Cuba is a communist country in the Caribbean with a frosty political history with the United States marked by its once-close relationship with the former-Soviet Union. Cuba's one-time leader, Fidel Castro, ruled Cuba for nearly five decades after overthrowing military dictator Fulgencio Batista. Cuba has had a decades-long restrictive travel and trade relationship with the United States -- made worse by the United States' involvement in the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion.
The chilly diplomatic relations have thawed since Raúl Castro, the brother of Fidel, was appointed as Fidel's successor in February of 2008, due to Fidel's failing health. Soon after, Raúl was officially elected president by the Cuban National Assembly and has since become the leadership heir to Cuba's Communist Party. In January 2015, President Obama relaxed a travel ban to Cuba -- making it possible for U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba. While travel to Cuba for ordinary tourism is still illegal for Americans, traveling for educational reasons is allowed.