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Schedule (with links!)

International Development Studies
Saint Mary's University 
Halifax, Canada

IDS 420.1 Special Topics in Development Studies

Race and Revolution:
Afro-Cubans in Cuban History, Society and the Cuban Revolution


Cuba remains one of the most controversial and alluring countries. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc and the strengthening of the United States economic embargo, Cuba has occupied a prominent place on the world stage. Despite numerous predictions about imminent collapse, the Cuban Revolution and the government of President Fidel Castro continue to defy the conventional wisdom of the "experts". Indeed, the Cuban Revolution has not only been able to survive, but has also embarked on a period of sustained economic recovery. Moreover, Cuba continues to lead the Third World and compare very favourably with industrialized countries in many social indicators, most notably health and education.

However, what is often ignored is the vital Afro-Cuban experience and contribution. The course encompasses a two-week study tour of Cuba and focuses on the Black Cuban experience within Cuban history, particularly the Cuban Revolution. The aim of the course is to connect the issues surrounding marginality and marginalized peoples, groups and collectives within development theory and praxis by examining and locating Cuba - specifically, the Afro-Cuban odyssey - in light of this body of thought and experience.

The development trajectory of the Cuban Revolution represents a profound and poignant challenge to "mainstream" or "conventional" approaches, illustrating the divide within development discourse and practice on what actually constitutes development (e.g. basic human needs and overall societal progress vs. Western models focused on the individual) and what are the necessary conditions and instrumentalities to achieve development (e.g. the strong and interventionist state vs. the free market, privatization and neoliberal prescriptions). Moreover, the Cuban revolution offers a different conception of both development under a socialist model and the nature of socialism. In the final analysis, on one hand, Cuba demonstrates the limitations that external geopolitical and economic conditions and internal material constraints impose on the parameters of socio-economic transformation and the development paths available to countries of the South, while, on the other, the Cuban Revolution indicates the possibilities open to those countries that pursue radical development models.

Various dimensions of Cuban history and culture will be explored. The central themes, inter alia, are: race, ethnicity and racism in historical and theoretical perspective; Colonization; Slavery; the Wars of Independence, development of the Cuban nation, nationhood and national identity; Afro-Cuban pre-1959 (e.g. Independents of Colour, the labour movement and culture, etc); the impact of the Revolutionary developmental model; the Cuba Revolution and Africa; the Special Period (i.e. the economic crisis of the 1990s).

The "unwritten" Black history within the pre-Revolutionary period and immediately after the post- revolutionary period, will be examined, particularly the role of Afro-Cubans within health, education, the political system and agrarian reform and the impact of various legislative and policy instruments and mechanisms to promote equality and eradicate racism. Special attention will be placed on the affirmative action policy implemented in 1986 (reaffirmed in 1991 and 1997) and the emerging and on-going discussion on race and ethnicity in Cuba, that addresses Historiography, Religion (e.g. Santeria and other Afro-Cuban religions), Literature, Music, Rastafarianism, African-American political exiles in Cuba etc.

The central questions analyzed include: Has the revolution made a difference for Afro-Cubans? What is that difference? In what ways is this difference being affected by the Special Period? How much further must "this difference" go? What are the successes and limitations of a program based solely on structural transformations?

The Study Tour

A significant component of the course will be a two-week to Cuba visit from May 4 to 18, 2002 One week will be spent in Havana, with the other in Santiago de Cuba.

The Havana part of the tour will include the province of Matanzas. Matanzas was the "entry point" for much of slavery in the western part of the country and has a strong historical and cultural Afro-Cuban base. The province of Guantanamo will be incorporated into the eastern part of the tour. Guantanamo is important as the "entry point" of the Caribbean communities: the Haitians who were brought as slaves by the French in the early 19th century and immigrants from the English-speaking islands in the early 20th century. Guantanamo has some important Haitian (Tumba Francesa) and English-speaking Caribbean (e.g. the British West Indian Welfare Centre) community organizations.


