Speaking of Skin Colors in Cuba

Nonardo Perea

Photo: Juan Suarez

HAVANA TIMES — In Cuba, there is a well-known popular phrase that goes like this: “If you’re not part Congo, you’re part Carabali” (meaning that everyone has a drop of African in their blood).

Reading my friend Yusimi Rodriguez’ post, Cuba: Blatant Racism or Reasonable Doubt?, I could not help but write something about the issue of racism in our country myself, as this phenomenon is becoming more and more patent in our daily experiences.

Racism exists in Cuba: it’s sad to have to admit it, but it’s the truth. The worst part is that even black people say they want to “get ahead racially.” This means that the great majority of black parents wish for their children to procreate with people of white skin, so that they will “get ahead racially,” as they put it. “I don’t want to comb that hair,” is another comment I’ve heard people make in countless occasions.

A few days ago, I was standing in line at a pharmacy, where I was waiting for my turn to buy the medication I take for my blood pressure.

Standing in line was a black man who was keeping an eye on his 5-year-old daughter (who had a much lighter skin tone). Suddenly, a very dark-skinned young man appeared and the child, laughing her head off, went over to give him a hug, as though she’d known him all her life. Seeing the girl’s gesture, the only thing the father said was:

“Look at that, she likes black guys. Hey, don’t go for blacks, go for whites, I already got you ahead. Look how friendly she is, and with a black guy she doesn’t even know!”

He spent the entire time in line talking about skin color and his girl’s overly friendly attitude towards the black man. The nicest part is that the people there merely laughed, as though it were merely a candid remark, and even the black teenager the man was referring to, completely ignorant of race issues, seemed to join in on the joke.

I looked at them with a serious look on my face, rather put off.

I, a white person, felt indignant over those racist comments, spoken by a black man, in a line where people were also predominantly black.

This makes me think that racism is on the rise, that it is spreading, and that we don’t notice this many a time. To be able to notice, as I’ve written elsewhere, one has to be black and feel the magnitude of the problem first-hand.

I don’t consider myself either white, black or any color. I am quite simply a person. I live with a black man, and many of my previous partners (and there haven’t been that many) have also been black men. Most of my best friends are also black. In short, I love black people. I also love white people. I love people regardless of the color of their skin.

What matters most are one’s values, the way one is and behaves as a human being. We are all people, it doesn’t matter what our skin color is. There are white people who are very good persons, but there are also black people who are even better. In short, race does not determine whether one is good or bad.

Hitler was white and he was a despicable being. Had he been black, we’d be hearing comments like “it had to be a black man,” or, “what a black man doesn’t do on his way in, he does on his way out.” I happen to know a lot of white people who have done bad things “on their way out.”

So, please, let’s leave the issue of skin color alone, because it’s irrelevant – don’t you agree?

Nonardo Perea

Nonardo Perea: I see myself as an observant person and I like to write with sincerity what I think and live first hand. I’m shy and of few words; thus it’s difficult for me to engage in conversation. For that reason, my best tool for communicating is writing. I live in Marianao, Havana and am 40 years old.


9 thoughts on “Speaking of Skin Colors in Cuba

  • February 11, 2021 at 11:08 am
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    Malcolm X said that the worst thing about racism was not segregation or the humiliations or the pointless murders – but that “black” people were taught to hate themselves. THINK about that for a moment! The good news is the “european” vision of the world is coming to an abrupt end very soon. Then it will be impossible for the “european” to describe people of color in Their terms and make them believe it. Their party at the expense of the majority of the world’s people is almost over.

  • July 9, 2019 at 9:26 am
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    Its “”internalized racism” in Cuba. Its not on the rise; its always been there!
    Also when we talk about race we must first acknowledge that the notion of Race itself is pure delusion. It does not exist say scientists and spiritual leaders alike. The way human beings look has no significance to anything real, such as intelligence etc!!!!! The way we look is meaningless and human beings cannot be said to be any races in fact say scientists. Google it!!! Recently two genetically identical sisters were born in the UK; one had dark skin, one had white skin. In the UK they are treated like they are different races but their genetic material is identical!!!!!! Race is pure delusion.
    Yes skin colors and the way we look varies but these variances are absolutely meaningless. If you believe anything different, you are delusional! And as you can see, we are all delusional, because despite the truth we almost all believe in race.

    And yes humanity is delusional!!! Say all the spiritual leaders and scientists. We are insane and believe in things that do not exist like race!!!!

    When we talk about race we are actually talk about human delusion and insanity; the real probolems for our species which also say scientists will soon destroy itself!!!

  • March 18, 2018 at 9:55 pm
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    Real talk I thought um only one who notice. Dey as white people ruin this country. I don’t if dey bleach n there self to get tho life. Or dey sum other race. It does make sense. Only culture within all other Latin American community. Don’t make any dam sense at all

  • June 4, 2016 at 1:41 am
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    im a black a cuban and we were raised to ” a delantar la raza “which is what that man in your story is talking about thats a spanish cuban phrase is what my mom who is black rip use to tell me , its just a common thing that we get raised with because our own ppl dnt except us so we grow up being taught that white is right .not justifying it just telling you the origin.god bless.

  • September 30, 2015 at 8:26 am
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    Everything is great and all but…. excuse me? Not all cubans have at least “some” african in them. There are quite a few who have only spainsh and there white as snow.

  • November 12, 2014 at 12:59 pm
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    I agree 100% with your statement that skin colour doesn’t determine whether a person is good or bad. Unfortunately people are automatically more suspicious of a dark skinned person & that seems to be universal.

  • November 12, 2014 at 12:38 pm
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    I agree that it is irrelevant… or rather that it should be irrelevant but the reality is that it is a part of every day life everywhere. Race does not determine the character of a peson but it seems that when things are bad skin color is used as an additional “sin” when darker. I do have to agree when it is said that it is worse in other places but ti think that the extento which it presents in Cuba.

  • November 12, 2014 at 10:53 am
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    A very interesting anecdote at the pharmacy, of the man talking about the skin colour of his daughter. It reminds me of the discussions about race in the great 19th century Cuban novel, “Cecilia Valdés” by Cirilo Villaverde. The various characters were always discussing the varying shades of skin colour as markers of the social strata, from white landowners, to mullato craftsmen & musicians to black slaves. Much of the social interaction of course, was marked by sex and social climbing.

    It seems sometimes that not much has changed.

  • November 12, 2014 at 6:33 am
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    There is racism in Cuba. No doubt about that. I have been the victim of racist views many times myself in Cuba. But to whatever extent racism exists in Cuba, it is much worse in the US. No doubt about that either.

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