Polemical Anthology / Luis Felipe Rojas

My wife, Exilda, gave me this post from her collection of unpublished articles to celebrate the 1 year anniversary of my blog.

I have just finished savoring pleasure and, at the same time, bitterness upon witnessing the presentation of the series, “Anthology of Paths”. This time, the theme was “Race and Racism”. It’s a compilation put together by the editors of the magazine known as ‘Caminos’ (Paths) and dedicated to the Martin Luther King Jr Center. This was prepared with the intent of trying to understand the current racial problem in Cuba — that trend which we do not know when it will vanish.

The anthology has appeared in Cuba at the same time that the century-long anniversary celebration of the Independent Party of Color, founded by Evaristo Estenoz and Pedro Ivonet during the first decade of XX century was going underway. In this deficient anthology I have found a text which I have found to be tendentious, and I would like to point out some issues.

In the essay, “Racial Identity of People without History” by Yesenia Selier and Penelope Hernandez, it is stated that we, whether we are blacks or mestizos from Cuba, have a negative and conflicted view about ourselves. Historically, according to the work, we have always been marginalized and forgotten, but “thanks to the Revolution of 1959” we managed to integrate socially and politically.

In the same vein, a center such as the Martin Luther King one is in charge of promoting the messianic pro-Castro program in the Cuban nation, which states that, supposedly, Fidel Castro and his bearded men came down from the Sierra Maestra mountains to save us from the ignominy of racism. This supports that plan and image which theorists of tropical socialism subdue for the sake of posterity and to seek other followers.

From my own personal experience, I can testify that my grandparents, Oscar and Iris, were immigrants from Antigua-Barbuda and Jamaica, respectively. She was a mulata and he was a black man, and both were searching for fortune and prosperity. They found love, and they made a family composed of 5 sons, and they also helped to establish this small town lost somewhere in the Eastern Cuban geography — San German.

Their love of work, their being of a race with patterns of dress, dance, and other unique ways of behaving, made them respectable people. In addition, they also always respected others, despite how Cuban society functioned at the time. As their descendants, we learned that being black was not a burden or an error, but that it is a source of pride. Being black means that you have rhythm when you walk or make gestures, that you have a particular way of cooking foods, and that you have a distinct way of representing the history of your predecessors — those who lived through humanity’s worst crime, which was slavery. But this does not make us better than anyone else, but it does make us different. And as a black woman in the XXI century, I have accepted this responsibility with much dignity.

The references used by some critics of racism in current times sometimes places them in the same group as that of the most frantic racists.

Anthologies such as the one made by the Caminos Editorial, which respond to the good relations between Christianity and the Latin-American left with the Cuban state are also a form of induced false memory. The phenomenon of racial integration should not be passed through the sieve of false celebrations or underpinnings of past errors.

The essence of the “black problem” in Cuba will be to shed light on all the torpor, while being able to count on the support of all so that we can start referring to both things as one: nation and race.

Translated by Raul G.

December 30, 2010