miércoles, 21 de enero de 2009

One other reflection on the day, from a Cuban perspective by Ricardo Fernandez

Lo que estan a punto de leer, se lo pedí prestado a un Cubano amigo de Facebook, Ricardo Fernandez. Me parece una excelente reflexión.... Niurki

One other reflection on the day, from a Cuban perspective by Ricardo Fernandez

On the day that a black man--son of an African immigrant and a white woman from the American Midwest--took office as President of the United States, Cubans of all races can ponder the status and condition of blacks in Cuba 50 years after the revolution.
When the revolution came to power in 1959, Cuba's black and mixed-ace population was estimated at 30%-40% out of 6 million. While economically disadvantaged with regard to whites and often subject to prejudice and invidious stereotypes, Cuban blacks at the time enjoyed more social access and opportunities than their counterparts in the United States, where segregation was endemic in the North and Jim Crow laws were still in effect throughout the South; and where the Civil Rights Movement was in its infancy. The days of Bull Connor and George Wallace were still to come. The Voting Rights Act, Civil Rights Act, de facto desegregation, the economic and social safety nets of Lyndon Johnson's Great Society (for good and ill) and the triumph of Martin Luther King as a world-wide apostle of reform and human rights were years away...
In the early days of the revolution, much was made of the fact that non-white Cubans would henceforth be able to use the beaches in private suburban subdivisions--enclaves of the mostly-white upper middle-class, such as the Club Náutico, La Concha and Biltmore outside Havana--but economic exclusion, rather than overt racial prohibition, governed in that symbolically charged, and ethically fraught, matter.

In the fourth decade of the revolution, however, the easy flow of hard-currency to the military overseers of the Cuban tourism industry resulted in de jure and de facto apartheid for all Cuban nationals--of every color--who now were prohibited from access to beaches, resorts, hotels and restaurants reserved for foreign tourists.

In their own country, Cubans were now second-class citizens, while Canadians, Spaniards, Germans and Mexicans could cavort and play, and possibly (as was told to me by one such visitor) pick up a beautiful mulata...or, as the case might be, "un negrazo"--the speaker was from a Latin American country where such language applied to the large mestizo or indigenous population would have been considered scandalous. (And, as if to make the national humiliation a bit more painful for non-whites, it is generally known that many Spanish hotel chains, such as Sol Melià, discriminate in the hiring of Cuban staff, preferring whites--mulata for sale on the beach, yes; mulato in the hotel offices or restaurants, no.)

Today, in a country of 11 million people where 60% of the population is black or mixed-race, Cuba's non-white population lives in even greater imposed poverty than the rest of the population, and of course much greater poverty than in 1959. (The reasons are various, and worthy of separate teatment.)
While the rhetoric of the revolution was that it was made "for blacks" and the poor, the reality is that today to be black in Cuba is to be seen by the overwhelmingly white guardians of the dying revolution as a social threat--young black men are routinely targeted for harassment by the police--and to be seen as a token, whose unconditional allegiance to the government is the price for a worn-out triumphalist rhetoric of racial and class grievance.
To be against, is to be treated as an 'ingrate' and to invite harsh marginalization or imprisonment--as has happened to so many, but most emblematically to Dr. Oscar Elías Biscet.

Ironically, many U.S black leaders, conditioned by their experience of racism at home, have seen the ignominious history of racism under Castro in a more forgiving light. Some have been outright supporters of Castro, having been convinced by the revolutionary rhetoric and the stage-set reality of quick visits to a country that is, in fact, run as a private preserve...or plantation.
On a day like today, the paladins of "la revolución" who count only one or two blacks among their ranks, will no doubt be very selective about the imagery they allow to be televised and published and talked about in the state-controlled media. In the United States, one black man takes the Oath of Office of the most powerful position in the world. In Cuba, as President Obama assumes office, the names of anti-Castro black patriots we remember today are many: Peñalver, Valdés Tamayo, Fariñas, Ferrer, Colás, "Antúnez," Bonne Carcassés, Roca, and Biscet are only among the most recognized. In Castro's Cuba, which holds the infamous distinction of having imposed the longest prison term--30 years--on a black opposition leader in modern history, the most famous black prisoner of conscience in the world rots in jail.

Patria o muerte...¿Venceremos?

By Ricardo Fernandez

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