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Posted on Tuesday, April 21, 2009
CARLOS MOORE: Putting context to Cuba's racial divide
By Carlos Moore | Special to McClatchy Newspapers
Images of the first batch of Cuban-Americans arriving at Havana's international airport, since the United States' lifting of restrictions on travel and remittance-sending to the island, were clear: teary-eyed, Spanish-speaking cousins, laden with gifts and money for their relatives in Cuba, were all ± white! Such a startling visual puts a partial face on an issue that will increasingly challenge the US government's latest policy shifts aimed at coaxing Cuba to the negotiating table. The spectacle of the white Cuban returnees, however, reveals even more by highlighting what ± or rather who ± is missing: dark-skinned Cuban faces. How does one explain such a dramatically white homecoming in a country where 62-70% of the population is estimated to be non-white ; one where, besides their desire to dismantle the Castro dictatorship, black and white Cubans may have far less in common politically than the world has been led to believe? And what is one to make of the 1.5million strong Cuban-American community, mostly South Florida-based, which is 85% Caucasian, and is only now begrudgingly relinquishing its dream of re-empowerment, as a predominantly white force, in Cuba? What do these two differing racial realities ± largely unacknowledged inside and outside Cuba ± portend for the United States' emerging Open Door policy? In purely human terms, the warming relations between "cousins" on both sides of the Florida straights may be laudable, but certainly not devoid of long-term political implications inside Cuba. To understand why, a new map of Cuba ± the real Cuba ± will have to be drawn. From Myth to Reality When Fidel Castro triumphed fifty years ago, Afro-Cubans were 35-45% of the total Cuban population. Four years later, fear of the new regime's sweeping socialist reforms caused 1520% of the island's white population to flee, leaving Castro at the head of a black majority country. From 1959 on, the steadily darkening face of Cuba created unanticipated problems for the social reformers who launched the Revolution. Yet, for half a century, Cuba hid this racial reality behind a carefully crafted image where the Revolution had eradicated racism, abolished discrimination, and established a unique "racial democracy."
however. The same whitening process affects Cuba's universities at the professorial level (80% at the University of La Habana). thousands of angry. Safely inside this information vacuum for half a century. the overall employment rate of blacks who are fit to work is startlingly low (34. A robust percentage of able-bodied Cubans with jobs are white. even though both races have equal rates of education. supported by a bounty of hitherto unpublicized statistics. We are left to conclude that most able-bodied black Cubans are unemployed (65. Brought to light in 2008. according to this document.and anti-Castro) that it was neither credible nor useful by the time it reached U. somehow the country's leadership continues to be predominantly white (71%). The publication shows a growing impoverishment of the population as a whole. In the countryside. citizens and even some of its own leaders.8%). Cuba has brilliantly manipulated the race issue to its political advantage. however. yet. In contrast.9%) or female (63. the land that is privately held is almost totally in the hands of whites (98%). and attacked the police in what was baptized the maleconazo. its own writers.2%). specifically targeting African-Americans with its message. Now. . paints a stark picture of the situation that exists even now in 2009 for the blacks. The old segregationist Cuba is gone. speaks of neglect. and even in the State cooperatives blacks are almost nonexistent (5%). residents. that race has become real in Cuba. whether male (66.S. scholars.Cuba's myth as a non-racial Nirvana has long been well-served by either a dearth of information or disinformation so patently biased (pro. Having thrown their lot behind the Communist regime for half a century. were disproved as long ago as 1994 when. officially-sanctioned document addressing the issue of race in Cuba under the Revolution. Afro-Cubans themselves were slow to come to terms with continuing discrimination and their growing impoverishment as a result of it. its citizenry is being forced to confront its own history as amassed by its own researchers. A majority of the country's scientists and technicians are white (72. Cuba has even greater reason to fear the threat of racially-motivated violence. the latter was recently aggravated by the collapse of world Communism. rock-throwing protesters took to the streets. in the overwhelmingly black area along the seafront in Central Havana. with its negative effects on Cuba's economy. denial. 385-page document. This graphic. and forceful resurgence of racism in Cuba under Communism. the first comprehensive. The Challenges of the Racial Problem in Cuba .8%). The regime shuddered.7%). shattered windows. Fourteen years later. precisely because of the racial and economic oppression experienced in prerevolutionary days. artists. but it emphasizes that black Cubans are disproportionately affected. this was the closest thing to a race riot Cuba had seen since the Revolution. Castro's claims of racial equality.
at a greater disadvantage and that racism exhibits vitality whenever solidarity ties and socialist values weaken. a whopping majority of whites in Cuba oppose racial intermarriage (68%). The new stepped-up flow of Cuban American remittances to Cuba is a perfect example. In the context of Cuba's new demographic realities and the potential for domestic strife highlighted by the official statistics regarding black impoverishment and rampant racial discrimination.. However."  Clearly. To make maters worse. etc. once again into a no-win situation. or remain. are evidenced in every aspect of the social and spiritual life of the racial groups that compose Cuban society. "The racial question has been on the rise over these years. after five decades of radical change? According to the document. Blacks overwhelmingly blamed "racial discrimination" in hiring and promotion (60. to the best jobs. which in the early days of the Revolution vigorously suppressed the prerevolutionary black movement.S.8%) for these stark contrasts. as expressed. Worry is also implicit in Party ideologue Fernando Martinez Heredia's uncharacteristically blunt admission that. as for the latter to manipulate the U. to positions of leadership. The publication concluded that.. from top to bottom. and this has further emboldened Cuba's non-white majority. in profound cleavages in regards to differential levels and degrees of access to material and cultural wealth. Not without reason. new and subtle realities in the U. then. is clearly alarmed. Castro's regime is desperate to find a way out of its socio-racial impasse. the document said. the post-Fidel leadership has begun to fret over what it calls the possibility of "racial subversion" waged by the United States. Once again we verify that it is Negroes and mulattoes who are. "These asymmetric phenomena of social differentiation. Race and Remittances . primarily. fueled by growing opposition to racial discrimination and demands for racial power-sharing. Tellingly. President Obama's new Open Door policy toward Cuba may present as many opportunities to softly dismantle the Castro regime. does one explain what caused such racial disparities.How. among whites the disparities were attributed to blacks being "less intelligent than whites" (58%) and "devoid of decency" (69%)."  We may surmise that these "asymmetric phenomena" ± as the document calls them ± are responsible for the growth of a new Civil Rights movement in Cuba. Cuba's race question is bound to move from a "non-topic" to a core Civil Rights issue in Cuban-American relations. have led to the election of a black American president. Viewed in this light. The government.S. and an overwhelming majority of Cubans of both races agreed that "racial prejudice continues to be current on the island" (75%).
