Black Dolls in Cuba

By Caridad

My best friend was Albertico
My best friend was Albertico

 

The first doll I ever had was black. She was a skinny little thing, with a plastic body and a rubber head. I don’t remember how it was dressed.

The second one was chubby-I liked that better-and it was also dark skinned.

My first doll came from Angola, the only souvenir my father brought back from his military service in that country. But the second was from Cuba, as were the third and fourth. All of them were black.

During this stage of my life, one of my favorite music and dance groups was Boney M. I glowed imitating their costumes and their dancing. My first friend was Albertico; he was darker than asphalt, and so was my second friend.

One afternoon, while we were playing in the schoolyard, the leader of the group decided to play a new game. We weren’t more than seven years old, and all of us wanted to be on the same team as Ricardo, the liveliest.

Most of us were happy when we could be with him and his group, because they were white.

There were only three or four mulatto and black kids. I hung around with them. It wasn’t that I had any consciousness about justice or anything like that; I was simply one of them. I didn’t understand the reason for the separation.

We didn’t continue playing that game much longer.

One thing I’ve thought a lot about is that several years later I suffered bitterly, with the proverbial sensitivity of adolescence, because my mother, jokingly, insisted that I had thick African lips.

I still had friends who were black. Apparently my way of thinking wasn’t racist. So why did I feel so upset about having a physical trait that gave away my dark roots? Was this just an adolescent complex? I couldn’t be sure.

Although my family (all of them) would give their blood (all of it) for the Revolution, they have suffered with every black boyfriend or girlfriend brought home by any of us-sons, daughters, nieces, nephews or grandchildren.

And when I say suffer, I mean seriously, and big time. None of them will openly confess the reason for their suffering, although they reveal signs, and none would ever do anything to harm a black person; on the contrary, they have friends of that color. But from friendship to love is a long stretch.

Even though I grew up with Cuban society’s anti-racist pronouncements, the remarks I overheard when people spoke amongst themselves-the jokes and prejudices of their entire lives before 1959-became ingrained deep in me.

Luckily, my adolescence ended. I continue to love people as I did in my childhood, without noticing how white or black they might be. But I doubt that the adults in my family have managed to love others as in their childhood. They didn’t have the same opportunity that my generation has had.

Now there is an African-American president in the United States. Heroes and heroines of African descent are becoming common in cartoons and movies. Soon, the black dolls will once again return to Cuba.

Although the matter is much more complicated than the existence of those toys, I’m sure that these are each child’s first friends. These will help when youth enter their adolescence; they won’t feel bad because their hair is not like their white pop star idols, nor will they feel ashamed when introducing their black boyfriend or girlfriend to their family and friends.

At the moment, those dolls still haven’t returned. I wonder; will it be necessary to wait for others to produce them for us?

Caridad

Caridad: If I had the chance to choose what my next life would be like, I’d like to be water. If I had the chance to eliminate a worst aspect of the world I would erase fear. Of all the human feelings I most like I prefer friendship. I was born in the year of the first Congress of the Cuban Communist Party, the day that Gay Pride is celebrated around the world. I no longer live on the east side of Havana; I’m trying to make a go of it in Caracas, and I continue to defend my right to do what I want and not what society expects of me.



11 thoughts on “Black Dolls in Cuba

  • Sister Yordanka

    Ok i bit.lol ..However, this story is so provacative that i will ned to step back, take a breath and think about some of the things said here. However My sister..i shall return trust me.

    ps. Great article

    Reply
  • It is troubling how, despite our best conscious efforts, racism persists. For me, overcoming it has been an unending, life-long, struggle. By emphasizing the inherent worth of each individual’s soul, Religion, in its exploration of the nature of love, has led the way in overcoming racism. On the other hand, I cannot accept this mystification of the relationship between humans and cosmos.

    Reply
  • My youngest daughter went to a day-care with all boys; hence she became socialized as a “tomboy!” She HATED dolls, especially Barbie Dolls, of whom she and the boys offered up in several sacrificial ceremonies! Fortunately, as she grew into adolescence, she mellowed out and grew into a more tradional role!

    Reply
  • For myself and AfroCuban with some Euro features and dredlocks i can tell you that color unconciousness.. comes from the heart of man. Suffice that where you have not tingled with the humdrum of racism perhaps it stems from what some hear from those closet( at home)

    Reply
  • Once again as Michael has said, it is troubling and obviously botehrs you. However, when i was young my parents taught me to be proud of myself ,my hair, my family and most importnat my AFRICAN CULTURE.
    Having said this, it also helps when we become concious of WORDS and how we describe differences

    Reply
  • i speak about words because in your piece you use euphemisms like THICK AFRICAN LIPS,.dark roots do u mean African roots?, the suffering in your home relative to black boyfriends etc? happy to have white friend who u liked to be around..I picked out those words be cause they seem to be used to separate you from blackness

    Reply
  • Separate you from the African descendant? which had obviously been a thorn at home.
    Last sister, there is nothing to be ashamed of, but rather much to be proud of, you are articulate, obviously caring, and seeking to air a pain in your spirit in a way that you feel comfortable with..When will you speak to family and tell them what hurts and affects you..maybe its time

    Reply
  • Here in Cuba, my fam is well known. Most people have never met me because i have always lived in the US since i was a teen with visits often after many yrs. When my young family members look at me i can feel the questions which come as..How do you deal with being black in the US?..and i say..i look in the mirror and say..Milagros Vega Garcia Villamil, there is no me without you..and no u without me.

    Reply
  • Finally, Yordanka

    Children all over the world are caught up in the madness of adults who often react to colour in ways that leave thier children baffled. So my believe and knowledge is that often adults need a spiritual awakening, and a new reality. Love, compassion, integrity, morality, ethics and acceptance did not begin with crayola.

    Good night Sis
    thank you for sharing

    Reply
  • Hey Dana

    If they talk back you have a problem..lol

    Reply

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