Cuba’s Pending Racial Debate

Fernando Ravsberg*

Cuba’s shantytowns and tenement buildings, where extremely poor living conditions prevail, are populated chiefly by black people. Foto: Raquel Perez
Cuba’s shantytowns and tenement buildings, where extremely poor living conditions prevail, are populated chiefly by black people. Foto: Raquel Perez

HAVANA TIMES — In 1925, Las Margaritas, the birthplace of Cuban singer Celia Cruz, was one of Havana’s poor black neighborhoods. Today, the children who live in this shantytown have free access to education and healthcare, but little of the deplorable living conditions that prevailed back then has changed, and its inhabitants are still, for the most part, of the same skin color.

León Mago Rodríguez, of African descent, has lived in the shantytown for 60 years. His daughters, who also grew up there, had to build additional rooms for themselves when they turned of age. For lack of space, his grandchildren constructed their quarters over the roof of the house, where the great-grandchildren can be seen running and playing about.

The few public and reliable statistics available in Cuba show that, today, black people live in the country’s worst houses, receive less remittances and hard currency, are less active in the country’s emergent economy, have lower university enrollment indexes and tend to be employed in the worst-paying jobs available.

In the 1960s, the Cuban government declared it had resolved the racial problem definitively. In an article recently published by the New York Times, however, intellectual Roberto Zurbano condemned today’s racial discrimination on the island. “I did it to spark off a broad debate about racism,” he explains.


Race has been a sensitive issue since colonial times. Fear of the black man, in fact, is one of the arguments used to explain Cuba’s relatively late start in the struggle for independence. In 1959, Fidel Castro’s public condemnation of racism provoked such a strong reaction among the population that he had to address the issue again, days later.

Even today, the issue is seldom addressed by the Cuban press or in public speeches. President Raul Castro has, however, promoted a quota-based policy aimed at increasing the number of black women and men in leadership positions.

The relatively high number of black people in Cuban jails reveals that a “racial problem” still exists in the country. Photo: Raquel Pérez
The relatively high number of black people in Cuban jails reveals that a “racial problem” still exists in the country. Photo: Raquel Pérez

Institutionally speaking, all races have the same opportunities for personal development in Cuba. In fact, a number of individuals of African descent have reached high positions within the government. A case in point is Esteban Lazo, a working-class black man born in the countryside, who is today the Chair of the Cuban parliament.

The general rule, however, is that most prisons and poor neighborhoods are filled with black people, while white people continue to advise their peers not to “do things like blacks do” and some Cubans of African descent insist that interracial marriages are a way of “moving up the racial ladder”.

A Sensitive Issue

In the internal debates re-opened by the New York Times article, Cuban professor Guillermo Rodríguez wrote that “it is dishonest” not to acknowledge that the revolution fought against racism by creating opportunities in the workforce, the media and education for Cubans of all races.

According to Zurbano, black people in Cuba were never equally empowered to take advantage of those opportunities, asking, as way of an example: “How could we even think of renting out our home or opening a restaurant in it if we live in the shabbiest of houses?”

“My article was misread. I recognize that we, in Cuba, enjoy many of the rights that other African descendants in the region continue to demand, such as health and education. But I demand that the history of Africa be included in the history syllabus.”

Zurbano proposes that a debate on these issues be opened. “The first thing to do is to hold a debate, among Cubans, on the basis of the data that has already been collected by research centers. But we need to get experts and political activists together, so as to discuss the results yielded by that research.”

A Taboo Subject and the Debate

Roberto Zurbano has opened a broad debate on the racial issue. Foto: Raquel Perez
Roberto Zurbano has opened a broad debate on the racial issue. Foto: Raquel Perez

Cuban professor Esteban Morales, who is also of African descent, believes the government is already open to such debates. “That’s why I don’t agree with Zurbano. The discussion is already underway. I do agree it needs to be broadened, that it needs to reach further down, to the base.”

His proposal is the creation of a State department responsible for racial issues. He points out that “women have been a priority since the beginning. The racial issue must be tackled through cultural, economic and government activities.”

Renowned racial activist Tato Quiñones, an intellectual and Babalao (Santería priest), acknowledges that the struggle against racial discrimination in the workplace and educational and recreational institutions began in 1959. “That’s when the revolution took on special meaning for me,” he states.

He adds that black people benefitted from the progressive social measures that were taken in favor of the underprivileged, such as free education and healthcare and the right to employment, but that that “no extraordinary policies were implemented to aid that sector of the population that was in dearest need of it.”

