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Raíces de mi corazón - Roots of My Heart
by Gloria Rolando
2001, English subtitles, 51 min

"Raíces de mi corazon" ("Roots of my heart"), an independently produced short feature film, deals for the first time in Cuban media with the 1912 massacre of thousands of  members of the Independents of Color, the hemisphere's first black political party outside Haiti.  Director Gloria Rolando has written a Synopsis of the film. 

The Independents of Color were largely made up of veterans of the Mambi Army, the Cuban Army of Liberation that defeated the Spanish in two Wars of Liberation (1868-1878 and 1895 - 1898). Recent research in Cuba has established that this army was overwhelmingly made up of Cubans of African descent (80% and perhaps as high as 90%): it was thus one of the largest slave revolts in the hemisphere. When the Mambises had all but ejected the Spaniards from Cuba, the plantocracy allied themselves with the Americans to bring about the American intervention known as the Spanish American War in 1898. See the Mambi photo Gallery - these photos are part of the rarely seen historical stock used in the film.

Evaristo Estenoz founded the Independents of Color in 1908 in order to secure a rightful share for AfroCubans in a Cuba which had successfully marginalized them. He was murdered by Cuban troops in 1912 along with over 6,000 other AfroCubans, mostly fellow party members, after an intense media campaign carried out by the plantocracy to demonize the party.  As famed sonero Arsenio Rodriguez says: "Hay que adorarlos como a Martí!", "We have to revere them as we do Marti!"  Historian Aline Helg does an excellent job reporting all of this in her book, Our Rightful Share, published in 1995.

Roots of my heart is the first treatment on film of a  history that has been largely ignored by both sides of the Florida Straights. 

Gloria Rolando toured the US in March and April '01 (before the Bush ban on Cuban artists) to premier the Spanish language version of the film there.

One of the advisors on the film was Swiss historian Aline Helg, whose book, Our Rightful Share, reports on her groundbreaking research into the Massacre of 1912.

Photos on the set... 

Photos on the set -2: Mercedes looks at her ancestors' photos

Synopsis of Raices de mi corazon, 2/00 en español

Gloria Rolando's page

Contact Gloria Rolando


Members of the Party: the Independents of Color
© Gloria Rolando, 2001

Synopsis - Gloria Rolandotop

February, 2000

A present day AfroCuban woman [Mercedes] seeks her roots through her family history. Old photos, newspaper clippings jealously guarded by her grandmother, and her mother's stories reveal her great-grandparents' history.

The historical truth raises the curtains through a love story. Reality and fantasy get mixed in, but all the elements integrated into the narration point towards the central figure, the woman, and to a moving chapter of turn of the century Cuba, when there occurred a violent repression of the AfroCubans who protested out of the frustration that fell over Cubans after the War of Independence.

Thousands of descendants of Africans dedicated their lives to the struggle against Spanish colonialism in Cuba. They also fought against the slave system which kidnapped men, women, and children from the African continent and converted them into anonymous cogs of the sugar and coffee plantations. In the War of Independence (1868-78 and 1895-98), AfroCubans joined the Liberation Army (the Mambises) following the ideas of important leaders such as Jose Marti, but also inspired by the example of the Black generals of the War, such as Antonio Maceo, Quintin Banderas, and many others. Unfortunately, at the turn of the century, AfroCuban veterans felt the contempt of a Republic born distorted and completely alienated from the principles raised up by Jose Marti: "One Republic with everyone and for the good of everyone." Racism was part of official injustice.

The process of cultural, economic, and political marginalization of Blacks in Cuba at thedawn of the present century is connected at a deep level with the fate of other African Americans up and down the continent. Peruvian, Uruguayan, Venezuelan, Columbian, North American, Argentinian, Brazilian, and other Blacks saw themselves deprived of their place of honor in the official history of their own countries.

The protest organized by AfroCubans in 1912 was beaten back by the National Army itself and ended in a real human massacre which had its main scene in Oriente Province. This is the synopsis of the story our central figure is going to discover through her family.