The question. the black churches. then. are rapidly receding. the relatives of white Cuban-Americans will disproportionately benefit from the free flow of remittances and family visitors to the island following the latest change in U. the Castro regime may welcome cash-wielding Cuban-Americans as the ideal tourists and benefactors who will pose minimal disruption to the country's Communist order. Therefore.The world around Cuba is changing at a dizzying pace.S. Ordinary Cuban are no fools. whose worsening condition may not be mitigated by remittances from abroad. and Africa . Therefore. In Castro. therefore. a more free-flowing faucet of remittances can only serve to intensify the existing estrangement between Cuba's two basic populations. After all. It is entirely conceivable. that bolster the position of their relatives on the island. . from its inception. is who is to benefit inside Cuba from this manna flowing from the U. and by successfully courting the Black Power movement. and the Cuban-American exiles. Cuban-Americans' aggressive. as the quintessential homebase of Ku-Klux-Klan-type racism. By portraying the U. a new strategy seeks to influence affairs inside Cuba through investments and other activities.S. administrations. and the government pockets 20% of their huge remittances.5B ± cut two ways: they lay the groundwork for the birth of a new white.S. Socioeconomic disparities. policy. is reported to have close relatives in South Florida). Havana punched deep holes into Washington¶s armor. only they would be capital-less. these remittances could morph into start-up investment capital for its recipients. they know that in the capitalist Cuba that is slowly but surely emerging. Ramiro Valdes Menendez. these returning "cousins" are blood relatives who exhibit little if any desire to see Cuba governed by its current non-white majority (two thirds of Cuba's elite. and even the Congressional Black Caucus. between white Cubans and the black Cuban majority will inevitably increase. to Cuba? How will it affect the majority population on the island? Abrogating Bush-era imposed limitations. measured in this instance by money and family support.S. which were consistently successful under former U. In their place. including the Castros and Vice-President. both results could be a win-win by actually enhancing their continued domination. In the circumstances. the realignment of forces now taking place in and out of Cuba. these hard cash exports to Cuba ± variously estimated between $600M-$1. may be causing anxiety among Cuba's majority. Cuba under Fidel Castro used the race question as propaganda to consolidate domestic black support and isolate its external enemies ± namely the U. I sought to demonstrate how. Paradoxically. Moreover. Cuban middle-class and potentially aggravate racial cleavage on the island.S. given certain conditions. that Havana understands such a two-pronged benefit. in anticipation of the Castro Brother's demise. confrontational politics. in the form of remittances. Understandably. the Blacks. for the Brothers Castro who are master manipulators.
conducted in March 2009 by Cubabarometro. as was a pronounced divergence between the policy and political interests of the authorities and the feelings and expectations of society at large. a budding black movement in Cuba is gaining momentum and these organizations may have to be re-authorized. Relief Valves Post-Fidel managerial elites also fully understand that another strategy for preserving their power is to consolidate support among the majority population. That strategy would call for the Raulista leadership to foster customized black political movements and manipulate them to undercut the rising militancy of black youth.Havana has perfected the divide-and-conquer game to an art and. as pointed out in Pichón: Race and Revolution in Castros's Cuba . To hang onto power. too. The status quo would remain safe. That means playing the race card to prolong its two-headed dictatorship is more than a temptation ± it is a necessity. On the other hand."  In 1961 Fidel Castro outlawed 526 black organizations known as Colored People's Societies ± the backbone of the Cuban version of a Civil Rights movement. Key to this effort will likely be a carefully stage-managed opening of the racial Pandora's Box. it makes sense to insist that Havana cut in half the taxes levied on remittances (currently 20%). skillfully redirecting black resentment along channels that will not threaten the power elite in the Communist Party. whose popularity among Cubans is uncomfortably vast. it could leverage Cuban American remittances to grow Cuba's middle class sector of white entrepreneurs and land-holders while supplying its coffers with the much sought-after hard currency. Darsi Ferrer. fifty years later. long-term change. Raul Castro seems to have taken notice and it is quite likely that the election of a black American president. the economy. more than thirty separate groups identify themselves as committed to ending racial discrimination in Cuba. until now expressed through a widening hip-hop counterculture and a renewal of the island's long-banned Civil Rights movement. the regime could simultaneously foster the growth of a a pro-regime black leadership that could be deployed to whip up sentiments against such "privileged whites. On the one hand. the media. may be preparing to do it again. Cuba's elites will see the efficacy of promoting a controlled. . that will force the Raulista leadership to devise manipulative strategies designed to undercut this rising socio-racial consciousness. Now. Creating the appearance of expanded opportunities often serves as relief valves by diverting attention and lowering the pressure for fundamental. a recently released independent opinion survey." The outcome would be a permanently divided civil society. Currently. the unpopularity of Mr Raul Castro as a leader was evidenced. sociologist Dr. for that reason. "In the political sphere. and the cultural institutions. may have drastically reduced his room for maneuver. which implies broadening black participation in the political leadership. wellgroomed discourse on race as part of their new liberalizing package. concluded that. at war with itself. a self-reliant opiniongathering unit headed by the pollster. Comparatively.
