Americans are discovering Cuba's particular ethnic mix

Posted: 24-Feb-16 18:01

As the amount of U.S. residents visiting Cuba increased in the last year, the national complex racial composition is being highlighted as an interesting feature in the island's social and cultural landscape. The Huffington Post and USA Today have recently published articles on this topic.

Americans are discovering Cuba's particular ethnic mix

Among people who don´t know Cuba or who haven´t visited the island, the idea that the locals are mainly black is widely extended. A combination of the nation´s African heritage and historically constructed stereotypes have helped the propagation these misconceptions.

That´s why Americans who are now able to visit the neighbouring country thanks to the changes in regulations introduced by their government a year ago, are frequently impressed by the complexity of Cuba´s ethnic composition, as authors Laura Ruane and Rick Steves have stated in recently published articles.

“Cuban government’s tourism literature doesn’t show how racially diverse its people are. Intermarriage likely means few Cubans are exclusively of one race.”

says Ruane referencing the testimony of professor Jackie Jones, from Morgan State University in Baltimore.

The last national census carried out in the island in 2012 revealed that 64,1% of the population consider themselves as white, 26,6% as black and 9,3 percent as mixed.

In their articles for The Huffington Post and USA Today, both authors agree that by taking into account Cubans’ skin colour it is possible to understand some historical and social processes in the Caribbean country. Steves, for example, draws attention to the differences between people who receive more foreign remittances (the white Hispanic descendants) and those with less access to them (mostly those of African descent), as well as other social disparities associated with the discriminatory practices of the pre-revolutionary era.

Ruane´s interviewees encourage visitors to Cuba to talk to people and gain personal insights into their every-day lives. By doing this, the author suggests, a nuanced panorama where Americans will discover the legacy and importance of African culture deeply rooted in Cuban culture.

Interviewed by Ruane, Dash Harris, co-founder of AfroLatino Travel stated:

“I was absolutely floored by how the African and Afro-descendant connections have held so strongly in day-to-day life.”

One of the most attractive things that U.S. visitors will find in Cuba, according to the USA Today article, is its connections with the civil rights movement in the U.S. and the legacy of the Revolution and Fidel Castro’s leadership in the African-American struggles of the 1960s.

The musical bridge between both countries that was built at the beginning of the 20th century when Cuban afro descendants started to engage with the American jazz scene, is also a feature that authors point out as a meaningful reason for visiting Cuba.

Curated tours on Afro-Cuban culture and its connections with the United States, as well as trips to explore and understand Cuba´s complex ethnic mix, could become popular soon, as some travel agents have manifested their admiration towards the island´s cultural heritage.


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