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Cuba’s Complex Ethnic Mix

Cuba’s Complex Ethnic Mix
02/09/2016 04:24 pm ET | Updated 14 hours ago
Rick Steves
Author of European travel guidebooks and host of travel shows on public
television and public radio

One of the joys of visiting Cuba is meeting the people in this still
remarkably closed society. It’s so easy and fun to connect with people
on the streets who are curious about the USA and love to talk. I found
Cubans joyful, relaxed, and smart — yet isolated and wired differently,
as mainstays of our modern outlook (like the Internet and the
opportunity to work hard to prosper) are still novel to most people
here. I encountered two kinds of people: Rank-and-file Cubans, and those
with relatives in America or with jobs in tourism (which means they have
more money, a broader perspective, and more opportunities).

These students reminded me that Cuba still categorizes its citizens into
three ethnic groups: N (for negro, or black), M (for mestizo, or mixed),
and B (for blanco, or white — generally meaning Hispanic, of Spanish
decent). It’s like American drivers licenses stipulating what color our
eyes are.

Discrimination by race is officially illegal in Cuba. But a complex
history has created social stratification. The white Cubans were
predominantly the ones who supported Batista. Conversely, it was the
black Cubans who felt most oppressed by Batista and American interests,
and supported the Revolution most wholeheartedly.

After the Revolution, an estimated 86 percent of the Cubans who fled to
the USA describe themselves as white (out of a general Cuban population
that’s only about 30 percent Hispanic). That’s why, of the people in
Cuba who receive foreign remittances (and are therefore local economic
elites today), the vast majority are the white Cubans who chose not to
leave the country. Hispanic Cubans have the most power and contact with
the outside world. The result: In today’s Cuba, light-skinned people
tend to be privileged and dark-skinned people are generally disadvantaged.

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Source: Cuba’s Complex Ethnic Mix –
www.huffingtonpost.com/rick-steves/cubas-complex-ethnic-mix_b_9196672.html

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