So far they include: setting up a National Commission to honor the memory of the victims of the state-inspired genocide committed in 1912 against Cuban blacks. The U. But another chief failure of U. could propel a sudden exodus. But. Radio and TV Marti represent another opportunity. by Washington policymakers.S.Symbolic gestures by Cuba's "new-old regime´ ± as many Cubans designate Raul's government ± may not be sufficient alone to stem the growing concern over racial disparities in Cuba." lodged in the premises of the regime-controlled Union of Cuban Writers and Intellectuals (UNEAC). as part of a conglomeration of tactics. the so-called anti-Castro "exiles. systematically disregard the growing black Cuban Civil Rights movement.S. to envision and construct countermeasures to respond to the very real possibility of future turmoil in Cuba. All of this pleads for a drastic change in Cuba map-reading." Consequently. allowing the existence of a black. has attempted to build an island constituency by acting solely through surrogate Human Rights Groups that refuse to address racial oppression in Cuba while they. Cuba's immediate neighbors and governments in the hemisphere at large. Thus. the U.S. five decades ago. an internal explosion inside Cuba. and staffed by black sycophants. human. A Change of Course Since Communism was installed in Cuba. has consistently refused to engage black civil society inside of Cuba by espousing its struggle for civil rights and power-sharing.S. Esteban Lazo. U. pro-regime debating club. it is in the interest of the U. the U. establishing a semi-secret Commission on Race. the Caribbean and the larger region. policy on Cuba has studiously ignored those Cubans ± black Cubans ± whose civil. triggered by the deleterious effects of fifty years of discriminatory policies against Afro-Cubans. however. significantly named "Cuban Color. And. One thing is for sure: Cuba¶s white minority rulers are truly conscious now that they are sitting on a volcano.S. . over the years.S. and democratic rights have been most trampled.. headed by Cuba's black Vice-President. to the southern U. policy is one of which no one speaks: how the U. the whole may prove more effective than its parts for preserving power. has sought to effect change in that country through the predominantly white Cuban-American community. government's obsessive bid to re-empower white Cuban exiles has required that America's policy carefully overlook the racial composition of Cuban society. and neighboring Caribbean countries. of as many as 2 million Cubans.S. American policy has focused on satisfying the self-interests of this strategically-located community of mostly right-wing Cubans.S. Consequently. too. which is arguably not the best example of the racial transparency many Cubans are clamoring for.
S. the entire Cuba. autonomous participant in world affairs. will ensure that the U. its internal tensions and longstanding sociorracial cleavages. as never before. these programs will continue to be ineffectual at best. Otherwise. programs designed "to bring democracy to Cuba" guarantees they will have virtually no impact on Cuban civil society. The almost total absence of Afro-Cubans in conceptualizing. black Cubans constitute an overwhelming majority of the population and can no longer be ignored. notwithstanding the reputed electoral swing-vote clout of Cuban-Americans. crafting content for. government's Cuba policy. and Radio Marti has been mired in controversy. as well as the profound aspirations that move its majority people. such policies would prolong the dictatorship's choke-hold on power. Embracing this new reality in the U. Unless their content is re-oriented. the focus of the U. in the 21st century. has an opportunity to craft a sound and comprehensive Cuba strategy which has as its core a true concern for all Cubans. inadvertently or otherwise. Likewise. the U.Few may point to TV Marti as a successful model worthy of replication. understanding the true nature of Cuban society. government's strategy must be the real Cuba. Winning the hearts of Cubans Here.S. as personified by Fidel Castro and his creaking. For all. government's Open Door Policy will build on the wide-scale goodwill that Obama's presidency has already created inside Cuba. and also will empower Cuban civil society. and the rest of the world. or implementing these U. in the 21st century. This strategy cannot continue to address the Cuba that right-wing Cuban-American whites have concocted out of their hunger for the restoration of the hierarchy of entitlements they once possessed to the detriment of the Cuban masses.S. with the U. Rather. This same absence mirrors and explains to a large degree the failed Cuba policy of all previous American administrations. or at worse. the Cuba of the present and the future that defines itself as a fully empowered.S. a wide range of American policymakers and citizens are sharing and voicing this view. a source for padding the pockets of Cuban-Americans and organizations who profiteer greatly from their anti-Castro posturing.S. Now.S.S. . rapidly disintegrating vessel of oppression. the Obama administration seems sufficiently sophisticated to understand that this predominately white community can no longer be the axis for the U. Nor can an effective strategy be created in response to the bogeyman Cuba. Fortunately. Their failure to achieve the desired impact is largely attributable to broadcasting content crafted by white Cuban-Americans with low or no sensibility for Cuba's current demographic reality.S. crafts policies toward Cuba that will serve the best interests of the U.
