Black and Counter-revolutionary in Cuba?

By Yusimi Rodriguez

Discutiendo sobre politica
Discussing politics. Photo: Juan Suarez

HAVANA TIMES — I regularly read the articles written by my fellow writer, Elio Delgado Legon, who adds a touch of humor to this website for many of its readers. Personally, his greatest virtue, without him intending to do this, is to show the plurality of Havana Times, an independent media website which Delgado often criticizes, with a space for someone whose ideas vary greatly from those of the majority of its collaborators and readers. This inclusive space for all kinds of ideas and opinions is the greatest difference between the Cuban government’s media and Havana Times, which isn’t an institution owned by any political party.

Recently, a reader asked Elio Delgado, in a comment left on his post, if he was paid to write his articles. This is a question that has crossed my mind every time Elio Delgado labels independent journalists “mercenaries”. I still don’t know the answer to that question and I hope it’s negative: it’s the only way that my colleague would seem coherent to me. If it’s positive, I ask myself whether our colleague thinks it’s justified to charge for writing in independent media, when it’s to talk about the government in a positive light.

In a recent post, Elio classifies the hunger strike carried out by Guillermo Farinas as a “business”. I don’t know Farinas personally, but I doubt he’d be so stupid as to start a hunger strike for money when the chances are that he’ll probably never be able to enjoy it. So many hunger strikes take their toll on your body; holding another one is more like committing suicide than a business really.

We live in a country where you are guilty until you’re proven innocent, and even if your innocence is proven, where you can be charged on conviction, without the need for evidence; where political prisoners and prisoners of conscience aren’t recognized as such. Therefore, I’m forced to seriously doubt the charges filed at Santa Clara’s Provincial Court against Guillermo Farinas.

However, I do coincide with Elio Delgado on one point: I wouldn’t stretch out my hand to Luis Posada Carriles either. I don’t hate him, not like those who lost their relatives in terrorist attacks which he has confessed to or is suspected of having carried out. However, I don’t identify myself with him or his methods. Nevertheless, I find it contradictory that our colleague resorts to precisely the words of former US President George W. Bush to reinforce the idea that whoever is friends with a terrorist (although stretching your hand out in greeting doesn’t automatically make you anybody’s friend) is also a terrorist.

Guillermo Fariñas. File photo: miamiherald
Guillermo Fariñas. File photo: miamiherald

Seeing as our colleague has opened this door, let’s examine it shall we. In the film City in Red, which was recently aired on Cuban TV, the main character says to his father with pride: “I make bombs.” Last night, they aired the film Operacion Fangio about the kidnapping of the Argentinian race car driver who was kidnapped by the July 26th Movement, which had an operations and sabotage unit. For decades, the Cuban government offered refuge to US citizens who had been charged with crimes including murder in their own country; many of them hijacked airplanes to get to Cuba.

Just for the record, I don’t believe that whoever is friends with a terrorist is also a terrorist.

Another detail which has caught my attention in Elio Delgado’s article: “…for being a counter-revolutionary in spite of being black…” (referring to Guillermo Farinas). Although I don’t have my photo up on Havana Times, readers should know that I am black, and can imagine how taken aback I was when I realized how charged this phrase was with racism.

Racism isn’t an issue that belongs exclusively to black people or so-called ethnic minorities. Many white people have got involved, and even lost their lives, in the struggle for equal civil rights in the US and in the fight against apartheid in South Africa. Many white people fight against racism even today. And I’m sure that a lot of the white audience were able to pick up on the racist mentality that lies behind that phrase. Not only Elio Delgado’s own racist mentality, but also that of the political regime that was established in Cuba in 1959.

The regime has denied Cubans their right to freedom of expression, to join political parties of our own accord and in a legal sense, to choose a different path from that set out by Fidel Castro. We’ve been injected with the idea that if white people don’t have the right to oppose the regime, we black Cubans certainly don’t, because if we’ve managed to become something it’s thanks to the Revolution. In other words, you can’t be both black and “counter-revolutionary” (a term which they use to discredit dissidents).

We can’t deny the fact that this so-called Revolution has improved the lives of a large part of the Cuban population, including those of Afro-Descendants. However, the regime has taken advantage of these improvements in the same way that Carlos Manuel de Cespedes did when he freed his slaves, inviting them to join the war against Spain: thereby guaranteeing committed, indebted subordinates.


