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AfroCubans: Race & Identity in Cuba

There is an increasing focus on race & identity in Cuba, from both within and outside the island.  Here we present some resources and references on identity issues relating to AfroCubans as these are complex and often poorly understood.

Some observers estimate that over 70% of the Cubans inside Cuba are of African descent.  Some of the elements in the Cuban government and analysts at the US State Department and the CIA used to agree on a number around 63%. In any official census, the proportions are reversed, which any one walking down the streets of Cuba will find absurd. The official census relies on ethnic self identification and across Latin America everyone wants to be white. Yet these numbers are used to justify racial mixes in many settings, such as professional schools or in the tourism business, where light skinned Cubans hold the preponderance of jobs that pay in hard currency.

A much smaller percentage of Cubans abroad are of African descent.  In Miami, some estimate that over 97% of Cubans are of Spanish descent.  At the very least, 85% of them describe themselves as being white in a recent survey. In New Jersey and Tennessee, there are more AfroCubans among Cuban exiles there.

The very term Spanish Cuban tends to hide the fact that Spaniards themselves have a strong African heritage, the result of being next to North Africa and receiving African culture over the millenia, including the 8 centuries the Moors and the Almoravids occupied southern Spain, from 710 AD to 1492 AD. This gives rise to a famous quote from Simon Bolivar, himself of mixed race and who was often held in contempt by "pure blooded" Spaniards: "We are no longer European just as Spain is no longer European, because of its African blood, character and institutions."

Cuba inherited its ideas about the Republic from 1789 France. This includes the notion that ethnic identity is not of interest, only citizenship. As in France, in practice this means that the dominant white identity is assumed and the rest are deprecated. As in France, the ultimate solution, presaged in the "dos puntos de vista" quote below, is race mixing to whiten the Africans and subsume their identity into a "Cuban" identity which is largely Spanish in character.

AfroCubans have become increasingly vocal about racial issues. Some suggest this goes against the Revolution. However, it would be more accurate to see this trend in the context of how AfroLatins across South and Central America are becoming more vocal and getting better at defending their rights.

Cuba has a Chinese community, centered around Havana's "Barrio Chino."   Many Chinese were brought into Cuba towards the end of the last century as it became more difficult and less profitable to kidnap and import Africans. Historically, they sided with the Africans in their struggles against the Spanish Cubans.

There is a very small, but still surviving Indigenous community, mostly in Oriente and consisting of Taino people, related to the Taino of Puerto Rico. According to Cuban researchers working over the past 20 years, Native Cubans survived in far greater numbers to a much later date than was commonly accepted: part of the continent wide myth of the "vanishing red man".  See Native Cuba.

There is a Jewish community which has been reconnecting with Jews outside the island.

Dos puntos de vista:

"La médico y genetista Beatriz Matcheco ha realizado recientemente un estudio en cubanos de todos los colores de piel y absolutamente todos llevan en su sangre, genes europeros y africanos." -- citado por Guillermo Rodríguez Rivera en el Blog de Silvio Rodriguez, nota #5.  "The doctor and geneticist Beatriz Matcheco recently conducted a study among cubans of all colors and absolutely all of them had both european and african genes." cited by Guillermo Rodríguez Rivera in the Blog de Silvio Rodriguez, note #5. A view founded in republicanismo.

Según destacó el antropólogo Antonio Martínez Fuentes, los estudios arrojan que 45 por ciento del ADN mitocondrial de la población cubana tiene origen africano y 23 de origen nativo americano, mientras que solo 22 por ciento procede de Europa, lo que habla de la contribución africana e indígena. Largo trecho pendiente por igualdad racial  6/1/2014 IPS

Resources on AfroCubaWebtop

The Exiled Plantocracy and Race

Cuba's Plantocracy: Cuban American business and terrorism

The US, the Exiled Plantocracy, and Race

White Supremacy and Miami Cubans

USAID/NED/State Department Companies: running projects in post December 2014 Cuba

NED and San Isidro Anti-Racism, 1/3/2021  NED y el anti-racismo del Movimiento San Isidro, 3/1/2021

The Discourse on Racism in Anti-Castro Publications, 2014-2015

The Discourse on Racism in Anti-Castro Publications, 2011-2013

The Discourse on Racism in Anti-Castro Publications, 2008-2010

The Discourse on Racism in Anti-Castro Publications, 2007

Dissidents and Race in Cuba, 2001

Cuban Exiles Invoke US Civil Rights Struggle: Brothers to the Rescue, Florida's MLK Institute for Nonviolence, and manipulating Cuban dissidents, 5/09

A Sincere and Painful Apology to the US Congressional Black Caucus, 5/10/09.

