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Timeline: Cuba

  • Al

    Castro puts an end to “institutionalized” racism in 1959? And how exactly did he do that? Funny, there are less blacks in Cuban government today than ever before. Talk about the ‘Old Boy White Network”, just look at Cuba’s leading party rulers! Oh, I also find it odd that on a piece dedicated to the history of Blacks in Cuba, there is no mention that Batista was actually half-black. And how exactly did his policies have a “devastating” effect on Cuba’s poor black community. Almost every black Cuba I know says things were better before Castro… I can almost see where this piece is heading – same old leftist, Castro-leaning PBS version of history. What a shame.

  • Gregory T. Ross

    Would you publish the dates for this four part program. I watched the first one but cannot find a date for Cuba: The Next Revolution.

    Thank you

  • Clara M. Salas

    The information in the time line starting 1912 is in error and lacking in true information.
    In reference to the 1912 massacre, please read Cuba, A New History by Richard Gott, Yale University Press.
    More Afro-Cubans were killed than 3,000.
    In reference to Fulgencio Batista, he was elected twice president. The second time he became dictator.
    He was a mulatto.
    From 1930 to 1950 Cuba had a growing Afro-Cuban middle-class, made up of professionals and business
    people. Many educated in France and Spain.
    My paternal grandfather, Justo Salas Arzuaga was the first Afro-Cuban Mayor of Santiago de Cuba , elected
    in 1940-1945. He was the vice president of one of the many Afro-Cuban political groups headed by Juan
    Gualberto Gomez.. Information can be found in Patrick Symmes, The Boys from Dolores, Pantheon Books
    and in the archives of the Baltimore newspaper, The Afro-American,1941 Mercer, went to Cuba to cover the story of Justo Salas Arzuaga’s election.
    I have more historical information about professional and working class Afro-Cubans.
    It is part of my research to bring to light the struggle and victories of the Afro-Cuban people in the face
    of adversity, denial and continuous institutionalized racism in the Cuba of Fidel Castro. Fidel Castro
    closed all the organizations in Cuba for the advancement of the Afro-Cubans and has denied
    to Afro-Cubans access to the higher education and progress given to white Cubans.
    Clara M. Salas


    I would expect PBS to make a hero out of Fidel by juxtaposing his “social justice” policies against the lack thereof of his predecessor.(Batista) Sadly…the result has been roughly the same.Namely that “white” Cubans in general still maintain social & economic hegemony.Even sadder is that someday when Cuba is no longer run by the Castro’s-and presumably a more free market system takes effect-I would’nt be surprised to see the well educated children of exiles maintaining some form of “Jim Crow” in their “Cuba 3.0″. I hope I’m wrong.

  • Lucille Hurd

    Cuba is on my bucket list. I know it is opening up for us to exchange tourism someday soon. To know about the First Black Party in the World. As we rise and fall as a people. This and Our President Barack Obama!!!!! Let’s me know that we come from good stock!!!!!!!!!

  • Grace

    Why do we as blacks always blame the white man for everything. Cuba has been no diffferent! Cuba is a COMMUNIST state where there is NO FREEDOM of Speech, Religion, etc.
    Clearly an island with NO HUMAN RIGHTS that people try to escape from is a living hell.
    No Cuban, black or white that lives on the island is allowed in ANY hotel or anywhere that a ‘foreign tourist’ is allowed. The whole world needs to wake up and see today’s CUBA for what it truly is: A place run by a dictator for OVER 50 years!!! Imagine a place where YOU cannot comment on anything or else YOU would be jailed or killed.
    Imagine having a so-called president for over 50 years! You cannot and to know the REAL CUBA you must have lived it. Communism is BAD and does not work therefore I find this show giving us the American people the wrong message along with Dr.Gates or whatever this commenters name is. SHAME on him and PBS for allowing this on paid TV. I certainly will not donate any longer and YES I am a Cuban Black and feel this way!

  • Bill Lopez

    Thank you PBS. Thank Mr.Gates and all that worked to bring this great work together. I’m a Black latino I live in Dominican Republic . I’m discriminated by others blacks . Which I found crazy , but it is the history of this Island . Mulatos here think they are superior to others darker than they are, you can see them ordinary blacks acting as if they belong to a greater race I have no idea. I have experience discrimination in this Island as I have never experience in The United States. I’m from New York City. But here is crazy. I have so much tells to that I’m thinking of writing a book. Thank you for opening my vision to go ahead and follow you in this eyes opening show that you have presented to the whole world . The true will set off FREE. Thank you.

