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    The Bad Luck of Being Black in Cuba

    The Bad Luck of Being Black in Cuba / Ivan Garcia
    Posted on September 12, 2015

    Ivan Garcia, 11 September 2015 — It was already duck on an extremely hot
    day without a hint of a breeze, when a white Mercedes Benz van with the
    blue top of the national police pulled up alongside Red Plaza in Vibora,
    a neighborhood half an hour by car from the center of Havana.

    Just after midnight, dozens of adults, young people and teens walked
    toward their homes or huddled on the corners, after the end of one of
    the frequent reggaeton and salsa music parties sponsored by the local
    branch of the Ministry of Culture.

    The pretext for organizing these parties could be anything. The end of
    summer, a symbolic date of the Revolution, or a way to collect thousands
    of pesos selling beer on tap and light snacks to the residents on the
    edge of the capital, mostly blacks and mixed-race and with few
    recreational options.

    After the timba ends and the drums stop, the good part starts. Brawls
    with knives, sex in any corner, urinating in the street, drunk and
    feisty, after the party.

    Policing is welcome. What is reprehensible is the method. Their modus
    operandi is openly racist. A dozen blacks are sitting in the van, some
    of them handcuffed, waiting to he hauled off to a police station.

    “It’s always the same. We blacks are the target. Even though we are
    carrying our identify cards and don’t have a criminal record, they load
    us up. At the station they put us in the stinking cells and let us go in
    the morning. I don’t know what their point is with these raids. It seems
    like all the criminals in Cuba are black or mixed-race,” Moises says
    with disgust, himself a high school student who has suffered these quick
    arrests on occasion.

    Although the government press doesn’t publish statistics, Reinerio, a
    guard in the maximum security prison Combinado del Este, on the
    outskirts of Havana, says that “70 or 80 percent of the common prisoners
    are blacks or mixed-race.”

    According to the regime, the prison population on the island has risen
    to 57,000 inmates. The Commission on Human Rights, headed by Elizardo
    Sanchez Santa Cruz, says that there are about 200 prisons in Cuba and
    about 80,000 inmates.

    On three occasions, Daniel has been the guest of the harsh prisons on
    the island. “On two of those occasions I hadn’t committed any crime. To
    the authorities, I was a suspect just for being black, unemployed and
    having a criminal record.”

    Carlos, a sociologist, thinks that the racism practiced in diverse Cuban
    institutions is a concern. “Discrimination because of the color of one’s
    skin is a longstanding issue. It goes back to 1886 when slavery was
    abolished. Blacks emerged at a disadvantage. They didn’t own property,
    had no money, and the majority were illiterate. During the Republic,
    policies were developed to integrate them. But racial apartheid remained
    in diverse segments of the society.”

    According to Carlos, Fidel Castro though he could solve the problem with
    decrees and good intentions. “But it hasn’t worked that way. In addition
    to racism, there exists in the population something that can’t be
    legislated, institutions like the police, tourism, civil aviation and
    the media, have segregationist practices.”

    The sociologist believes that when it comes time to fill out the
    paperwork for getting a job going to the University, the question about
    skin color should be eliminated. “In more racist societies than Cuba,
    they have removed that data,” he says.

    When you look at the tourist resorts on the Island you will observe that
    the best jobs are usually occupied by whites. “Blacks are relegated to
    the kitchen, cleaning floors, or being maids. That’s the reality,” says
    an employee of the Las Dunas Hotel in Cayo Santa Maria in Villa Clara
    province.

    The same thing happens in public office. Although the regime has put
    make up on the Central Committee and the monotone Cuban parliament with
    black or brown paint, the important executive positions are held by whites.

    “Blacks were important in the African wars that Cuba engaged in the
    1960s, 1970s and 1980s. Always as cannon fodder. For every ten senior
    white officers there were two blacks. With the generals, the differences
    were even greater,” says Rene, a former officer in the armed forces.

    Luis Alberto, who graduated with highest honors from the foreign
    language school, relates how on going to a five-star Havana hotel that
    was hiring tour guides, he experienced racial discrimination.

    “The head of personal told me to wait at home for a phone call to start
    working. They never called me. A friend who worked there told me why:
    when I left, the guy commented, ’That ugly black guy would scare the
    tourists’,” said Luis Alberto.

    The worst was that everyone present laughed at the boss’s “joke.”

    Source: The Bad Luck of Being Black in Cuba / Ivan Garcia | Translating
    Cuba –
    http://translatingcuba.com/the-bad-luck-of-being-black-in-cuba-ivan-garcia/

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