When Cuba announced on Monday that it is legalizing real estate and automobile sales as well as the expansion of private cooperatives with the hope of boosting economic growth, a question arose. What will the impact of the new economy be on Afro-Cubans?
Despite former President Fidel Castro's early efforts under a revolutionary government to eradicate racial prejudice, researchers contend that social discrimination against Blacks still hobbles their social, economic and political progress. In short, Afro-Cubans, who arrived as slaves, are still not treated or seen as equals by the descendants of their Spanish owners.
Latinos, as we know, can be of any race. The CIA World Factbook Cuba page reports that in 2011 there are 11 million Cubans. The 2002 Cuban census reported that 65 percent of Cubans listed themselves as white, 25 percent as mulatto and mestizo and 10 percent as Black. The number and percentage of Afro-Cubans jumped in 1959 after the Castro revolution, as middle-class and wealthy whites fled the Communist takeover.
The European Union reports that Black Cubans also face systemic and institutional discrimination. It is most apparent in the one sector where average Cubans can earn hard currency: tourism. Black Cubans are not encouraged to work in or hold prominent positions in this industry. The EU report also says that Afro-Cubans rarely attain other managerial positions, and live in substandard housing.
There may also be a disproportionate impact on Afro-Cubans, already at the bottom of the economic ladder, if Cuban President Raul Castro carries out his promise to fire 500,000 state workers. Havana controls nearly all means of production and 80 percent of Cubans work for the government.
More information about lives and culture of Afro-Cubans is available at Afrocubaweb.com
(Photo: Jorge Rey/Getty Images)