon after heavy rains. The clay content frequently exceeds 75 percent and sometimes even 90 percent, which is far in excess of the proportion of clay particles usually found in soils in the United States (6). This type is found especially in middle and western Cuba.
Another soil type with quite different characteristics is the reddishbrown and yellowish clay found particularly in eastern Cuba. Much· of this soil is generally similar to the Matanzas red soil in that it is also a deep clay underlain with limestone, but it differs from the former principally in the characteristics of its clay particles, which make it difficult to work when wet and makes it harden on drying. Other types are the black and gray soils, some of which owe their color to a large proportion of organic matter, while others contain considerable salt. Some have impermeable clay subsoils and are difficult to work during the rainy season.
There are many types of sandy soil. The most important sandy soils are in the sabanas of Camagüey, in western Cuba, and in the
Isle of Pines. These soils have a relatively low clay content and a higher proportion of quartz sand. They are generally well drained but deficient in humus and lime and frequently require the addition of commercial fertilizer.
The swamp regions contain some clay and frequently large areas of peat and marl. In the mountainous areas, the soil is generally thin and stony and therefore unsuitable for cultivation except in the narrow fertile valleys.
The climate of Cuba is semitropical and suitable for the production of most tropical plants. The temperature is uniformly warm and frost-free. Rainfall is plentiful in summer but light in winter. Although Cuba is located just south of the Tropic of Cancer, which passes between it and Florida, the climate is not actually tropical because of the tempering effect of prevailing winds and the ocean on both sides of the narrow island. The following tabulation shows the mean monthly temperature at Habana and the average rainfall for the island (1900-24):
Temperatures vary only slightly from day to night and from summer to winter. In Habana, for instance, it averages about 80° F. from June to September and only 10° lower during the coolest months, January and February. The extreme range of variation from winter to summer is usually from a low of 45° or 50° to a peak of nearly 100°.
Rainfall averages 54.9 inches a year, which is from 10 to 25 percent more than in most of the eastern parts of the United States but much less than in many tropical countries. It is fairly evenly distributed over the island, ranging from about 36 inches to 70 inches, is slightly heavier on the north coast than on the south coast, and is still heavier in the interior. The western end of the island also has somewhat heavier rainfall than the eastern end.
The most important consideration with respect to rainfall is the seasonal distribution, with wet summers and dry winters. The rainy season usually begins about the middle of May and lasts through October. June and September are the wettest months. About threefourths of the yearly rain usually occurs in the 6 summer months. The other 6 months, November to April (la seca), are relatively dry, with only about one-fourth of the yearly rain.
Another climatic factor worthy of mention is that Cuba lies in the midst of the hurricane belt. Fortunately, hurricanes do not occur frequently and commonly pass just to the north or to the south of the island. However, they occur during the late summer, from July to
October, when they are most likely to cause considerable damage to crops.
The most striking and beautiful features of the Cuban landscape are the ever-present palm trees. The tall, straight royal palms with long plumelike leaves from the top grow in all parts of the island except where the soil is very poor and in the mountains. The large trunk of the palm tree is pulpy and has practically no value for lumber or fuel; but the tree bears clusters of tiny kernels, which have a high oil content and are used extensively as feed for hogs. Furthermore, the large leaves and broad flat leaf stems, or sheathing petioles, are very useful to Cuban farmers. The leaves are used for making thatched roofs and the sheaths as siding on buildings and as covering for tobacco bales.
Cuba's forest resources have been very severely reduced in the last 50 years. Originally they covered almost the entire island, but now they are insufficient to supply domestic needs. Early records indicate that tropical forests covered not only the mountainous regions, but also the river valleys and coastal plains with such woods as mahogany, Spanish cedar, ebony, granadillo (red ebony), pine, majagua, and many other varieties suitable for fine lumber, as well as for tanning and fiber. Only the most rocky and arid regions were without trees.
In the early history of the country its forest resources were depleted to a considerable extent by cutting large quantities of lumber for shipment to Spain, but the severest destruction occurred through the rapid expansion of the sugar industry in the early twenties after the World War. The clearing process was extremely wasteful; forests were cut, and most of the wood was burned on the ground as soon as it became dry. The irony of the situation is that most of the land on which the forests were thus destroyed was not well adapted or actually needed or used for sugar production and now lies barren. In many regions of the island, the shortage of forested land is so severe that farmers lack wood for fuel and for other farm uses.
