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Black Histories in Cuba and Its Diaspora (December 2016): The Frustrations of Colorblindness in Prerevolutionary Cuba

by Bonnie A. Lucero

The Frustrations of Colorblindness in Prerevolutionary Cuba

What is clear from the growing body of work on race in Cuba in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries is that the promises of freedom and equal citizenship that had been so central to early emancipatory and anticolonial projects failed to materialize fully with the inauguration of the Cuban Republic in 1902. Some scholars have viewed these shortcomings in early republican social justice as one of the seeds of discontent that would later erupt into the Cuban Revolution of 1959. Jorge Ibarra devotes an entire chapter in his Prologue to Revolution: Cuba, 1898-1958 to the ways racial inequality characterized the early Cuban republic, suggesting that these realities alongside other injustices based on gender, class, generation, and urbanization helped produce the conditions for the Cuban Revolution. In State and Revolution in Cuba: Mass Mobilization and Political Change, 1920-1940, Robert Whitney, though not focusing on race specifically, does note that black mobilization against racial exclusion formed part of the popular mobilization in the decades preceding the Cuban Revolution. One of the most recent contributions in this line of argumentation is Gerald Horne’s Race to Revolution: The United States and Cuba during Slavery and Jim Crow, in which the author employs the writings of African Americans to suggest that the US racism implanted in Cuba during the first US military occupation provided one of the causes of the Cuban Revolution. The next section highlights scholarship on the continuities and changes of nonwhite experiences following the revolution.