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Racist Communist Cuba

Reader comment on item: Castro's Cuba: Fact or Fiction?

Submitted by Laura (United States), Jul 22, 2021 at 09:13

...exacerbation of racism is the revolution's inability to accept Afro-Cubans who want to claim a black identity.
Lusane, Clarence (2003). "From Black Cuban to Afro‐Cuban:Researching Race in Cuba". Souls. 1 (2): 73–79. doi:10.1080/10999949909362164. ISSN 1099-9949.
https://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10999949909362164

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A barrier for Cuba's blacks.

New attitudes on once-taboo race questions emerge with a fledgling black movement

Miami Herald Staff Report.
Published: June 20, 2007

HAVANA -- Six-foot-two, brown skinned and with semi-curly hair, Denny walked confidently into a government warehouse for a recent job interview. Sitting across from the white manager, he rattled off his qualifications: high school diploma, courses in tourism, hard worker.

They weren't good enough: He needed his white brother-in-law to vouch for him, Denny recalled.

"Black people tend to do everything bad here," the manager said.

After Fidel Castro's revolution triumphed in 1959, he declared that Cuba would be a raceless society, banned separate facilities for blacks and whites and launched a string of free education and health programs for the poor -- most of them blacks.

Many blacks people still support Castro, saying that without him they would still be peons in the sugar cane fields. One black Cuban diplomat said he had no hope of an education, and his grandmother no medical care for her glaucoma, until the revolution came along.

A young girl peeks as Cuban schoolchildren practice marching in the Prado, a historic plaza in Old Havana. (Miami Herald staff)

But listen to some blacks, particularly those born after 1959, and the failures of the revolution also become clear.

"Everyone is not equal here," said Ernesto, 37, as he dodged traffic on a Havana street. Tall and athletically built, he once hoped to be a star soccer player. He now gets by selling used clothing, and said he's continually hassled by police just because he's black.

In recent years, a new attitude has been emerging quietly, almost secretly, among Afro-Cubans on what it means to be black in a communist system that maintains "No hay racismo aquí" -- there's no racism here -- and tends to brand those who raise the issue of race as enemies of the revolution.

"The absence of the debate on the racial problem already threatens . . . the revolution's social project," wrote Esteban Morales Domínguez, a University of Havana professor who is black, in one of his several little-known papers on race since 2005.

In another paper, he noted that "much of the research that has been done on the subject in general has been put away in drawers, endlessly waiting to be published." Black filmmaker Rigoberto López also broached the sensitive topic in a TV appearance in December, saying that while the revolution had brought about structural changes toward racial equality, "its results do not allow us to affirm that its goals have been achieved in all their dimensions."

A mural declares 'Somos Uno' -- We Are One.(Miami Herald staff)

'A NEW MOMENTUM'

Afro-Cubans familiar with the situation say black and white Cubans also have been establishing a small but growing number of civil rights-type groups. The government has not cracked down on such usually illegal activities, but neither has it officially recognized them.

"There is a new momentum, which the government is surely frightened by," said Carlos Moore, a Cuban-born expert on race issues now living in Brazil.

In recent years, the Castro government has been on the defensive on the race question. In last year's book 100 Hours With Fidel by French-Spanish journalist Ignacio Ramonet, Castro admitted that while the revolution had brought progress for women and blacks, discrimination endures.

"Blacks do not live in the best homes; they're still . . . performing hard jobs, sometimes less-remunerated jobs, and fewer blacks receive family remittances in foreign currency than their white compatriots," he said.

Still, Castro added: "I am satisfied by what we're doing to discover causes that, if we don't fight them vigorously, tend to prolong alienation in successive generations."

But Castro's own Communist Party and government fall short on the race front. Only four recognizably black faces sit on the party's 21- member Political Bureau, and only two sit on the government's top body, the 39- member Council of Minis- ters.

The highest-ranking black in Cuba is Esteban Lazo, a former party chief in the provinces of Havana and Santiago de Cuba. Lazo was tapped by Castro when he took ill last summer, along with brother Raúl Castro and four others, to help rule Cuba in his absence.