In one of those articles that appear and then are spread virally about by the Left, an exiled black Cuban intellectual stated that in the Revolution, the black man became a subordinate revolutionary.

Elio Delgado claims that it would have been impossible for Guillermo Farinas to have studied a university degree before 1959; another idea planted by the regime to convert us into subordinates. Not all black Cuban families owe their first university degree to the rebellion led by Fidel Castro.

A lot of the assaults and beatings that happen here, which Elio denies, appear in videos. When somebody who dares to disagree is a black person, beatings are accompanied by insults about the color of his skin: “black shit”, “ungrateful niggers”, “…some niggers who never had any rights and are now demanding more than what they have.”

I’m sure Elio Delgado will deny his racist mentality and argue the fact that he has a lot of black friends. I once knew a black man who, when he went to see his white girlfriend for the first time at home, was welcomed by her parents with the utmost kindness… while they understood him to be just a friend from her pre-university class. I must note that when the girl presented him as her boyfriend, her father “went white”. By the way, her father had a lot of black friends and had fought for the “Revolution” in the Sierra Maestra.

13 thoughts on “Black and Counter-revolutionary in Cuba?

  • When In Rome do as the Romans do. I find they key to understanding other peoples viewpoints is to see from their perspective before I put my
    own beliefs, ethics or moral judgement on their own systems and
    say ‘were better’…

  • That Ben depends upon whether the Cuban concerned is black or white. Just as an aside about Saudi Arabia, maybe you ought to have inserted that their expressed views are those of males only.

  • racism was invented by Trotsky. I guess the Cubans understand.

  • I fail to understand what your comment Ben has to do with racism in Cuba. Perhaps if you explained, one could respond.

  • Try walking in Saudi Arabia unattended. All countries have their customs
    and many turn their back on globalised society…as they see it as decadent
    and degenerate.

  • If only it were that “black and white”. Pun intended.

  • I would think a child watching the Sudanese militia murder his father, rape his mother and being dragged off into slavery from his home in Darfur is worse than suffering a backhanded racist slur from a co-worker in Connecticut, but perhaps I’m wrong.

  • The reason that I believe racism is worse in the United States is because in, as you have correctly stated, those countries where there is institutional and oftentimes even legal racism, there is no pretense of fairness. On the contrary, you know exactly what to expect from your government and the racists oppressors. In the United States and Cuba to a lesser extent, racism is veiled by traditions and the expression of personal choice. As a result, as someone vulnerable to racism in the US, I can tell you first-hand that I never know when racism will rear it’s disgusting head from the sewer to ridicule, obstruct, ignore, assault or even kill me. It lurks in the shadows and attacks from behind. I have often said that I prefer to cross paths with a Klansman from Alabama then accidently bump into closet racist from Connecticut. At least with the Klansman I know what to expect. US racism is worse because it pretends it doesn’t exist. After all, we have a black President.

  • If you think racism in the US is the worst on the planet, then you haven’t been to very many countries. There are several countries which still practice institutionalized racism as a matter of public policy, including race-based slavery.

  • An oppressive regime has not right telling the people that fought to help it that they can’t buck the system. What good are the changes if people don’t have the freedom to criticize it and help make it better? I wasn’t around during the Batista era, but my parents tell me horror stories of rampant racism similar to the USA. Cuba certainly does NOT need to return to that. Its 2016. Time for the Castro to step away and let Cuba forge ahead. It is inevitable at this rate. With relationships being established between Cuba and the USA, the Castro regime won’t last much longer anyway.

  • 1959 was a long time ago. The time to hold the government accountable for a better future is more than ripe. It is time to discuss freedom and progress. It is a false choice that the option of the current condition is a return to 1950’s Cuba.

  • To be sure, racism in the United States remains the worst on the planet. But make no mistake, racism is alive and well in Cuba. The Castro revolution may have improved conditions for Afro-Cuban so, but it did not end racism as Fidelity Castro declared.

  • The regime poses as being none-racist, but that is a total falsehood. my wife and I just need to walk hand-in-hand down the street in Havana to be stopped by the MININT state police – we are a mixed race couple.
    Question No. 6, Cuban Government Census 2012:
    What is the colour of your skin?

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