  • Carlos Martin

    Gates made some interesting points but he would have done better to keep out of politics. While repeating the same worn-out slogans about pre-Castro Cuba being dominated by US businesses and gangsters, he was silent about the repression that has enabled Castro to remain in power longer than any othe tyrant in the hemisphere. Yet amazingly he managed to get through the whole story with barely a negative comment about Castro. His interviewees in Cuba were almost all people affliated with the regime. Why did he not speak with any dissidents to get their impression of race in Cuba? I am left wondering if Dr. Gates suffers from the same disease afflcting Black intellectuals in the US that leaves them enamored of Castro and his Revolution.

  • Carlos Martin

    Time for a correction to the timeline. Fulgencio Batista, a sergeant, led a coup by the NCOs against the commissioned officers in the Cuban army in 1933. This left him as head of the military and argueably the strongest figure in Cuba but hardly a dictator. He was elected president in 1940 and held office until 1944, when the candidate he supported lost the election. Bastista was elected to he Cuban senate in about 1950. After the 1952 coup by elements of the army against President Prio, Batista became provisional president until “legitimized” by elections in 1954, which were boycotted by the opposition. His term was due to end in 1959 but a few months before, he was forced into exile by the revoution against his government. The statement in the timeline that he remained in power from 1933 to 1959 is absolutely false. So is the claim that his policies were detrimental to black Cubans. Dr. Gate’s narrative merely indicates that black Cubans failed to benefit in the economic prosperity of the 1940s and 50s.

  • Carlos Martin

    Perhaps the timeline would benefit from the simple statement that after coming to power, Fidel Castro fostered closer ties with the USSR which caused a deterioration of relations with the US. This had had an enormous impact on the lives of all Cuban, black and white as the island gradually became impoverished.

  • Trentfog

    Brown Cuba (Black mixed with White) when it come to race they make USA behind the times. Socialism not for me and Capitalism is only good for the few. I liked when asked what are you the man replied Cuban then Black and America I’m Black and a American. I provably be more free in Cuba, but not a second class citizen in my Country. I find that USA has a problem like in Star Trek the Borg simulate you resistance is futile.

  • diane

    I agree that Castro has not brought freedom to Cuba. But if Blacks had not been discriminated against and marginalized once Cuba gained its freedom from Spain thanks in large part to the USA and the “elite” Cubans, the conditions would not have been ripe for his revolution and the overthrow of Batista. The US government has to own up to its part in helping to create a favorable atmosphere for Castro to take advantage of. I don’t think Gates was in support of Castro. To the contrary, he is critical of him, because his revolution promised lots but still didn’t end discrimination for Black Cubans. It is common thread that runs throughout history- people of color having to endure racial discrimination at the hands of white European conquerors and their descendants. Gates is just informing people of how this unfolded in Latin America.

  • Don

    This is more of a question than a comment how long will this unforgivable Blackness haunt us? We are pawns for the powers that be, and that word Commusion applies to all people of color in all Democratic societies. I notice that the disscussion was about African, French, Spanish, Portuguese, and other Europeans, maybe I miss the memo on bloodline of the indigenous inhabitants of those islands before 1492 , wouldn’t that trump everyone else.

  • PeeD’Arcelin

    It’s a Shame we all have eyes and ears but we still can’t see nor hear. As far as “blaming whites”? I saw/heard no “Blame”, Just history! – Barthélemy Boganda said “I would stop talking about the past, if it weren’t so present”
    Great Job Dr Gates!! and Thank You PBS!!

  • india lofton

    this is a good website

  • Jim Friend

    thank you professor gates ! this series is amazing and so timely as all Americans are trying to understand and learn about our Latino brothers and sisters. The “whitening programs” and genocides committed against Black Cubans and Dominicans is partcularly tragic and eye-openning. This definitely helps us all understand some of the conflicting views on race and identity, but also gives us hope that people everywhere are waking up to their own African Ancestry and history. Thank you and thank God for PBS !

