Race in Cuba
The legacy of slavery and the legacy of systematic racial discrimination imposed on Afro-Cubans are grim realities that are imbedded in Cuban societal and cultural fibers. Despite the abolition of slavery in 1886 and its gaining of independence in 1902 Cuban society, politics, and ideology have been haunted with the specter of the ‘race issue.’ According to Aline Helg, "the myth of Cuban racial equality has proved remarkably enduring, even since the revolution of 1959". In order to comprehend the current political and social conditions in Cuba as well as the conditions that led to the revolution in 1959 one must examine the afro-Cuban struggle for equality that emerged at the turn of the 20th century.
Jose Marti, in his idealistic pursuit for a free Cuba, envisioned a revolution that would not only allow Cubans to gain their independence from Spain, but also a revolution that would revitalize and redefine the Cuban social structures. This sentiment was shared by the many afro-Cubans who joined the ranks of the Liberation Army to rebel against Spanish racism and inequality. In fact, as Helg states, "although few orientales were able to leave written testimony of their motivation to join the insurgency, their goal was probably not only independence from Spain but also the creation of a new society in which they would fully participate". Besides the Afro-Cuban motivations of ceasing racism and inequality were the motivations of members from other factions of society such as the landless peasants who desired land, the popular cabecillas who strove for political authority, and the orientales who fought to gain control of their regions destiny. The war for independence had the intent of liberation, but the makings of a social revolution, a revolution that would ultimately seek to alter the status quo of Spanish colonial order with its strict social and racial hierarchy. However, this social revolution never truly came into fruition for the many...
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