Cuba's Race Problem

The Wilson Quarterly, Winter 2008 | Go to article overview

Cuba's Race Problem


THE SOURCE: "The Erosion of Racial Equality. in the Context of Cuba's Dual Economy" by Sarah A. Blue, in Latin American Politics and Society, Fall 2007.

IT DIDN'T TAKE LONG FOR Fidel Castro's 1959 revolution to have a dramatic impact on race relations in Cuba. In a society so hung up on whiteness that even President Fulgencio Batista was denied membership in the Havana Yacht Club because he was a mulatto, relative racial equality arrived within a generation. Equal proportions of blacks, whites, and mixed-race Cubans graduated from high school and college. Life expectancy and infant mortality rates became virtually the same for all groups, writes Sarah A. Blue, a geographer at Northern Illinois University. Precisely equal percentages of the three racial categories held professional jobs.

But after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, an economy fueled by favorable trade deals with the Eastern Bloc countries went into near free fall. Starting three years later, Castro was forced to formally expand tourism and self-employment, and to allow relatives to send remittances from abroad. Cuba's economy stabilized, but its hard-won racial equality was eroded, Blue writes.

Blacks are still likely to land good jobs with the state. But whites are five times more likely than blacks to have an annual income above about $700. The difference derives from access to dollars--or currency convertible to dollars, which whites are better positioned to possess. …

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