can only produce positive results. Cuba's white minority regime could face serious trouble. It must also incorporate specific U. lifting the economic embargo and restoring full diplomatic relations between both countries. demands whereby the Castro regime is made to understand that it. This could be accomplished in a number of ways. An International Monetary Fund study has estimated that 3. The Black Congressional Caucus must be encouraged to carry out specific fact-finding missions. political democracy. and the respect for the rule of law. too.-based African-American/Afro-Cuban Foundation that would assist civil society in Cuba in overturning the deleterious effects of decades of compounded racial . The creation of a U. fun-seekers looking for adventure.S. professional organizations and NGOs that specifically commit to help Civil Rights organizations inside Cuba. that African-American civil society must now be encouraged to freely interact with its Cuban counterpart. Allowing all Americans to travel to Cuba would help spread the news about a changing America. where demographic shifts point to a social order where minorities are gaining power and wealth while creating the basis for a truly multiracial society within a form of democracy unknown to Cubans. The U. then. These travelers will bring with them new ideas about Civil Rights.5 million Americans could flock to Cuba annually as soon as existing travel restrictions are lifted.A proactive realpolitik towards Cuba requires not solely opening up free travel for all Americans. must lift the internal political and racial embargo imposed on the majority population since the early years of the Revolution.S. divide-and-conquer is high among their tried and true strategies. could easily become a highly useful pawn unless it clearly assesses and takes steps to avoid the predictable racial impact of its Open Door policy. The regime cannot help but devise an array of selfpreservation schemes. Among them. and otherwise assist the developmental and empowerment efforts of black civil society on the island. It makes sense. Special grants must be envisioned for African-American private businesses. African-American visitors would show up not only with a shared history of racial injustice. but also with a sense of entitlement and a history of seeking justice. Cuba would be flooded with capitalist consumers.S. One can safely estimate that at least half-a-million of these prospective tourists will be African-Americans who. lend an ear to Cuba's Civil Rights organizations. Lifting the ban and allowing all Americans to travel to Cuba. the Fidel/Raul regime has looked down the road and seen the possibility ± if not the probability ± of such a future. in addition to being frolicking. Under that scenario. No doubt. Resources now reportedly being squandered on demonstrably ineffective pro-Cuba democracy programs that are dominated by white Cuban-Americans must be redirected to fund such efforts. black churches. would likely also be goodwill ambassadors for socioracial change on the island. historically Black colleges. as it does elsewhere.
S.5-2B. Political realism points to a table that is large enough to seat us all. surely seeing a free Cuba hangs in the realm of possibility. All U. companies that trade with Cuba or invest on the island could fund these activities through a tariff designated specifically for these initiatives. the U. are they integral parts of the future of the U. One thing is certain: 8. After all. there too. For a great nation that has achieved something no one thought possible until it happened. But. Now. ABOUT THE WRITER Ethnologist and political scientist Carlos Moore is the author of the newly released.5 million black Cubans inside Cuba and 1. as never before. are inescapably part of Cuba's present and future. a new perspective may be growing that may no longer conflict with the deep aspirations of the majority on the island.S. directed and controlled exclusively by Cubans of African descent with no regime affiliation. for president Obama to fulfill the pledge he made to the Cuban people during his presidential campaign. could usefully be channeled into such an African-American/Afro-Cuban Foundation.S. is an encouraging sign. he must ensure that his new Open Door policy towards Cuba is not counterproductive to Cuba's majority population. The tens of millions of taxpayer dollars now spent on programs to foster democracy in Cuba that have proven ineffective. at home and in the region. concentrated chiefly in South Florida. 2008).S. Moore is an honorary research fellow in the University off the West Indies School for Graduate Studies and Research in Kingston. therefore. in both pre and post-revolutionary Cuba.S. The U. Jamaica. too.discrimination against the black population. As annual remittances amount to $1. white Cuban-Americans may not be exonerated from responsibility for their present-day effects. At least half of the State's current 20% tax levied on all Cuban-American remittances (which should be halved) could be earmarked by the Cuban state to fund such foundation's activities. these disparities are a carry-over from pre-revolutionary days that Castro's regime inherited. could further spur changes inside and outside Cuba by using leverage from bilateral engagement. To foster Cuba's democratization.. they would provide a steady fund for mitigating the disparities historically and currently suffered by the Black Cuban population. . The fact that 35% of South Florida's Cuban-Americans casted their votes for Obama. the U. So. Pichón: Race and Revolution in Castro's Cuba (Lawrence Hill Books. could pressure Havana to allow the creation and legal incorporation of a National Afro-Cuban Foundation for Social and Economic Development. would resuscitate much goodwill inside of Cuba. has an opportunity to craft a sound and comprehensive Cuba strategy which has as its core a true concern for all Cubans.5 million predominantly white Cuban-Americans.
com Read more: http://www. La Jiribilla. 2007. municipio 10 de Octubre. 2007. Cuba. February 2-8. "black"and "Afro-Cuban" are used interchangeably. 2008. localidad Santos Suárez. State Department. Castro. whites (37%) and Chinese-Cubans (1%). speech on December 27. Chicago: Lawrence Hill Books. at the inaugural ceremony for the National Commission for the commemoration of the Centennial of the founding of the Independent Party of Colored People (PIC). His speech was published by La Jiribilla. 12 de abril de 2009.  Carlos Moore. La Habana: Fundación Fernando Ortiz. 1988. In: Accessed: April 13.  See: Esteban Morales Dominguez. University of California.html#ixzz199uOFTIq . 2008.com/2009/04/21/66583/carlosmoore-putting-context-to. "Background Note: Cuba" (People).  Esteban Morales Domínguez. 2008.  Carlos Moore. Department of State. E-mail: cubabarometro@gmail. Source: Accessed: April 13.mcclatchydc. Cuba¶s Afro-Cuban ("black" and "mulatto") population comprises 62% of the total.  CUBABARÓMETRO. 159.McClatchy Newspapers did not subsidize the writing of this column. Los Angeles: Center for Afro-American Studies (CAAS).S. p.. Therefore.  Ibid. 8-14 September 2007. Notes  According to the U. the Blacks and Africa. 2008. La Habana. La Habana.S.  Fernando Martínez Heredia. in this article. See: U. Dir: Calle San Bernardino 265 entre Serrano y Durege. Cuba. "non-white". 2008. Desafíos de la problemática racial en Cuba. the opinions are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of McClatchy Newspapers or its editors. See: HYPERLINK Accessed: April 13. Some anthropologists inside of Cuba estimate the black/mulato proportion at 70%. PICHÓN: Race and Revolution in Castro¶s Cuba. Presentación de Estudio Sociológico. He is the chairman of that Commission. "Anti-Cuban subversion: the race issue" ("El tema racial y la subversión anticubana").
