Racism in Cuba – Updated

The headline, “Despite castro’s best intentions, racism lingers in Cuba”, is correct, but that’s not what the article is about.

It’s all about how hard fidel has worked to end racism in Cuba, apparently an impossible task, because in spite of all his efforts, he has been unable to purge Cuban society of the entrenched racism of pre-revolutionary Cuba. All those executions, imprisonments, forced relocations, and 48 years of indoctrination didn’t solve the problem.

This article is an affront.

An excerpt:

Race still matters in Cuba. As much as Fidel Castro tried to purge this country of its racist past when he proclaimed the equality of all Cubans in 1959, racism lingers beneath the facade of Cuba’s communist solidarity.

“Fidel has tried to do his best, but he can’t change what’s in a man’s heart,” Terrero said of the subtle racism that has replaced the overt bigotry outlawed by Castro.

The official position of the Cuban government is that it doesn’t tolerate racial discrimination — and there are signs it’s making a sincere effort to wipe out racial inequalities. But in Havana, you don’t have to go out of your way to find evidence of racial imbalance in this country of 11.4 million people. Two-thirds of those people are of African descent, according to the 2007 CIA World Factbook.

It’s hard to find a black doorman at one of Havana’s fashionable hotels, where tips from tourists make the job one of the highest paying in Cuba. At trendy restaurants like El Aljibe, where waiters can earn more tip money in a night than most Cubans earn in a month, black waiters are hard to find.

There are few blacks on newscasts or talk shows on the government-run television network. And in all of the meetings I’ve had with Cuban government officials over the years, I’ve encountered few blacks in top-level positions.

During a dinner meeting I attended with him in 1999, Castro acknowledged that one of the serious shortcomings of his revolution was the belief that Cuba’s racist past could be wiped out by simple proclamation.

He said then that he realized his government had to back up its words with action. But that effort hasn’t produced enough results, making Cuba and its supporters in the United States a target for criticism.

And of course he couldn’t resist taking a swipe at Miami exiles:

Back in 2003, Cuban exiles in Miami blasted the NAACP for failing to criticize Cuba’s treatment of blacks. Given the widespread mistreatment of black Cubans before Castro came to power — when many of Castro’s most virulent opponents in the exile community benefited from the racist government he replaced — those complaints are disingenuous.

The article is here.

Update: I first read the article while at work on Friday and I emailed Wickham. He answered, and I’ve posted our exchange below. Please keep in mind that I was royally pissed and under time constraints so I didn’t have time for editing.

I wrote:

Subject: Re: racism in Cuba
To: DeWayneWickham@aol.com
If Castro were concerned about racism in Cuba, all he need do is to end the existing tourist apartheid, release black Cuban political prisoners like Dr. Biscet, stop harassing black dissidents, and hire blacks for high profile positions.  Notice I didn’t say government, because in Cuba everyone works for the state and castro, inc. doles out the jobs.  It is also not true that black Cubans are not in exile.  It’s true that early exiles were mostly white, subsequent exiles include Cubans from every background.  In Cuba, citizens are equal—equally oppressed and equally poor, while the elite pocket the money.  Indeed, Cuba is a slave state.  Why don’t you write an article about the Cuban people and the hellish nightmare they live in that places the blame where it belongs, on Fidel Castro and his thugs.  It is thanks to them that a first world thriving nation (facts available from numerous sources) was turned it into a third world hellhole.  As far as racism pre-Castro, Cuba was way ahead of the U.S. and no doubt would have addressed racial inequality that existed as most nations have done in the past 50 years.

He replied:
Subject: Re: racism in Cuba
To: zivainla@yahoo.com
Thanks for sharing your opinion with me.

I answered his “thanks for sharing your opinon”
Subject: Re: racism in Cuba
To: DeWayneWickham@aol.com

Sir, what I shared with you was not my “opinion”, but easily verified facts. The CIA factbook, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Human Rights Foundation, among others, the most important being exile testimony from all decades and the dissident voices that manage to get their word out. Why is it that Cuban exiles are the only victim group whose voice is ridiculed and marginalized? Can you imagine silencing descendants of slaves or Holocaust survivors? Why should the word of an unelected dictator take precedence over his victims? Could it be the result of decades of carefully disseminated propaganda serving just that purpose? Please, think about it. Thanks for your response, Ziva

I also sent him a link to Marc’s post on the Farinas beating:
Subject: Re: racism in Cuba
To: DeWayneWickham@aol.com
This is how the Cuban government treats black Cubans who peacefully protest their lack of freedom.


