The Persistence of Racism in Cuba

By Alberto N Jones

From the movie “Balseros” (rafters).

HAVANA TIMES — The 1994 rafter crisis, changed the face of the Cuban emigration and the strategy of the United States government to puncture and weaken the Cuban government, when the predominantly white emigrants suddenly became black and brown.

Surprised, the mass media in the US was not reluctant to declare that the new emigrants did not look like Cubans anymore, as it debunked the myth of the 60’s that Cuba was a nation of white millionaires without social issues.

The late AM Radio personality Agustin Tamargo had argued that the Cuban government remained in power through the large presence of blacks in the armed forces, police, personal security and other repressive institutions, for which he requested a three days license to dole out retribution when it falls.

The Cuban American National Foundation held meetings in Washington and Miami to evaluate this demographic change, which led to the recruitment of blacks with higher education in the US and in Cuba.  They organized seminars and courses in peaceful resistance at black universities and at the Martin L. King Center in Atlanta, where they were organized into independent librarians, independent farmers, independent journalists etc., with branches in Cuba.

Two public meetings in Miami and Washington organized by the Center for International Policy of the John Hopkins University in 1999 and 2000 with participants from Cuba and abroad demonstrated the existence of a plan to exacerbate racial divisions in Cuba.

Tuning up on the Prado promenade. Photo: Caridad

Attempting to impede them from laying the basis for another massacre of blacks as the one that took place in Cuba in 1912, I shelved my limited knowledge in animal pathology and environmental health and safety, to venture into the complex journalistic world without previous knowledge or advisors.

I published over a hundred articles among which it is worthwhile to highlight, Una Cuba en la imagen de los Diaz-Balart 1998, Un hito en la lucha en contra del racismo 1999, The attempt to divide Cuba along racial lines 2001, Desenmascarando a los promotores de la Guerra racial en Cuba 2007, Una batalla mundial de vida y muerte 2009, A sincere and painful apology to the US Congressional Black Caucus 2009, How was I drawn into Cuba’s racial issue 2011, and Afrocubans relations with Florida 2013., [email protected], Havana Times, Cuba Journal, La Alborada and other blogs played an outstanding role in spreading these denunciations.  The Miami Herald, el Nuevo Herald, Daytona Times, Daytona News-Journal, Florida Times Union, Florida Sun Sentinel, the Record, Tampa Bay, Washington Post, Listin Diario, Jamaica Gleaner, the Star, the Observer, the New York Times and others, contributed decisively to reach a wider audience.

Meanwhile in Cuba…

Paradoxically, while this battle was taking place outside of Cuba, on the island the most retrograde, racists, neo-racists and segregationists, unleashed a cruel attack against blacks by absorbing every possible job with access to hard currency in tourism, joint ventures, corporations, high level jobs and international scholarships.  Police intimidation increased on Obispo Street in Old Havana and in Varadero and other tourist areas. The obstruction of black related activities was stepped up, as was the masking of black history, culture and education and the restricting of entry into certain professional specialties.

The result is graphic, irrefutable and devastating.  Black neighborhoods are like war zones, the disproportion in the incarcerated population, level of prostitution and poverty are permanent testimony.

Prominent visitors from the US Congressional Black Caucus, artists and intellectuals from around the world who have historically supported the Cuban Revolution, expressed serious concerns to high ranking government officials, many statistical studies were carried out and numerous journalistic and literary works have severely judged this behavior.

The literary works by black intellectuals are carefully scrutinized, delayed, they do not circulate freely and some documentaries have never been shown or they were shown in the wee hours, when most people are in bed.

Obtaining financing from the Cuban Institute of Arts and Cinematography (ICAIC) for black historical and cultural projects is extremely difficult and the National Folkloric Dance Group has been on the verge of collapse. Meanwhile the life of a pimp and a psychopath were financed and distributed widely alongside other vain, violent or semi pornographic imported films.

Most Cubans understood and accepted the abolition of racial, ethnic, cultural and other societies and social organizations when they were fused into Social Clubs.  What is near impossible to explain is the quiet resurrection of the Arab Society, Chinatown, Synagogues and Asturian Societies with their commercial wing with restaurants, B&B and hotels, which allows them to do social work among their members.

No black or mestizo society has been recreated and the Ministry of Justice has done everything possible to keep former black emigrant societies from functioning, or from repairing of buildings and operating cafeterias and restaurants like the other above mentioned groups.

Barack Obama and Raul Castro at the Latinoamericano Stadium in Havana on March 22, 2016.

In the legal environment, the population is alarmed to see how easily blacks can be accused and condemned for crimes they did not commit or when they are guilty their sentences are more severe than their peers.