A Worldwide Battle of Life and Death. Part I, 12/25/09

Acting On Our Conscience - A Declaration of African American Support for the Civil Rights Struggle in Cuba, 12/09

Acting on Our Conscience Briefing Sheet: roadmap for Diaspora support of Miami-backed Plantocracy dissidents, 1/6/2010

Cuban concept of the Republic

Republican Ideals and Cuban Ethnic Identities: Cuba inherited its concept of the Republic from France, which has similar racist mechanisms. This article places Cuban racism in the latin context, rather than in the irrelevant anti-communist context beloved of Washinton and Miami.

 Los ideales republicanos en Cuba y América Latina

Ethnic identities in Cuba

Abakuá - Cross River Delta, Nigeria and Cuba

Haiti in Cuba: over 300,00 Haitians in Cuba, Creole radio station

Native Cubans

West Indians in Cuba

See larger list.

Rastas in Cuba

Yoruba - Lukumí


Gangá, Sierra Leone

What AfroCubans saytop

Flor Amalia Donde Esta Dios? - a play on racism by playwright Amalia
Gisela Arandia A Panorama of Afrocuban Culture and History: One Way to Strengthen Nationality. Author Arandia is a researcher on race & identity issues at the UNEAC
Ulises Cabrera Independent journalist, writes vehemently against the Cuban government. Blacks and Whites

El Blanco y el Negro

Osvaldo Cárdenas

Former MINREX official, now lives in Jamaica, where he is a professor and businessman.
Digna Castañeda Fuertes Between Race and Empire : African-Americans and Cubans Before the Cuban Revolution (1998).   A professor at the University of Havana.
Miguel De La Torre Masking Hispanic Racism: A Cuban Case Study, Journal of Hispanic/Latino Theology,
Lariza Diversent attorney for civil rights cases, blogger
Pedro Dupre Independent journalist in Cuba. Wrote Cuba, A Nation; Many Governments, No Blacks Allowed, Please, 2001, The Black World Today "The lack of political will of the Afrocubans in exile to form their own political organizations, the lack of representation on the actual Cuban government and the abdication of their rights to vocalize their concerns as a separate and distinct issue may be in the end what perpetuates their exclusion from the life of the nation as participants.

Afrocubans in exile who accepted the handouts of the Miami elite and thus compromised their ability to speak for the rest of the Afrocubans have become an antithesis to the movement they should have been leading. Unable to bite the hand that feeds them and fully dependent on the benevolence of their patrons, they have once again colluded with the people who have no good design or plans for their future, postergating the redemption of the Afrocuban people."

San Isidro Movement of artists and rappers, many AfroCubans. Initially not very vocal on racial issues, but encouraged to do more by the US government.
Tomas Fernandez Robaina Researcher Robaina is at the National Library and has authored numerous works on AfroCuban issues and race relations in Cuba: see his extensive bibliography
Ivan Garcia Blogger
Eugene Godfried Though from Curacao, he has spent many years in Cuba as a journalist and activist. 

Eugene Godfried Calls on Fidel Castro for Reflection and Action concerning the 1912 Massacre: YouTube Video , 9/07
Pablo Herrera Cuba's vibrant rap scene does not neglect the theme of racism, while in a peculiarly Cuban twist they are not anti-government.  While we don't have much of Herrera's thoughts on the subject he does describe this aspect of the rap scene in an article for Billboard.
Alberto Jones A Jamaican Cuban member of the West Indian Welfare Society in the city of Guantanamo, Cuba, and the director of the Caribbean American Childrens' Foundation in Florida, Alberto Jones is actively making presentations at conferences and in the press on issues of race & identity. We carry some of his media offerings and will be adding more.

A Worldwide Battle of Life and Death. Part I, 12/25/09

Ivan Cesar Martinez Former MINREX official, now a professor at the University of West Indies, Mona, Jamaica
Rogelio Martinez Fure A Co-Director of the Conjunto Folkorico Nacional and a well known ethnologist, Fure made an important announcement carried by Cuban media on the multiracial identity of Cuban culture at a UNEAC conference. (1998)
Carlos Moore Castro, the Blacks, and Africa (1989), Acting on Our Conscience, Acting on Our Conscience (2009)
Esteban Morales Domínguez Universidad de La Habana
Member of the Academia de Ciencias de Cuba
Numerous writings on the topic
Patria y Vida Video rap, 2/16/2021 -  Yotuel, Gente De Zona, Descemer Bueno, Maykel Osorbo, El Funky  
Pedro Pérez Sarduy 1. Afro-Cuba: An Anthology (1993) 3. Seminars on Race & Identity in Cuba Today (Current)
2. What do Blacks have in Cuba? (1996) 4. An Open Letter to Carlos Moore (1990)
5. Where did the Blacks go?  - on the Pope's visit. (1998) 6. Afro-Cuban Voices on Race and Identity in Contemporary Cuba (1999)
  7. Pedro Pérez-Sarduy Multimedia Seminar: Race & Identity in Cuba 2002  
Ariel Ribeaux "Ni musicos ni deportistas"  - "Neither musicians or athletes"
Rosa Reed Based in the US
Roberto Zurbano Extensive series of essays.  