an Afro-Cuban intellectual who says that Cuba's gotten a pass on race for far too long. he is the author of Fela: This Bitch of a Life and Pichon: Race and Revolution in Castro's Cuba: A Memoir. y By: Achy Obejas | Posted: July 29. Frequently controversial in his views. Cuba is far from the utopia that black intellectuals like to think it is. Following exile from his native . As part of The Root's series exploring the island's color complex. Carlos Moore is an ethnologist and political scientist specializing in African.Race in Cuba: The Root Interviews Carlos Moore When it comes to race. Latin American and Caribbean affairs.Text Size Permalink SHARE FacebookDiggTwitterBuzz up!MySpace Stumble UponGoogle Dr. 2010 at 6:22 AM y y y y y Print Email +/. among others. Achy Obejas interviews Carlos Moore.
Many have even been discriminated there for being black and suffered humiliation. I am convinced that sooner or later such a declaration would have come. including the United States. Marxist regimes were considered to be off-limits for any criticism about their violation of civil rights. because of the mythology around Fidel Castro. We felt it was high time to call a "cat" a cat and a "rat" a rat. Thousands of African Americans have visited Cuba over the past 50 years. TR: The Cuban Revolution has long been regarded as a bulwark against racism and as an ally of Africa. Senegal and. Brazil. Before the Soviet empire tumbled. that happened when the Soviet empire tumbled. Such regimes enjoyed a sort of automatic immunity from criticism. contrary to most other places. "First World" leftist sympathizers made it their job to shield those despotic regimes from critical scrutiny. and the complexities of countries in socalled 'Latin' America. Dr David Covin. How did we get here. where African-American intellectuals need to call Cuba out about racism? CM: The world has changed a lot since the collapse of Communism. race relations and racial equality in Cuba since 1959? . TR: But surely the Cuban Revolution has moved the issue of race forward. The blatantly unjust arrest and imprisonment of Dr. I took the initiative and acted as the facilitator.'' which called Cuba on its racism. his current base. too. On the other hand. They have seen the reality and heard it. But a time comes when people stop fearing a bulldog." However. from the mouths of black Cubans. socialist Cuba had gotten a pass on race for too long. We agreed that. Why did you feel the need to make this kind of statement? Why was it important to get African-American support for such a statement? Carlos Moore: Actually. claiming that to criticize them was to be an ''agent of the CIA. borders. However. It was signed by more than 60 African-American intellectuals. you put together a declaration. Moore has lived and worked in many countries.'' y y y y y y 1 2 3 next ¾ last » y So for decades these ideological bulldogs intimidated most people. Darsi Ferrer. called ''Acting on Our Conscience.Cuba. He holds two doctorates from the University of Paris and is fluent in five languages. representation. Sooner or later. over the years African Americans in general have gained greater knowledge about the world beyond U. hasn't it? Is there any question that there have been achievements as far as race. the human and civil rights activist. their trampling on human rights or their perpetration of racial discrimination.S. it was a tripartite initiative. was the "drop that filled the cup. Dr. It was inevitable: Too many people have gone to Cuba and realized that the regime was lying to them concerning race. the cumulative impact of all that would have produced a principled statement such as the one that was issued. The Root: Last year. regarding this whole question of racism in Cuba. Iva Carruthers and I put the declaration together.
the day-to-day etiquette of interpersonal relations. white elite of wealth monopolizing power and . Consequently. What has shifted is the consciousness that now exist among blacks of their overall inferior position in society. racial democracy. I see it as being. TR: What does Cuba need to do now to address racism? CM: Although racism does create its own sustaining ideologies (Nazism. not biology. And by race. my take on race is that racism exists on at least three different and autonomous but interdependent dimensions that must be confronted simultaneously: the political. makes Cuba unique when it comes to matters of race? CM: Absolutely nothing! In matters of race. economic and judicial structures of power. Puerto Rico. whereas whites continue crushingly at the top. addressing racism implies a determination to attack it frontally in all three dimensions. fundamentally. etc.). Everywhere in this hemisphere. Hence. I do not analyze racial matters in terms of ''betterment. That is why I do not see socialist Cuba as ''less'' or ''more'' racist than pre-1959 Cuba.'' ''advancement'' or ''representation. over-arching consciousness that is materially and psychologically beneficial to a particular racial segment of humankind. Yet. Brazil or any other of the so-called "Latin" American countries. it is not an ideological phenomenon per se. If racism weren't concretely beneficial to that segment. it certainly wouldn't persist in the world. you will find a tiny. if anything. I believe racism to be something much more dangerous and intractable than an ideology -. apartheid. value systems and aesthetic norms. a question of relations of power over the distribution of resources along racial lines. a historically derived.'' ''achievement. the social imaginary where Otherness is mythologized and re-signified through cultural attitudes and patterns. The whole premise based on what is termed "mulatto culture" or "mestizo race" relies on strictly racist assumptions.'' I view maters of race in terms of the power to distribute or deny resources. conquered racial segment.for example. blacks as a whole enjoy greater educational access today. That was never attempted in Cuba either before or after 1959. No doubt because of the socioeconomic transformations brought about by the socialist reforms. despite the Revolution. All three dimensions act conjointly in exclusive detriment of the historically inferiorized.prevails in Cuba.before and after the Revolution -. they remain crushingly at the bottom. Cuba is no different from the Dominican Republic. Such is the equation of power that -.y y y y y y y CM: My perspective on race relations is perhaps quite different from that of most people in that I do not see race as being primarily a question of interpersonal relations. Therefore. Venezuela. TR: What. I mean phenotype.