  • Erasmo Pinero

    Dr. Gates:
    With an immense feeling of disappointment and frustration I watched your documentary on PBS outlining the history of Blacks in Cuba, and the island’s race relations in the last 150 years. There is no doubt this is a painful, always controversial, and difficult topic to tackle; and I commend you for doing so. However, as with most PBS programming dealing with the “Cuban issue”, your documentary falls short of expectations.
    I am sure that you approached this topic with good intentions, trying to find the “truth”, and most, if not all of the historical accounts are true and well documented. It is the balance that is tilted, and I do not see how PBS can ever correct it. I will do my best to show here why the US media, and in particular PBS, is so myopic when it comes to current events in Cuba, its history and its Diaspora (the so called “Cuban exile community”). I will use your documentary as an example:
    Topic No. 1: General Antonio Maceo. Despite his detractors, the fact is that General Antonio Maceo has been regarded a colorless hero by all Cubans for more than 100 years. We never cared about his color. Our love for Maceo was not due to Castro’s propaganda, but our admiration came from a deeply rooted appreciation of his sacrifice during the war or Independence. If Maceo could be resurrected today, he would pick up his pistol and machete, and begin another rebellion. This time against Castro and his thugs.
    Topic No. 2: Batista and the American Mafia. Please, how many times do we have to hear the story about how the Mafia ruled Havana and bribed everybody? What about our politicians today? Most Cubans were far removed from these dubious circles, and elected to live their lives as they always had: By bold entrepreneurship and strong work ethics. That is why Cuba was, at the time of Castro’s arrival in Havana, one of the most prosperous and up and coming Latin American countries. Its ascendancy was similar to what we see in China today, but on a smaller scale. Just look at the Yellow Pages directory published in Havana in 1959 to get an idea on how vibrant Cuba’s economy was. It seems that for PBS and NPR the most preferred clichés are: McCarthyism, The Military-Industrial Complex, Imperialism, Colonialism, Global Warming, and Batista and the Mafia.
    Topic No. 3: The Revolution and Black Dissidents. Why didn’t you try to explain at length the backwardness and misery the last 50 years of communism has brought to Cuba, and especially to Blacks? Indeed, as you and “Commander” Victor Dreke point out, the Revolution was supported by most Cubans early on; but the Castros had other plans. You could have spent half of your one hour documentary on this topic alone; which is the most important chapter of the history of Blacks in Cuba. Except for the underground Black rapper you interviewed; you completely ignored the Black dissidents in Castro’s city ghettos, and yes, Gulags. Where were they? Is their opinion irrelevant? Did you know that one of the most admired Cubans today (by Blacks and Whites alike) is a jailed Black dissident and doctor named Oscar Elias Biscet? Not even a blip of his name was uttered. What about the courageous and internationally recognized Human Rights Group “Ladies in White”; which have very prominent and respected Black women in their ranks? Apparently, the University of Havana “intellectuals”, die-hard communists (such as Commander Dreke; whom you interviewed at length), and resigned apologists are your preferred sources.
    Topic No. 4: The Cuban Missile Crisis’ True Message. You did an excellent job in expressing the real danger and fear kids on both sides of the Gulf of Mexico felt during those dreadful days in October of 1962; however, you fail to stress the fact that one man (Castro) was coldly capable of holding this planet hostage to an impending Nuclear Holocaust. All this was the result of Castro’s ego, his vanity, and his desire to have an “historic” impact on the world. Well, he almost did. Thankfully, his Russian masters and American determination curtailed his maniacal instincts. Years from now, when a truly balanced and comprehensive history of the 20th Century is written, the Cuban Missile Crisis chapter will be its most appalling chapter. And Castro was the cause and its instrument.
    Topic No. 5: Campaign against Illiteracy. I could not help my revulsion to see you glorifying a campaign whose real purpose was not to educate the peasants, but to brain wash a new generation of Castro worshipers; which ultimately did nothing to improve their lives. How can you build an educated society on top of a mountain of lies, deceit, and corruption at all levels? Never mind the pressures and intimidation endured by many responsible parents mindful of their young children’s exposure to sexual promiscuity and unnecessary isolation. Education? for what? As you well documented, a doctor in Cuba earns in a day less than a teenager in an American supermarket for three hour of manual labor. In a place with no future, education tainted with communist propaganda is worthless.
    Topic No. 6: “Free” Healthcare. The favorite topic of the uninformed left. The free healthcare in Cuba is a myth and everybody knows it. Have you visited the clinics for the common people (not those for tourists with dollars or Euros)? What about Cuban pharmacies? Where are the healthcare related professional societies? When you have to bring to the hospital your own bed sheets and medicine, that is no free medicine; it is a nightmare.
    Topic No. 7: Prostitution. Where in your documentary was the most important social issue of Cuba today? Prostitution is mostly a “Black” problem. In fact, Europeans come to Cuba to seek the Black sex trade that they lack in “White” Europe, and which has supplanted the slave trade in Cuba. The Castro regime of course, out of convenience, and in the hope of attracting sorely needed dollars, turns a blind eye to this destructive trade. The regime’s thugs could end this trade very quickly via their repressive means. Why do the Castros allow it? The answer is simple: these “futureless” young women are an essential part of their bizarre local economy.
    Topic No. 8: Blacks in the current Cuban Government. You dwelled on the fact that Black Cubans were disenfranchised after the war of independence; but what about today? Have you seen how Castro has kept Blacks away from his circle of trusted thugs? Over the last 51 years Blacks have been nothing more than chessboard pieces in the international communist propaganda machine, with the sole purpose of extolling the virtues of their liberator and White master, Fidel Castro (who is very much White and European, a Celtic Galician extract to be exact). For Goodness sake, even the “imperialist” US has a Black President.
    And finally Topic No. 9: A coat of paint. Did you notice that every building you depict in your documentary is in dire need of paint or repairs? It has been 51 years and Cuba has not seen a single coat of paint. I believe PBS also needs a fresh coat of paint, not green or red; but red, white and blue.
    It is with clarity that I see why the conservatives in this country regard PBS as a left leaning, or at a minimum, a mouthpiece for the left. The leftist ideology has caused millions of people to suffer and be robbed of all the humanity that the “intellectuals” profess to defend. In Cuba, prior to 1959, the Blacks had a future. Over the last 51 years, they had none.
    Come down to Miami and interview the thousands of “Blacks” that have gone into exile; something that Cuban Blacks never did even under the discriminatory conditions in which they lived prior to Castro. That should be sufficient for you and your camera crew to pack your gear and come to the real Cuba, the one that cherishes the words “negro” with loving nostalgia and respect. The past, even though imperfect, was much better than the present conditions offered by Socialism. The future and hopes of the Cuban Blacks were destroyed for three generations by the most brutal dictatorship the Western hemisphere has ever seen.
    I left Cuba in 1974, and I have been living in the US since 1977 (after three years waiting in Spain for a US Visa). Of all the last 34 years, I have yet to see a PBS documentary that gets it right. I am not asking for perfection, because that does not exist; but we are crying for justice. We expect our educated democracy to be a source of documentaries that lay the facts bare for the world to see. We do not have to fear the Secret Police, but apparently we fear ourselves.
    On your end piece, you assert that another revolution will be needed to truly emancipate the Cuban Blacks. No Sir, what is needed is not another revolution, but a total elimination of the communist and oppressive machine that has kept all Cubans, Blacks and Whites, under the Stalinist boot, and from reaching their full potential.
    Confronting the Cuban reality is hard for PBS and the Media. Why? Because in doing so their Utopia of a socialist state will come crashing down and all their progressive fantasies with it. Not until the true history of a post Revolutionary Cuba is told, will you emerge from the biggest lie the last 100 years of human history have seen. I hope that one day you will take this journey of true discovery; but please, do not ask me to accompany you. Leave me behind; I have already seen the light.

