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