Me, Afro-Cuban?

Alfredo Fernandez Rodriguez

I refer to the term Afro-Cuban used to describe the non-white people of the island.

There are people like myself in Cuba today who struggle to eliminate racial prejudices.  Some of them have begun to refer to themselves using a term that to my way of thinking, far from dignifying the struggle obstructs it.

I refer to the term Afro-Cuban used to describe the non-white people of the island.  The expression comes from our neighbors’ use of “African-American”, and every day it is utilized with more frequency.

However, I don’t believe that those of us who make up the Cuban “black race” [personally I don’t believe in the existence of races) should be identifying ourselves with a term that conspires against the very issue we’re trying to resolve.

I have never heard any Cuban of Spanish descent call themselves Hispano-Cuban.  It’s true that the Africans were “brought” to Cuba while the Spanish came on their own.  But if there’s one thing I’m sure of, it’s that we blacks and mulattos born in Cuba are Cubans, if we need to call ourselves something.

The wise Cuban Fernando Ortiz already said it best: “Without the blacks, there is no Cuba.” Going on from there, I can’t consider any other term to designate a person born on the island, except “Cuban.”

These lines were written in response to reading an article by a Cuban antiracist activist, calling a white person born on the island Cuban and a black also from here Afro-Cuban.  I think that the differentiation is unnecessary because the supposed Afro-Cubans are as Cuban as the whites.

Alfredo Fernandez

Alfredo Fernandez: I didn't really leave Cuba, it's impossible to leave somewhere that you've never been. After gravitating for 37 years on that strange island, I managed to touch firm ground, but only to confirm that I hadn't reached anywhere. Perhaps I will never belong anywhere. Now I'm living in Ecuador, but please, don't believe me when I say where I am, better to find me in "the Cuba of my dreams.


19 thoughts on “Me, Afro-Cuban?

  • January 25, 2014 at 6:46 am
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    Afro Cuban How i define myself is what it is no one can define me AFRO CUBAN

    Outsiders need to get a life and some biz of thier own because there are no white people yellow people red people or black people We are humans and whatever we define ourselves as In Cuba they call us prieto mulatto negrito negra(0) and every name but our own And guess who brought that and who took our identity? Slave masters When Afrikans wake up and take back thier humanity others may gain thiers

  • January 16, 2014 at 3:58 pm
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    yes there is some type of classification.. you can be either or but in the end of the day we are all brothers and sisters

  • July 14, 2013 at 12:26 pm
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    I agree somewhat with the author of the article. As a native black American, I do not appreciate being referred to as an “African American”. I have the blood of the Spanish, the French, along with the people of the continent of Africa, not to mention the indigenous people who were the original inhabitants of the continent of America.

  • October 27, 2012 at 3:56 pm
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    So how do Cubans define terms such as “white,” “mulatto,” and “black”? It seems to me that nearly all Cubans have racially mixed ancestry to various degrees.

  • June 1, 2011 at 1:31 pm
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    Afro Cuban –> 🙂
    Luckily, that doesn’t exist in Cuba. We have blacks, whites, mulattoes and more.. but no Afro-Cubans.

    I am Cuban and used to be white back there :), just because my parents and grandparents had a light complexion because (at least on my mom’s side) I am pretty sure we have some black heritage.

    That was till I got to the US, now I am Hispanic… WTF? How do I look the same as Mexican or a Guatemalan guy? My black friends from Cuba are also Hispanic here, finally there is no difference amongst us, we are all on the same race.. the one the gringos despise.

    Note: Negro is not an offense in Cuba, my grandma used to call me her negrito (and I wasn’t black back then, not even ‘Hispanic’, lol).

  • June 1, 2011 at 1:18 pm
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    Afro-Cuban –> 🙂
    Por suerte eso no existe en Cuba. Alla hay negros y blancos y mulatos y mulato achina’o y jaba’o y moro y la madre de los tomates. Pero no Afro-cubans…. menos mal.

    Yo soy Cubano de nacimiento y siempre fui blanco en mi pais, nada mas que por que mis padres y mis abuelos eran de tez clara y pelo lacio, porque (al menos por la parte materna) estoy casi seguro q algun negro debe haber entre mis ancestros.