“It was a mistake to believe that the elimination of social classes would, in and of itself, put an end to racism,” Quiñones said, criticizing the taboos that surround the racial debate in Cuba. He acknowledges that Zurbano is to be commended for “putting the racial issue back on the table, at his own risk.”
(*) A Havana Times translation of the original published on the blog of Fernando Ravsberg.

20 thoughts on “Cuba’s Pending Racial Debate

  • There were racial problems in Cuba before the Castro Family took over the administration of the Republic; there have been racial problems during the 50+ years of the Castros; and there will be racial problems after the Castros cease to administer our affairs. Cuba needs a Democratic elected government in which Citizens have the right to organize themselves in order to have a meaningful “racial debate.” Afro Cubans of all shades do not have the right since 1959 to speak freely about their current situation in Cuban Society. It is not an exclusive attack against the rights to self determination of the Afro Cubans, it is the nature of the cuban state to repress any non governmental effort in all areas of Civic life. The afro cuban associations met the same fate as the workers union, mutualist groups, professional organizations, catholic and chriistian groups, immigrant societies, etc, Not even the athletic clubs or the small town liceos were spared. The cuban state faced out or took over civic life. To this day NGOs are the object of persecution by the cuban government, that is the undeniable truth. Whatever Civic organizations exist in Cuba today, they exit at the risk of their members being jailed, exiled or kill by formal or informal means.

    I am optimistic that in the future Democracy will return to our beloved Cuba. It has been absent with all its splendor since 1952. When it does return cubans of all shades of skin color will sit down and freely have a debate about our racial relations, ethnic prejudices, etc. Until the Democratic opportunity does not arrive we cubans can not solve our social problems. We need free elections!

    LW Fernandez

  • George, thanks for your kind comments, and no need to apologize for any of your stands for needless to say, I am not perfect and I consider coming to HT a part of the process of learning. After his first term President Obama is not my political hero, and I have criticized him twice on this forum for his actions against Cuba. But I operate on the principle of giving praise where praise is due and criticizing where criticism is due. Obama is educationally-speaking an accomplished person, and I cited him to counter the racist stereotypes in ac’s comments. I have always been a defender of the ideals of the Cuban revolution and the Cuban people and against the economic warfare and political intrigues of the US. I have even on a number of occasions countered the arguments of Pedro of the Observatorio Critico and others who criticized the Cuban leadership. I do not and will never support any actions that hurt Cuba and the Cuban people.

    The Afro-Cubans constitute a very important support base of the Cuban revolution, and it is incomprehensible, anti-dialectical and dangerous that they have been politically marginalized. Unless the “historicos” swiftly correct this error and contradiction of race, and stop dreaming of the white Cuban Catholic hierarchy as their God-sent saviour, they and the revolution will go down the same way as the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe or even worse like Libya and Syria. Only a united Cuba will guarantee Cuba’s survival in this dangerous epoch of violent regime-change and resource neo-colonialism!

  • Cimarron, your comments are about the only ones here worth listening to. I agree with your criticisms, but if it helps, I think the advent of e-democracy, something that the Cuban government are seriously considering, will pave the way forward. Once every Cuban has the right to vote at the National Assembly, in other words the National Assembly becomes not merely representative, but the entire country, it will be much harder for the leadership to continue its racial bias, unconscious or not. Similarly democratization of the workplace including the media will ensure greater sensitivity to the real diversity of the island. I also believe that the Cuban government, even in its current makeup, are already taking seriously the idea of teaching African studies in schools, particularly African languages. Certainly both these ideas are appearing voiced in the official media.

    I apologize if I appear to echo AC comments in some parts, my main concern on this page is the blatant divide and rule tactics of those from the U.S. who are more interested in hiding behind Obama to deflect criticism of their own country.

  • “The
    conceited villager believes the entire world to be his village…”

