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Letter to American Artists and Intellectuals

A Yoruba proverb says: "The lie can run away for a year, the truth catch up with it one day". Although for long time the American public opinion has tried to impose, from the most intolerable political circles and most powerful mass media networks, a distorted image of the contemporary Cuban society, in one way or the other, the truth comes out to reality always.

The same will happen, we have not doubts about it, when the reasons that impel us to refute the false affirmations regarding our society stated in a document published last December 1, 2009, signed by a group of Afro-American leaders and intellectuals, come to light.

To say that among us there is a "callous disregard" for the black Cubans, that there is a denial of "civil freedoms on the basis of race", and to demand the end of "the unwarranted and brutal harassment of black citizens in Cuba who are defending their civil rights", could seem a uproarious lucubration, if it not were for the fact that behind that fiction shows out the evil intention to sum up respectable voices from the Afro American community to the campaign against Cuba aiming at undermine our identity and sovereignty.

If nowadays Cuba were said racist country some pretend to invent, its citizens could have not contributed to the liberation of African nations. More than 350, 000 Cubans fought together with its African brothers against colonialism. More than 2,000 Cubans died on African soil. Nelson Mandela, a personality of remarkable relevance, has recognized the role of those Cubans volunteers to the end of the infamous regimen of apartheid. From Africa, we only brought the remains of our heroes.

If nowadays Cuba felt such disregard for black people, more than 35,000 young Africans would have never been educated in our schools in the last 40 years; 2,800 young Africans from more that 30 nations were not studying at this moment in our universities.

A nation sick of racism would refuse to collaborate in the education of physicians and health specialists in Medical Sciences Schools created in Guinea Bissau, Guinea Equatorial, Gambia and Eritrea; it would turn back to the health assistance programs that have saved thousand lives in Latin American and the Caribbean, regions where the presence of the African diaspora is significant; it would have never provided assistance to the more than 20, 000 of Haitians and Anglo Afro-caribbeans that have recovered their vision through surgical operations carried out in our country at no charge.

It is possible that the vast majority of those who signed the document ignore that just before the devastation of New Orleans by hurricane Katrina, tens of Cuban physicians and health specialists offered to assist voluntarily the victims of this catastrophe as a humanitarian act that did not receive any answer from the American authorities.

Also, they maybe ignore how, since the first days of the popular victory in 1959, the institutional and juridical basis of a racist society were dismantled. In 1959, the Cuban Revolution found a desperate situation within the majority of the population. Cuban Afro descendants, who were among those most affected victims of Cuba's neocolonialism, immediately benefited from the battle started by the revolutionary government to end with all forms of exclusion including the ferocious racism characterizing the Cuba of that epoch.

The policy of Cuba against any kind of discrimination and in favor of equality has the constitutional support and it is expressed in the chapters of the Carta Magna that refer to the State's social, economic and political foundations , and the rights and duties of its citizens. The constitutional rights, as well as the mechanisms and means to make them effective and to reestablish legality before any violation of these, are guaranteed through a precise complementary legislation.

As never before in the history of our nation, has blacks and creoles found, within the process of transformations carried out in the last 50 years, opportunities to personal and social development, supported by the policies and programs that have favored the rising of, as it was called by Cuban anthropologist Don Fernando Ortiz, the phase of integration the Cuban society.

It is a process, we know, that is not exempted from conflicts and contradictions, around which gravitate inherited social disadvantages as well as deeply rooted prejudices.

Six years ago, Fidel Castro, dialoguing with Cuban and foreign pedagogy specialists, commented how "even in societies such as the Cuban, which emerged from a radical social revolution in which people were able to attain full and complete legal equality and a revolutionary level of education that cast out the subjective component of discrimination, this continues to exist in another form. I would describe it as objective discrimination, a phenomenon associated with poverty and the historic monopoly of knowledge."

Those who observe the daily life in any part of the country will be able to notice an enormous effort to definitely eliminate those factors conditioning such situation, by means of new programs aiming at eliminating all social disadvantages.

The Afro American intellectuals must know how their Cuban counterparts have tackled these issues and promoted actions from the prominent place they have in civil society. Some of the programs previously referred to, were born from the debates carried out in 1998, during the VI Congress of the National Union of Writers and Artist of Cuba, UNEAC, in an open and frank dialogue with the highest authorities of the State, headed by Fidel Castro. It must be remembered that the organization embracing the vanguard of Cuba's intellectual and artistic movement was presided over by a black poet, Nicolas Guillen, one of the most remarkable Hispanic poets of century XX, active advocate against racial discrimination and personal friend of Langston Hughes and Paul Robeson.

Within UNEAC, organization that has never been away from this issue, it has been created a permanent committee to fight, from a cultural perspective, against all vestiges of discrimination and racial prejudices.

In a racist country, it would be impossible to think in the creation and functioning of institutions like Casa de Africa (Africa's House), Fundación Fernando Ortiz (Fernando Ortiz Foundation), Casa Caribe (Caribbean House) in Santiago de Cuba, Centro de Estudios del Caribe de Casa de las Americas (Center for the Study of the Caribbean) and the Instituto Nacional de Antropologia (National Institute of Anthropology), that, among other issues, study the African legacy to our nation and the inter-racial relations in Cuba. Artistic institutions like Conjunto Folclorico Nacional of Camaguey would have not received support and widespread social recognition.

If racial hate were a predominant element in our society, it would have been just a rhetoric gesture the celebration of the centennial of the foundation of the Independent Party of Color, to recover the historic memory of a period struggle of the Cuban people for its rights and liberation from all dominations.

Genuine examples of our traditional music culture, highly recognized by the American public, like Los Muñequitos de Matanzas and Yoruba Andabo and Clave y Guagancó groups, would only be temporary port workers with a bad pay, parking workers, shoe cleaners and domestic workers, should their extraordinary values had not been recognized.

A racist society would have never translated and published hundreds of literary works of tens of African and Afro Caribbean writers. During one of his visit to Cuba, Nigerian Nobel Prize Wole Soyinka expressed: "It's difficult to find another place in Western Hemisphere where the quest to learn about the African writers transcends, as we have seen here, the interest of the academic institutions".

The Cuban Intellectuals and Artists appreciate the solidarity, comprehension and respect that several Afro American personalities has demonstrated to the Cuban reality through half a century. We have never asked them to share our political ideas nor have we never conditioned a dialogue to any kind of support or adhesion.

It may be appropriate that those who signed the declaration we comment on, listen to those criteria without prejudices. We are convinced that by doing so, as it is said by the Yoruba proverb, the truth will have its day.

Havana City, December 3, 2009

Nancy Morejon, Poet and Essayist

Chucho Valdes, Musician

Miguel Barnet, Poet and Anthropologist

Esteban Morales, Politologist and Essayist

Eduardo Roca (Choco), Artist

Heriberto Feraudy, Historian and Essayist

Rogelio Martinez Fure, Africanist

Pedro de la Hoz, Journalist and Essayist

Fernando Martinez Heredia, Sociologist and Essayist


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