    Erasmo Piñero, Jr.

  • Cooper

    Mr. Piñero, Jr. Your intentions are noble, however, racial relations in Cuba at the time of Castro’s revolution was not good for black people in Cuba, and I know this from the mouth of many Cubans of all ages. It is not a coincidence that most of the white cubans are in Miami. White cubans throughout cuban history have had institutionalized racism on the island. And for you to blame things on PBS, NPR and Fidel Castro, is very cynical. To this day many of my black cuban friends in the US admit white cubans are very racist. You need to be honest with yourself and the rest of the cuban community. The Castro brothers are still in power today because, most people in Cuba wants them there; and the exile community in the US, have not been able to make a better case for themselves. The true fact is, if you and those in the exile community go back to cuba today, things will be worst for black people. If you really want the Castro brothers out of Cuba, why don’t you and the rest of the exile community get up off your buts and your nice lives in Miami and fight for it.

  • Rachelle Adams

    Thank you Mr. Piñero. I am not sure what else to say. You are eloquent and just.

  • Raul

    I wish also to thank Mr. Piñero for the exhaustive actualization on this topic. The Cuban issue, in every aspect, not only in the racial one, is an ideologically biased issue. New Cuban generations are, like Piñero says: “crying for justice”. This justice will come from all of us, Afro-Cubans, Mulattoes, Cuban-Chinese, Cuban-Muslim, Cubans of European or even “Indian” ancestry, etc. Castro’s Cuba is not the ideal place for the advent of this kind of justice, but Castro’s Cuba is not a millennial Reich either. The addition of contradictions will sooner or later put an end to this regime and will start the Next Revolution, as Dr. Gates predicts (hopefully and better for everyone a New Evolution). A Change will not erase what is right now, it’s Castro’s propaganda wish to think like that. A Change must put some order in Cuba’s life and paint a more optimistic picture of all Cuban’s future.

  • Digit Embroidery

    The information in the time line starting 1912 is in error and lacking in true information.

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