Letter Asks for Debate about Cuba’s Race Issues

In 2011, the Negritude Association put forward 50 actions to try and move towards erradicating all forms of racial discrimination in Cuban society.

By IPS Cuba

In recent years, civilian, academic and artistic voices on the island have pushed for actions to try and recover the dignity of Black and mixed-race people. Photo: Jorge Luis Banos/ IPS

HAVANA TIMES – Calling for a meeting with Cuba’s different civil society organizations, so as to debate problems relating to racial discrimination, is one of the proposals featured in the open letter that the Negritude Association (CONEG) sent to Cuban president, Miguel Diaz-Canel.

We received the letter by email, signed by Norberto Mesa, CONEG’s leader and dated August 15th 2019, Havana.

According to Mesa, the letter was delivered to the party-line newspaper Granma on August 19th, and to the People’s Service Office at the Cuban Communist Party’s (PCC) Central Committee, the following day.

The letter has a subheading: “Some considerations about Cuba’s race problem” and asks the leader to lay down the dispositions needed to give a satisfactory response to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, during the next presentation of Cuba’s annual report before this International Convention.

Cuba presented the National Report in May 2018 before the Universal Periodic Review at the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, as the result of implementing recommendations that were accepted during the second review Cuba presented in 2013.

However, this presentation sparked criticism and dissatisfaction among anti-racist academics and activists, who found weaknesses in the information collated by government authorities, as well as deeming it to lack a more profound analysis about the racial issues that affect this Caribbean country.

Finally, the Negritude Association (CONEG) asked the president to do whatever he could so that “those of us Cubans who, for any reason, want to know his opinions about the Island’s race problems, can be seen,” [by the appropriate authorities].

Cuba’s Office of Statistics and Information indicates that the racial composition of Cuba’s 11.2 million inhabitants is as follows: 64.1% white, 9.3% black and 26.6% mixed-race. However, activists claim that these figures aren’t exact as many people don’t identify themselves as black or mixed-race.

Context and precedents

According to the letter, it was sent to the president of the State Council and Council of Ministers “so that the highest members in its ranks could see it and recognize their own responsibility when it comes to the nation’s race problems.”

He recalled that Diaz-Canel spoke about the issue himself on a national TV program in 2016, as well as at the Universal Periodic Review, first as vice-president and then as president of Cuba after April 2018.

The letter also contextualizes what he believes are milestones in racial matters, which took place after the Cuban Revolution triumphed in 1959.

The Negritude Association is a self-organized social activism project that was founded in 1998, looking to raise awareness about Cuban society’s race problem, as well as to establish itself as a space where exchanges between academia and the community can take place.

In 2011, the project presented a proposal with 48 points and actions to obtain more progressive and objective results in the erradication of racial discrimination on the island, as well as to reduce racial inequality which has been reinforced in recent years.

In the past few years, civilian, academic and artistic voices on the island have pushed for actions to try and recover the dignity of Black and mixed-race people, while they have also tried to raise awareness in public spaces and report discriminatory actions because of a person’s skin color.

9 thoughts on “Letter Asks for Debate about Cuba’s Race Issues

  • Cuba always has been a racists country, it’s roots are in the Slavery after all Cuba was the last country in the Western Hemisphere to abolish slavery, during the republic the racism was harsh black people were not allowed to work in banks or department stores only mulatos and light Mulato’s in the departments sores. Batista because he didn’t looks white and his skin and facial traits were not white Cubans called him El Negro because his mother was indigenous from Yucatán. After the Castro family took the power Castro coming from that racist background and knew how racist Cubans are created a plan called. Destabilizing the neighborhood and it was created to make sure that for every family that was leaving the country and leaving the house behind to move a black family in it or building in the area on any empty lot knowing that the neighbors would leave right away that was the way he destroyed the upper and middle class, the police in Cuba is highly racist even when the majority are blacks the high cabinet in the Cuban government are white with the exception of Estaban Lazo every one of them are white. Go and ask any black Cuban if there is racism in cuba and go and ask to a white Cuban if there is racism in cuba and the white would say No and the black would give you testimony of it,

  • What absolute rubbish Manuel to describe “Work is an offshoot of slavery”. How on earth does prison reform mediate the harms of slavery?

  • What absolute rubbish Manuel to describe “Work is an offshoot of slavery”. How on earth does prison reform mediate the harms of slavery?

  • Slavery is a terrible thing to whoever it is applied. Prison reform is a worthwhile effort to mediate the harms of slavery. Work is an offshoot of slavery.

  • African immigrants history is very deep if you look for it.

  • Intelligence is measured in different methodology. If the teaching is done favoring a particular race,ethnic background or religion then there is going to be bias by the ‘ knowledge givers. That is assuming that education is mandatory to a certain level and it’s quality.

  • K Baxter, you most likely don’t live in Cuba and have probably never been there, so how can you write about something you know absolutely nothing about. How can you say black people who live well think they are white. That’s a racist statement in itself.

  • The first necessary action is to hold classes for the MININT goons upon race relations. As they are controlled by Alejandro Castro Espin, he too should attend.
    Racism cannot however be eradicated by legislation, in Cuba it reflects many generations being taught that black people are inferior. Successive Cuban governments pursued programs to encourage white Catholics from Spain (particularly Galicia) to immigrate including in the 19th century extra payment for each slave employed in addition to subsidized land.
    A quick look at photographs of the Communist Party of Cuba hierarchy demonstrates current attitudes. But where would Cuba’s sporting prowess be without black people?

  • Cuba has no black history, because its not in the schools, what I see is must black people are lower than the white people, and the black people living a better life, think there are white. But you have no say in Cuba so how can you better yourself, on lass you have family abroad l don’t think by sanding a letter to the government will change nothing. We always have the problem of race where ever we are.

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