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Race in Cuba Chapter1

Race in Cuba Chapter1

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Published by: Terry Townsend, Editor on Feb 13, 2013
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04/07/2013

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1—Challenges o the Racial Question in Cuba
There are very ew contemporary writings on the subject o race in thiscountry, and those that do exist are by and large ound in journals, espe-cially
Temas
and
Catauro.
1
Abroad, there have been more publicationsdealing with the subject on a contemporary basis. Aline Helg, Alejandrode la Fuente, and Carlos Moore are noteworthy or their extensiveresearch. But none o them share the vicissitudes o daily lie in Cubawith us, and this can be seen in their writings. Even though we might notshare some o their opinions, they make notable contributions.This situation tells us that in addition to the diculties associatedwith this subject within present-day Cuban society—something we willdeal with later—we have in efect handed over to others the task o ana-lyzing a problem o vital importance in this country’s lie. The resultantdanger is that—in response—we nd ourselves having to clariy mattersabout which we have still not been able to have a scientic discussion o our own. Thereore, it is o prime importance that we try to work out ourown vision, rom the island, o the racial question in Cuban society inthese complex times.This objective encompasses a desire to examine the existence o thisproblem within present-day Cuban reality, making clear that it is not sim-
 
20 RACE IN CUBA
ply a case o inherited burdens, but rather a problem that our society isstill capable o generating. We must also call attention to the danger thatracism and discrimination could again take root in the macro-conscious-ness o today’s society.The undamental problems that we run up against regarding the sub- ject o race include ignorance about it, continual avoidance o the topic,as well as insucient treatment o the subject. Many people eel that it isnot worth talking about this topic.In
 Desafos de la problematica racial en Cuba
,
2
which this essay sum-marizes, my aim was to develop a model or studying and researchingthis subject—ullling the need to theorize about it—and examining thescope and orm in which many phenomena o the problem are studied atpresent. In reality, with the exception o some o the investigative works o the Anthropology Center o CITMA [Ministry o Science, Technology,and Environment], which are still unpublished,
3
we did not nd earlierstudies that are worthy o mention regarding either o those two aims.The vast majority o the Anthropology Center studies are the ruit o praiseworthy research that has gotten caught up in the whirlwind o bureaucracy, ignorance, and ear o publicizing the ndings.
4
It might have seemed that racism and discrimination had disappearedrom Cuban society. At least that is what many believed. But the eco-nomic crisis at the end o the 1980s and beginning o the 1990s, with itsstrong undercurrent o social crisis, caused racism to resurace with thevirulence that can be expected rom a problem that, having been seen assolved, in act was not. To imagine it had been solved was an example o the worst kind o pure idealism.Racism and racial discrimination was eliminated rom the institu-tional rameworks o the state and the government with the triumph o the Revolution in 1959. But the phenomenon maintained a toehold inthe amily, individual attitudes, and some institutions, and today there isthe danger o its reestablishment in the macro-consciousness o Cubansociety. This could take place through mechanisms that inject prejudiceand negative racial stereotypes into the population, as well as through thedynamics o the relations between the ormal institutions and the inor-mal networks o power.
5
 
CHALLENGES OF THE RACIAL QUESTION IN CUBA 21
Thereore, we need to take stock o this phenomenon. We need toexamine the mechanisms through which racism spreads and how we canhelp to design tools that allow us ght it. In this regard I begin with aseries o premises.Racism arose rom slavery. In the Americas slavery took the orm o color. Blacks, most o the time poor, were brought in the slave ships romthe west coast o Arica and turned into slaves. It did not take long or theenslavement o these human beings to be justied on the basis o theirbeing black.For generations, blacks and their descendants occupied the lowestrung in Cuban society—rst colonial and then neo-colonial society. Wecannot expect that in a little less than a hal-century since its triumph theRevolution could ully lit them out o their situation o ineriority. All themore so i we consider that owing to certain historic vicissitudes, the racialquestion, o all the social problems that the Revolution tackled since 1959,may have been the theme on which there has been the least progress.We should not conuse the degree o social justice achieved by themany racial groups that make up our society today with the disappear-ance o racism, because racism is a complex multidimensional andmulti-causal matter that does not disappear solely through achievemento higher levels o social justice. Cuba is a tangible example o this.In the years immediately ollowing the triumph o the Revolution,social, economic, and political conditions emerged that practically made“color” disappear rom the considerations o the typical Cuban. New political conditions, in turn, encouraged an idealistic view on the part o the political leadership as well as the majority o the citizenry—includingthe vast majority o blacks—that it was possible to orget about racism.In 1959, the chie o the Revolution had rontally and orceullyattacked the existing racial discrimination, which had been a directinheritance rom Republican Cuba. However, not long aterward, thelanguage changed; the case was seen as closed, and in 1962 the matterwas declared solved in the Second Declaration o Havana. Ater that along period o silence ensued.In practice, the subject o racism was no longer spoken o, until itreappeared in the second hal o the 1980s, when the political leader-

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