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Race in Cuba

Race in Cuba: Essays on the Revolution and Racial Inequality

Gary Prevost
August Nimtz
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: NYU Press,
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    Race in Cuba
    Book Description:

    As a young militant in the 26th of July Movement, Esteban Morales Dominguez participated in the overthrow of the Batista regime and the triumph of the Cuban Revolution. The revolutionaries, he understood, sought to establish a more just and egalitarian society. But Morales Dominguez, an Afro-Cuban, knew that the complicated question of race could not be ignored, or simply willed away in a post-revolutionary context. Today, he is one of Cuba's most prominent Afro-Cuban intellectuals and its leading authority on the race question. Available for the first time in English, the essays collected here describe the problem of racial inequality in Cuba, provide evidence of its existence, constructively criticize efforts by the Cuban political leadership to end discrimination, and point to a possible way forward. Morales Dominguez surveys the major advancements in race relations that occurred as a result of the revolution, but does not ignore continuing signs of inequality and discrimination. Instead, he argues that the revolution must be an ongoing process and that to truly transform society it must continue to confront the question of race in Cuba.

    eISBN: 978-1-58367-322-5
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-6)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. 7-14)

    Toward the end of 2009 sixty African Americans, some quite prominent, signed a letter to “draw attention to the conditions of racism and racial discrimination in Cuba that have hitherto been ignored.” The signatories accused the Cuban government of “increased violations of civil and human rights for those black activists in Cuba who dare raise their voices against the island’s racial system. . . . Racism in Cuba . . . is unacceptable and must be confronted!” Some of us, African Americans and others, who have long defended the Cuban Revolution, countered these charges with the facts of the Revolution...

  4. Preface
    (pp. 15-18)
  5. 1 Challenges of the Racial Question in Cuba
    (pp. 19-28)

    There are very few contemporary writings on the subject of race in this country, and those that do exist are by and large found in journals, especiallyTemasandCatauro.¹ Abroad, there have been more publications dealing with the subject on a contemporary basis. Aline Helg, Alejandro de la Fuente, and Carlos Moore are noteworthy for their extensive research. But none of them share the vicissitudes of daily life in Cuba with us, and this can be seen in their writings. Even though we might not share some of their opinions, they make notable contributions.

    This situation tells us that...

  6. 2 Race and the Republic
    (pp. 29-42)

    There is no such thing as a scientific concept of race; it is just a social construction. That is, unless you ask any honest citizen who happen to live in the Republic of Cuba. These issues cannot be overlooked these days, especially when it comes to digging up our past, because behind our back they can affect our present and shape our future. The exploitative classes removed from power by our victorious 1959 revolution have tried hard to change Cuban history, as evidenced by the praise heaped on March 10, 1952, in a biography of Fulgencio Batista that is by...

  7. 3 A Model for the Analysis of the Racial Problem in Contemporary Cuba
    (pp. 43-82)

    Fortunately for the nation, scientific approaches are now being used for the study of the racial problem in Cuba and, for a group of Cuban humanists and social scientists, constitute a high-priority concerted intellectual effort. This essay emphasizes the importance of this endeavor, which is aimed to strengthen the national and cultural identity of the country. The essay proposes a theoretical-methodological model for promoting additional considerations and debates that may deepen the understanding of Cuba’s racial complexity.

    Our analysis and set of variables for the analysis of Cuba’s racial problem from a socioeconomic perspective are based on certain theoretical methodological...

  8. 4 Racial Consciousness and the Anti-Racist Struggle
    (pp. 83-86)

    In truth, we should not teach people to give preference to any color, but in a multiracial society such as Cuba’s, with the surviving vestiges of colonialism and a racist culture, if we leave color out of education and do not even mention it, then in practice we are teaching that one color retains hegemony: whiteness. This is not a phenomenon exclusive to us, but of all humanity, in which such values remain primary.

    Cuba, despite living through a profound process of social transformation, begun more than fifty years ago, has not yet escaped from those values inculcated by the...

  9. 5 Understanding the Cuban Racial Question
    (pp. 87-98)

    Is there a Cuban racial problem? Is it possible to design social policy for today’s Cuban society without taking into consideration the variable of skin color? In a speech at the Presidential Palace on March 22, 1959, Commander in Chief Fidel Castro raised the problem of racism. Fidel stated very strongly that this was a social blight that must be eliminated. Raúl Castro treated the issue in depth in a meeting of the Provincial Bureau of the Cuban Communist Party in Santiago de Cuba in 1959 and later continued addressing it at checkup meetings of the Cadre Policy at the...

  10. 6 The Metaphors of Color
    (pp. 99-102)

    Racism may well be the thorniest, most hidden topic in our present social reality. Some people don’t want to hear anything about it. Reactions are unforeseeable and range from denial and cynicism to upset and worried. In Cuba, racism has been approached historically more with the fear of creating social divisions than with a determination to end it. Blacks, mestizos, and many people of conscience have had to wait too long for a discussion. This is now causing contradictions and dysfunction in an extraordinarily humanistic society, which has struggled for social justice, equality, and egalitarianism. Opinions differ. Some people deny...

