Island in the northwest Caribbean Sea, a province of Cuba, lying 97 km/60 mi south of the main island of Cuba at the mouth of the Gulf of Batabanó; area 2,200 sq km/850 sq mi; population (2002) 86,600. Tourism, fishing, and citrus-growing are the principal industries, and the island has Cuba's largest known gold deposit. Its capital is Nueva Gerona, on the north coast.
Since the Cuban Revolution of 1959, the island has been cultivated, principally by young people from schools and colleges who have been drafted in to work the land as part of their education.
The explorer Christopher Columbus landed on the island in 1494 and named it Evangelista. The island later became a notorious haunt for pirates. The Spanish authorities began to use it as a prison at an early stage. In 1925, it was incorporated in the young state of Cuba. The island was known as Isla de Pinos before receiving its present name in 1978 following the building of a large number of schools for overseas students.
The central part of Isla de la Juventud is hilly, but most of the island is flat. Most of the inhabitants live in the north. There is a large swamp in the south. The island now has 23,000 ha/57,000 acres of plantations, and is one of Cuba's largest producers of citrus fruits, particularly grapefruit. In the 1990s, the island's rich marble quarries and deposits of kaolin also have been worked.