Fired for Criticizing Racism in Cuba

Robert Zurbano
Robert Zurbano

HAVANA TIMES – The Cuban intellectual Roberto Zurbano, has been “liberated” (the Cuban government language for dismissed) from his position as director of the publishing house of Casa de las Americas, following the publication in The New York Times of an article critical of racism in Cuba.

Zurbano told a meeting of the Regional African Descent in Latin America and the Caribbean, Cubano Chapter (ARAC), the decision of Casa de las Americas was to offer him another position.

Meanwhile, ARAC issued a public statement (in Spanish) “strongly supporting the free expression of ideas by all of its activists”, and opposed “institutional or personal procedures that are of a repressive or obstructive nature against any participant in such controversies”.

8 thoughts on “Fired for Criticizing Racism in Cuba

  • Zurbano is a traitor and had he really had any real issues why now/ In Cuba we call him a house negro

  • So much for freedom of speech. When will we all realize that until the reality of racism is admitted and discussed, it will remain a festering cancer in our society? Having been to Cuba recently, I can attest to the fact that racism is alive and well and all you have to do is scratch the surface to find it. In terms of the Zurbano comments, if he is incorrect in his assessment, then the proper response is an open and public dialogue, not muzzling the voice. “No se puede tapar el cielo con las manos.” Reality is reality, whether officialdom chooses to recognize it or not.

  • Zurbano’s article has generated much discussion in the States and in Europe. Despite vilification (as exemplified by a column I read the other day in ESCAMBREY), or silence by the official Cuban press, I’m sure just as much discussion is being generated on independent blogs in Cuba. Essentially, I agree with Zurbano’s points in the NYT article, echoed by many of the commentators here. Of course the racism in Cuba, as well as here in the States, is intertwined with class. Both problems will not be solved by denial and sweeping them under the rug, which once again is the Revolution’s lame response.

  • The firing of Zurbano is just another exhibition of the racialist arrogance and impunity of the top-down, degenerate bureaucracy that passes for the leadership of the Cuban revolution today. One truly wonders what really shaped up their childhoods and what goes on in the minds of the Gallego gene-pool, just-us, historic leadership. As an anecdote of their confounding racial attitudes, both Fidel and Raul, self-professed atheists, attend the consecration of the Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Havana. Raul attends Hanukkah celebrations with the Jewish community. But these same atheists will not be caught dead attending an Afro-Cuban religious ceremony! They will spend much money on completely free training of African and Caribbean students, fight for African liberation but will not share power with Afro-Cubans and they have made sure with the “right” appointments that not in their lifetime nor their children’s will there be a Cuban Obama of any persuasion.
    Nothing in Zurbano’s article in the NYT can be deemed as offensive. In fact it is quite clear that Mr Zurbano wrote in self-conscious and carefully-measured tones. He does not lay the blame for racism at the feet of the Cuban government. Rather he underlines the burden of centuries of racial oppression that the Cuban revolution inherited. He points out, much like a social scientist, the dynamics of family remittances from the exile community and job connections to the tourist industry as important economic factors that are unleashing race-based social mobility and acute class stratification. I cannot be so generous and self-censuring on the issue at hand, given the consistent marginalization, if not absence, of Afro-Cubans from real leadership positions for the past fifty years. The presence of Afro-Cubans in the People’s Power Assembly is meaningless given that it is a rubber-stamp institution and that real power resides in the the Council of State and Council of Ministers. The removal of Lazo Hernandez from the collective Vice Presidency and his appointment as President of the People’s Power Assembly is therefore actually a demotion. If the Peoples Power Assembly had critically done its job and not rubber-stamped every decision and initiative and appointment put before it, there wouldn’t be any need for the “reforms” now being undertaken.
    Zurbano should remain proud that he didn’t become a “house negro” for the geriartric, “gallego”, government. Nor a decorative fixture or token at Casa to perpetrate the fraud of racial diversity when there was none. Let Raul Castro go ahead and be himself and appoint another nice gallego boy for the role!

  • I don´t really know why he was suspended. Racism does exist in Cuba, not fro the side of the government, but in everyday`s life. I´m not Cuban, most of my Cuban friends are or mulatos or black. Nobody cared for them before unless thy got a white friend ( me- european). All of a sudden things changed ( also for financial reason). I myself experienced people calling african-cuban things like dirty monkeys or “este feo negro” etc. What maybe was not do well chosen in his article was the headline, which could give a very wrong impression. I commented on MSN Latino basicly the same way I did here, also to correct the ( unvoluntarily) created image as it seemed to me, that Cuba was a racist state.

  • No surprise there. If you speak the “inconvenient truth” in Cuba you are sanctioned.

    As far as racism in Cuba goes: it is widespread. It was never eradicated as the regime once claimed.

    For those interested in racism in Cuba see the data and links at:

  • It takes uncommon courage for a Cuban such as Roberto Zurbano to express an honestly held opinion. Outrageous but sadly not surprising that this can result in getting fired from your job.

  • So you see? Black intellectuals are just as equally oppressed as white intellectuals. There’s no racism in Cuba. And if you say any different, you will be fired.

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