He replied:
Subject: Re: racism in Cuba
To: zivainla@yahoo.com
86% of Cubans in the United States are white (see page 3 of this document: http://pewhispanic.org/files/factsheets/23.pdf), while two-thirds of Cubans in Cuba are of African descent according to the 2007 CIA World Factbook. So it is your opinion – not a fact – that a lot of Cubans of African descent are leaving Cuba. Most of the people who leave Cuba are members of Cuba’s white minority, not its black majority.

And I answered:
Subject: Re: racism in Cuba
To: DeWayneWickham@aol.com
I did not say that a lot of Cubans leaving are black, but they are leaving. Look at the photos from Mariel onward. They’re not leaving because they don’t have relatives in the states to help, not because they wouldn’t like to leave. That’s also a fact. I’m not arguing that most of the majority of exiles are white, but 14% of about 1.5 million is over 200 thousand Afro-Cuban exiles, not an incidental number.
Now maybe he hasn’t answered back because he’s too busy, or it’s the weekend. More likely, as almost always happens with liberals they won’t deal with “facts” that contradict their “beliefs.”

15 thoughts on “Racism in Cuba – Updated”

  1. Otro trasnochado imbecil.

    You know, Wickham and his ilk will ALWAYS, invariably, consistenly, perhaps genetically, attempt to revise history to accommodate their biases. The truth is immaterial to these people — ‘got my mind made up, don’t confuse me with the facts.’ The more I read them, the more convinced I become that they’re hopeless.

  2. To criticize the racism that pervades Cuban society today, Wickham first exonerates Castro of any personal blame for it, while at the same time maligning Castro’s exiled opponents who had nothing to do with it. At the end he predicts prophetically that “the defeat of racism would be the greatest triumph of Fidel Castro’s revolution.” Yes, it certainly would be. Except, after 48 years of social engineering via jails and firing squads and with Fidel Castro on his deathbed, this “triumph” would have to be something in the order of a miracle since Cuba today is a more racist society than even in the worst days of slavery.

  3. I have used this quote before and intend to use it every tinme somebody brings up the charge of “racism” against pre-Castro Cuba. American journalist, Edna Fergusson, in her book CUBA (Knopf, 1948) writes of race relations on the island at a time when this question was not politicized as it is today:

    “Now [1948] that the world is striving for a unity that will consider the good of all people everywhere–and what else can we do and survive?–Cuba stands ready to take her place with dignity in such a union. We recognize, at last, that safety is impossible for any of us without safety for all, regardless of race, color, or creed. For the first time in history there is no evading the dilemma this situation presents. Somehow human beings have to learn to live together in peace and fairness. Cuba, seeming so powerless among the mighty, is farther than most countries along the road toward a sensible and workable solution of this universal problem. Some Cubans worry lest we think of their country as a “Negro republic.” They should instead be proud that they have so well avoided the crippling clumsiness in human dealing and the demeaning hypocrisy that afflicts those who cherish race prejudice. With few exceptions, the Cuban has the grace to retain his right to choose his friends and associates without denying any human right or dignity to another. Cuba again holds a key, this time to a much wider area than the Caribbean.”

  4. Of course not only does he forget Antonio Maceo leading white troops, he forgets everything… apparently even Batista is now white washed after death……(well he was part Taino (:>)

  5. That article is without a doubt one of the dumbest things I’ve read about Cuba in a long time! Daley: The writer also ignores Erneido Oliva as commanader of the 2506 Brigade at the Bay of Pigs. What ignorance.

  6. No one has ever said or written that 1958 Cuba was perfect; but racism in Cuba was much less pervasive than anywhere else in Latin America, and much, much less than in the United States.

    Cuba won its “complete” independence from Spain –and U.S. occupation– by 1902, so theoretically speaking, at the time of the Cuban Rebellion (please note that I don’t call it revolution) the Cuban Republic was only 56 years old. There ISN’T A SINGLE COUNTRY in the world that didn’t go through growing pains after their liberation struggles. Cuba was no exception. But I can say for certain (and there is plenty of documentation to back this up) that though Cuba was the last (20th Century) of the Spanish colonies to obtain its independence, it SURPASSED every other country in the American Continent in human rights and equality.