to be free and to hold to their cultural and ethnical heritage. There were setbacks to be sure. And despite the many social advantages brought about by the Revolution. an increasing number were freemen and they strove mightily to raise not only their own station in life but also the possibilities for their race. after 1959. the Center for International Policy.) Santeria has profound roots in the Afro-Cuban experience.) The Cuban government needs to do much more to address the problem.S. The idea of a "Cuban exceptionalism" based on so-called race-mixing. This merits respect and understanding not rejection and isolation. Their efforts to participate fully in the political process were cut short by the massacre of 1912. Socialist Cuba is no exception. blacks were brought to Cuba from Africa as slaves.y resources and keeping the rest of society at bay. Perhaps the best way to begin would be to openly acknowledge its existence and initiate a national dialogue as to how best to solve it. 5. The Past: 1886-1959 Like their brothers and sisters in the United States. most notably the massacres of Aponte in 1812 and La Escalera in 1844. not all blacks were slaves. Indeed.) Although Afro-Cubans had made up the bulk of the Liberation Army¶s struggle for independence. That option cannot even be on the table.) The Afro-Cuban majority would not accept the return of the white economic elites to rule the country. 3. Santeria and other African-derived religions were key forces. the Cuba Exchange Program of the Johns Hopkins University and Havana¶s Fundacion Fernando Ortiz jointly hosted a conference in Washington. free blacks helped prepare the way. 1999. entitled "Afro-Cubans in Cuban Society: Past.C. as of 1999. Dialogue with the Catholic hierarchy would be of great importance as most practitioners of Santeria are baptized Catholics. D. who played a fundamental role y y y y y y y y y y y y y . She writes about Cuba for The Root and other U. For almost four centuries." y Summary Conference participants were in agreement on a number of points: 1.) Although the Cuban Revolution had. 2. Perhaps the most important was Antonio Maceo. On the contrary. Smith On September 16-17. much remains to be done. over the century. 4. a novel about Cuba in the Special Period. racism is on the rise in Cuba and blacks are disadvantaged in a number of ways. In his presentation. done much to reduce racial discrimination and bring about a more just society. They enabled the blacks to maintain a certain cultural and social cohesion during the years of slavery despite the deliberate efforts of the slaveowners to scatter families and ethinc groups and to erase their ethnic traditions. the more egalitarian society promised by Jose Marti was not realized. She was born in Cuba and came to the United States by boat in 1963. Afro-Cubans in Cuban Society y December 1999 By Wayne S. Since then she has returned to Cuba innumerable times. is a self-indulgent racial myth in itself! Achy Obejas is an author whose most recent book is Ruins. Pedro Pablo Rodriguez reminded the audience that especially into the nineteenth century. because of the present economic crisis. Still.-based publications. they struggled to survive. Present and Future.
especially in Oriente province. Robin Moore traced the evolution of Afro-Cuban music as a reflection of the acceptance (or rejection) of Afro-Cubans by the society around them.e. his thesis that all were simply Cubans was often used by white leaders who followed him to marginalize the issue of race. Blacks were ostensibly accepted as citizens. dance. During most of the nineteenth century and certainly in the centuries before. the turn of the century saw some openings. Emancipation came in 1886 as an outgrowth of the wars of independence. when the Cuban army slaughtered thousands of blacks. It was a traumatic blow. official policy was one thing. 1959." Technically. Jose Marti¶s call for a society in which there would be no blacks or whites but simply Cubans kindled hopes for a truly egalitarian society. that explanation has worn thin. Discrimination in the workplace was greatly reduced. by the end of the eighties blacks had made significant gains. as Tato Quiñones pointed out. Meanwhile. There was ominous talk of a coming black rebellion. 1895-98. tremendous strides were made. and poetry. i. supposedly to put down a rebellion. From that point forward. But tragically. and take no measures to address it. blacks remained second-class citizens until the triumph of the Cuban Revolution in 1959. Carnivals were wholly segregated until emancipation and the Afro-Cuban musical groups. Afro-Cuban music in comparsas and general flourished. What was once banned is now Cuba¶s pride and glory. Blacks flocked to Maceo¶s and Marti¶s banners during the last war of independence. Given its tremendous popularity today ² in Cuba and throughout the world ² it is difficult to remember that it was once banned in Cuba. And as Aline Helg pointed out. the arts. Some managers and officials simply didn¶t agree that blacks should be treated equally and their personal prejudices led them to give preference to whites.y y y y y y in mobilizing Afro-Cubans against slavery and Spanish colonialism. in the heyday of slavery. music. With the participation of so many blacks in the struggle for national independence. Afro-Cuban music was virtually banned. They still are not. many of them formed a Colored Independence Party (Partido Independiente de Color) and took other steps to participate in the political process as equals. comparsas were not banned from the carnival celebrations. An increasing percentage had become professionals. in the 1900s. Blacks were indeed given equal access to education through the postgraduate level. however. which triumphed on January 1. Not until the 1940s did the barriers begin truly to come down. promised to end discrimination and provide equal opportunities for blacks. what happened was another. in one way or another. from participating. However. the comparsas. Forty years after the triumph of the revolution. This building white resentment and reaction led to the massacre of 1912. the cinema. At first this could be explained as a matter of cultural or educational lag. whites tended to see efforts by blacks to participate in the political process as unwanted and dangerous. but at the same time there were calls for the suppression of "atavistic art forms. Santeria. Still. while at first treated as a folkloric expression by the Cuban . Although there were some advances in the years after 1912. After independence. Nor were blacks proportionately represented in the government.. Music fans all over the world can be happy that AfroCubans persevered! The Present: 1959 Until Today The Cuban Revolution. Without question. Marti had been killed in the first battle of the war. were not allowed to participate. but more often than not they were prevented. and made up the bulk of the Army of Liberation. rising to the top in the military and winning great prestige in sports. or even to suggest that the problem did not exist.