    Jose Marti

    Beyond pathetic and leaning more towards the psychological phenomenon of the pathological liar are the only characterizations for such a desperate denial as long and winded as the Nile! To
    undertake to declare an entire people as not being “relevant” to the source of their culture is arrogance heavily fueled by bottomless ignorance. Cuba is a living museum of African culture! Ignorance of this essential truth is the strongest argument for the institution of African Studies in all Cuban schools as proposed by Zurbano. The works of eminent scholars and researchers such as Fernando Ortiz and Lydia Cabrera, the National Poet of Cuba, Nicolas Guillen,on down to the contributions of Nancy Morejon, Alejo Carpentier, and Miguel Barnet, the paintings of Wilfredo Lam and the sculptures for sale at Cathedral Plaza in La Habana are all evocative of African influence. Cuban
    folkloric dance from Rumba to the Tumba Francesa to Salsa, and the Tumbao of the bass and conga are all very much living African influences that have endured and remain very relevant to Afro-Cubans and Cuban culture in general. No truly educated and cultured Cuban will blurt out the ignorant nonsense that the “history of Africa is mostly irrelevant to[sic] blacks Cubans and Cubans in general.” As the normal Cuban knows, Cuba is “Nacion y Mestizaje”, “transculturation”, “Moros y Cristianos”. I will leave you alone to go wherever you want with your neat, apartheid formulations about who should be considered black, mulatto, “jabao” and heaven knows what else. A mere mortal, I am obviously incapable of contradicting your divine authority to put people in
    their proper places by racial percentage. But learn this today and for the rest of your life: That after nearly 500 years of slavery, oppression and denial of their culture (from the slave-era forbidding of their drums and dances to your modern-day racist denial of their living connection to Africa), Afro-Cubans remain triumphantly some of the most African of the Africans of the New World! The Cuban bata drum looks the same way in Cuba or in Nigeria. The ”Egungun” dress and dance the same
    way in Matanzas as in Lagos. Cuban liturgical Yoruba has been determined by etymologists as being purer than the Yoruba spoken ordinarily in Nigeria today! The devotés of Yemaya in Havana do the sacred, trance whirl dance the same way as the Yoruba pilgrims at the Oshogbo festival in Nigeria (Check both out on youtube).

    At a party several years ago before I visited Cuba, I raised a toast to an Afro-Cuban musician friend (with wavy hair like a Somali):

    “¡Que viva Cuba, hijo de Africa!,” I said, and
    in turn he quickly responded:

    “¡Y España, el padre!”

    If you cannot acknowledge all the roots of Cuba, as cultured Cubans do, then speak for yourself and only yourself. Speak authoritatively all you want about your own “authentic” and “relevant” roots. But do yourself a favour and do not to attempt to dabble in stuff that is beyond your knowledge, comprehension or intellectual capacity. Likewise, there is no basis for your grand concern, expressed in such a crude, racist fashion, that “Black people needs [sic] to put stuff together and aim for the world.” A very successful, black man is ruling you in the United States! And his black father got a doctorate from Harvard (just as his mother did from another university). Since there is no racism in Cuba, according to you, and all Cubans have the same opportunities, we would like to see a Black Cubans given equal opportunity to become Presidents and fill other top positions in Cuba in deed and not just in words!

  • Classic divide and rule… until the special period it was very common for Cubans of all hues to say there was no racism in Cuba, to give you an example, an Afro-Cuban friend of mine said that the fact that “Blacks” were stopped more often than “Whites” was not racist because most of the policemen were “Black”… in other words there were still differences stemming from the different histories, but the dynamics were of equality… the special period changed that and now we have to deal with it… but I am very skeptical of “White” U.S.Americans coming here and telling us that Cuba is racist… basically what they are doing is trying to deflect criticism of their own country elsewhere and stand in the way of real change… Fidel did more to create the conditions that allowed Obama to get elected than any “White” U.S.American… indeed one could write an article: The Year is 1960: Castro Effect Highlights Racism in the U.S… Moses I am more tolerant of… his criticisms are more subtle… but I might point out that I also got stopped and asked for I.D. in Cuba whilst with a female friend for looking like a Cuban… and though I do not consider myself “White”, I am half-Cypriot, I am as light skinned as most Cubans of Spanish descent.

  • If you are playing the race card, remember that Cuban police force for the major part comes from the eastern provinces and thats mostly mulato and black, so racism is not likely the cause. Probably crappy profiling has more to do with the cops stopping you for ID.

    Besides, is not like they are arresting you or charging with anything, they were simply asking for your ID, you show to them and keep going your way.

    As for the customer service, I’ll take your word on that one. For me has been always hit and miss, a few provide really good service, most should get a career elsewhere not facing the customers, preferably cutting sugar cane in the fields.

    And yes, I’ve been in several hotels and again, is hit and miss. Varadero is fairly well mixed racially speaking, Havana not so, and black employees are predominant in some resorts of the eastern provinces. Who is to blame? I don’t know, as far as I know most resorts are managed by foreigners and they probably get to pick their workers so they introduce their own biases. Other times they use a job pool system but in practice HR sells the positions to the highest bidder (yes, people bribe the employers to get in a position) and of course, most positions require 12th degree or university diploma even when the position don’t require any skill whatsoever.

