Not All in Cuba Are Proud of Being Black / Iván García
Not All in Cuba Are Proud of Being Black / Iván García
Iván García, Translator: mlk
A drunk, off duty, enforcement agent, white, justified the racist Cuban
police archetype that turns a black or mestizo into a presumed
delinquent with an old refrain learned from his mother: "Not all blacks
are thieves, but all thieves are black."
The guy is not a bad person. He is a good father, a high caliber
criminologist, and he does not consider himself racist. But it was what
he learned in his childhood. Racial prejudices abound within Cuban
families. Then they are carried into to real life.
The Havana agent's attitude becomes that of the National Revolutionary
Police on operation and raid days: of every 10 citizens that they stop
on public thoroughfares, 8 are black. It is a mentality problem.
A couple of years ago, a friend who worked in a foreign firm told me
that he was considering buying skin whitening creams. I did not believe
him. "According to a market study, the cream would have great acceptance
among Cubans," he told me.
As I never saw them for sale in the foreign currency stores, I thought I
had heard a joke of bad taste. In the book Afrocubans, the historian and
anthropologist Maria Ileana Faguagua says that in 2009 a Spanish firm
studied that possibility.
Several consulted persons, who are dedicated to the treatment of hair
for women of the black race, said that those creams would sell like
hotcakes. "One can think what one likes. But I have spent 20 years
straightening 'kinks,' and I'm telling you that many black and mixed
women would give anything to lighten their skin and become white," said
a white Havana hairdresser.
Certainly, black pride on the island is not at its best moment. What has
happened to black people has not been slight. It is always good to
And it is that since 1886, when slavery was officially abolished in
Cuba, blacks were left at a clear disadvantage with respect to whites.
They had no property. No money. No lineage. And much less social
Years later in the Republic, their decisive support in the fight for
independence was barely taken into account. In spite of that support,
they only got work as stevedores, cane cutters or construction workers.
Many black families did not tranquilly accept their fate to live at the
bottom. And some managed to climb the steep and difficult social ladder.
But they were few. Then, as is known, Fidel Castro came to power. And he
decided to resolve racial differences by means of decrees and
encampments where blacks and whites were mixed and would become "comrades."
At first it was not bad. But racial prejudices in Cuba were very subtle.
They were — and are — very deeply rooted in the minds of the majority.
And that cannot be legislated. If you really try to demolish barriers,
you need a systematic educational effort, in the long run, and to
include blacks and mulattoes in the power structure.
That was already most difficult. One thing was that the personal
bodyguards or soldiers sent to the Angolan civil war were the color of
petroleum, and another, that they formed part of the status quo.
Although after 1959 blacks gained spaces, and shared carnivals, ball
games, scholarships to study at the high schools in the countryside and
university studies with whites, later no matter how much talent they
had, they remained shackled within the mediocre professional group that
retires without having been able to climb socially or politically.
From time to time a black man lands himself a high ranking government
or party job. A matter of image. But blacks continue on the lowest
Of course, they are mostly in jail and on sports fields. With the
exception of chess or swimming: according to old racist concepts, blacks
are a failure in those disciplines.
Similarly, the dark skinned are good for playing musical instruments
beyond the drums. Or singing boleros, Cuban folk songs, salsa, rap and
Now if they aspire to join the company of Alicia Alonso, they are looked
at with suspicion. Almost with sadness, an old teacher told me: "I have
nothing against blacks, but their anatomy causes them many problems in
classical ballet." She overlooked the triumphs of Carlos Acosta, a black
Cuban ballet dancer in the London Ballet.
If in music and sports black usually have the one, also they have known
how to get a slice of prostitution. Looking for something different or
because of the myth that they are good in bed, many Europeans travel to
Cuba to satiate themselves sexually with those of dark skin. Cheap pleasure.
But while the prostitutes are offered in clubs and night zones of Havana
for 20 dollars,some black men keep seeing their future in the distance,
above all in Europe.
The worst of the worst in Cuba today is to be a black, dissident woman.
Ask community activist Sonia Garro. Graduated in nursing with brilliant
grades, she suffered the racism in her own flesh from some creole mandarins.
One afternoon, proud of being the first professional in a family whose
members had been dedicated to the worst paying jobs, with her best dress
and pair of shoes, she went to the Astral theater to get her diploma.
When it came time for the group photo, a provincial director asked her
to move away: "Those of your color don't turn out well in photos."
Years later, Sonia told me that her anger was such that she left without
getting her diploma. In a short time, she became a dissident.
Some days before the arrival of the Pope on the island, last March,
forces of the political riot police entered her house as if they were
terrorists. Using rubber bullets and excessive violence they charged
Sonia and her husband, Ramon Alejandro Munoz, also an opponent. They
awaited proceedings in harsh prisons. She was in a women's jail, he in a
punishment cell in the Combinado del Este because he refused to put on
the prisoner's uniform.
Blacks in Cuba cultivate their destiny with the few opportunities they
have to triumph. Their failures are triple their successes. A high
percentage live badly and eat worse. Their patience is exhausted. And
they have decided to leave behind being culprits of their race. Like
Photo: President of Citizens for Racial Integration, Juan Antonio
Madrazo (on foot in the center, with pink shirt) with relatives, friends
and members of the Mystery Company of Voodoo, during a celebration of
the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, last
March. They are all proud of belonging to the black race. The woman on
foot on the left, with the pink dress and blue handkerchief, is Teresa
Luna, Madrazo's mother, who has received threats from State Security,
according to what Leonardo Calvo has denounced.
Translated by: mlk
May 27 2012