Being or Looking Cuban in Cuba Is Reason for Discrimination

By Glenda Boza Ibarra   (El Toque) 

Photo taken from Cirle Tatis’ Instagram account, a Colombian YouTuber who visited Cuba and was a victim of discrimination because she looked Cuban.


HAVANA TIMES – Cirle Tatis Arzuza (a Colombian YouTuber, anti-racism activist and advocate for Africa’s cultural heritage) experienced “unpleasant events” in Cuba because she looked Cuban.

According to her Instagram account, she felt discriminated against as soon as she landed in Cuba. When she arrived in Vinales, the owner of the house she was staying at thought she was Cuban and took a deep sigh of relief when she clarified where she was from.

“As a Cuban, you don’t want Cubans in your home?” Cirle asked the owner. “They have no respect, they damage everything, they are boisterous, I don’t like them,” the man answered.

Luckily for her, her foreign origins “saved” her. She was allowed to stay at the hostal. The “risk” of not being accepted, even with a booking in advance, is a feeling that many Cuban clients suffer, especially at some tourist accommodation/hotels or state-run and private services.

A few months ago, Ana Maria and her Canadian partner wanted to spend a weekend at the Hotel Covarrubias in Las Tunas. At the Reservations Desk, the receptionist asked if they were married and what the age difference was between them.

“When I told her that he was 15 years older than me and that we were just seeing each other, they “warned” us: even though you have a reservation at the hotel, they might not let us stay,” Ana Maria tells us. “Nearly everyone thinks that I’m a jinetera (hooker) just because I’m black and because I’m with a foreign guy.”

Luis Hernandez, an employee at Cubanacan’s Sales Office in this province, confirms that every establishment reserves the right to allow admission or not.

“Many tourists have complained about seeing very young Cubans with old foreign men in hotels where many families stay,” he says. “There are tourist accommodations, especially on the lower end of the scale, where you can see many cases of (alleged) prostitution.”

As there is no law stipulating any of this, customer protection within Cuba’s domestic business system falls back on Resolution 54/2018. However, nothing is stipulated in this resolution about the right of admission.

Only clause m, from the chapter about customer rights, explains that they should receive a friendly, transparent, fair, non-discriminatory or non-abusive service when it comes to quality, quantity, price, weight, volume, measure of products and services wherever they are purchased.


Cirle’s “bad experiences” in Cuba included the time when her and her partner tried to change money at a hotel, but the guard told them that the service was only available for guests. If they wanted to change money, she would need to wait outside.

“If you only change money for customers, why would you change it for Mario? Because he was a tourist, like the guard himself said, but I was also a tourist, spending 2000 euros in his country. So what was the difference between Mario and I?” Cirle wondered. “I never in my wildest dreams thought that looking Cuban because I was Black might cause me so much humiliation.”


During her stay at a 5* hotel resort in Cayo Guillermo, she and a friend were treated with disdain, after being confused with one of “those Cubans who leave the country and then change their accent when they come back to seem different.”

“I was there, paying exactly the same as they [their partners] were, white and European men, but I didn’t deserve decent treatment,” she also said on her Instagram. “It was as if I deserved better treatment if I said I wasn’t Cuban.”

Even when there were 1,689,804 local holiday-makers in 2018 (36% of the total), there have been many complaints from Cubans about being treated poorly at various tourist establishments.

The Cuban president, Miguel Diaz-Canel, pointed out the following during the minister of Tourism’s annual assessment: “we have to defend a single quality: the highest quality possible, both for international and national tourists. We can’t differentiate between one person and another. We all have to be served to the best of a professional’s ability.”

Just over five months since these declarations, stories continue to reel in.

Recently, Cuban singer Ana Yadira Cabanas complained on her Facebook page about the fact that the Hotel Parque Central in Havana, refused to allow her to go out on the terrace because, according to the guard, “the hotel reserves the right to admission or not.”

“It seemed like I was going to rob something by the way the guard treated me, that or he thought that I didn’t have enough money to enter a place like this one,” Cabanas wrote on the social media platform. “Complaining to his manager was worse, because he was even more despotic and rude than the guard.”

As there is no space for Cuban citizens to file formal reports, Cubans have decided to use social media to show their unhappiness with some services or recount events when they were victims of discrimination.

