Critique of Racism in Cuba Under Fire

Roberto Zurbano

HAVANA TIMES — Following criticisms of racism on the island leveled by Cuban scholar Roberto Zurbano last week in The New York Times, several cultural figures have weighed into the debate.

“I found it outrageous that a black Cuban revolutionary bluntly claimed that ‘for black Cubans, the revolution hasn’t begun,” wrote Guillermo Rodríguez Rivera in the blog of singer-songwriter Silvio Rodriguez.

The officialist website La Jiribilla also criticized the intellectual for using “the wrong publication and the wrong language.” The journal explained the writer’s misstep on “(his young) age and not having experienced that stage or having well documented it.”

In his article Zurbano said, “The private sector on the island now enjoying a certain degree of economic liberalization, but blacks aren’t well positioned to take advantage of it.” He also criticized the Cuban government for having been “unable to overcome” racism” in his 54 years in power.

Unofficial sources close to the author commented that the title of the article in The New York Times was changed by the publisher. Instead of “For Black Cubans, the Revolution Hasn’t begun,” it should have read “For Black Cubans, the Revolution Isn’t Over.”

 See comments on the NYT interview by Esteban Morales.


3 thoughts on “Critique of Racism in Cuba Under Fire

  • I didn’t think Morales reviled or trashed Zurbano to excess. Nothing wrong with two Cuban writers having somewhat differing points of view, even on a highly charged issue like racism.

    If there is evidence to support the accusations that the senior management of the New York Times chose the article title or manipulated the Zurbano’s article in other ways, please provide it. Most large circulation newspapers employ copy editors to write headlines. Copy editors write titles for dozens of stories. Sometimes they get it wrong.

  • Stop reviling Zurbano without information.

    Morales should know better from his own experience.

    please read the whole thing.

    here’s excerpt.

    “…To pile on, Diario de Cuba, a dissident publication, and Marti Noticias, part of the vast radio and TV Marti enterprises, both issued their twisted versions of a Spanish translationahead of anything by the New York Times. The exiled plantocracy is ever ready to define Cubans to themselves.

    The overly harsh title of the article was chosen by the New York Times’ senior management, and designed to sell as well as promote their neoconservative agenda. It ws imposed at the last minute without informing the author. The oriignal title was ‘EL PAIS QUE VIENE: ¿Y MI CUBA NEGRA?” It is the price you pay for dissemination in the top US paper. The text deals with realities that many are uncomfortable discussing, yet the first step in dealing with them is to discuss them and get them discussed. As the article points out, Raúl Castro has recognized the persistence of racism. In fact, Raúl stated: “”Personally, I consider the insufficient advance on this matter in 50 years of Revolution to be a disgrace.”

    The New York Times insisted on doing the translation of the original article in Spanish, the better to manipulate the situation. Their first draft was heavily overlaid with the language of the plantocracy. After arduous negotiations, they relented on many points but some items slipped through — for example, the use of the term “the Castros,” which is is viewed on the island as an exile expression.

    The Times has a history of tampering with the facts on a variety of topics and on the issue of Blacks in Cuba in particular. Those with a long enough memory can recall their article on Robert F. Williams which claimed he had a falling out with “the Castros” and had turned against the Revolution. This was a bold lie — Williams, who had been chased out of the US by the FBI, had problems in Cuba with some Soviet oriented middle management, with the Soviets themselves, and with the FBI dominated Communist Party USA. He was on very good terms with Che Guevara. As a result of the Time’s article, Robert F. Williams was banned from ever returning to Cuba, as I discovered in the early 90’s when Williams’ friends asked me to discuss a possible return visit with a Cuban consular official. The response was an immediate, terse but diplomatic “no en ese momento.” Before trashing Zurbano to excess, the comrades might want to recall this history, they could ask Néstor García Iturbe who seems well acquainted with these events and recently wrotean article about Williams….”

    Anya Achtenberg

  • There is a great deal more to this story, see The story is very much developing. The original title was ‘EL PAIS QUE VIENE: ¿Y MI CUBA NEGRA?’ . Our best to the fine folks at Havana Times.

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