And yet, black faces populate Cuba's political prisons. Some of the nation's best known dissidents are black. They include independent librarian Omar Pernét Hernández, mason Orlando Zapata Tamayo and physician Oscar Elias Biscét. The latter was sentenced to 27 years for, among other things, organizing a seminar on Martin Luther King's non--violent forms of protest.

"Race is the biggest social issue facing Cuba," said Enrique Patterson, a Cuban-born Miami author who writes extensively about race, and calls this nation's race problem a "social bomb."

"If this problem isn't addressed, Cuba will not be."
http://web.archive.org/web/20080514135636/http://www.miamiherald.com/multimedia/news/afrolatin/part4/index.html

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"Don't you tell me that there isn't any [racism], because I have seen it/ don't tell me that it doesn't exist, because I have lived it."
de la Fuente, Alejandro (2011). "The New Afro-Cuban Cultural Movement and the Debate on Race in Contemporary Cuba". Journal of Latin American Studies. 40 (4): 697–720. doi:10.1017/s0022216x08004720. ISSN 0022-216X

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Afro-Cubans | Minority Rights Group

Consequently, large numbers of enslaved Africans continued arriving in Cuba causing the African slave population to grow from about 10-25 per cent in the 18th c ...

The limited statistics available suggest that Afro-Cubans live in the most neglected parts of Cuba's urban areas, especially in Havana. Of the country's large prison population, the majority are estimated to be Afro-Cubans. They have also been economically marginalized and in keeping with the colonial tradition of itinerant trading they have had to create their own income–generating opportunities. This is particularly true in the informal sector and in the underground economy that surrounds the tourist industry.
https://minorityrights.org/minorities/afro-cubans/

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Cuba acknowledges 'vestiges' of racism, launches program to ...
Nov 22, 2019
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-cuba-racism/cuba-acknowledges-vestiges-of-racism-launches-program-to-fight-it-idUSKBN1XX00C

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Ending Systemic Racism Is the Revolution Cuba Needs
Afro-Cubans have long been pushed to the margins. The leaders of the post-Castro era must work to change the course of history.

Jan 25, 2020 — Afro-Cubans have long been pushed to the margins. The leaders of the post-Castro era must work to change the course of history...
A recent study looking at inequality in Cuba revealed a segregated society: 70 percent of black and mixed-race Cubans said they didn't have access to the internet, compared with 25 percent of white Cubans. The racial wealth gap was also vast: While 50 percent of white Cubans had a banking account, only 11 percent of black Cubans said they had one. Moreover, white Cubans received 78 percent of remittances to Cuba, and they controlled 98 percent of private companies.

The discrimination and racism inherited from nearly four centuries of slavery during Spanish colonialism have endured 57 years after the founding of the Cuban Republic in 1902, and have not been resolved in the six decades since the 1959 revolution. A pressing issue for leaders in a post-Castro Cuba will be to keep black people from being pushed to the margins of society. Paving a path forward will require truly understanding the historical conditions that have long excluded Afro-Cubans from political life — whether it was under a representative democracy, authoritarianism or socialism...
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/25/opinion/international-world/ending-systemic-racism-is-the-revolution-cuba-needs.html

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Racism in Cuba: banned by law, alive on the streets - France 24
Jul 18, 2020 — Havana (AFP). Six decades on from Cuba's proclamation of equality and despite three top government officials being black, the Caribbean island nation has made little headway on racism.

"Racism in Cuba is very hypocritical ... No-one says they're racist, even if they are," researcher Tomas Fernandez, 79, an author of several books on the subject, told AFP. ..."There's something that is a burden, it's very subtle, but it's a prejudice that keeps going," said painter Salvador Gonzalez, 71, who exhibits his work in El Callejon de Hamel, a bastion of African heritage in the capital Havana.

Black activist Alexander Holl, 22, says skin color has a "huge influence" on relationships in Cuba.
https://www.france24.com/en/20200718-racism-in-cuba-banned-by-law-alive-on-the-streets

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Cuba Loves to Criticize the United States, but the Island Has Its Own Police Racism Problem.