Miguel Angel Diaz also wrote on his Facebook page that in a disagreement about the hike up of transport prices to Vinales, a private driver blurted out that he didn’t let Cubans on board his car.

Pissed off he got out of the car, while the rest of his foreign companions wondered what had happened.

“I’s very common for Cubans who offer services to international tourism, to use discriminatory terms for their fellow Cubans.” Diaz said.

17 thoughts on “Being or Looking Cuban in Cuba Is Reason for Discrimination

  • Cirle Tatis knows nothing about Cuba, other than her brief experience trying to book an AirBNB.

    I don’t know what her reality is in Colombia, but Cuba has its own realities, which locals don’t need any foreign critiquing of.

    Best that she takes her attitude back to Colombia and keep the word “Cuba” out of her mouth.

  • As one who has made several visits to the USA and had business dealings with horse breeders from Tennessee employing black grooms, I agree with you Vanessa that racism in the US is even worse than Cuba. Neither is excusable, racism is abhorrent wherever practiced.

  • I am aware of the “race relations” problems in the UK David which really started when London Transport imported a lot of employees from Jamaica in particular both also other parts of the West Indies. But I can assure you that in Cuba the difficulties for black people are even greater than in the UK – where it varies by region. The black people of Cuba are almost without exception descended from slaves taken to Cuba by the Spanish and as slavery did not end until 1885, they are in general treated as inferior. I know from the experience of being married to a black Cuban. Glad you enjoyed your holiday, come back again in the future.

  • Hi we recently visited Cuba, on holiday. We enjoyed it, however our tour guide did say that black people do have things harder. So no change there then. We are black family from England.

  • I had the quite opposite experience. I am black American woman and went to Cuba for the first time this June. I was staying at a casa particular in Vedado. Ironically, I thought my passing as a Cuban actually helped me gain respect and access to spaces that were typically not designated to tourists. In fact, I found the United States to be more racist against me as a black woman. However, I keep hearing stories similar stories like this which are truly disheartening.

  • Well…. unfortunately us Cubans do destroy everything and have no respect and therefore i have to agree with some of the things in this article however generalizing is WRONG.

  • Quite right Mariam! Use the casa particulares operated by their Cuban owners. Forget the GAESA owned hotels managed by foreign companies. My wife is a black Cuban and I have previously described in these pages the abhorrent experiences we have had as a mixed race couple – and particularly with the State Police – the MININT goons – who are controlled by the KGB trained Alejandro Castro Espin, Raul Castro’s son.
    Racism is rife in Cuba.

  • I always loved the idea of a Cuba as a place where you don’t experience racism. Each time I travel there, I use a different hotel….The hotel Cienfeugos was over runned with cats. The staff was very rude. They believed I was Cuban also. Next visit, I will not be supporting a hotel…

  • I won’t comment on the racism part of this article because I am white and generally end up on the other side of the story–being treated well because it’s easy to tell I’m not …fill in the blank, whatever groups are treated poorly…black, Cuban, etc… But…for those tourists who have bad experiences (and commented to that effect above), at resorts or at major tourist destinations, my advice is just dig deeper, stay at casas, learn some Spanish which is a nice way to show some respect to the Cuban people who are waiting on you when you travel there…and you’ll find much better experiences. Break out of the tourist bubble the best you can and Cuba opens up. It doesn’t take much.

  • You missed the not-so-subtle point of the article. BLACK tourists who look Cuban are treated worse than WHITE tourists. As a Black American, I am a personal witness to this. As I have commented on this blog before, I have been out with my white Cuban friends and been discriminated against by police, restaurant staff and hotel service personnel. Of course, once I begin to speak,although I am fluent in Spanish, my yuma accent gives me away. In most cases, the discriminatory tones evaporate and the bootlicking begins. Although I can also attest that every once in a while, a Cuban will insist that I am Cuban and simply pretending to be a foreigner. Go figure!

  • I have experience racism as a female black tourist and it shocked when it happened. Once i tried to get a taxi and none would pick me up. I had to ask a white store employee to hail a taxi for me. He did and the taxi stopped for him.

    Another time, i was staying at one resort and friends were staying at another. I was picking up friends at their hotel and the guard atthe gate mentioned to the taxi driver in English not to let me out of the taxi. He looked at me sitting in the back of the taxi and assumed i was Cuban.

