Another Dark Chapter

Francisco Castro

Roberto Zurbano

HAVANA TIMES — After 54 years of Cuba’s revolutionary government being in power — during which time the most radical changes in all of the nation’s history took place, both positive and negative — we’ve begun to take a critical and constructive look at the mistakes made by the government that Fidel Castro turned over to his brother Raul.

However, in the middle of this new “revolution within the revolution,” often mentioned and combated remnants of the past endure. This time these involve the past of that very same 1959 revolution, one under which any opinion against it was suppressed in the name of maintaining an unblemished reputation in the eyes of world public opinion.

This turned into a harmful and habitual vice because of the long period over which it was practiced, though it’s now being severely criticized by President Raul Castro, who encourages Cubans to tell the truth “without fear of reprisal,” to help straighten out what for so long has grown crooked.

Here I’ll refer to the episode of the dismissal of Cuban essayist Roberto Zurbano from his position as director of the Fondo Editorial de Casa de las Americas, one of the most prestigious publishers in the country.

The decision made by the government was taken because of his criticism in the New York Times of racism in Cuba, according to the Diario de Cuba website.

None of the excerpts published by Diario de Cuba of the views of the essayist seemed distant from reality; rather, they came across as brave, even consistent with the appeal for constructive honesty made by Raul Castro.

The lingering of discrimination in Cuba is no secret, despite the campaigns and programs carried out for its elimination. Veiled or open, the exclusion of minorities is a daily practice, many of which are carried out by “a power that’s exercised by individuals who are incapable of restraint,” to paraphrase Ingmar Bergman.

Specifically, the issue of racism, anchored to blacks in Cuba, is a special matter. At this stage of the game, opportunists and extremists are mixed with those who are genuinely interested in the struggle for its elimination, though many of these would find their interests endangered if that ever happened.

Lies, accusations, posturing, low blows and gossip occur whenever people are compelled to speak out in front of those who choose the winners of awards and those allowed to go on trips. The fight against racism in Cuba isn’t exempt from all this.

Given this state of affairs — it’s not outrageous to mention that the government has been “unable to overcome” racism — it’s time to lay it on the line.

I wish to express my support for Roberto Zurbano and with all those who are persecuted for their courage to speak the truth about what they honestly believe in and who fight for a more just society.

Francisco Castro

Francisco Castro:Everything becomes simpler when one crosses the line of thirty. That does not make it easier, but rather the opposite. There I am on the other side of the line, trying to figure out, what little I know about art, politics, economy ... life, how to move without breaking oaths that seemed essential, how not to give up, how to make the years spent into a beacon to the future.

6 thoughts on “Another Dark Chapter

  • Cimmaron: never said Zurbano was a reaccionary our counter-revolutionary or whatsoever . Also your statement that afro-cubans ( I don´t like this word because exactly of this by you mentioned degree of cohesion, but ok got no other word for it now) are not represented enough in poder popular is not quite true. 37% apparently ( xcuse me , I did not count them) are afrocubans. Back to Zurbano: read carefully what I wrote. I don`t accuse him on anything ( would not have the right to do so anyways) nor did I applaude his dismission in no way and I do hope that things get still settled.

  • Friederich,
    Yes, there is no de jure racism in Cuba – we all know the apartheid laws were thrown out after the triumph of the revolution. There is also a great degree of cohesion and solidarity among Cubans of all racial stripes generally speaking. But the structure of the Cuban government and bureaucracy overwhelmingly reflects de facto racism and “Gallego” supremacy. Only the Cuban government knows how all important posts in its cabinet happened to consistently go to non Afro-Cubans. We have to call a pig a pig even with lipstick on it, as the saying goes. Politically thus Afro-Cubans have been treated as 2nd-class citizens. In Ecuador, Bolivia and Venezuela the “Bolivarian” governments have all made conscious efforts to reflect the diversity of their peoples in their government appointments. Sadly, not Cuba! The Castro brothers seem to think only a “Gallego” is fit to rule Cuba. And yet we know the role of Afro-Cubans in the Revolutionary struggle, from Jesus Menendez to Blas Roca to Almeida Bosque. If counter-revolutionaries opportunistically seize upon this issue, then it it the fault of the Cuban government. Zurbano, however, is no reactionary but a solid patriot devoted to eliminating the contradictions of the revolution.

  • I am amazed that you can see so clearly all the way from Vienna that there is no systemic racism in Cuba. How is these Cubans living in Cuba fail to see it?

    Is there anything else your miraculous Austrian insight into Cuba can help these ignorant Cubans with?

  • First of all Francisco thanks for this article. Then to Moses: There is no open racism in Cuba and definitively its not governmental policy, contrarily. But on the individual level it does exist. Zurbanos article, above all the headline, could leed to believe, that Cuba was a racist state, although never intended to be interpreded this way by the author,- A very sensitive matter, especially when published in one of the US most influent newspapers. Especially regarding the tensions between Cuba hostile countries such as the US and some European Nations, one has to be very careful how to formulate things to avoid things being misinterpreted or misused on purpose.. And I think thats where the problem was, and Mr. Zurbano was not enough aware of it. Personally I don`t see any contradiction between Francisco`s and the other article. They simply focus on different levels.One more on the individual, the other one on the objective -official one. or to say: Individual racism does exist, but not to an extensive level ( and no government throughout the world will be able to erradicate this through its policy), there is not such a thing as official racist politics in Cuba. So I don`t see any contradiction. Greetings from Vienna/Austria

  • Excellent post. May I share it on my blog ( I have been aware of the racism in Cuba since 2001 when I first visited. Each time I return I spend time with at least two gay friends- a couple- and one very black Cuban man who often works for me in Cuba. The things we encounter on the street, in restaurants, and just in every day life are very discriminatory and bothersome. I agree with Mr. Zurbano and you, there is a long way to go. Cuba needs to do a lot more than idealize Abraham Lincoln.

  • Good post. I wonder how it is possible that the reality and problems as a result of racism in Cuba and what seems to be common knowledge among Cubans and even among others like myself with an intimate knowledge of life in Cuba, can still be denied by some. The writer of another post which was published today on HT, “There in No Racial Discrimination in Cuba”, argues that racism does not exist. Hard to believe that both of these writers live in the same Cuba.

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