The sum of these factors, are the root cause of the increased racist expressions in Cuba.  From the use in employment centers of codified words like “people with nice features”, the limited presence or absence of blacks in areas with access to hard currency, the shameful job opening on a blog for Whites Only and the repugnant and disrespectful newspaper article following president Barack Obama visit to Cuba “Black, are you Swedish”? and the appearance of Swastikas with a call to kill blacks in Havana without any repercussion, denunciation or the capture of the perpetrators by the authorities, are taking the country closer to the abyss.

In the year 2006 erupted in the blogosphere the controversial letter “Acting on our Conscience”, which was signed by close to 60 black intellectuals, including the late Abadias Nascimento.  No other action intended to weaken black unity in and out of Cuba have had such a negative impact on the country.

Multiple articles in which I proposed actions that could mitigate these ills and denunciations from unconditional friends of Cuba, fell on deaf and arrogant ears and have placed the future and national unity at risk.

Let’s rid ourselves of foolish arrogance by going to the heart of this tragedy in Center Havana, Santiago de Cuba, Guantanamo, Marianao and others, before an uncontrollable social explosion dooms the pompous visits by dignitaries, international accords and development plans of the country.

61 thoughts on “The Persistence of Racism in Cuba

  • August 26, 2016 at 6:08 pm

    “Youth should learn to think and act as a mass. it is criminal to think as and individual.”
    Dr. Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara de Serna Lynch

  • May 28, 2016 at 6:47 pm

    Alberto’s article fails to point the finger at the one culprit and the one area where racism itself was glaring – the Cuban government and its notoriously almost all-white cabinet! It is understandable why Alberto would play it safe, given the arrogant, racist repression that the the “historic leadership” and its corrupt and morally-bankrupt bureaucracy will inflict on even progressive Afro-Cuban critics.

    It may sound like a heresy to many on the left to accuse the historic leadership of racism. I was a hard-core supporter of the historic leadership and Fidel was my idol for many years. I overlooked all the signs of racist hegemony by the “Gallegos” of the Cuban Revolutionary leadership. I intensely admired the dialectical prowess of Fidel and of course Cuba’s internationalist assistance to Africa and the Caribbean. All this, until I began watching Cuban TV (Cubavision Internacional) and noticed the GLARING patterns of racist exclusivity. Then it became clear how the Cuban cabinet was overwhelmingly non-black and why with every political appointment a non-black, non-mulatto would be chosen. We saw it with the Canciller appointments from Lage to Perez Roque and on and on. Neither Fidel Castro nor Raul Castro – despite distant black blood in the family lineage – will countenance an Afro-Cuban in any leadership position in Cuba. This is the glaring non-propagandistic fact! Just check all their appointments. There will never be an Obama (in terms only of race and color) in Cuba!!! Not while the Castros are in power. And it will be even worse if the Miami Mafiosos were to get their hands back on power. The danger is that the historic Gallego leadership and its successors will find common cause in their racial exclusivity as Cuba becomes capitalist using the China / Vietnam formula or the Russian oligarchy system that Putin aided and abetted into place.

    Those who have any doubts only need to look at the record of racism in China and racism and neo-facism in today’s Russia, and Eastern Europe.

  • May 26, 2016 at 5:17 am

    Not surprisingly, I have had the opposite experience many times. No matter what I wear, I look Cuban. My wife and I are frequently stopped. Its always the same drill “Documentos por favor”. I flash my passport before their incredulous eyes and I am on my way. Every once in a while I will get stopped by some dim-witted guajiro PNR who wants to inspect the passport and then asks me to speak English. Sometimes it really annoys me but honestly, most of the time, its just another reminder that I am in Cuba.

  • May 25, 2016 at 1:20 pm

    It was George Orwell who in 1948 published in “1984” his classic lines about “BIg Brother is watching you”. As Fidel Castro was originally 6′ 4″ tall and Cuban Schools Athlete of the Year in 1948 and as Raul achieved 5′ 8″, Orwell was prescient in writing of ‘Big Brother” regarding the introduction of the Stasi trained CDR by Fidel Castro in 1960.

    “a collective system of revolutionary vigilance so that everybody knows who lives on every block, what they do on every block…in what activities they are involved and with whom they meet.”

    That was the picture in Cuba in 1960 and is still the picture in 2016, so I guess it can be reasonably described as the “whole picture” with both Big and now Little Brother watching the day by day activities of Cubans.

  • May 25, 2016 at 8:40 am

    I look at the whole picture: his remarks on blacks in his motorcycle diaries and his comments about blacks in Congo.
    Are you also aware that Che was homphobic?
    That is also part of “the whole picture” when assessing the true nature of his attitude towards others.

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