Regina Cano

Photo by Caridad

Many people assume that being black is one of my daily concerns, as if that condition condemns me to always being a victim.

Each one of us has felt discrimination at some time in their life: for being fat, bald, homosexual, or very thin, for being left-handed or shy, elderly or a kid, for belonging to the female sex, or for being slow or very intelligent, for being Russian, Arab, Chinese or African.  My goodness! – the list is long.

In Cuba, where black slaves were once brought, the issue remains touchy.  The problem is that there always existed a thousand ways to humiliate, subjugate, control and relegate, as well as to subdue and sway blacks.

Some people here treat us with paternalism, which becomes annoying.  And referring to us as “people of color,” morenos (brown-skinned), prietos (blackish) or “the darkest,” they continue to mark the difference.

It’s worth mentioning that interracial discrimination also subsists and divides us.  Some blacks react aggressively if you refer to them directly as “black” (which is the “color” of our race); they look at this as if you had intentionally “shit on their mother.”*

Accepting ones blackness in an atmosphere that is discriminatory (though generally muted), in a country that formally declares itself non-discriminatory with regard to race, entails much practice and great effort at being a full “human being,” above everything else. It means being aware of wanting to live this short life with whatever it brings for each living soul, and by this I’m referring to the consciousness and valuation of who I am from my inner self.

Therefore, among my people there are those who have already surpassed this obstacle, while others are at different points on the map of discrimination.

I have heard and seen how we as blacks coexist with this atmosphere.  I’ve witnessed the defenses that are created that discriminate against the rest, such as:

– That’s a black thing.

– People of our color have to help themselves.

– Black people are something else.

– (S)he’s a black piolo (Uncle Tom).

– or ridiculing a white for certain things they do.

Likewise, there are discriminatory phrases toward others, such as:

– If a black person doesn’t do it at the entrance, they’ll do it at the exit.

– You didn’t do so badly, for a black person.

– Need makes you give birth to mulatto children.*

Or notions of self-marginalization like:

– He/she thinks like white people (so they’ll do better).

– Those are white people’s things.

I think that if black Cubans subjected to discrimination would see the reality from the perspective of the observer who analyzes the pros and cons, the origin and the consequences of what holds us down; they would notice that what really paralyzes us is self-discrimination.

That need was created for us to compare ourselves with the others, but it was based on the very conditions that the others imposed.

Black people, genetically and socially, possess the same conditions here as everyone else to develop themselves.  In addition, our being greater in numbers and our strength, opinions and social incidence should not be dismissed.

Pain doesn’t allow us to look beyond, and the capacities possessed allows for seeking a place within integration.  Though others insist on making us feel different but we have sufficient weapons to confront that.

I believe that discrimination against blacks in Cuba is something to leave to the minds of those who are not black or who don’t consider themselves as such, and who suffer because the race exists.

* Referring to children born of black and white parents. Well! It seems that having sex with blacks is done out of necessity.

Regina Cano

Regina Cano: I have lived my entire life in Havana, Cuba – the island from which I’ve still never left, and which I love. I was born on September 9, and my parents chose my name out of superstition, but my mother raised me outside the religion professed by her family. I studied accounting and finance at the University of Havana, a profession that I’m not engaged in for the time being, and that I substituted for doing crafts, some ceramics, and studying a little English and about painting. Ah! – concerning my picture: I identify with Rastafarian principles, but I am not one of them. I wear this cap from time to time, but I assure you I just didn't have a better picture.

6 thoughts on “Negritude in Cuba

  • A socialist society will have a conscious, well-thought-out policy of encouraging all citizens to engage with @ other as human beings 1st & 4most. Our “identities” & (racial/ethnic) “heritage” should B about as relevant as the color of our hair & eyes & the disposition of our various personalities, under socialism. & progressing 2 complete irrelevance under communism. My own rather modest problems with overcoming the various ‘ethnic/lifestyle-relations’ gaps I have been confronted with in my life have demonstrated to me conclusively — aside from any theory proving it in other ways — that the dialectic of social unity vs. discrete individuality does indeed have a ‘happy medium’ which *can* be found, if even with some effort: a happy medium which no doubt will remain a moving target 4 the duration of our long social march from socialism-capitalism to communism.

    Simply put: the cuban government absolutely must come up with the resources to unify the working-class.

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