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Racism in Cuba is centered around discrimination of Cuban blacks and mulattoes. Though the Cuban census registers that 65% of the population is white, foreign figures report an estimate of the number of whites at anywhere from 20 to 35 percent; the independent estimates say that the majority of Cubans are black or mulatto.[1][2][3] The country has been headed by a white leader (Fidel Castro staying in power for half century) since the country's only mulatto leader (Fulgencio Batista) was overthrown. The Economist says that, although the population is now mainly black or mulatto and young, its rulers form "a mainly white gerontocracy".[2]

Esteban Morales Dominguez has pointed to the institutionalized racism in his book "The Challenges of the Racial Problem in Cuba" (Fundación Fernando Ortiz). The book was promptly banned in Cuba according to New America Media.[1] According to AfroCubaWeb, however, the book was not banned.[4] It shows a growing impoverishment of the population as a whole and emphasizes that Black Cubans are disproportionately suffering. In the countryside, a staggering 98% of the land is in the hands of white elite.[3] According to Carlos Moore's estimates, most blacks are unemployed.[3] A survey showed that white Cubans believe that blacks are "less intelligent than whites" (58%) and "devoid of decency" (69%).[3] Racial Politics in Post-Revolutionary Cuba by Mark Q. Sawyer discusses the racial ideology prevalent in the Communist Cuba.[5]

According to anthropologists dispatched by the European Union, racism is systemic and institutional.[1] Blacks are systematically excluded from positions that tourism related jobs, where they could earn tips in hard currencies.[1] According to the EU study, blacks are relegated to poor housing, complained of the longest waits for healthcare, were excluded from managerial positions, received the lowest remittances from relatives abroad, and were five times more likely to be imprisoned."[1]

If the Cuban government were to permit black Cubans to organize and raise their problems before [authorities] . . . totalitarianism would fall

Enrique Patterson, who describes race as "social bomb"[6]

Esteban Morales Domínguez, a professor in the University of Havana, says that "The absence of the debate on the racial problem already threatens . . . the revolution's social project".[6] Carlos Moore, who has authored extensive on the issue, says that "There is an unstated threat, blacks in Cuba know that whenever you raise race in Cuba, you go to jail. Therefore the struggle in Cuba is different. There cannot be a civil rights movement. You will have instantly 10,000 black people dead".[6] He says that a new generation of black Cubans are looking at politics in another way.[6] Barack Obama's victory has raised disturbing questions about the institutional racism in Cuba.[1] The Economist noted "The danger starts with his example: after all, a young, black, progressive politician has no chance of reaching the highest office in Cuba, although a majority of the island’s people are black."[7]

Jorge Luis García Pérez, who was imprisoned and tortured for 17 years, states "The authorities in my country have never tolerated that a black person oppose the regime. During the trial, the color of my skin aggravated the situation. Later when I was mistreated in prison by guards, they always referred to me as being black".[8]

As a black prisoner of conscience, Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet wrote to Coretta Scott King in January 1999, "They [black Cubans] have a very low political, economic, and judicial representation in contrast to the numerous prevailing black penal population. This situation is never publicly manifested by the government but is a component of communism's subtle politics of segregation." Heroic black Cubans like Dr. Biscet and Jorge Luis Garcia Perez have been ripped from their families for criticizing Cuba's white autocrat.

A Black Journalist Goes to Havana[9]