    Eso fue hasta q llegue a US, ahora soy hispano .. WTF>? en que me parezco yo a un Mexicano o a un Guatelmateco? Mis amigos negros de Cuba tambien son hispanos aqui, finalmente no hay diferencias… somos de la misma raza… la que desprecian los gringos…

  • February 22, 2010 at 1:41 pm
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    I am very glad that for once I agreed with Mr. Jones. Is an issue greater than semantics alone. AfroCuban this word needs to transcend old meanings related to Afro-Cuban cultural manifestations, religions and music. It needs to become a rally point to gather our collective spirit to accomplish what needs to be accomplished. In essence a truly egalitarian nation where we are all Cubans. As long as people feel the need to deny, advance or play down their ancestry, we are not equal. As long as your skin color makes a suspect we are not equal, as long as we “owe” our place in society to a goverment decree and not to our effors and enterpreneurship we are not equal. For centuries the destiny of the african descent in the island has been tied to the ideology, will and the magnanimity of our lighter brethen. We need to do away with our self-censure, with our complexes and our inability to assert our place in our society. Society which our ancestors liberated for us all Cubans.

  • February 14, 2010 at 6:39 pm
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    @Milagros… I appreciate your words, if you want to know where I am coming from you can read at: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/kalimerhaba_HellenoTurkish_Community/message/1921
    If not Hispanic, what? I am searching for words to distinguish between Cubans of Spanish descent and “Whites”. Why? Internationally Cuba has aligned itself both politically and economically with Africa and other former colonies. The Cubans of Spanish descent have given up there “White” priviliges on the international stage. This is in line with the only valid revolutionary course for “Whites” an exposition of which can be found here: http://racetraitor.org/naindex.html
    However I am fully aware that Cubans of Spanish descent have not fully given up their “White” priviliges within Cuba, so perhaps it is too soon to make a distinction?

  • February 12, 2010 at 1:14 am
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    Alberto, Hola. I don’t know the answer to your question: “Why is it that . . .” But I do know that racism is not a permanent condition in a society. It may seem so, at times; but I’ve seen almost unbelievable changes in the U.S. people’s attitudes on race in my life . . . Incredible changes!

    Perhaps it’s like the many things that we can’t deal with in the way we’d like, but can only put one foot in front of the other and hope for the best.

    Alfredo’s point in the article is well taken . . . And he has every right to be annoyed with constant references to racial categories for various Cubans. Others of course have every right to believe that such references are necessary and helpful. Who can say for sure?

    Perhaps we can only say: Let’s put one foot in front of the other and hope for the best.

  • February 11, 2010 at 8:27 am
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    However George AfroCubans and noone Afro is HISPANIC or LATINO that again is just another label put out in amerikka by Pres Nixon in order to separate the masses. in the seventies (google it) . The Italians are the only latinos in the world as the Capital Rome was once called latinuem yet they resent it.. As for Hispanic the island of Hispanola now HAITI where i am.. is not AFRO Hispanic..But Afro Haitian..There is no such word as Hispanic before Nixon..? And many of my people feel it is like being called the N word..entiendes?

  • February 11, 2010 at 8:22 am
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    @george..Sometimes i know there is someone out there who can read and overatands the real truth..i look at it each day and it is my badge of courage..Afro Cuban it will always be ..Thanks nice follow up

  • February 8, 2010 at 7:20 pm
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    As I said, Cubans are an Afro-Hispanic people, but if the Afro component is not recognised then that needs to be addressed. The key is ownership of identity. Personally I think the best thing Cuba could do educationally is make it compulsory for all Cuban children to learn at least one African language. There are other issues as well stemming from a difference in starting points, not least housing, but I still maintain that the biggest cause of “racial” injustice in Cuba is the international socio-political and economic shituation, why is it, for example, that light-skinned Cubans receive more remittances from abroad? Why is it that these issues became more exacerbated with the collapse of the Soviet Union? Africa must become a world power!

  • February 7, 2010 at 1:25 pm
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    Part 2 ..YES U BRO.! YOU LOOK LIKE AM AFRO CUBAN TO ME..CAN A LEOPARD CHANGE SPOTS?