    So the system may be rigged against the poor, the uneducated, the ugly or the black. Not because of institutionalized racism, simple plain old greed and market laws.

    As for your last comment, I recall a time where Eusebio Leal was arrested by a clueless cop. As the story goes, he said something like “midget, I’ve seen you hanging out with tourists a little too much” and took him to the police station. In Old Havana nonetheless. Of course the officer in charge almost had a heart attack and he was released right away, but if that happened to him, anything can happen to anyone else.

  • Ben, you are using racist language.

  • Clearly a very contentious and difficult, but also very important and hopefully helpful debate has begun. The good purpose of public debates, whether in person or in other forums, is to clarify issues and educate toward a better outcome.

    I have seen and experienced various racisms for over 70 years and I’m still learning, because like the proverbial blind men and the elephant, racism is one of the most subjective and complex human biases.

    But Cuba can benefit from this dialog if that is the ultimate goal of the majority of the debaters,both formal and the informal audience.

    So lets agree that each country is unique historically and culturally and the subsets of personal experience often elude the best sociology.

    From what I have seen and learned about Cuba, like the US, some aspects of racism are improving – mostly amoung the young. let’s us older folks do our part. too.

  • I appreciate your efforts to ‘soft-peddle’ the issue of racism in Cuba. Again, because I experienced it first hand, I respectfully disagree with you. Cuban police ask Black Cubans for their ID on a disproportionately higher basis. Typically bad Cuban customer service is even worse if you are a Black customer. AC, have you been to a tourist hotel in Cuba? Check out the front desk. All white (OK, mostly all white) Go to the any of the air-conditioned offices in the Central Business District in Miramar. All White. And so on. You are correct that I was often taken for a ‘jinetero” and my Cuban companion was assumed to be a tourist. Would I have been stopped as often if I was white. (HINT: Hell NO!)

  • According to the white dominated government, there is no racism in Cuba.

    But according to most black Cubans, it’s a real problem.

  • Don’t quote us those race-bating hucksters, Sharpton & Jackson, they haven’t an ounce of integirty.

    Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Obama’s former pastor, publicly denounced the Cuban government for their racism against black Cubans.

  • Sorry, but racism is not a current Cuba issue and honestly speaking, there is little that can be done to fix the existing issues, since those happen almost exclusively at a personal level. I’ll try to go point by point in the article give my point of view on them.

    Lets start by clarifying my main issue, and the author seems to agree with me:

    “Institutionally speaking, all races have the same opportunities for personal development in Cuba. ”

    Thats absolutely true. Race has nothing to do whatsoever with personal development, there is no segregation in Cuba and every individual can reach their own potential withing the education system and with a little effort get a career in whatever they want.

    So, in principle, all citizens regardless of race and gender start the adult life in identical educational terms. Failures to achieve said equal footing is not caused by institutional bias, but social disadvantages.

    “while white people continue to advise their peers not to “do things like blacks do”

    Not all white people or not seriously. There are entrenched bastions of racism in several provinces, people raised in certain places still have the one blood idiotic mindset but they are almost never confrontational and keep the racist comments to themselves and their inner circle. There is very little you can do to fix them, usually only time and interaction with people regardless of the skin hue fix the problem, most likely in next generations.

    “and some Cubans of African descent insist that interracial marriages are a way of “moving up the racial ladder””

    True, but thats amongst black people feeling prejudices against their own race. Again there is little you can do to fix this, racist people with a one blood policy regards mulatoes and “jabaos” the same as the black, if not worse, while black extremists go in life calling people “blanquitos”. I put both extremists in the same group, both are a minority and both groups are moving slowly towards extinction.

    “According to Zurbano, black people in Cuba were never equally empowered to take advantage of those opportunities, asking, as way of an example: “How could we even think of renting out our home or opening a restaurant in it if we live in the shabbiest of houses?”

    True, you can;t state simply that without stating the causes. Black people where slaves 140 years ago and once freed they started from the very bottom of the society. They were strongly marginalized in the pre-revolution Cuba and had even worse chances to climb the social ladder, making most of the extreme poor by 1959. Since the Castro revolution, housing has been a critical issue for everyone regardless of race, with several generations sharing the same house and kids inheriting the house of their parent when they die. The result is what the author describes, blacks living in the worst neighborhoods, in crappy houses some times at the verge of collapse, overcrowding rooms or in shanty towns,

    Again, a side effect of circumstances, there is very little that can be done to fix the situation. And yes, that put them in a severe disadvantage, but not just the black, all the poor.