Further. On the contrary. Still. all panelists were in agreement that while progress has been made under the revolution. but it has made a creditable effort. had not played a helpful role. That was totally unacceptable. all agreed that the last thing Afro-Cubans wanted to see was the return of the white elitist exiles thinking they were going to turn the clock back and rule over the island as they had before the revolution. but with an imaginative wrinkle. They did. embargo had also been harmful to blacks perhaps more than whites ² since it did most harm to the more vulnerable elements of Cuban society. It had made progress difficult on many fronts. She noted too that the U. they were forbidden from worshipping their traditional gods. or even thought patterns without the influence of Santeria. Anthony. Yet. it is the most numerous and most powerful religion in Cuba and is growing rapidly. very little of that money comes to Afro-Cubans on the island. Instead. because they benefited from the revolution. what it means to be Cuban. They are dedicated to the cause of racial as well as social justice ² in the diaspora and back home. the problems of racism. And she agreed with Rigoberto Lopez that Afro-Cubans tend to see the revolution¶s goals as their own. embargo. Rigoberto Lopez emphasized. But economic crises do not usually bring out the best in people and the current Cuban crisis is no exception. Though underrepresented in the senior organs of the party-state-government triad. etc. i.S. They still feel themselves to be a part of it and consider the goals and problems of AfroCubans on the island to be theirs. few blacks went into exile. they had to adopt the Catholic faith. In this and in many other ways. Interestingly. They simply fused the one with the other. even though officially condemned. literature. Eleggua became St. They . The revolution hasn¶t been able to solve them. The Role of Santeria Santeria. One can hardly imagine Cuban music. blacks had grounds for optimism that progress could be made there as well. Lazarus was Babalu Aye. The resulting competition for jobs.y y y y y y y y y government. Thus. And today. one¶s economic status depends largely on access to dollars. Meanwhile. as Lazara Menendez noted. As there are few blacks among them. The most basic was to bring social justice to the poor and downtrodden.e. the largest source of hard currency is family remittances from the exiles in the United States. Rigoberto Lopez agreed and noted that one could not understand anything about the past forty years in Cuba without factoring in the all-pervasive U. occupations ² 1898-1902 and 1906-08. much more remains to be done. Afro-Cubans always felt that the goals of the revolution were their goals as well: equality and social justice for all. Whether they were black or white did not matter. Racist attitudes in Cuba had been given new strength during the U.S. In sum.S. dollars and status since 1991 has resulted in something of a resurgence of racism. When the enslaved blacks were first brought in from Africa. Certainly. there are worrisome signs that racism and discrimination may again be on the rise in Cuba. and led to increased disparities. as Ana Cairo pointed out. For example. discrimination and racial inequalities were all inherited by the revolution. The forty-year-old U. This is not simply because there is an Afro-Cuban majority. is so deeply woven into Cuban culture as to be a part of Cuban identity. It didn¶t invent them. many whites as well practice Santeria. The way seemed open for new gains in the years that were to follow.S. Santeria is a syncretic religion.. blacks face new disadvantages. St. Further. It still does. had come to be fully accepted as a religion. Chango became Santa Barbara. panelists representing Afro-Cubans living abroad emphasized their continuing identification with the community still on the island.
And they expressed hope for reconciliation with the Catholic hierarchy ² once the latter had "reflected further on the issue. are baptized Catholics. after all. had all been santeros and it had been Batista. that openness toward the practice of Santeria is not evident in the Catholic Church. is that 80 percent of the people in the masses on Sunday are santeros. although the pope had received representatives of all other religions on the island. No other country has succeeded in solving the problem either.500 strong). Many who had planned to attend the mass in Havana that was the centerpiece of the pope¶s visit boycotted it instead.y y y y y y y saw no inherent contradiction between the two belief systems and still do not. Most santeros are baptized Catholics. Santeria is not really an organized church. Jose Miller. There was no shame in acknowledging this. Santeria simply adds another but profoundly important dimension. been a powerful unifying force. this growing estrangement and resentment between the Catholic Church and Santeria is likely to hurt the church more. all panelists noted. Carlos Prio Socarras and Fulgencio Batista. guided perhaps by a local babalao. This had been deeply resented by AfroCubans in general and most especially by santeros. but the parish priests do. over the centuries. Santeros had looked forward enthusiastically to the pope¶s visit in January. for example. had condemned syncretic religions described by him as "simply folkloric rites. as Eugenio Matibag noted. 1998. in his televised address to the nation before the visit. They had been stunned when Cardinal Jaime Ortega. "It is as though he does not wish to share with us any of the greater space for the practice of religion. If they stopped going. Santeria has. As one panelist put it. And then." There was no question as to whom he referred. This is in some ways surprising. The spiritualism of the Cuban people endured and the government now allows the practice of Santeria as well as other faiths. Despite that. there wouldn¶t be much church left. the president of the small Jewish community (only some1. the socialist government had at first been somewhat restrictive toward Santeria. Natalia Bolivar pointed out that while initially shunned by whites. As Miguel Barnet pointed out. the cardinal continues to deny the importance and authenticity of Santeria. Presidents Mario Menocal. What the hierarchy of the church doesn¶t seem to realize. They had expected his visit to be an expression of brotherhood and that it would mark the beginning of a new spirit of cooperation among all religions. including Dr. in the forties. panelists agreed. it represents a system of beliefs and of individual worship within that system. And then came the revolution." In the final analysis. given that. Cuba has made a . Nor have the divisions and resentments been healed. In many ways it represents a sociological key to Cuban society. its importance as a means of communication cannot be exaggerated. But that has now been overcome. But there is no hierarchy ² no system as in the Catholic Church of bishops responsible to a cardinal and all responsible to the pope as the head of the church. On the contrary. Santeria had come to permeate the whole society. Most. he had shunned any contact with representatives of the Santeria faith. Given its ideological position with respect to religions. It had exacerbated a sense of exclusion and separation." The Future Gisela Arandia and Graciella Chailloux joined in acknowledging the long way yet to go to attain racial equality. Unfortunately. Panelists noted that relations with the Protestant churches tend to be good. who brought down most of the remaining restrictions on the practice of Santeria and on the participation of comparsas in carnival. rather.
