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The term Afro-Cuban refers to Cubans of Sub Saharan African ancestry, and to historical or cultural elements in Cubamarker thought to emanate from this community. The term can refer to the combining of African and other cultural elements found in Cuban society such as religion, music, language, the arts, and class culture.

Demographics

According to a 2001 national census which surveyed 11.2 million Cubans, 1.1 million Cubans described themselves as Black, while 2.8 million considered themselves to be "mulatto" or "mestizo". Thus a significant proportion of those living on the island affirm some African ancestry. The matter is further complicated by the fact that a fair number of people still locate their origins in specific African ethnic groups or regions, particularly Yoruba, Igbo and Congomarker, but also Arará, Carabalí, Mandingo, Fula, Makua, and others. Nevertheless, and despite the egalitarian project of the Cuban revolution, racial discrimination still exists in Cuba. Many Afro-Cubans complain that they are refused employment in the lucrative tourism industry, where Cubans make in tips weekly what doctors and other professionals make in months.

The percentage of Afro-Cubans on the island increased after the 1959 Cuban revolution led by Fidel Castro due to mass migration from the island of the largely white Cuban professional class. A small percentage of Afro-Cubans left Cuba, mostly for the United States, (particularly Floridamarker), where they and their U.S.-born children are called Cuban Americans and Hispanic-Americans . Only a few of them resided in nearby Spanish-speaking countries of Dominican Republicmarker, where Afro-Latino populations predominate. There are some Afro-Cubans who went to Nigeriamarker, the home of the Yoruba and Igbo culture. Angolamarker also has communities of Afro-Cubans, these are descendants of Afro-Cuban soldiers brought to the country in 1975 . They number about 100,000. In the 19th century, descendants of Afro-Cuban slaves were also brought to the only Hispanic African country, Equatorial Guineamarker, where they joined other Emancipados.

The Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami says 68% are black. The Minority Rights Group International says that "An objective assessment of the situation of Afro-Cubans remains problematic due to scant records and a paucity of systematic studies both pre- and post-revolution. Estimates of the percentage of people of African descent in the Cuban population vary enormously, ranging from 33.9 per cent to 62 per cent" and uses the number for 51% for mulattoes.

Religion

Afro-Cuban religion can be broken down into three main currents: Santería, Palo Monte, and Abakuá, and include individuals of all origins. Santería and Abakuá both have large parts of their liturgy in African languages (Yoruba, Igbo and Ñañigo, respectively) while Palo Monte uses a mixture of Spanish and Kikongo. Santería and Palo Monte are largely syncretised with Catholicism, though it is generally considered that the African elements outweigh the Catholic ones.

The Abakuá religion is a secret society for men, similar to the freemason orders of Europe (which first integrated white (Spanish) members in the late 19th century). It has not been syncretised with Catholicism and remains close to its origins in south-eastern Nigeria. An important aspect of Abakuá is that while membership is only for men, a host of rules mandates that conditions to be initiated are to be a good son, good brother, good father, good friend, and, above all, straight. There are presently 136 potencies in Cuba; the 136th been recently created named Efí Masongo Obane.

Music

Afro-Cuban music involves two main categories of music, religious and profane. Religious music includes the chants, rhythms and instruments used in rituals of the above-mentioned religious currents, while profane music focuses largely on rumba, guaguanco and comparsa (carnival music) as well as several lesser styles such as the tumba francesa. Virtually all Cuban music has been influenced by African rhythms. Cuban popular music, and quite a lot of the art music, has strands from both Spain and Africa, woven into a unique Cuban cloth. The son is a typical example of this.

Language

Other cultural elements considered to be Afro-Cuban can be found in language (including syntax, vocabulary, and style of speech) and generally held stereotypes of Afro-Cuban culture such as male and female behavior, family structure or general habits. The term Afro-Cuban is rarely taken into the economic sphere, despite the fact that, as in most of the Americas, black Cubans are generally poorer than whites, which translates into class phenomenon along racial lines. The political situation, however, forbids public acknowledgment of the existence of social classes and of racial problems of any kind.