Two weeks of lectures and course work will precede the tour. Priority will be given to fulltime students. However, spaces are being set aside for those persons who cannot take the course, but are interested in participating in the study tour. The tour will use a combination of symposia and visits, involving both official structures (academic & others) and local communities and community organizations


At present the costs are being worked out and will be known by September 2001. Every effort will be made to keep costs as low as possible.


For various reasons, the number of participants will have to be limited to 20


Email: or telephone Isaac Saney at (902) 494 - 1531.

International Development Studies, Saint Mary's University, Halifax, Canada


Study Tour Schedule.

May 4, 2002

Departure from Montreal and arrival in Havana and transport to Hotel

Sunday, May 5, 2002

1:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.: Orientation, group introductions and
overview of tour itinerary

Monday, May 6, 2002

8:30 a.m. – 12 noon: Seminar: "Historical Panorama of AfroCuban Identity"

Discussant/ specialist: Professor. Tomás Fernández Robaina.
Professor Fernández Robaina is one of Cuba's top experts on AfroCuban
History. He lectures at the University of Havana and is based at the Jose
Marti National Library.

1:30 p.m. – 4:30 p. m. Film: Raices de Mi Corazon (Roots of My Heart)

This documentary by internationally acclaimed Gloria Rolando - an
ethnographic documentalist - which deals with the 1912 massacre of over
6,000 members of the Partido Independiente de Colour (Coloured Independent
Party), the first Black political party in the hemisphere outside of Haiti.

Discussant/ specialist: Tomás Fernández Robaina, historian

Tuesday, May 7, 2002

8:30 a.m. – 12 noon Seminar: Impact of the Special Period

An assessment of the effects of the economic crisis and the changes in the
economy. Central to this seminar is the discussion on the ways the
"difference" that the Cuban Revolution made for Blacks may be eroding and
the efforts to overcome these problems and challenges.

1:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. Visit to Cultural Project Color Cubano "La

Specialist/guide: Lic. Gisela Arandia y Bárbara Oliva, Centro de Antroplogia
(Centre for Antropological Study). The Centre is one of the top social
science research institutes in Cuba
Wednesday, May 8, 2002

8:30 a.m. – 12 noon Symposium: "Slave Resistance and Rebellion"

Slavery was a central institution in Cuban history and was only formally
abolished in 1886. There were numerous acts of resistance against slavery,
including rebellion. One of the most brutal episodes was the La Esclara (The
Ladder) in 1812, where the slaveholders fearing a rebellion, tied 4,000
people to ladders and whipped them until they confessed or died. It is
important to note that rebellions and fear of rebellions played a crucial
role in the eventual abolition of slavery

Discussant/specialist: Dr. Gabino La Rosa Corzo, Centro de Antropología

4pm La del "Ambia" (los Jardines de la UNEAC)

La Peña is cultural event/celebration that is equivalent to a "fiesta."
A regular one is held in the gardens of the centre of UNEAC (the Cuban
Association of Writers and Artists).

Thursday, May 9, 2002

8:30 a.m. – 12 noon Film: Oggun: The Eternal Presence

This film directed Gloria Rolando explores Yoruba philosophy, with a
particular focus on the life of the singer Lazaro Ros, one of the most
important living personalities in AfroCuban culture.

Discussant/specialist: Tato Quiñones, researcher and writer on Afro-Cuban
religions). He is a practioneer of Abakuá.

2:30 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. Visit and guided tour of La Casa Templo de las
Religiones Populares (Sanctuary of the Popular Religions).

Friday, May 10, 2002

8:30 a.m. – 12 noon Seminar: Afro-Cuban Women

AfroCuban women have had a singular role throughout Cuban history.
Additionally, women have and AfroCubans have felt the impact of the Special
Period the greatest. Thus, of particular significance is the intersection of
race and gender.

Discussants/specialists: Dra. (Dr.) Digna Castañeda, University of Havana
and Dra (Dr.). Lourdes Serrano, Centro de Antroplogia.

1:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. Film: Los ojos del Arcoiris (Eyes of the Rainbow),

This documentary examines the life of Assata Shakur, Black Panther and Black
Liberation Army leader who escaped from prison and was given political
asylum in Cuba, in the 1980s. She discusses her history and her life in
Cuba. This film is also about Assata's AfroCuban context, including the
Yoruba Orisha Oya, goddess of the ancestors, of war, of the cemetary and of
the rainbow.

Saturday, May 11, 2002

Sunday, May 12, 2002

1:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. Overview and Reflections on the Week

Monday, May 13, 2002

8:30 a.m. – 12noon Seminar: AfroCuban Religions

AfroCubans religions are the predominant religion on the island., practised
by both Black and white Cubans. While incorporating aspects of Christianity
they encapsulate African cosmological, philosophical and spiritual beliefs,
values and world outlook.

Discussants/specialists : Msc. Rafael Robaina Jaramillo and Lic. Marcos
Marín Llanes, Centro de Antropología

Tuesday, May 14, 2002

8:30 am – 12 noon Visit to la Casa de Africa (Africa House).

La Casa de la Africa is one of the most important a.
prominent research and cultural centres and institutes
Specialists/guide: Dr. Sergio Valdés, Instituto de Literatura y Lingüística
(Institute of Literature and Linguistics) y Lic. Msc. Rafael Robaina, Centro
de Antropología

1:30pm – 4:30 p.m. Visit to Museum de Regla (Museum of Regla)
Regla is one of the most important AfroCuban communities.

Specialists/guides: Pedro Cosme Baños, Director of the Museum and the
Municipal historian and Lic. Leana Hodge Limonta.

Wednesday, May 15, 2002
8:30 am – 12 noon Seminar: Cuba and the African Diaspora

Cuba has been described as a Latin -African nation. As part of the African
Diaspora - the spreading of Africans over the world as a result of the
Atlantic Slave trade - Cuba carries the deep imprint of Africa. Moreover,
Cuba has played a critical role in African liberation struggles in the post
World War Two period. Cuba's direct participation in the struggle to end
apartheid in South Africa, while the most dramatic of this assistance, is
but one example.

Discussants/specialists: Eugene Godfried, Director Caribbean Division, Radio
Havana and Nehanda Abiodun, exiled African American political activist, a
former member of Black Panther Party and the Black Liberation Army.

1:30pm – 4:30 p.m. Film: Los Hijos de Baragua ~ My Footsteps in Baragua.

A documentary by Gloria Rolando about English speaking West Indian migrants
in the municipality of Baragua, in the province of Ciego de Avila.

Thursday, May 16, 2002

8:30 am – 12 noon Seminar: Rastafarians in Cuba

Rastafarians have had and continue to have a powerful cultural influence
throughout the Caribbean. The philosophical and "political" stance was -and
is - an important trend in the Black consciousness movement.

Discussant/specialist: Samuel Furé Davis, Faculty of Foreign Languages,
University of Havana. A leading expert on Rastafarianism in Cuba
1:30pm – 4:30 p.m. Visit to a Rastafarian Community

Friday, May 15, 2002

9:30 a.m. – 12 m Visit to Taller de Transformación Integral y Comunidad de
"Atares" ( Community of "Atares")

El Taller de Transformación Integral is a very important, highly involved
and sophisticated community development project and workshop.

Specialist/guide: Lic. Regla Barbón

[See also Gloria Rolando's film on the comparsa (Carnival group) founded in Atares.]

1:30 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. Final Reflections at a Cuban Farm

Saturday, May 18, 2002

1pm Departure for Canada (Montreal)

Other Planned activities include a visit to la Fundación "Fernándo Ortiz "y
conservatory (The Fernando Ortiz Foundation and Conservatory) with its
President Dr. Miguel Barnet. Fernando Ortiz was an exceptional important
historian and writer who began to reclaim and demarcate AfroCuban history
and its fundamental contribution to Cuban history and culture. Dr. Miguel
Barnet is an important writer and ethnologist.

Options also include several cultural activities that occur on Saturday's
and Sundays.

The kitchen at the Hotel will be available for the preparation of AfroCuban


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