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Race And Revolution: Cuba And Blackness, 4/28/00

Afro Cubans And Race, 4/27/00

Radio Pacifica

In their new section, "New Take on Cuba," Radio Pacifica has run several stories on AfroCubans. Both the stories below seem to lead to the same taped story.

 

Race And Revolution: Cuba And Blackness, 4/28/00

Race And Revolution: Cuba And Blackness

  Today we head to Cuba once again for part two of "Race and Revolution," a collection of interviews conducted in Cuba by Democracy Now! producer Maria Carrión.

Yesterday we heard from young Afro-Cuban men talking about racial profiling, being targeted by the police on the streets. We heard from an Afro-Cuban woman who runs a clandestine restaurant from her home, and who said black Cubans have a more difficult time than non-black Cubans getting licenses to run their businesses, and accessing the most coveted jobs in the Cuban economy. We also heard about how hard it is to express these issues publicly and organize around issues of racial equality.

  With the triumph of the revolution in 1959, Cubans were promised social equality. And in exploring Cuban society, one of the first things that Cubans proudly point to is their universal access to health care and education, something that was particularly out of reach for Afro-Cubans before the revolution.

  In Cuba's fast-changing economy and the legalization of the dollar, some are wondering whether these changes are increasing social inequality and widening the gap between black and white. And while the revolution has begun to address race as a problem, Cuba, like many governments in Latin America, adheres to a principal known as "racial democracy" - the belief that a racially mixed population cannot be racist, and that inequality should only be addressed using a class-based analysis.

TAPE:  RACE AND REVOLUTION, A series of interviews on race with people in Cuba, conducted by Democracy Now! producer Maria Carrión.

GUEST:

      • KWAME DIXON, Scholar and human rights activist who specializes on race in the Americas. CONTACT: www.afrocuba.com

Afro Cubans And Race, 4/27/00

Afro Cubans And Race

  With the Elian Gonzalez story in the headlines every day, the image of Cuba on our TV screens is that of a mainly white population - Elian and his family, the Miami Cuban exile community, and President Fidel Castro himself.

  So many people may not realize that Cuba is an overwhelmingly black country - as much as 80 percent, by some estimates.

  Democracy Now! producer Maria Carrión recently spent time in Cuba and recorded a series of conversation by Afro-Cubans on race and racism.

  The issue of race in Cuba is a complex one; some say that there are as many opinions about race as there are Cubans. Cuba is a racially mixed society, with more flexible and ambiguous racial identities and definitions - unlike the United States, where one drop of black blood has historically defined a person as being black.

  Although the revolution promised to bring social equality to all Cubans, many Afro-Cubans say that racism still permeates society. And with the rise of the two-tiered tourist economy, one in which Cubans with access to dollars have a clear economic advantage over those who do not, racial inequalities are more sharply visible than ever.

  Even to the casual observer, it is quite apparent that coveted jobs in the tourist industry - such as hotels, travel agencies and restaurants - are mostly held by non-black Cubans. Yes, there are some black Cubans - but they are likely to be working as cleaners or porters, for example.

  Although racism was never legislated in Cuba - even before the revolution - stories abound about non-legal segregation. Along Havana's seafront, bathhouses used to separate blacks from whites. And Copelia, Cuba's famous ice cream parlor, was built a few years after the revolution after complaints that ice cream stores would not allow Afro-Cubans in.

TAPE: CONVERSATIONS WITH AFRO-CUBANS, Taped by Democracy Now! producer Maria Carrión. CONTACT: www.afrocubaweb.com

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