Fidel Castro is quoted as saying: “one of the most just battles that must be fought, a battle that must be emphasized more and more, which I might call the fourth battle--the battle to end racial discrimination at work centers. I repeat: the battle to end racial discrimination at work centers. Of all the forms of racial discrimination the worst is the one that limits the colored Cuban's access to jobs .“[10] Castro pointed to the distinction between social segregation and employment, while placing great emphasis on correcting the latter. In response to the large amount of racism that existed in the job market, Castro issued anti-discrimination laws. In addition, he attempted to close the class gap between wealthy white Cubans and Afro-Cubans with a massive literacy campaign among other egalitarian reforms in the early and mid 1960s [11] Two years after his 1959 speech at the Havana Labor Rally, Castro declared that the age of racism and discrimination was over. In a speech given at the Confederation of Cuban Workers in observance of May Day, Castro declared that the “ just laws of the revolution ended unemployment put an end to villages without hospitals and schools, enacted laws which ended discrimination, control by monopolies, humiliation, and the suffering of the people.” [12]. Although inspiring, many would consider the claim to be premature.”[13]

Research conducted by PH.D researchers Yesilernis Peña, Jim Sidanius and Mark Sawyer in 2003, suggest that social discrimination is still prevalent, despite the low levels of economic discrimination.[14] After considering the issue solved, the Cuban government moved beyond the issue of racism. His message marked a shift in Cuban society’s perception of racism that was triggered by the change in government focus. ”[15] The government’s announcement easily allowed the Cuban public to deny discrimination without first correcting the stereotypes that remained in mind of those who grew up in a Cuba that was racially and economically divided. Many who argue that Cuba in not racists base their claims on the idea of Latin American Exceptionalism. According to the argument of Latin American Exceptionality, a social history of intermarriage and mixing of the races is unique to Latina America. The large mestizo populations that result from high levels of interracial union common to Latin America are often linked to racial democracy. For many Cubans this translates into an argument of “racial harmony”, often referred to as racial democracy. In the case of Cuba, ideas of Latin American Exceptionalism have delayed the progress of true racial harmony.[16]

Frommer's Cuba travel guidebook warns that black tourists can have hard time entering hotels and restaurants because they are sometimes mistaken for Cuban prostitutes by the security forces (see also tourist apartheid).[17]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "‘Obama Effect’ Highlights Racism in Cuba". New America Media. December 15, 2008.  
  2. ^ a b "The Cuban revolution at 50 - Heroic myth and prosaic failure". The Economist. December 30th 2008.  
  3. ^ a b c d Carlos Moore. "Why Cuba's white leaders feel threatened by Obama".  
  4. ^
  5. ^ Cuba Mark Q. Sawyer University of California, Los Angeles. Racial Politics in Post-Revolutionary.  
  6. ^ a b c d "A barrier for Cuba's blacks". Miami Herald.  
  7. ^ "Fifty years of the Castro regime - Time for a (long overdue) change". The Economist. December 30th 2008.  
  8. ^ "Cuban former political prisoner Jorge Luis García Perez Antúnez: I felt death was very close several times".  
  9. ^ "A Black Journalist Goes to Havana".  
  10. ^ Speech at Havana Labor Rally . Transcript available on
  11. ^ Perez, Louis A. Cuba: Between Reform and Revolution, New York, NY. 2006, p326
  12. ^ Speech given by Fidel Castro on April 8 1961. Text provided by Havana FIEL Network
  13. ^ Moore, C. 1995. Afro-Cubans and the Communist Revolution. Trenton, NJ: African World Press Evidence collected in 2003over proved.
  14. ^ Pena, Y., Jim Sidanis and Mark Sawyer. 2003. Racial Democracy in the Americas:A Latin and US Comparison. University of California, Los Angeles
  15. ^ Moore, C. 1995. Afro-Cubans and the Communist Revolution. Trenton, NJ: African World Press Evidence collected in 2003over proved.
  16. ^ Mark Sawyer. Racial Politics in Post- Revolutionary Cuba
  17. ^ Eliot Greenspan, Neil E. Schlecht. Frommer's Cuba. p. 34.  

Books and papers

  • "Race and Inequality in Cuba Today" (Raza y desigualdad en la Cuba actual) by Rodrigo Espina and Pablo Rodriguez Ruiz
  • "The Challenges of the Racial Problem in Cuba" (Fundación Fernando Ortiz) by Esteban Morales Dominguez

See also



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