SOCIAL CUSTOMS in Cuba have been determined by the ethnic and racial composition of its inhabitants and the historical period in which they interacted. With the practical extermination of the Amerindians, the inhabitants of the island were all foreigners. Spaniards and West Coast Africans interacted, though not on equal terms, along with Chinese, who arrived in the mid-nineteenth century, to create customs and behavior patterns associated with Cuban culture. Each group arrived with its own system of belief, and their coming together produced a uniquely Cuban culture. The customs formed during three distinct moments in Cuban history: under Spanish rule, in the republic, and during the Cuban revolutionary period. Throughout these periods, Afro-Cubans have found themselves at the bottom of the social and economic scale, first as slaves and later as discriminated Afro-Cubans. Their status, however, has not diminished the impact of their contribution to Cuban culture.
The Cuban revolution altered life on the island. With Castro’s proclamation of a socialist revolution, the entire capitalist economy, which supported and complemented certain social behavior, was turned upside down. International businesses were nationalized, and private property confiscated. Existing social rituals were eliminated or severely altered. For example, debutante parties became a thing of the past.
Revolutionary leaders sought to replace the past with the New Man—someone dedicated to the construction of a new society, willing to sacrifice himself or herself for the success of the revolution. This new individual is selfless, works for moral incentives, and rejects materialism. Although vol-