In Cuba, Gates finds out how the culture, religion, politics and music of this island are inextricably linked to the huge amount of slave labor imported to produce its enormously profitable 19th-century sugar industry, and how race and racism have fared since Fidel Castro’s communist revolution in 1959.
I am continuing to watch the PBS special Black in Latin America. Last night the focus was on Cuba. I must admit that I am not very familiar with the history of race relations in Cuba and so this was quite fascinating to me. Throughout the hour long documentary, Dr.Gates continually suggested that Cuba would have been a country of racial equality had it not been for the intervention of the U.S. during it’s war of independence from Spain. It seems as though along with attempting to include Cuba under its sphere of influence that the U.S. exported it’s ideas of racial hierarchy and the suppression of Blacks. Former slaves who had fought in the war of independence with Spain quickly found themselves considered to be second class citizens though there were no official segregation laws.
Gates spent a lot of time affirming that everything Black or of African origin was seen as animalistic and was therefore repressed. Even Batista who was himself a mulatto did not see fit to uplift Blacks and it was then left for Castro to attempt to create the long needed change. For all of the focus on the history of race relations in Cuba, I found the viewer was not left with a good idea of what the social status is of Black Cubans today. We know that because the country is highly dependent on money transfers from expatriates who fled during the revolution that an economic divide has been created. Beyond this assertion I am still unclear of what it is like to be Black and Cuban.
I am enjoying this series and I was wondering if anyone else is watching it and what their thoughts were on last nights episode. For those who have not been following here is a small snippet.
The full episode can be seen here.