    I shrugged it off because i know the game. It can turn black tourists off as we are not used to type of treatment.

    I love Cuba and have in-laws there but this is not right. We are in the 21st century this should not be happening.

  • The Truth is it Just Now Coming OUT To The World, Discrimination Through Out Cuba. I really thought it was my fault for being a Snow White Canadian, Most Every Where in Cuba Except My Wife,s Home Campo area I am Looked at as if I am Not Permitted to Care for & Love a Lady of Darker Skin Then Mine. I Was Going LOCO with Anger to find out skin make,s us Different in Cuba, Of all Nations Cuba I thought this was Never Possible. Cuban,s Today Where are you Headed, Right Down as low in Life can Possibly Get, If you can not Get With it, The rest of the Open World you will always Stay Under there Real World. Skin Color Makes a Person Different & I ask Those that think This Way. What World Do You Come From. Thank you all For Explaining the Open Honesty into Cuba Today. JUST a Pissed OFF Canadian That Has Seen Cuba,s Real Color,s & It has Hurt Many of us to Feel we are Not Excepted as equal. Resorts, Hotels, Casa,s, Stores, Taxi,s, Just about Any Where We together Contact other Cubans.

  • We went to Ambos Mundos for a couple of drinks and to enjoy the view. The view was spectacular. However, the service was not. At all. I am Canadian and my wife is Mexican. At one point my wife needed to go to the washroom and was barred from entering. The woman who was the gatekeeper to the washrooms was blocking the entrance and not allowing her to enter until she paid her to use the bathroom; as my wife didn’t have any change on her, she returned to the table. I then went to the woman and questioned her about this. Long story short, I paid for my wife to be able to pee, amidst explanations that the woman was doing it just for ‘a propina’. My wife was humiliated. Adding insult to injury, the service was horrible, the ‘specialty drinks’ were undrinkable, and after we paid, the waitress misplaced our bill and payment and we had to go after her to find it in order to leave. Never, never again.

  • Cuban people in Cuban all inclusive resorts act like animals ordering 15 pizzas at a time because they can. They also come to the bar barking out drink orders while other tourists are standing there and haven’t yet been served. They order 20 straight double rums at a time and fill up empty plastic soda bottles and throw the plastic cups in the pool. Their kids are unruly and undisciplined taking attitude out of their parents’ playbook. It’s enough to make you stay away from certain resorts like Ranch Luna in Cienfuegos.

  • I can attest to this.

    As a Afro-Caribbean who lived in Cuba for 5 years up until a few years ago, I was treated like an absolute criminal. I was constantly denied access to hotels, denied service at restaurants, harassed by authorities (both black and white), harassed by white tourists, etc. I came to Cuba with such high hopes, thinking that it was a ‘utopia’ for black people and other marginalized groups based on the propaganda of the Cuban government. I was completely wrong. After living and travelling to over 15 countries (including the United States), I truly believe Cuba is one of the worst countries in the world for a black person to live and grow in, especially if you are a black woman.

    Though I was born in another country, my roots are Cuban but I am ashamed of that part of my heritage and will not go back to that dungeon.

  • I have been to Cuba several times and in the last several years I have noticed more of an influx of Cubans to the resorts. I see the opposite happening. The Cubans get better service and are treated better at the resorts because they speak Spanish and because they can relate to the workers. I have had to push my way in and be somewhat rude to get service, which isn’t right. I dont really understand this, as I am leaving my money and tips here which you would think would be welcomed. Cuba was the best years ago but I wont be going back. Thefe is often lack of respect for the tourist now.

  • Anyone who knows Cuba well will acknowledge that Cubans are treated as second class citizens in their own country. It reflects the communist practice of creating a proletariat “mass” and eradicating the bourgeois. The “mass” is there to be directed and not to question authority but to show respect for it. That starts in the schools and as Raul Castro said on the 7th July, 2013:
    “One must take into account that the family and school must instill respect for the rules of society, from early childhood.”
    By “society” Raul Castro means communism dictate and repression.
    There is some form of fixation in Cuba about the age differences between couples. But although there is much reference to the US and Donald Trump, no one comments that the President of the US is twenty six years older than his wife. In France President Macron was a student who married his teacher.

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