  • February 7, 2010 at 1:18 pm
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    Nice Article

    But let me digress..
    The words (vs label) Afro Cuban”” is my preferance.. being called black is an insult like the N word in amerikkka .. however being called Afro ..”ANYTHING” is like a sore which has festered creating fear of disease etc..The denial that many have as well as the fear of **TERROR when someone sees an African desc whether he/she is from Asia or Angola is something that many try to deny prevent and run from..Afro Cuban it is and will remain..From Haiti, i remain free..I choose what people call me vs the other way around..
    When i tell people i am Cuban they look in awe..mouths open questions flow…BUTTTTT they say your black? LOL No i am Afro Cuban..lets be real..we need to make this clear….i am more than CUBAN!

    From Haiti i remain a valid AFRO CUBAN

    Gracias Fidel

  • February 7, 2010 at 1:17 am
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    From a theoretical point of view, questioning the ways in which Black Cubans may identify themselves, may be of academic value. The fact is that irrespective of what we have called ourselves, we have been relagated to the bottom of our social stratification. Had those of Hispanic ancestry been the victims, they would have certainly searched for and found a way of identifying themselves in their search for justice.

    Five hundred years of slavery, segregation and inequalities, demand justice, reparation and a final solution to the greatest challenge confronting our nation. As long as Cuba fail to eradicate this blot that have tarnished its history, it will never achieve its full nationahood.

    Why is it that a nation that have done so much for Blacks, mixed race, the third world in general , seems hesitant, fearful to address its most intractable and degrading social ill. Courage, honesty and principles is all that is needed for our country to become all it can and must.

  • February 6, 2010 at 9:15 pm
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    You, Afro-Cuban!

    (Part II)

    A problem with Cuba’s supposed “transculturation,” however, is that too often in fact it is simple acculturation (assimilation of two cultures under the dominance of one – white Cuban culture). This offers few settings for black Cubans to raise their legitimate and directly felt concerns without being accused of “divisionism” (see Morales / HT). Likewise, the use of “Afro-Cuban” can be used to distinguish blacks and even highlight their specific contributions. Accordingly, the rejection of what is “Afro-Cuban” can mean the dismissal and belittling of blacks’ specific accomplishments, which should be embraced an honored – not spurned.

    In short, the term “Afro-Cuban” can be used and misused. The point, however, is to not throw out the proverbial baby with the bath water.

  • February 6, 2010 at 9:13 pm
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    You, Afro-Cuban!
    (Part I)

    I would add that owing to sharp and almost absolute segregation, African-Americans have evolved into a distinct people, while blacks in Cuba — “tranculturated” (Ortiz)— have so to a much lesser degree, if at all.

    While “racial” prejudice still indeed exist within Cuba (in some ways similar to the “School Daze” light-skin/dark-skin prejudice within the African-American community itself), fighting the resulting practices MAY not require their organization under the banner of “Afro-Cuban” (just as there is clearly no need for separate banners for light-skinned and dark skinned Blacks in the US).

  • February 6, 2010 at 6:32 pm
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    Just a further comment, in the U.S. the situation is different for how can an Afro-American fully identify with the U.S. while its economy remains so founded on preserving the exploitation of Africa and other former colonies. The difference between Cuba and the U.S. with regards to this issue must be made clear and the need for a revolution in the way the U.S. economy functions stressed.

  • February 6, 2010 at 6:10 pm
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    All concepts of “race” are inventions. The aim of anti-racism must be to break with the concepts of “race” that were imposed on the world by the West Europeans some few hundred years ago. The Revolution is one of the great moments in this process. Fidel defined the Cuban people saying “we are an Afro-Hispanic people” so I think you are absolutely correct, there is no need for the Afro prefix since the word Cuban already implies it. Equally light-skinned Cubans having, through the Revolution, aligned themselves with Africa, have gone a significant way to breaking with the global “White Race” and care must be taken to preserve this advance. The greatest obsticle to eliminating racism in Cuba is the global economic order which is still strongly founded on the eras of colonialisation and slavery however there are intenal steps to take such as giving Cubans greater freedom to take the initiative in providing products and services and developing a less Euro-centric education.

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