both agreed. may now be in position to undertake a more comprehensive solution. is the inclusion of Afro-Cuban studies in the regular curriculum of Cuban primary and secondary schools ² a step which would emphasize the important role played by Afro-Cubans in Cuban history and society.. a whiteled communist state. i. Moore¶s remarks sparked a heated three-hour discussion that made it clear that the overwhelming majority rejected partition and most of the other options.. Discrimination and racism of course persist. That had been suggested in the past and could not be discarded as a possible option even now. he maintained. Still. A new. Moore believes there are five possible options. The fourth option was black-majority rule.e. A society without discrimination and in which all can live together harmoniously ² a society in which the cultural heritage of all is respected ² is attainable. I ask myself: what is Cuba? What is it to be Cuban? The answer. The most important thing is that an honest dialogue begin. for example. as earlier speakers had made clear. and other institutions are even now considering new steps. The first was to maintain the current status quo. That. Moore concluded by saying that he credited the revolution with bringing about the conditions in which the issue can now be discussed and.e. I believe. He did not believe the revolution had made a serious effort to get rid of them. It was toward this vision that Cuba should be moving. despite forty years of having the whole issue of race downplayed. Despite his earlier criticisms of the government for the way it has handled the racial issue. One measure being considered.e. finally. more equitable socio-political model must be developed. and. despite all the difficulties it would create. hopefully.e. there is a growing consciousness among Afro-Cubans of who they are. is that it is to have participated in a history without parallel in our y y y y . Concluding Remarks Pablo Armando Fernandez "At times. solved.y y y y y y y y better effort than most. Carlos Moore took strong exception to the optimistic views of the previous two speakers. rather. Justice must be done. And. The second was a return to the status quo ante. of power shared equally between blacks and whites. Cuba is not a multicultural country. They also felt strongly that there were not two altogether distinct. Chailloux concluded that the atmosphere now favors positive change and that Cuba¶s intellectuals are capable of moving toward definitive solutions. By inference. a white-led capitalist model. The National Assembly. still. was totally unacceptable. there was the possibility of condominial rule. They have held to their cultural and ethnic roots. There was also the possibility of partition. i. i. Moore left it to the audience to consider which option might be the most suitable. And they are now the majority. i. He agreed with Chailloux and Arandia that the most important thing is that the problem be openly acknowledged and that a national dialogue begin. But that would not be acceptable to the majority and would not work for long anyway. rather there were two distinct cultures in Cuba ² African and Spanish ² which have been and still are in conflict with one another. the universities. the island divided between a white and black Cuba. Cuba was developing a distinct identity which was a blend of African. warring cultures that could never be joined. the only one that seemed feasible was condominial rule. and Afro-Cubans clearly remain disadvantaged. Spanish and various other cultures.
I think of Flor Crombet and of Quintin Banderas organizing the descendants of Galicians. 1999 y . perennial in its light. "And we should not forget the aborigines. her magic. Asturians. its seed. It is a struggle shared by the sons and daughters of the conquistadores and the colonizers. "Spain gave us our language and helped shape our character. Johns Hopkins University y 1740 Massachusetts Avenue. Color is simply an adornment. and myths in which song and dance are a ritual of the soul. and deep integration that is found in our arts: music.y y y y y y hemisphere. and in the works of one of our most illustrious elders: the painter Wilfredo Lam. "As I look out over the sea of faces before me. Seeing it. Africa gave us her poetry. We are custodians of the great altar. in the United States. dance. 1999 y Organized by y the Center for International Policy. "It is good that this dialogue among Cubans has begun. my spirit opens and I understand more deeply what it is to be Cuban. They too were part of the struggle. my spirit soars. y the Latin American Studies Program of the Johns Hopkins y School of Advanced International Studies and y the Fundación Fernando Ortiz in Havana y With the cooperation of y TransAfrica Forum and the participation of y members of the Congressional Black Caucus y In the Kenney Auditorium of the School of Advanced International Studies. harmonious. the garden.We are the flower. sculpting and painting. and which in certain regions of the country is scarcely preserved in what was for Araucans our daily bread. Catalonians and Basques to wage war against the Spanish crown that was to them the motherland. nothing more. with Cuba as its great altar²an altar. A history that has forged us into what we are. NW y September 16. y the Cuba Exchange Program of the Johns Hopkins University. "«. poetry. in its fruits. a garden where all the imaginable colors make of the flowers an unforgettable diadem. and as with the flower. free and sovereign nation. the essence is the memory ²a memory that commits us to the clean. A history of continued struggle to make of Cuba a fully independent. Seeing you all here. And here our Asiatic component is strongly felt ²in the Chinese trumpet that enlivens our feast days. It is especially moving that it takes place here. in its essence. a garment like that of the flower." y Afro-Cubans in Cuban Society: Past. They rekindle the spirit of that which for three centuries has been a memory dominating our landscape. I envision Atlantis. we recapture the spirit of Atlantis. I attribute to the African in all of us the tender familiarity and affection among us. where the struggle for respect and justice waged by the sons and daughters of the forced exodus from Africa has been and is so intense. Present and Future y September 16-17.
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