    Before its independence Cuban Creoles were 2nd class citizens in their own country, same as the blacks. Besides, Blacks and Whites had fought together for Cuba’s independence and having been through the hardships of persecution and campaigning together they regarded each other as equals. By 1915, (population 70.3% white, 29.7 Black/Mulatto) Blacks had the same opportunity as whites to enter the political arena. In fact, by 1915 there were several blacks in the House of Representatives: Aurelio Alvarez de la Vega (Camagüey) G. Campos Marquetti (Habana) Agustín Cebreco-Sánchez (Oriente) M. Angel Cespedes-Casado (Habana) Saturnino Escoto-Carrión (Habana) Juan G. Goméz-Ferrer (Habana) H. Ponvert-D’Lisle (Santa Clara) Primitivo Ramírez-Ros (Matanzas) just to name a few. They were also members of the police force, and the military. There was no JIM CROW law in Cuba (though the U.S. occupational government tried to implement it… to no avail). Batista himself was a mulatto and he was ELECTED president in 1940. In 1958 Cuba’s population was 75% white 25 % Black, Mulatto, and Chinese. Tell me, how MANY blacks DO YOU SEE in castro’s government? Zero! The Cuban population now is 75% black 25% white (approx.) the reverse of 1958.

    Before the Rebellion, Blacks had the freedom to go anywhere they pleased: parks, beaches, restaurants, bars, schools, stores, etc. They were doctors, lawyers, professionals, etc. Skin color was not an issue. Yes, there were certain clubs blacks were not allowed in. Yes, blacks had their own clubs were whites were not allowed in. Yes, there were certain clubs NO ONE was allowed in unless you practiced that profession (ie. Doctor, Lawyer, etc.). But NOW Cuban nationals, black and white, ARE NOT allowed ANYWHERE.

  7. The great Humberto Fontova sheds light on the question of racism in Castro’s Cuba:

    “Unlike Charlie Rangel, Maxine Waters, Dannie Glover, Harry Belafonte, David Kesting and those multitudes of Harlem Castro fans, Eusebio Penalver, a black Cuban, actually lived in Castro’s fiefdom. “N—-er!” taunted his all-white Castroite jailers between tortures. “Monkey!” they laughed. “We pulled you down from the trees and cut of your tail!” They taunted while throwing him in solitary confinement. For opposing the re-installation of slavery in Cuba, Penalver suffered longer in Castro’s dungeons than Nelson Mandela suffered in South Africa’s, and more defiantly and heroically.

    The man honored by Harlem for his “humanitarianism” and “dedication to civil rights” jailed more of his subjects [per capita] for political crimes than Hitler and Stalin. More uproariously ironic, he is (or was) a lily white European soldier’s son who — not only jailed Penalver, the longest-jailed black political prisoner in modern history — but also overthrew a Cuban government where blacks served as President of the Senate, minister of agriculture, chief of Army, and as head of state (Fulgencio Batista).

    Today the prison population in Stalinist/Apartheid Cuba is 90% black while only 9% of the ruling Stalinist party is black. Most of Cuba’s current political prisoners are black, including Jorge Antunez and Dr. Elias Biscet, a Martin Luther King and Gandhi disciple. Antunez’s 18-year sentence and daily tortures resulted essentially from quoting Martin Luther King in a public square. Biscet’s 25-year sentence and daily tortures result from being overheard saying about Castro what the Dixie Chicks, Nancy Pelosi and Charles Rangel bellow into microphones about President Bush.

    It’s worth repeating: the November 8 unveiling and celebration is motivated by “Harlem’s acclamation for Castro’s contributions to civil rights.”

    I’ll defer to Jorge Antunez’s sister, Berta Antunez: “The Cuban government tries to fool the world with siren songs depicting racial equality in our country,” she reports clandestinely via a Cuban Samizdat. “But it is all a farce, as I and my family can attest, having suffered from the systematic racism directed at us by Castro’s regime. My brother suffers the scourge of racial hatred every day. The beatings are always accompanied by racial epithets. They set dogs on him. They deny him medical attention. They kept him from attending his mother’s funeral.”

    “The racist mentality is so ingrained among Cuba’s agents of repression,” reports Antunez, “that when mixed race groups are stopped on the street, only the blacks are asked for their identification papers. … The only think I have to thank the Cuban revolution for,” she quoted her brother, “is for restoring the yoke of slavery that my ancestors lived under.”

