Blacks and Mixed-Race Still Marginalized in Cuba
Blacks and Mixed-Race Still Marginalized in Cuba / Ivan Garcia
Posted on May 5, 2014
Every summer since 2009, in line with the economic openings of General
Castro, Gerald, the owner of a photography business, has rented a room
in a hotel in Varadero for 5 nights.
Gerald, a white man married to a mixed-race woman, authoritatively calls
attention to the small number of black or mixed-race Cuban tourists.
“There are very few. I stay in four and five-star hotels and the blacks
that I’ve seen are either employees, or partners of foreigners.”
“Last year I went to the hotel Memorie, which has a thousand rooms, and
they had only 8 black or mixed-race guests, and half of them were the
spouses or companions of foreigners,” said Orestes, a tall, well-dressed
black man who manages a hard-currency cafeteria in Havana, and knows
first-hand the disguised racism of the privileged economic sectors.
“For every black or mixed-race person who manages an important place
there are 50 whites. In hotels or strategic positions in the economy,
the managers are white. There the blacks are helpers, kitchen
assistants, chamber maids, pool cleaners, or grass cutters. In the
meetings of managers from over 400 Havana hard-currency cafes,
nightclubs, and restaurants you see only about twenty in attendance who
are darker skinned or black,” said Orestes.
Twice a week, Yamila and Melisa, a pair of lesbian prostitutes, come to
a restaurant called Las Piedras, in Vedado, hunting for foreign tourists
or Cubans with extra cash. “I can assure you that 70% of young
prostitutes are mixed-race or black,” says Jamila.
Carlos, a sociologist, believes that racism in Cuba may not be the
problem it is in the U.S. or Europe. “But there are strong prejudices
and the social pyramid is designed so that very few blacks can succeed.
Differences have remained since 1886 when slavery was abolished. Blacks
are less fortunate. They live in the worst houses, receive fewer dollars
or euros in remittances, and can’t vacation in first-rate tourist
facilities. They remain marginalized. And that results in a large number
of prostitutes and criminals in the prisons.”
Eleven years ago, in a speech to police officers and the Interior
Ministry, Fidel Castro revealed that 80% of the prisoners in Cuba are
blacks and mixed-race.
Joel, a black man who has spent 12 of his 34 years behind bars, believes
that that reality has not changed. “In all prisons in Cuba—there are
more than 200 prisons on the island according to human rights
activists—the number of blacks far exceeds that of whites. Even the
offenses are different. While most whites are in prison for killing
cows, scams, financial crime or corruption, blacks tend to commit more
violent crimes, such as fighting with knives, arson, theft,
pickpocketing, assault, home invasion robbery, rape, and murder” says
Joel, for whom prison is a second home.
A police investigator acknowledges that the usual pattern used by the
police during operations is based on racial factors. “Young black men
are more likely to be arrested. This modus operandi has not changed,” he
In 2013, Roberto Zurbano, the former director of the Publishing House of
the Americas, was dismissed for acknowledging, in an interview with the
New York Times, the significant differences between whites and blacks in
According to the Census of Population and Housing completed in 2012, in
one decade, based on the previous census of 2002, the mixed-race
population in Cuba grew from 24.9 percent to 26.6 percent. The white
population decreased from 65 percent to 64.1 percent, and blacks
decreased from 10.1 percent to 9.3 percent.
The worst news for black and mixed-race Cubans is that there are no
independent legal institutions that protect them in the face of
Among the dissidents there is an anti-racist organization, CIR (Citizens
for Racial Integration Committee) led by Juan Antonio Madrazo, which
from an intellectual perspective studies and tries to give solutions to
the current racial divides.
But the regime does not recognize them. Quite the contrary. It has
accused black historian Manuel Cuesta Morúa, a CIR adviser, of promoting
disorders “affecting international peace and security.” His freedom of
movement is restricted by the state. He cannot travel abroad, and every
Tuesday he has to report in at a police station.
Blacks and mixed-race members of the peaceful opposition often receive
degrading treatment and racist abuse from counterintelligence officers.
Right now, Sonia Garro Alfonso and Ramón Alejandro Muñoz, a dissident
black couple, sleep in damp dungeons. They have spent two years waiting
Translated by Tomás A.
3 April 2014
Source: Blacks and Mixed-Race Still Marginalized in Cuba / Ivan Garcia |
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