Is there such a thing as a ‘white’ Cuban?

Discovery Magazine tackles the mysterious notion of a “white” Cuban:

The case of the white Cubans

In a follow up to a post below, a new paper in PLoS Genetics has some data on American Hispanics. Specifically, Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, Mexicans, and Cubans, as well as assorted Central and South Americans. I am not too interested in the cases except Cubans; no one doubts the mixed heritage of the other groups, though the African ancestry of Mexicans, and some Central and South Americans may surprise (again, I have to note that this not surprising in light of history, and has been robustly confirmed in the genomic literature).

But Cuban Americans are somewhat a special case. The vast majority, specifically, 85 percent, identify as white. This is a higher proportion than the number of self-identified whites in Cuba, and a function of the skewed nature of the migration out of Cuba socially and economically. By and large the white elite of the island fled Castro’s revolution to a far greater extent than the black lower classes. And contrary to American stereotypes of Latin American ease and openness about race, Cuba was a relatively stratified society, albeit not characterized by hypodescent. Slavery was not abolished on the island until 1884. Additionally, Cuba did experience a relatively large wave of Spanish immigration in the early 20th century. I have taken the claims of “pure Spanish ancestry” on face value in the past because of this history. But further genomic evidence makes me reconsider the biases in the reporting of ancestry. For example, I have heard singer Gloria Estefan mention that her heritage was of recent Spanish immigrants from Cuba, but Wikipedia indicates that this is the origin of her maternal lineage. It leaves her paternal lineage unaccounted for. I have no doubt that her father’s family were white Cubans, but if their roots on the island were somewhat deep, I am also sure that they had non-trivial African, and possibly Amerindian, ancestry.

Continue reading HERE.

5 thoughts on “Is there such a thing as a ‘white’ Cuban?”

  1. The study showed a huge variance in individual Cuban’s tested-from 100% European, to an individual who was 98% African and 2% amerindian.

    This study is flawed at least in regards to Cubans from the get go. Why are no Miami Cubans included? I think in our community we recognize that Cubans in New York-not all- have a higher liklihood of having a history of being mixed, while those in Miami do not; 35/50 were from the New York area. Why is that? Traditionally, pre-Castro the Oriente province was known for having higher african components and amerindian, while the western provinces were known, for a lack of a better word, of being more racist, and not prone to miscegenation. We have no idea where these Cuban’s in the study family’s hailed from-are they all from Boracoa or Guantanamo? There is also an inherent low level African in the parental Spanish population (ADMIXTURE, which is a program often used in these studies shows a level of 1.1% African on average in Spaniards, with Catalans demonstrating zero, and extremadurans demonstrating higher levels), so the main parental population of Cubans, that is Spaniards, are not 100% European. Razib also does not recognize that Cubans have a high level of Canarian descent. How many white Cubans do any of us know who are not part Canarian? Canarians (or Islenos as we used to call them) are composed of varying degrees of Spanish and indiginous peoples of the Canary Islands (the main group that is talked about in genetic circles are the Guanche). In a recent, non-peer reviewed, but respected study by “Dienkes”, Canarians demonstrated up to 4% African. So, things, as is usually the case, are not as simple as some would like to state it. Yes, of course there are mixed Cubans; and some white Cubans have varying degrees of African-either directly from Spain or the Canary Island, and some from the original African slaves brought to Cuba. But this study glosses over the actual make-up and difference seen in the American Cuban population-which reflects the variance traditionally seen in Cuba itself.
    As far as the Native American (or Amerindian) component, the island was clearly divided. When they say that the Ciboney and Taino were wiped out during the colonization period, they (meaning the old textbooks) were wrong. The culture was wiped out by the Spaniards; and most of the men were wiped out. But as is the usual case for conquerors, the women were married/raped by the Spaniards/Portuguese/ and yes, probably converso Jews, who made their way to Cuban during it’s early years. However on the western side of the island there were few Native Americans to begin with; the majority were in the eastern half of the island, which accounts for the traditionally high level of amerindians in Oriente. Many of the Native Americans hid in the hills of Oriente and only very gradually mixed with non-Indians. So there is often a very low level of Native American in those who have colonial heritage-particularly again those of the eastern half of the island.
    For those of you who are unaware of genetic companies which for a reasonably discreet amount of money will actually test your genetic makeup, I refer you to 23andme.com Many Cubans, other Latin-Americans, Canarians, Spaniards and other Europeans, as well as many regular Americans and people from all over the world test themselves for a small fee. The company provides genetic and medical data. You can share basic genetic data with many Cubans and others as you please. It is clear that Cubans are extremely European relative to other Latin Americans; of a similar amount to Argentinians (who by the way often show very small Amerindian and African heredity as some white Cubans do). I’ve noted that Cubans usually test in the 90%+ range, with most 95% or greater, with some 100%. This is in sharp contrast to Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, Dominicans, etc. The only other nationalities of similar scores are the Argentinians, Uruguayans, of course the huge country of Brazil-where anything/everything is found.
    Finally, there are studies of basic white Americans who also show small levels of admixture in up to 60% of the US non-hispanic population. Google it for yourselves.

  2. raddoc, thank you for your analysis. I knew that this was a flawed study. I just want to know one thing [rhetorical question], why is it that when it comes to Cubans, everything is always flawed??

    I’m a lay person, I don’t have the expertise that you have, raddoc, but the get-go, the flaw was apparent:

    –As to the Cuban sample, the N is 50. About 70 percent of these are from in and around New York City, while the rest were from other northern cities. These are not “Miami Cubans.” Though the MESA data set has information on how many of the Hispanics identified as white, there was no breakdown for the Cubans.–

    As you pointed out, why only NYC and other northern cities? NYC/NJ are full of marielitos and other recent arrivals [as a New Yorker, I can attest to that] and further, only 50 people were tested out of a population in the entire country of 1.5 million? Finally, why was there not a breakdown for Cubans of how many identified as white, while there was for the other Hispanic groups in the study?

    It appears to me that either by design or negligence, the author wanted the conclusion that he got.

    Which brings me back to my original question, why is everything that involves Cubans always flawed. This reminds me of the generational shift theory. In other words, a highly flawed and politicized theory.

  3. One more thing, I also noticed that they used a picture of Eva Mendes to represent Cubans. While Ms. Mendes is lovely, her exotic look is not necessarily your typical Cuban look. I’m not saying that she’s mixed, for all that I know she could be 100% Spanish [I know that many Spaniards have an exotic look from gypsy/and or Moorish blood], but I think that its apparent why they put her picture up.

    Again, that misleading thing when it comes to Cubans.

  4. Now boys, don’t be uppity and just get in that “Latino” pigeonhole. Accept your designated status as brown third-world people so that your betters can be comfortably condescending and “generous.” They don’t like no difficult or “confused” minorities that can’t be manipulated as client victims. “Viva la raza,” whatever that is (it doesn’t matter, as long as it’s not white).

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