    The Left’s Pin-Up Boy

    Please, please, please don’t waste your time looking for any mention of these valiant blacks in the mainstream media. Please, please, please don’t bother looking for them hailed during Black History Month on NPR, CNN, the History Channel or Oprah. These heroes defied the hemisphere’s premier slaver, you see, who also happens to be the left’s premier pin-up boy. So their courage, sacrifices and suffering don’t qualify as politically correct news and documentary fare.

    If the term “slaver” strikes you as hyperbolic, consider this story from last week’s Miami Herald: “In reality we were slaves,” says Cuban refugee Alberto Rodriguez who before escaping was forced to labor 116 hours a week at three-and-a-half pennies per hour. Amazingly, this labor went on in a shipyard in Delray Beach, Fla. Rodriguez and two other escapees were “employees” of Curacao Drydock Co., headquartered in Curacao but who obtained some of their laborers from the Cuban government. This government, lauded worldwide as a champion of the laboring classes, pocketed the difference between the three-and-a-half pennies per hour and Curacao Drydock’s normal wage.

    The forced-laborers were rounded up in Cuba and shipped to Curacao where their passports were promptly confiscated. Their “supervisor” was a Fidel Castro nephew. “We worked in broiling heat, in the most dangerous part of the ship, where all of the regular workers refused to go–that’s where they forced the Cubans to work,” recounts Mr Rodriguez. His co-slave, Luis Casanova, was badly electrocuted but forced to work with blood pouring from his tongue. “They said if we slacked up we’d be taken back to Cuba and thrown in jail.”

    After these men were shipped to Florida to work for a Curacao Drydock agent, they escaped their slavers and have filed suit against them in Miami federal court under the Aliens Tort Act. Please don’t confuse their case with those of illegals who sneak in, clamor for a job, then sue the employer for “discrimination,” or some such. This is a totally different animal.

    Charlie Rangel raves against Republicans as closet Klu Kluxers. This July on the floor of the House he denounced Republicans’ “stinking hypocrisy” for refusing to vote to raise the minimum wage to $7.35 per hour. I’ll be surprised if Charlie Rangel isn’t the keynote speaker at the Central Park celebration for the Stalinist/racist who jailed and tortured black political prisoners longer than apartheid South Africa, and who kidnaps his subjects and rents them out for three-and-a-half pennies an hour.”


  8. Yeah and Raul is so modest he kicked out all the objective reporters so he needn’t be embarrassed by his noble reign. If this place was being run so fairly why kick them out? Raul is starving his people – both black and white. Racism is not the problem here – it’s DeWayne Wickham’s ignorance.

  9. From the BBC:

    “Por primera vez, el propio presidente de Cuba, Fidel Castro, reconoció en un discurso que la revolución no había logrado erradicar ‘las diferencias en el estatus social y económico de la población negra del país’.”

    [“For the first time, Cuba’s own president, Fidel Castro, recognized in a speech that the revolution had not succeeded in eradicating ‘the differences in social and economic status of the country’s black population’.”]


  10. “There are few blacks on newscasts or talk shows on the government-run television network. And in all of the meetings I’ve had with Cuban government officials over the years, I’ve encountered few blacks in top-level positions.”

    And how is that not Castro’s fault? Isn’t he the one in charge. Seems like racism might be Castro’s problem not a Cuban problem.

  11. Perhaps it is interesting to see this now, since Raul Castro unlike his half brother is of mixed race.

    p.s. Sorry I missed mention of Erneido Oliva as Omar so indly pointed out

  12. Yeah I emailed the guy. He came back and probed me about my support for blowing civilian airliners. I emailed him that it wasn’t my bag and what did that have to do with the question at hand. So far the silence of his response has been deafening

  13. I’m no fan of Castro, but weren’t the beaches before the “revolution” segregated? I’m just skeptical that Cuba’s race-relations were so much better than the US’s pre-1959. Although I fully concur that all normal Cubans suffer from the Castro government today.

  14. Dax:

    No. There were no segregated beaches in pre-Castro Cuba; no segregated anything. During the U.S. occupation of Cuba (1898-1902), the Americans attempted to introduce segregation but they were rebuffed by white Cubans, who had fought beside black troops and under the command of black generals during all our wars of independence.

Comments are closed.