Cuba's Government Needs to Look Within as It Denounces U.S. Racism

Fidel Castro claimed the revolution eliminated racial discrimination, but it is alive and well.

By Rebecca Bodenheimer

A police officer wearing a face mask stands guard at the Capitol in Havana, on September 1, during a curfew imposed to contain the resurgence of COVID-19. RAMON ESPINOSA/POOL/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

SEPTEMBER 9, 2020, 7:05 AM

Since the Cuban Revolution of 1959, the Cuban government has consistently criticized the United States for failing to address institutionalized racism. During his famed trip to New York in 1960 to attend the United Nations General Assembly meeting, Fidel Castro complained of unfair treatment in a Midtown Manhattan hotel and ended up at the Hotel Theresa in Harlem, meeting with Malcolm X and making no bones about standing with African Americans in their fight for racial equality. Cuba has also famously given refuge to several high-profile Black nationalists sought by the FBI, most famously Assata Shakur (who still lives there) and dozens of Black Panthers, including Huey P. Newton and Eldridge Cleaver.
https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/09/09/cuba-government-blm-police-racism-black-lives-needs-to-look-within-as-it-denounces-us/

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Black Lives Matter Misses the Point About Cuba

The country is not an empty canvas onto which Americans can project their political ideas.

By Jorge Felipe Gonzalez
July 17, 2021

... During this time of economic liberalism, however, Cuba's racial inequalities resurfaced.

Remittances and tourism are the government's most important sources of income. Yet the inequality in these arenas is stark. Sixty to 90 percent of white households have some relatives living outside the country; for nonwhite people, the numbers are much lower, at about 30 to 40 percent. Those statistics mean that foreign currency coming into Cuba primarily benefits white Cubans. Black Cubans who do not have a relative living abroad are destined to work in the low-wage, state-controlled economy; in the black market; or in the emergent private sector. As the Harvard professor Alejandro de la Fuente has pointed out, many private-sector business owners discriminate against Black job applicants, a prejudice visible in the tourism industry.

Unfortunately, the inequality has gotten worse. Students in Cuban universities today are overwhelmingly white or light-skinned; only 4.8 percent are Black or brown at the University of Havana, for example. The prison population is disproportionately Black. Black neighborhoods are the poorest in Havana. "While 58 percent of white Cubans have incomes under $3,000," de la Fuente wrote in The New York Times, "among Afro-Cubans that proportion is as much as 95 percent."

Although the embargo has undoubtedly played a role in the economic woes of Cuba, the main obstacle to Cuban development and prosperity is the government's model of a state-controlled economy, a system in which Cubans cannot materialize their entrepreneurial energy, in which a policing regime frequently stops Black Cubans, and in which everyday items are hard to find.

Not surprisingly, Havana's primarily Black neighborhoods, the most neglected in the city, are the epicenters of the largest recent demonstrations, as footage shows. In some of them, such as La Güinera, Centro Habana, Diez de Octubre, Cerro, and La Habana Vieja, we've seen clashes between demonstrators and the police and members of the government posing as civilians. As a result, Black Cubans, along with compatriots of all races, are disproportionately being beaten, brutalized, and jailed for protesting. The government is publicly calling them "thugs" and "criminals" in the state-controlled media. The Cuban government has officially acknowledged the death of Diubis Laurencio Tejeda, a young Black man from La Güinera who died during a confrontation with the police.

BLM certainly has a role to play in Cuba. But its purpose in issuing the statement has nothing to do with Cuba itself. The organization is using the Cuban movement to criticize the U.S. government and its foreign policy. It praised former President Barack Obama for lifting sanctions against Cuba, which his successor later reversed, and which the Biden administration has been slow to amend.

Cubans—and particularly Black Cubans—are suffering. The Cuban judicial system is prosecuting the protesters with sentences of up to 20 years. BLM, of all organizations, should be aware that Cubans can't breathe either. Black Cuban lives also matter; the freedom of all Cubans should matter. To echo the organization's stated reason for existing, no one is free until we are all free.
theatlantic. com/ideas/archive/2021/07/black-lives-matter-misses-point-about-cuba/619471/

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