    “But I demand that the history of Africa be included in the history syllabus.”

    I’m fine with that, but history of Africa is mostly irrelevant to blacks Cubans and Cubans in general. Their syllabus already covers the relevant parts (Egypt, the slave trade, their role as cradle of mankind, the Cuban involvement in Angola, etc) and the rest is encouraged by the government already (i.e., the House of Africa provides several free courses). The truth is that after +400 years of slavery and syncretism, there is very little authentically African amongst Cuban blacks (and for that matter American blacks).

    “The first thing to do is to hold a debate, among Cubans, on the basis of the data that has already been collected by research centers. But we need to get experts and political activists together, so as to discuss the results yielded by that research.”

    To what end? Governments can’t decree peoples thoughts and a positive discrimination is going to make more harm that good in the long run. Black people needs to put their stuff together and aim for the world. Maths and sciences are hard, but they can do it like everyone else, same with humanities. Dropping the school and making a career as a professional sportsman or musician is not for everyone and their parents must stop discouraging their kids to pursue hard subjects.

    As for Esteban Morales comments, thats precisely the reason why positive discrimination doesn’t work. Women have been priority since the beginning, yet with all that effort they are heavily underrepresented in lots of careers (mostly STEM fields). It doesn’t matter what you institutionally do if the parents keep teaching their daughters that tinkering is a male subject and they should stick with the dolls and encourage them to pursue mostly humanities fields.

    This one comes from Moses:
    “As an African-American who was (and still is) often mistaken for an Afro-Cuban by Cubans and foreigners alike, I was subjected to second-class treatment in divisa stores, banks, CADECAs, hotels, restaurants and anywhere else where black Cubans frequent less often. ”

    Thats probably true, but remember that service in Cuba were abysmal. Some people just ain’t cut for it and mistreat EVERYONE the same. Long waiting lines while the person in charge happily chats with someone else, unsanitary conditions, lots of silly rules and so on are the day to day staples for regular citizens and in general everyone that doesn’t look as a Caucasian tourist, and even for them is not a given. Things are slowly getting better, but rude people with bad attitudes are entrenched everywhere.

    Moses again:
    “I have been stopped and asked for my ID while my white Cuban companion was unmolested. After I spoke with my yuma-accent, things reluctantly improved.”

    Thats standard procedure for all Cuban males. You MUST carry your ID at ALL times because the police can ask you to provide one without reason. And if your companion looked like a tourist, you were probably mistaken by a “jinetero”. Again probably little to do with race, they would have done the same as long as you looked Cuban.

  • Let us be honest and clear. The Cuban leadership cannot be
    blamed for the legacy of racist unequal development and other problems it
    inherited from the past. The blockade and other acts of US economic warfare as well as Cuba’s own excessive internationalist largesse are all to blame for Cuba’s inability to eradicate this legacy completely. The time is long past for meaningless debates on race. There is nothing that the Cuban government needs to know that it doesn’t know
    already. The problem is not the Cuban people. It is my firm, personal
    impression that relations between Cubans of different races is generally good
    and not as problematic as in the US and other countries. It is the Cuban government
    structure that is the problem in the current racial imbalance. And it is the
    Cuban government structure that must change not the people!

    It is universally accepted that the government of a country must look like the people of the country. There is no evidence that in the 50 years of the Cuban revolution the
    government of Cuba has looked anything like the people of Cuba in all their
    diversity. The debate must now move from the distraction of individual, inter-racial
    relations and on to the political – an honest discussion of how Cuba will
    move towards equal and complete political representation for Afro-Cubans in the
    government, the media – especially in television – and the bureaucracy. There
    can be no change without political empowerment. I do not accept that an
    unbiased Cuban leadership chose leadership positions for qualified Cubans who
    just by pure accident happened to be all or mostly non-black. Mathematical
    probability does not support this. It is the height of racial arrogance and
    political deceit, for example, for Raul Castro to appoint his successor – who JUST
    happened to be white! Raul Castro has no right to ignore the hundreds of
    qualified Afro-Cubans who have graduated from the universities and been loyal
    party members. Where did all the blacks educated after the revolution go? What happened to the black, university classmates of Robaina, Perez Roque, Lage, and Bruno Rodriguez? Did they all go on to become athletes and musicans? What happened to “We are an Afro-Latin people. African blood runs freely through our veins!”? Instead of Esteban Morales criticizing Zurbano, he should criticize the blatant “just-us”, blacks-need-not-apply appointments made by the historic leadership. And he should be asking what makes Bruno Rodriguez better than he, Morales, the top scholar on the USA and North America, to be selected as Foreign Minister?