Racial Consciousness

According to anthropologists dispatched by the European Union, racism is entrenched in Cuba. Black people are systematically excluded from positions in tourism related jobs, where they could earn tips in hard currencies. According to the EU study, black people are relegated to poor housing, and black Cubans are excluded from managerial positions.

Enrique Patterson describes race as a "social bomb" and says that "If the Cuban government were to permit black Cubans to organize and raise their problems before [authorities] . . . totalitarianism would fall". 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". 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. [...] The government is frightened to the extent to which it does not understand black Cubans today. You have a new generation of black Cubans who are looking at politics in another way." Barack Obama's victory has raised disturbing questions about the institutional racism in Cuba. 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"

In the years between the triumph of the revolution and the victory at Playa Girón the Cuban government was one of the world’s most proactive regimes in the fight against discrimination. It achieved significant gains in racial equality through a series of egalitarian reforms early in the 1960s. Fidel Castro’s first public address on racism after his rise to power was on March 23 1959 at a labor rally in Havana, less than three months after he defeated Fulgencio Batista. He 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 .“ 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 1960sTwo 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 revolutionended 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.” . Although inspiring, many would consider the claim to be premature.”

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.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. ” 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 racism does not exist in Cuba 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.

Haitian Creole among Afro-Cubans

Haitian Creole and culture first entered Cuba with the arrival of Haitian immigrants at the start of the nineteenth century. Haiti was a French colony, and the final years of the 1791-1804 Haitian Revolution brought a wave of French settlers fleeing with their Haitian slaves to Cuba. They came mainly to the east, and especially Guantanamo, where the French later introduced sugar cultivation, constructed sugar refineries and developed coffee plantations. By 1804, some 30,000 French were living in Baracoa and Maisí, the furthest eastern municipalities of the province. Later, Haitians continued to come to Cuba to work as braceros (hand workers, from the Spanish word brazo, meaning "arm") in the fields cutting cane. Their living and working conditions were not much better than slavery. Although they planned to return to Haiti, most stayed on in Cuba. For years, many Haitians and their descendants in Cuba did not identify themselves as such or speak Creole. In the eastern part of the island, many Haitians suffered discrimination. But according to the Castro regime, since 1959, when he took over, this discrimination has stopped.

After Spanish, Creole is the second most-spoken language in Cuba. Thanks to approximately 300,000 Haitians that have arrived in recent decades, over 400,000 Cubans either speak Haitian Creole fluently, understand it but speak with difficulty, or have at least passing familiarity with the language. It is mainly in those communities where Haitians and their descendant live that Creole is most spoken. In addition to the eastern provinces, there are also communities in Ciego de Ávila and Camagüey provinces where the population still maintains Creole, their mother tongue. Classes in Creole are offered in Guantanamo, Matanzas and the City of Havana. There is a Creole-language radio program.

List of Famous Afro-Cubans



Human rights and democracy activists



See also



References

  1. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company. Random House Unabridged Dictionary, Random House, Inc. 2006.
  2. Cuba census 2001
  3. AfroCubaWeb: the African cultures in Cuba - Yoruba - Congo - Dahomey - Abakwa - Bricamo - Haiti - West Indies
  4. Speech at Havana Labor Rally . Transcript available on The University of Texas at Austin - Web Central
  5. Perez, Louis A. Cuba: Between Reform and Revolution, New York, NY. 2006, p326
  6. Speech given by Fidel Castro on April 8 1961. Text provided by Havana FIEL Network
  7. Moore, C. 1995. Afro-Cubans and the Communist Revolution. Trenton, NJ: African World Press Evidence collected in 2003 over proved.
  8. Pena, Y., Jim Sidanis and Mark Sawyer. 2003. Racial Democracy in the Americas: A Latin and US Comparison. University of California, Los Angeles
  9. Mark Sawyer. Racial Politics in Post- Revolutionary Cuba
  • Duno-Gottberg, Luis, Solventando las diferencias: la ideología del mestizaje en Cuba. Madrid, Iberoamericana – Frankfurt am Main, Vervuert, 2003



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