  11. 7 The Racial Theme and Anti-Cuban Subversion
    (pp. 103-108)

    There are many sides to the conflict between Cuba and the United States, but mainly it involves the American political interest in subverting Cuba’s revolutionary society by attempting to subvert social processes on the island or robbing Cuban political leaders in the vanguard of internal changes in order to subvert the socialist regime. Drafted in 2004 and 2006, the U.S. “transition documents” display unlimited criticism of every process under way in the island, seeking to project the worst possible image of Cuba’s overall national life. Small surprise, then, that internal political opposition is fostered in order to undermine the progress...

  12. 8 Skin Color, Nation, Identity, and Culture: A Contemporary Challenge
    (pp. 109-128)

    Not only are we dealing with a number of problems that are essential to understand what we could describe as the “ghost” of the alleged disagreement between “skin color” and “nation” in today’s Cuba, we are also facing challenges imposed by the linkages between color, identity, and culture in a nation hitherto unable to overcome racism.¹

    Cuba had to fight for many years on end and against many “demons” before it could rise as a nation. This long process has been the glue that keeps the vast majority of Cubans together, regardless of their skin color. The greatest outcome of...

  13. 9 Statistics and the Color of Skin
    (pp. 129-134)

    Race does not exist. It is a social construction, an invention, a useful dynamic for the purpose of concentrating and manipulating power on the part of the exploiting elites within the frameworks of the unavoidable class confrontation. However,racismis realized at each step; it haunts us and it will continue to haunt us for a long time. As social invention, it is something that should be deconstructed, but we will not achieve that if we turn our backs to the issue. Avoiding racism is similar to the ostrich that buries its head in the ground, exposing the most vulnerable...

  14. 10 Shooting without a Scope: An Interview
    (pp. 135-144)
    Hilario Rosete Silva

    “Even though it was already a thorny matter before we began the independence struggles, little has been written about the issue. Few historians paid any attention to it and studies that deal with it in the present are rare. I lament the fact that the subject is taken up by people living outside the country who do not always share our circumstances.” University professor Esteban Morales began talking. When he directed what is now the Center of Hemispheric and United States Studies (CEHSEU) at the University of Havana, Morales believed that the racial issue could become an Achilles’ heel and...

  15. 11 Cuba: Science and Race Fifty Years Later
    (pp. 145-162)

    In this three-part article I will try to summarize the research on the race issue done by Cuban intellectuals during the last fifty years, with particular emphasis on race-related scientific essays about negative racial profiling and prejudice in today’s Cuba. I will make reference to the output of Cuban authors who live on the island and elsewhere and other articles written by foreign scholars. Some topics related to the history of the race issue are hardly ever addressed or properly understood, a problem we will solve insofar as our need to grasp the full extent of its current signs and...

  16. 12 Racism in Cuba—An Unresolved Issue: An Interview
    (pp. 163-188)
    Patricia Grogg

    “No issue has been more avoided and disregarded or treated with more prejudice in today’s Cuba than the racial problem,” warns Esteban Morales, whose countless research works, articles, and essays make of him an authority on a subject highly sensitive in this socialist country. To the author of the bookChallenges of the Racial Problem in Cuba, it’s a topic to be studied and discussed in depth and even included on the political agenda of the Sixth Congress of the Communist Party (PCC) at a date yet to be set.

    Morales also knows a thing or two about the United...

  17. 13 Cuba Is the Only Country where Blacks and Mestizos Have Government as Their Ally: An Interview in Trabajadores
    (pp. 189-194)
    Ana Margarita Gonzalez and Rafael Hojas Martinez

    This interview with Esteban Morales appeared in the December 14, 2009, edition of the Cuban newspaperTrabajadores. In this interview Morales responds to a slander campaign organized by Carlos Moore, a decades-long opponent of the Cuban Revolution that charges the Cuban government with sanctioning racial discrimination.

    EM: It would be absurd to think that in Cuba there are no racial problems, negative stereotypes, discrimination, or racism that exist as deadweight, but not only as deadweight but also as something that an imperfect society is still able to reproduce. The recent declaration by some Afro-Americans supposedly supporting the struggle for civil...

  18. 14 Affirmative Action: An Incitement to Debate?
    (pp. 195-198)

    Race or skin color must never be the ultimate premise for a person’s right to certain social benefits. Whoever starts from such a premise in Cuba is no doubt a racist individual acting behind society’s back. But as long as racism exists, “race” will be considered a premise to favor some individuals over others who are in all cases members of a “race” deemed inferior. Even the destitute will always be discriminated against just because they’re poor.¹ For more than fifty years Cuba has practiced remarkably humanitarian social policies that have pushed all disparities and inequalities to the very edge...

  19. 15 The Challenges of Race within the Socialist Context
    (pp. 199-208)

    Nowadays there are many challenges we must face in Cuban society, what Fidel Castro referred it as a “social disgrace”: racism. And we must deal with racism in the context of an era of economic challenges. During the period 1989–94, when the economic crisis took hold, followed by the Special Period, we could notice that in spite of extraordinarily humanistic social policies and a long struggle for justice and social equality, bordering on egalitarianism, there were many people not able to achieve a stable life. It was also shown that most of those people were black and mestizo. Even...

  20. Glossary of Names and Terms
    (pp. 209-218)
  21. Notes
    (pp. 219-238)
  22. Index
    (pp. 239-244)