According to the official channels racism does not exist in Cuba, but in daily life race is important. Looking at the number of expressions a language has to describe the subject can reveal the importance. Eskimos have 20 words for snow, and Cubans have twenty for race . Is that rasicm?
In ascending pigmentation Cubans distinguish the following shades of race. (If that order upsets you, you are not a Cuban (they don’t care) and you could also read it from the bottom to the top.)
Albino’s are pigment free. Also in Cuba
So white that he has blond hair and blue eyes. Mostly descendants of the Russians that spent some time in Cuba
A white guy but he might have dark eyes and dark hair.
One shade darker than Blanco. Mediterranean look.
Mulato adelantado//Mulata adelantada
Very light but mixed race.
Mulato blanconasso/Mulata blanconassa.
Same colour as adelantado but with black curls.
Blond, but not white
Clearly of mixed race. Considered the best contribution of the Spanish to the Cuban people.
Mixed blood with some Indian traits.
This is about the form of the eyes. Theoriginal inhabitants of Cuba had slit eyes. Colour does not matter.
A little bit darker than a Mulato.
Another dose of pigment on top of the Mulatico
Black with good hair (which means straight hair)
Black with afro hair (bad hair)
Black as a phone
Very black. Azul means blue and that is indeed very black!
Cubans are refreshingly political incorrect. They call each other by their race or other distinctive characteristics. A fat guy is called Fat, a skinny one Skinny. Someone with big ears is called Ears, and the guy with the big mouth is called Mouth. A black guy is called a Negro and a white one… etc etc…
In daily life
Now how does this whole race thing play out in daily life? I’ll give you an example.
I’m a white man, used to be blond, with blue eyes. I’m sitting on a crowded terrace with a good friend called Titanic. His real name is José but since he’s huge everybody calls him Titanic. He’s 130 kilos of muscle (and a pot belly). He’s a black man (Negro) and has a reputation for his sharp witt.
Just a beer
He gets up to go to the toilet and since he’ll be passing the bar I ask him to fetch another beer.
‘As always’ he says, a bit too loud, ‘the white man ordering the Negro to do the work.’
He imediatly has the attention of the whole terrace. How’s this tourist going to react?
‘Hey’ I reply a bit too loud. ‘It’s a simple task. You are smart for a Negro, you are able to do it.’ (He’s a very smart man by the way.)
All the guests, that were listening in, burst out laughing. All black men are told that they are smart ‘for a negro’ too. Titanic goes to the toilet, fetches two beers and says: ’To Blanco’s’. I return the compliment and say ‘to Negros.’ Racism in action in Cuba.
Race is very apparent in Cuba but not something to worry about. It’s just something you see right away (like big ears) and you can say what you see.
Off course there is racism in Cuba. Like everywhere else in the world there is a distinct reversed correlation between pigment and wealth. That I find colour irelevant does not change that fact.
Racism is considered anti-revolutionary and confronting someone for being a racist is considered an act against the revolution too. So it is very well hidden!
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