What Spanish Cubans saytop

Miguel Barnet Biography of a Runaway Slave.  Barnet is head of the Fundacion Ortiz.
Fidel Castro Has discussed the topic on a number of occasions.
Raúl Castro "Raúl Castro stated that if a person is denied entry to a hotel because he or she is black, then that establishment should be closed, thus applying our laws, even if the installation concerned is a joint venture." -- On Gender and Racial Equality, 3/00
Alejandro de la Fuente Professor at the University of Pittsburgh, extensive writings, many links



Afro-Cubans in Cuban Society, December 1999

See especially the link to the conference summary at the CIP site:

Various authors Dissidents and Race, 2001

The Discourse on Racism in Anti-Castro Publications, 9/07

The Discourse on Racism in Anti-Castro Publications, 2008-2009

Citizens Committee for Racial Integration (CIR)
Havana, Cuba

Temas Various authors, revue based in Havana El triángulo invisible del siglo XX cubano: raza, literatura y nación, 4/06  PDF, 225kb Roberto Zurbano, Ensayista, Casa de las Américas

Raza y desigualdad en la Cuba actual, 1/06, PDF, 280kb, Rodrigo Espina Prieto y Pablo Rodríguez Ruiz, Investigadores, Centro de Antropología.

Caminos   Otra vez raza y racismo 5/26/2008


What foreigners saytop

Lisa Brock, Art Institute
of Chicago
Between Race and Empire : African-Americans and Cubans Before the Cuban Revolution (1998) "Race and the Cuban Revolution: A Critique of Carlos Moore's "Castro, the Blacks, and Africa" (1990)
Reflections on Cuba:
History, Memory, Race, and Solidarity
Conservative African Americans Who funds these people??? They are against affirmative action, downplay global warming, and are superficial in their treatment of Cuba.
Kwame Dixon Race and Revolution: Cuba and Blackness  4/28/2000 Democracy Now:  "KWAME DIXON: Well, we would have to put Cuba in—in terms of its attempt to deal with racism, I think that the Cuban government has made serious efforts to eradicate racism. They’ve put in tremendous amounts of money in education, health, etc. I think we know about that. I think the question is for other governments in the region. I think Afro-Cubans are in many ways—I can’t say better off, because that’s not the proper way to put it, but we can say that the Cuban government has taken race seriously, whereas the Colombians or governments in Ecuador or Peru or Brazil, Afro-Latinos are really mistreated and badly viewed in the society."
James Early, Smithsonian Institution TALKING RACE IN THE REVOLUTION
Aline Helg, University of Geneva, Switzerland Our Rightful Share : The Afro-Cuban Struggle for Equality, 1886-1912 (1995)
Manning Marable, Columbia University Revolution and Race in Cuba (1996)
William Osborne Letter to Univision, 6/00 - not on Cuba, but related.
Socialist Action Why black cubans support the revolution (1994)
Robert F. Williams  

Foreign Organizationstop

Chicago Standard Newspaper The Popes Cuban visit: racism vs the Afro-Cuban legacy, 1/98 A newspaper of South Chicago's Black Community
New York Times Best of Friends, World Apart, 6/00 Article on race in Cuba and in Miami
Radio Pacifica New Take on Cuba Afro Cubans And Race (scroll down) - 4/27/00
Race And Revolution: Cuba and Blackness-4/28/00
TransAfrica Washington, DC. Policy organization active in Africa and South America Visited Cuba 1/99 with a strong delegation that included Randall Robinson, Danny Glover, Camille Crosby, Bill Fletcher, Bill Lucy.
The Miami Herald 1993 editorial on race reveals many misconceptions Estudiosos debaten el tema del racismo, 6/26/99, shows the increasing interest in Miami in taking on Cuba over issues of racism.
BBC Cuba y las tinieblas del racismo, 10/10/06


Top Ten list of denialstop

- "We are all Cubans" Jose Marti, founding father, frequently used to deny the presence of any AfroCubans in Cuba, end of the last  century. This is an expression of Cuba's concept of the Republic.
- "Cubans are really only unconsciously racist" American white leftist living in Havana who should know better, 1999
- "Well, it's not as bad as the hurricane" white leftist in the US, after receiving an explanation of the economic blockage caused by an all white provincial administration in Cuba, 1999
- "African Americans have no political power" white leftist in the US, 1999, explaining why the Cuban delegation to the US has only one AfroCuban.
- "There was very little discrimination in Cuba before Castro." many Miami Cubans regularly tell us this in their emails!!!


United States 290,000 000 inhabitants Black MD'S 17,000
Cuba           11,000 000    " "        " "      13,500



Archivo Cubano - Transculturacion

Archivo Cubano - Religion

DOSSIER ESPECIAL: "El engaño de las razas (homenaje a Fernando Ortiz)", Temas, 1996-2012


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