Racismo – Cuba – Racism
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Point-blank / Manuel Aguirre
Posted on May 7, 2013

… Any solution that may result somehow in violence or discord is neither
a sensible solution nor can it bring us any good.

Juan René Betancourt

If there is something the communities of African descendants in America
can’t forgive, and especially in the United States, particularly in the
fight against racism and the related forms of exclusion, it is the lie
with respect to the issue of abuse towards blacks and their descendants
wherever it occurs.

It is precisely this, the lie, that some of the most well-known Cuban
official spokespeople try to pass off, sadly blacks and mixed-race for
the most part, to overwhelmingly and furiously attack, from the digital
weekly La Jiribilla, the declarations in the New York Times from the
Cuban intellectual Roberto Zurbano– until now the head of the Editorial
Board of the Casas de las Americas — with regards to the racism that
Afro-Cubans confront on a daily basis.

The most commendable work of the Cuban historian Silvio Castro is having
published a book about the 1912 massacre of the Independents of Color.
Through ideas and arguments caught on the rebound, he concocted a
literary rehash, which passed with little notice, good or bad.
Short-sighted on the issue of race, he extends his offenses against
Zurbano and tries to articulate a manipulated text which tries to assert
that only under the Castro regime was the rise of black and mixed-race
intellectuals in all spheres of knowledge possible.

Something along the same line is expressed by Esteban Morales, a
sociologist who considers the race issue too big, not because it lacks
clarity, but simply for lack of a scientifically rigorous analysis and
viewpoint that Sociology requires to be open and transparent.

There is also an article by Guillermo Rodriguez Rivera. You don’t have
to try too hard to see that — whether from spite or envy — he doesn’t
hide his racism. Rodriguez Rivera says, “For Zurbano, as in American
culture, whatever isn’t pure white is black. To call a mixed-race person
black only captures a portion of their identity. Zurbano demands what he
calls ‘an accurate count of Afro-Cubans,’ but this precision would be
compromised by counting mixed-race people as black, given that Spanish
ancestry includes African.”

Ernesto Pérez Castillo’s article, far from being amusing, folklorizes
the racial issue in the most bitter and humiliating way that a black
person could withstand only with a sense shame and their own pride.
Perez Castille says, “Zurbano is very black but very empowered — like
few are — and gives ridiculous examples: blacks have the worst houses
and so they can’t host anyone or aspire to create snack bars and

Before the Castro regime came to power in 1959, about one-third of the
so-called middle class in Cuba was made up of blacks and mixed-race. The
majority had not reached that status, it’s true; and neither had the
white population for lack of a fair distribution of national wealth. But
it was more than a third in a population of fewer than six million
people, and where blacks and mestizos were a minority, at least in the
documentation. What might they not have achieved in if democracy hadn’t
been clouded with the arrival of Castro?

Blacks and mixed-race in Cuba before the Castro revolution were
engineers, doctors, teachers, lawyers, architects and owners with some
financial solvency.

The policies of inclusion through affirmative actions undertaken by the
Castro revolution in its first decade are undeniable: they gave the
opportunity to access all levels of education for whites, blacks and
mestizos. But the citizens of a country–José Martí already said it–need
education but they also need, individually and collectively, to be
prosperous. In this Castro’s revolution has failed in all its stages,
not because of lack of financial liquidity, but by the deliberate
manipulation of man in order to keep him subdued, dependent, and lacking
his own space.

These restrictions on rights, coupled with the emergence of a privileged
class devoid of social conscience, wasteful of the national economy
without contributing anything in return, are what make the differences
in the social fabric of the nation, where blacks and mestizos suffocate
in the background.

Faced with this tangible reality it is difficult for any analyst on
issues of race and marginalization in Cuba, or a sociologist, to
identify a variable capable of justifying the unjustifiable.

I have no doubt that Roberto Zurbano will continue to pursue the
discredited process of exclusions and fear of blacks, but at least for
once, he had the audacity to put on the table, point-blank, the
institutional racism experienced by Afro-Cubans.

7 May 2013


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