Taking into account the scarcity of resources currently available to Images of the Caribbean, we hope to realize this production in video Beta. [This was done]. The style of the narrative discourse is a mixture of fiction and documentary in which we aim to incorporate original photos and news headlines, supported by the reality of the historical evidence we will present.

This new project of Images of the Caribbean is directed by the AfroCuban film maker Gloria Rolando (Director of "Oggun","My Footsteps in Baraguá," and "Eyes of the Rainbow").

In the development of historical evidence, we count on the prestigious collaboration of:

- the Cuban writer and historian Tomas Fernandez Robaina (author of the book "Blacks in Cuba," among others)

- Aline Helg, Associate Professor, University of Texas at Austin, whose book, "Our Rightful Share" (the AfroCuban struggle for equality 1886 - 1912) has been a source of inspiration in approaching this theme. In 1995, her book received the Welsey - Logan prize from the Association of American Historians, and in 1997 it received the Elsa Govea prize from the Association of Caribbean Historians. It is out in Spanish as of June '99 thanks to the Fundacion Ortiz in Havana.

- Georgina Herrera, AfroCuban poet, novelist, and playwright focusing especially on black women. She will be contributing a script.

Our objective: to continue in the rescue of our collective memory, in the search for our roots. To make a contribution to the knowledge and understanding of the history of the African Diaspora in this century.

We especially call out to universities, women's groups, independent video producers, foundations, friends, and brothers and sisters to guide us in the process of finding support, both in terms of financing and in terms of collaboration such as the search for original photos, information on period costumes, and all the details that go into making a film.

For further information on the project contact:

Gloria Rolando
Obispo #356 Entre Habana y Compostela
3er piso, apto 3, Habana 1, codigo 10100 Cuba


This film is dedicated to Sara Gomez, the first woman film maker in Cuba, who in the '70s made the documentary "Chronicles of my family."


Roots of My Heart at NY City College Center for Worker Education, 2/23/08

On Saturday, February 23, 5:00 PM, the City College Center for Worker Education will screen "Roots of My Heart", Gloria Rolando's film about the 1912 massacre of the Independents of Color Party and their supporters. The film will be presented by co-producer Gilberto Martinez and followed by a question and answer period. DVDs of "Roots of My Heart" and other films by Gloria Rolando will be for sale.

"Roots of My Heart" is the centerpiece of CWE's month-long Black History Month celebration. The event is free and open to the public.

The Center for Worker Education is located at 25 Broadway, 7th Floor in downtown Manhattan at Bowling Green (4 or 5 train to Bowling Green stop). Please present photo ID to be admitted to the building. For more information, contact Deborah Edwards-Anderson at (212) 925-6625, Ext. 235 or [replace _AT_ with @].

Note: the Independents of Color are the subject of a Centennial Commemoration in 2008 in Cuba. Gloria Rolando is on the National Commission charged with elaborating the Commemoration and appeals for your help.

Roots of My Heart shown on Cuban TV

Raices de Mi Corazon was aired on Cuban television Monday, June 25th, 2007 at 10pm on Canal Educativo, 6 years after the film was made. This is an important step for this film which has not received the recognition it deserves across Cuba, except in several showings in Havana.

At Brandeis University, 3/15/07

Coproducer Gilberto Martinez presents "Roots of my Heart"
a film by Gloria Rolando
Thursday, March 15
3:00 p.m.
Lown 2, Brandeis University, 415 South Street, Waltham, MA 02492

At Emerson College, Boston, 3/15/07

Gilberto Martinez, Co-producer of Roots of My Heart, will present the film in Boston, MA at Emerson College.

Thursday, March 15, 8pm at 120 Boylston Street, Boston (Boylston stop on the green line).
Room 233. Visitors must register with an ID at the entrance of the building.

Sponsored by Films from the Margins and the Institute for Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies.

