Don’t Play with Rosita

Maria Matienzo Puerto

Afrocubanas, the book I picked.

HAVANA TIMES — Carlos’ telling me to choose whatever book that I wanted was a great birthday present. Anyone who knows me even a little knows about my obsession with reading. I chose Afrocubanas (Afro-Cuban Women).

I shifted around the order of what I had been reading and dove into this new book. My curiosity to find out what my contemporaries were saying about that theme was stronger than any other literary interest.

That was last night and I’m already half done with the book. It consists of well-written essays; that’s the first thing I can say. The second is that it’s a book related to a story I want to tell here.

My friend Laura has a ten-year-old daughter who goes to school, just like every other girl her age. One day when she came back home, she was very concerned because Diana (another little classmate) had said that it was better not to play with Rosita because she was black.

My friend’s daughter came home traumatized. I’m sure that running through her mind were the names and faces of all her friends in the neighborhood: Juliet, Yusimi, Clara, Yahima… so she immediately asked her mother to explain the situation.

She didn’t understand why Diana didn’t want to play with Rosita.

Of course Laura’s daughter lives in a house where people come and go and don’t have labels indicating their race or sexuality. People in her house are people – period.

My friend Laura was faced with a problem. She, someone who acted without prejudice, had to explain to her daughter the prejudices of others. Not good! Real life had dropped down on top of her.

She thought that her daughter deserved an intelligent answer and decided that she had to tell the story from the beginning, so she began with a brief account of the slave trade and slavery, but when she was only halfway through the story, her daughter interrupted.

“Mom, that’s too bad about Diana. She’s missing out on half the rainbow.”

My friend was speechless (I would have been too). Her daughter understood everything. She realized the importance of what someone does – more than what they say. Her daily life filled with respect for everyone had been of more value than any explanation.

It’s good that there exist stories like those reflected in this book my friend Carlos gave me. It’s good that there are people trying to reconstruct the histories of those people who don’t have written histories, those who are outcast, those who have been silenced.

But what’s best is that we remain vigilant and not let ourselves be betrayed by four hundred years of racism and fall into repeating those same racist patterns.