It was estimated that in 1919, according to the census of that year, there still remained about 13 million acres of forests, covering nearly one-half of Cuba's total area. By 1940, the forests were reduced to such an extent that the remaining area was variously estimated at from 3 to 3.5 million acres, or only about one-fourth as much as in 1919. Forests now cover only 10 to 15 percent of Cuba's total land area and are principally located in inaccessible regions that are quite unsuited for agricultural production. It is estimated that two-thirds of the present forests are in mountainous areas, nearly one-fourth in hilly areas, and about one-tenth in swampy areas.
As a result of the forest depletion, Cuba is no longer an exporter of lumber and is not even producing sufficient lumber to meet domestic needs. It is estimated that more than 40 percent of the wood consumed in Cuba for industrial purposes has to be imported. During recent years the value of lumber imports, almost entirely from the United States, averaged about $1,370,000 annually, in addition to semimanufactured wood products valued at about $760,000, whereas exports amounted to only about $400,000.
The total sales of products from Cuba's forests in 1939 are reported as follows:
Whereas the price of lumber per board foot averaged 4.5 cents, some kinds were valued as low as 1.5 cents and others, such as mahogany and Spanish cedar, as high as 7 cents per board foot.
Charcoal is one of Cuba's most important forest products, with sales in 1939 valued at nearly 2 million dollars. It is prepared by small farmers in mountainous and swampy forest regions (fig. 4), and is used in the cities as the principal fuel for cooking instead of imported coal. For this purpose, it has the advantage of being easily transported, as it is lighter than wood, and may be burned in open fires without smoke or soot.
Cuba is confronted with two great problems in connection with forest policy: (1) The preservation of existing forests to prevent further wholesale destruction, and (2) extensive reforestation to put much of the present wasteland back into forest production. Many kinds of forest trees, including valuable hardwoods, grow well in Cuba; and because of freedom from frost, the growing season continues throughout the year. Recent experimental plantings of teakwood indicate that it is also well adapted to Cuba. Cuba is estimated to have from 3 to 4 million acres of nonagricultural land suitable for forestry. This area would permit doubling the present forests.
Cuba has deposits of a number of important minerals. Exports of minerals during recent years (1937-40) have ranged from 4.6 to 7.2 million dollars annually but have constituted only 3 or 4 percent of the total value of all exports. Most important are ores of manganese, chromium, and copper. Those of lesser importance are iron, barytes, gold, and asphalt. Cuba has been the second largest producer of manganese in Latin America and the fourth largest producer of copper. Iron-ore deposits are extensive and accessible but have not been widely developed. A large plant for recovering nickel from lowgrade ore is being constructed. By 1942 the production of the strategic minerals manganese and chromium had been greatly increased. The following tabulation shows the average quantity and value of minerals exported annually in 1937-40:
Fuel is Cuba's greatest deficiency. The island has practically no coal or petroleum, and consumption requirements of these two groups of products must therefore be obtained from abroad. There are a few shallow oil wells (naptha), with total production estimated at less than 2 million gallons (10). Imports of coal and coke amount to about 300,000 tons a year, with a value of 1 to 1.5 million dollars. Imports of petroleum, mostly crude but including some refined products, amount to about 700,000 tons a year, valued at about 6 million dollars. Nearly all the coal and about half the crude oil are obtained from the United States.
ISLE OF PINES
The Isle of Pines is located about 66 miles (by boat) directly south from the west-central part of Cuba but is only about 33 miles from the
FIGURE 4.-A pile of wood ready to be covered with earth and burned to make charcoal.
nearest mainland in the Province of Pinar del Río. For political purposes, it is included in the Province of La Habana. It covers an area of 755,000 acres and in 1938 had a population of 10,165. This island is about 34 miles across from north to south, and 40 miles at its greatest length from east to west. A marsh running across the island from east to west divides it into two parts.
The land is predominantly flat and gently rolling, with a few scattered hills and a low tidal mangrove swamp along the coast. Most of the northern part of the island has an elevation of less than 250 feet, but the southern part is more swampy, at no point exceeding 50 feet. above sea level. Only the northern part is suitable for farming. Soils, generally similar to those in Florida, are predominantly sandy, with gray, yellow, and brown surface color. Natural vegetation in