By Erasmo Calzadilla (photos: Irina Echarry)
HAVANA TIMES — My grandparents used to tell me that in their hometown of Madruga, racial discrimination was once alive and well. Few whites would associate with blacks, and a white woman who got involved with a black man was rejected by everyone (white).
In the park, each racial group would use a different sidewalk, with the worse one of course used by those people “of color,”
Some people crossed those racial barriers out of friendship, love or other reasons. My grandmother, for example, was proud that they made no distinctions in her home, yet I doubt that she would have ever fallen in love with a moreno (a darker skinned person).
The revolution helped to partially eliminate racial discrimination, but with the system’s current crisis, these old demons have returned to life.
Looking for a black mannequin
Glancing at mannequins in store windows made me realize something.
About 99.99 percent of those figures are “pure white.” The only non-white ones I’ve seen in any of the malls and shopping centers here in Havana are a couple of very light-skinned ones with narrow features, light eyes and straight hair. One of them was posed in front of a military tent, and the other one — a light-eyed jabaita (“mulata”) — was standing paralyzed in the window of the Ultra department store.
This contrasts with life on the island because more than 50 percent of the Cuban population is black or mixed.
Surely the existence of so many white dummies is no one’s fault. The manufacturers create white mannequins because those are the most requested, and the black ones — the few that exist — end up being too expensive. That’s pretty much how we look at the situation.
Nor is anyone’s fault that the faces most likely to appear on billboards across the city (those of Fidel and Raul Castro, Ernesto “Che” Guevara, Camilo Cienfuegos, Vilma Espin, the Cuban 5 and their wives, the girls from Nestle or those in Sedal shampoo ads) barely evidence any Negroid features (in the last example they come off as “decaffeinated blacks”).
There’s no need for a conspiracy for racism to be reintroduced here. The seed is latent and because of neglect the ground is prepared.
Nonetheless, the government has a clear obligation to prevent racist aesthetics from prevailing in public establishments and the state-run media.
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