Racism in Castro’s Cuba: an honest report from an unlikely source

Social justice, Castro style

Not from the NYT, or Reuters, or AP, or the BBC, or AFP, or NBC, or CBS, or CNN, or any of the usual collaborators with Granma

From Al Jazeera America:

Amid sweeping changes in US relations, Cuba’s race problem persists

In 1959, Fidel Castro said he would work to erase racial discrimination, but inequality is still widespread

by Julia Cooke

Official Cuban census figures say black and mixed-heritage people are about 35 percent of the island’s population, but a quick stroll around any Cuban town will provide visual confirmation of just how many Cubans of color deem themselves “white” when the government is asking. That may not be surprising, given that race is not an objective scientific category, but rather an organizing principle of political power — both before and after the revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power.

The black and mixed-heritage share of Cuba’s population is closer to a two-thirds majority, according to other sources, including the U.S. State Department (which puts the figure at 62 percent), the University of Miami’s Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies (also 62 percent) and Cuban economist and political scientist Esteban Morales Domínguez (who says it may be as high 72 percent). Most of these assessments break down the population into roughly equal blocs of white, black and mixed.

Even the dominant Cuban terminology signals the issue’s knotty intricacy: the decidedly un-PC term mulatto is used tenderly in conversation, defiantly on official documents, and derisively by the concerned neighbor who asks what color skin a robber had.

Now, as the country enters a new era of fast and sweeping change, a long-taboo political conversation about race is on the table as never before in art, music, film, and writing; in both official and dissident narratives; and in diverse circles across the socio-economic strata.

This conversation is new. Cuba pre-Fidel had been a place where multiracial alliances coexisted with persistent, entrenched racism and vast racial inequality. The last pre-revolutionary president, Fulgencio Batista, was a mulatto who may have had some Chinese and Indian blood. While he may have firmly ruled that system of inequality, he was, demographically speaking, more inclusive than were the white revolutionaries who overthrew him.

From its start, Fidel Castro’s revolutionary movement was dominated by middle-class white men. So white were its ranks, in fact, that during initial clashes with Batista’s army, the government men were shocked.

“When Captain Yañes came upon Castro hiding asleep in a bohío, it will be recalled that the soldier who found them cried: ‘Son blancos!’ ‘They are white!’ … It is not clear how many of the rebel army in the Sierra were black but a majority certainly were not, and Almeida, a mulatto, was the only officer of importance who was,” wrote Hugh Thomas in his encyclopedic history tome “Cuba, or, the Pursuit of Freedom.”

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Blanquitos como la nieve

3 thoughts on “Racism in Castro’s Cuba: an honest report from an unlikely source”

  1. Despite always having token “house Negroes” like the late Juan Almeida and now Esteban Lazo (who was seated next to Raul Castro at the baseball game attended by Obama), who can be readily brought forth for foreign visitors and prominently displayed to the foreign press, no black person has ever had real power or influence under the Castro regime (though a small number of “good Negroes” have lived very nicely off being totally submissive to Massah Castro and playing their assigned roles). Fidel, of course, knew a good PR move when he saw one, but he “cared” about Mandela, for instance, the way the Clintons “care” about women.

    Pre-Castro Cuba, however, freely ELECTED the mulatto Batista as president in 1940, and one of Cuba’s most revered historical figures is the very black General Antonio Maceo. But don’t tell Charlie Rangel or his black colleagues in Congress, or the likes of Jesse Jackson or Harry Belafonte (assuming, of course, they really can’t see through the Castro regime BS, which is probable but not absolutely certain). Bottom line: the ENTIRE Castro system is built on lies and always has been, even before 1959. In other words, lies are the sine qua non of the “revolution,; indeed, it would never have reached power without them, and it MUST lie to stay in business.

  2. Blanquitos, pero bastante sucios, por no decir facinerosos. Translation: Mostly white trash, though in Fidel’s case, moneyed white trash.

  3. Actually, Carlos, you’re exaggerating. They couldn’t actually be white, of course. They’re Cubans. Ask Ann Coulter.

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