    There is no need for debates anymore. Everything that has occurred was discussed in the past. In the 80’s they talked about “promoting” black cadres. By the early nineties, Juan Robinson, the Afro-Cuban Party secretary of Santiago de Cuba, was being touted as a promising, young potential leader. Then came the charges and secret trial and the rest is history. That is Robinson became history, and disappeared completely
    from history!

    There can be no change without political empowerment. Afro-Cubans should seek equal political representation and leverage their political power to redress the historic imbalance in their lower standard of living. There is nothing more to be said. (Except, perhaps, remind Raul that his Mama’s great, great, great grandma was wit a brother!). I also offer this beautiful, music video, a great symbol of Cuba’s racial union and solidarity, so missing in its government, for Raul’s viewing pleasure:

  • Gee,maybe it’s behavioral .A black Cuban woman friend (polyglot) once said to me and some friends,”Cuban blacks have been given every opportunity to advance under the revolution but many preferred a life of thievery, drums and rum.” ~Nuff said.

  • Obviously you bring your racist American mentality down,have you ever wondered that in Cuba ,it is behavior and not skin color that is the problem? When they saw you were American,did they not change their attitude? I am a white Cuban American, I have been stopped at check points by black traffic agents, politely. So am I experiencing racism in my homeland ? I don’t think so.And all these Sharptons and Jesse Jacksons,stay THE FCUK OUT OF CUBA !!! The racial dynamic on the street,school and housing is completely mixed and dynamic.Racism is alive and well in the USA, not Cuba,you are not Cuban,nor Cuban ancestry and never will be, you sound like an instigator.American black ? What are you doing in Cuba in the first place ?? Begs to question.

  • After the emancipation of the blacks towards the end of the 1800s, racism was institutionalized… by the American imperialists. The blacks couldn’t play their drums, the blacks couldn’t dance their dances and the blacks were relegated economically. The legacy of racism started from there, IMHO.

    Funnily enough, after they were booted out in 1960 the Americans decided it wasn’t enough to keep the blacks poor. They decided to keep the entire island poor via the still-standing Kennedy embargo. And that certainly didn’t help the improve the legacy of racism (other than the fact it made EVERYBODY equally poor!).

    My 2 cents.

  • Really good article! Hits the Castro brothers right in the political kisser!

    ‘Obama Effect’ Highlights Racism in Cuba

    New America Media, News Analysis, Louis E.V. Nevaer, Posted: Dec 15, 2008

    “The European Union recently dispatched anthropologists to study racism in Cuba. Their findings were shocking: Not only was racism alive and well in the workers’ paradise, but it was systemic and institutional. Blacks were systematically excluded from positions that involved coming in contact with foreign tourists (where they could earn tips in hard currencies), they were relegated to poor housing, complained of the longest waits for healthcare, were excluded from managerial positions, received the lowest remittances from relatives abroad, and were five times more likely to be imprisoned.

  • Much of my “Cuban” experiences are second-hand as even though I lived there for nearly three years, I lived in a very comfortable casa particular with all the resources I needed to eat and play well. I traveled frequently to the US so I was able to resupply my creature comforts not available in Cuba. I even brought my own 4-ply toilet paper! What I know of the hardships I witnessed with my own eyes and I have scores of Cuban friends and my wife’s family as reference. But when it comes to racism in Cuba, I experienced it FIRST-HAND many times. As an African-American who was (and still is) often mistaken for an Afro-Cuban by Cubans and foreigners alike, I was subjected to second-class treatment in divisa stores, banks, CADECAs, hotels, restaurants and anywhere else where black Cubans frequent less often. I have been stopped and asked for my ID while my white Cuban companion was unmolested. After I spoke with my yuma-accent, things reluctantly improved. Is it worse in many parts of my own country? Absolutely. But make no mistake, racism is alive and well in Cuba.

  • You are well to repeat this correction every time a post or a comment includes this mistaken belief and one of the biggest lies told about the revolution. Right up there with the ever-popular “Fidel was not a dictator” whopper. I support you in this effort.

  • The Cuban government provides publicly funded healthcare and education, but it is not free. The Cuban people pay for it through their extremely low salaries which amounts to very high taxes. There’s no such thing as “free”.

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