At the Pan African Film Festival, Los Angeles, 2/07

Co-producer Gilberto Martinez presents Roots of My Heart on Tuesday, 2/13, 7:45pm; Wednesday, 2/14/07, 1:00pm

   All Screenings 
   AMC Magic Johnson Theatres or
   Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza
   3650 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.
   (1 block west of Crenshaw and King)
   Los Angeles
   Ample free parking.

For details on tickets, pricing, directions, etc see their web site,

Screening of Roots of My Heart: City College-CUNY, New York, 9/15/06top

This was a full house and generated much excitement.

You are invited to a film screening and discussion of The Roots of My Heart

Friday, September 15, 2006 at 6 PM
City College-CUNY,
NAC BUILDING–5th floor
Theater 5101
138th Street and Convent Avenue
New York, NY

The Roots of My Heart is based on the tragic 1912 massacre of 5000-7000 Afro-Cubans who, after independence, organized a political party to fight for their rights to full employment, education, full political  participation and above all RESPECT AND DIGNITY

All of Rolando’s films all based on the untold histories of Afro-Cuban life and families


Dr. Georgina Falú
Professor of Afro-Latino History and Culture at City College-CUNY

Gilberto Martínez Gomez
Filmmaker and Co-Producer of The Roots of My Heart

Elombe Brath
Historian of African and African Diaspora Culture

A voluntary contribution of $10 is suggested

Copies of Roots of My Heart will be on sale for individual users (not institutional use) for $30 (VHS). Copies of Oggun will also be on sale (VHS).

Lanzamiento de Raices de mi corazon, 11/2/01top

El Corto de Ficción

Las Raices de mi corazón, ya tuvo su premier en La Biblioteca Nacional José Martí. El Director de es Institución Eliades Acosta y Tomás Fernández Robaina, hicieron la presentación del material y agradecieron al grupo de Video Imagenes de Caribe, el haber contribuido a romper el silencio sobre estas páginas tan dolorosa y compleja de la historia de Cuba y de la historia de la Diaspora Africana.

El próximo viernes 16 de febrero a las 4.p.m será la segunda presentación de Las Raices de mi Corazón. Esta vez con el público de la Unión de Escritores y Artístas de Cuba UNEAC. Otras dos presentaciones tendrá lugar en este mes, el día 20 a las 10 a.m. en la sede de la Unión de Periodistas de Cuba y la segunda en La Casa de las Américas, el día 21 a las 5 de la tarde como parte de los debates del Coloquio Internacional dedicado a la visión y la interpretación de la historia por las mujeres Latinoamericanas y Caribeñas.

Esperamos una concurrida asistencia el día 16 en la UNEAC ya que se ha hecho promoción en la televisión cubana incluyendo imágenes, especialmente en el Informativo Cultural Huron Azúl. También algunas emisoras de radio han hecho promoción de las presentaciones. El resultado del debate en La Biblioteca fue muy emotivo y contamos con la presencia de todos los actores incluyendo los ñiños, así como parte del equipo de realizadores.

Gloria Rolando

Hay que notar que hicieron un homenaje a la gran actriz Elvira Cervera en la Biblioteca Nacional por su apoyo a la pelicula -- ella presto su casa y su presencia para filmar unas scenas.

Roots of My Heart Premieres in Havana, 2/11/01top

Las Raices de mi corazón premiered at the Biblioteca Nacional José Martí. The institution's director Eliades Acosta and historian Tomás Fernández Robaina made the presentation and thanked the video group Imagenes de Caribe for their contribution in breaking the silence on these very painful and complex pages in the history of Cuba and that of the African Diaspora.

Next Friday the 16th of February at 4 PM, there will be a second presentation of Las Raices de mi corazón, this time with a public at the Unión de Escritores y Artístas de Cuba (UNEAC). [This was a great success, standing room only]

There will be 2 other presentations this month, one on the 20th at 10 AM in main offices of the Unión de Periodistas de Cuba and another at the La Casa de las Américas on the 21st at 5 PM [also agreat success, standing room only] as part of the seminars in the International Coloquium dedicated to the vision and interpretation of history by Latin American and Caribbean women.

We hope for a well attended session on the 16th at the UNEAC now that the show has been promoted on Cuban television complete with images from the film, especially on the show Informativo Cultural Huron Azúl. Several radio shows have also been promoting the shows. The discussion at the National Library was very emotional and we enjoyed the presence of all the actors, including the children, as well as the film crew.

Gloria Rolando

Note that Elvira Cervera, the grande dame of Cuban actresses, was paid hommage at the National Library for her support of the film -- she lent her house and her presence for the filming of several scenes.

Report on "Roots of my heart", 1/01top

Images of the Caribe, a video group, presents
"Las Raíces de mi Corazón" - "Roots of my Heart"
  (video, color, 50 minutos)

Merecedes, a Cuban woman from Havana, begins to decipher her family secrets through the photo of her great-grandparents, María Victoria y José Julián. Between reality and the world of her dreams, she will learn about the ties this couple -- especially her great-grandfather -- had with the Independents of Color, a political party formed in 1908. The struggle of these black men and women to create a space for themselves in Cuban society at the beginning of the 20th century had a tragic outcome: the massacre of 1912. Many families suffered, but history imposed a silence, the same silence that surrounds Mercedes' great-grandparents. 

This short feature film is an homage to the Cuban film maker Sara Gómez and her documentary "Crónica de mi familia" ("Chronicle of my Family")


Monse Duane, Sonia Boggiano, Zoraima Segón, Renny Arozarena, Luz María Collazo, Jorge Prieto, Aimeé Despaigne, Manuel Oña, Nora Rodriguez, Francisca Loredo, Ileana Chávez, Simone Balmaseda, Luz Marina Delis

Children: Aloima Rodriguez, y Darwin L. Duane

Special appearance by invitacion: Elvira Cervera

Producer and Director : Gloria Rolando
Executive Producer : Antonio Romero
Sound: Juan Demosthene
Director of Photography: José M. Riera, Raúl Rodriguez
Editing: Gisela Ramos, Melvin Díaz
Script: Gloria Rolando, Georgina Herrrera
Music: Jorge Maletá, Grupo "Vocal Baobab", Junius Williams
Special Effects: Gilberto Martínez

Costumes: Miriam Dueñas

Historians : Aline Heg y Tomás Fernández Robaina

Informe, 1/01top

Grupo de Video Imágenes del Caribe  presenta
"Las Raíces de mi Corazón" (video color 50 minutos)

Mercedes, una cubana, una habanera comienza a descifrar los secretos familiares a través de la foto de sus bisabuelos: María Victoria y José Julián. Entre la realidad y el mundo de los sueños, ella conocerá los vínculos de esta pareja -especialmente su bisabuelo- con el Partido Independiente de Color. La lucha de estos hombres y mujeres negros por garantizar un espacio en la sociedad cubana de principios del siglo XX, tuvo un trágico desenlace : la masacre de 1912. Muchas familias sufrieron, pero la historia impuso el silencio, el mismo silencio que envuelve a los bisabuelos de Mercedes. Este corto de ficción es un homenaje a la cineasta cubana Sara Gómez y a su documental "Crónica de mi familia"


Monse Duane, Sonia Boggiano, Zoraima Segón, Renny Arozarena, Luz María Collazo, Jorge Prieto, Aimeé Despaigne, Manuel Oña, Nora Rodriguez, Francisca Loredo, Ileana Chávez, Simone Balmaseda, Luz Marina Delis


Aloima Rodriguez, y Darwin L. Duane

Aparición Especial (o Invitada ) : Elvira Cervera


Producción General y Dirección : Gloria Rolando
Productor Ejecutivo : Antonio Romero
Sonido : Juan Demosthene
Dirección de Fotografía : José M. Riera, Raúl Rodriguez
Edición : Gisela Ramos, Melvin Díaz
Guión : Gloria Rolando, Georgina Herrrera
Musica : Jorge Maletá, Grupo "Vocal Baobab", Junius Williams
Efectos Especiales : Gilberto Martínez

Diseños de Vestuario : Miriam Dueñas

Asesores : Aline Heg y Tomás Fernández Robaina

Status Update, 4/1/99top

Raices de mi corazon: 4/1/99
Gloria Rolando

On the 1st of April, we began the pre-filming stage of the fiction video, "Raices de mi corazon," from Images of the Caribbean.  The script is by Gloria Rolando and the AfroCuban poet Georgina Herrera.

After a very interesting research into the period's press and consultations with Cuban historians, Imágenes del Caribe is in a better position to analyze the casting according to the historical circumstances we are left with from the protests of the Party of the Independents of Color. Our research has given us some fascinating results on these terribly forgotten pages of Cuban history.  We are all immersed in an apprenticeship before developing the characterization of the people in the film.

The conditions of this production are completely atypical: we are trying to guarantee the filming with a minimum of resources and the aid of friends, neighbors, and family members who are putting their time and effort in this project of the video group "Images of the Caribbean".

One of the acts of rescue and important contributions to this material is the recompilation of old photographs of AfroCubans, especially from the turn of the century.   Images and persons now absent and forgotten call out to be present.  Among the actors slated for the film is the well known Cuban actor Tito Juneo, who has a lot of experience in Cuban Theatre and is one of the actors in the well known film "The Last Supper" by Gutierrez Alea.

This fiction video maintains its dedication to the film maker Sara Gomez and her documentary "Chronicles of my family" ("Cronica de mi Familia").

Note: in her letter to AfroCubaWeb, Gloria added this personal note: "You cannot imagine the intensity level of the work we are are engaged in. We are overcoming so many obstacles.  No one on the crew has a car or a telephone.  How is it possible to make this movie? Well, walking a lot, calling from public phones.  Calling at times from my mother's phone or from Tony's in-laws, etc. That day we held the big meeting [25 people!] my mother helped me prepare a cold salad. By luck, we still had some tea. I have become a specialist in pasta and beans.  This work is very beautiful as to the result on the screen, but each detail, even the smallest, requires a lot of management..."

Status Update, 7/20/99top

Independent Video Group "Images of the Caribbean"

Project: "Raices de mi corazon" (1999-2000)

Our group, Images of the Caribbean, continuing in its series of historical themes, is working on a little known chapter of the history of Cuba and of the African Disapora in this century: the so-called Little War of 1912, an uprising of the members of the Party of the Independents of Color. This political movement was transformed into a real massacre in which over 6,000 AfroCubans were slaughtered as a result of attacks suffered at the hands of the Cuban Army of that time.

The story has as central character Mercedes, an AfroCuban habanera, an intellectual, a mother, one of these women we encounter daily in the streets of Old Havana. Between reality and dreams, Mercedes comes to learn the history of two of her great grand-parents and their relationship with the Independents of Color.

Thanks to an extraordinary effort of our entire video group, the filming was done in 15 days. We succeeded in filming in Betacam SP with direct sound. The project is now in the post-production phase: foto-animation of historical material, image editing, musical composition, and audio processing. Finally, we would like to get to the translation and English subtitling phase.

Despite material limitations, we have achieved a good artistic level in the quality of the images. We are therefore soliciting economic assistance for the general editing, aiming to maintain the quality that this material requires.

Budget for Post-Production: $6,500

"Raices de mi corazon" is a feature film from 45 to 57 minutes long. It is dedicated to Sara Gomez (1) and her documentary "Cronica de mi familia"

Director and General Producer: Gloria Rolando
Executive Producer: Antonio Romero
Script: Gloria Rolando and Georgina Herrera
Director of Photography: Raul Rodriguez, Jose M Riera
Sound Engineer: Juan Demosthenes
Original Music: Jorge Maleta
Special Effects: Gilberto Martinez

crewx.jpg (7961 bytes)

On the set for My Footsteps in Baraguá: Juan Demosthenes, Tony Romero, Raoul Rodriguez, Gloria Rolando

(1) Sara Gomez Yera: the first woman film-maker in Cuba, AfroCuban, mother. Her legacy is a valuable set of documentaries and a full length feature film, "De cierta manera." Died in 1974.

U.S. blind to true colors of Cuba's problemstop
DeWayne Wickham belongs to the Trotter Group, an association of Black columnists in the US

DeWayne Wickham, USA Today, 5/30/02

HAVANA, Cuba — Gloria Rolando's short film, Roots of My Heart, ought to be required viewing in the White House.

Made without the support of the government-run organization that sanctions and finances much of this island's movie industry, her film is the story of the massacre of more than 6,000 people on this Caribbean island, a brutal episode that took place long before Fidel Castro came to power.

But the story that Rolando tells is the key to understanding why Castro remains hugely popular among this island's 11 million people and why they largely mistrust Cuban exile leaders in the United States.

Ever since Castro took control here 43 years ago, Cubans who fled to south Florida have couched their campaign to oust him as a democracy movement. Every president from John F. Kennedy to George W. Bush bought into this ideological struggle without giving much attention to the historical underpinnings of the revolution that brought Castro to power.

But one sees scant history of democratic government in Cuba in the century since it gained independence. For much of this time, Cuba was a "pigmentocracy" run by a white minority that mimicked the discriminatory practices of the Jim Crow era in the American South. Resistance to this racism peaked on the day in 1912 when thousands of Afro-Cubans — members of a political party called the Independents of Color — massed on the 10th anniversary of Cuba's independence to protest the lack of racial equality.

Newspapers controlled by Cuba's white minority accused the group of wanting to rape white women and impose a black government on the island. These scare tactics masked the resistance of the white ruling class to the party's push for racial equality.

In a ghoulish show of contempt, Cuban leaders honored the soldiers who carried out the massacre with a festive outdoor dinner in a small Havana park shortly after the slaughter ended.

The deep-seated rage the 1912 massacre produced, and the following decades of racial oppression, caused the vast majority of Afro-Cubans to support the revolution that Castro led and to back the government he now commands.

"Most of the people who fled to Miami are white; most of the people on this island are of African descent. This is so for a good reason." Ruben Remigio, the black man who now heads Cuba's Supreme Court, told me.

Despite Cuba's widespread economic problems, the quality of life for most Cubans of African descent has improved dramatically since 1959. They have better health care, vastly more educational opportunities and a significant presence throughout Cuba's government. While they are far from satisfied with conditions in this country, most say they are better off now than they were when Fulgencio Batista and the white privileged class that backed him dominated life here.

The anti-Castro movement in the United States is made up largely of aging members of the white faction that benefited from Batista's regime or its precursors. The conventional wisdom in the United States is that Castro is blocking their return to Cuba. The truth for many in Miami and Washington is harder to swallow.

Before Castro came to power, most white Cubans were satisfied with the racial stratification that existed here. Most Afro-Cubans were not.

Today the economic embargo the United States imposed on this island, which Cuba exile leaders in Miami insist on maintaining, takes its heaviest toll on Afro-Cubans. This is so because of a loophole that permits U.S. Cubans to send as much as $1,200 a year (a princely sum in Cuba) to relatives in this country.

Since most who fled Cuba are white, the money they send to people here goes largely to white Cubans, leaving Afro-Cubans to bear the brunt of the embargo's effects. The resulting economic imbalance and its source is not lost on Afro-Cubans who vow never to allow the exiles to regain a position of power and privilege in Cuba.

This history of racial oppression, not Castro's communist regime, is what undermines efforts to improve relations between the United States and Cuba.


Contacting Gloria Rolandotop

Gloria Rolando
Obispo #356 Entre Habana y Compostela
3er piso, apto 3, Habana 1, codigo 10100 Cuba

Telephone: 53.7.867.69.36

If you need to get email or mail through, you can contact [replace _AT_ with @]

Contacting AfroCubaWeb

Electronic mail [replace _AT_ with @]

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