Title of Course: Black History 301: The History of Cuba

Instructor: Mba Mbulu

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Class #8: Becoming Cuban

Read the Essay below. Be able to answer and expound on the following questions.

(1) Was Cuban society a racist society? Explain.
(2) What evidence suggests that Cubans were seeing themselves as different from Spain?
(3) Was the Cuban posture toward slavery based on humanitarian or economic concerns?
(4) Was there a connection between Cuba's economic reality and its antislavery sentiments and racial tolerance?

Class #8 Essay [Audio Version]

As the extermination of the original Cubans was taking place, new Cubans were evolving. These consisted, for the most part, of the descendants of the white settlers, what was leftover of the original Cubans, Africans, and any of several mixtures involving those three. Because of Spain's racist tradition, Cuban society was a racist society, but economic, social and political realities militated against racism becoming as ingrained among Cubans as it was in Spain and the rest of Europe. In the English and French colonies, one sees a remarkable consistency in the racist nature of the mother country and her colonies. In Cuba, by contrast, one sees a divergence of attitudes and values from the mother country by the colony. It seemed that Cuba was not destined to be a replica of Spain.

By the early 1730s, Cuba was developing its own theatre, and in the 1740s, Cuba opened its first university. People of color in Cuba had long been expressing pride in their roots, but just as importantly, white Cubans tended to show open appreciation for the role people of color were playing in the development of the colony. Cubans were observing reality and thinking analytically; they clearly were not buying into the white mythology as readily as people in the French and English colonies were doing.

By the 1790s, Cuba had evolved its own society, its own culture, an identity that was pro Caribbean and anti Spanish. The economy revolved around a variety of small scale agricultures and livestock raising. Even money crop production was decentralized, so a small producer could earn a living working a money crop. Soon, the first Cuban periodical newspaper would be published, and by 1810 it had become a daily. By 1823, a secret literary society known as Los Reyes y Soles De Bolivar (the Suns and Rays of Bolívar) was planning a rebellion for independence. Even though some whites wanted racial segregation in public places to be enforced, others were promoting the advantages of a free labor system. They realized that the direct enslavement of Africans resulted in fewer economic choices for the average Cuban and was indirectly enslaving most of Cuba's people.

Although Cuban society was not as racist as that of Europe, it was racist still. Some of the Cuban posture toward Blacks was humanitarian, but most was the result of economic and political realities. Spain was trying to milk Cuba dry, and this generated a great deal of resentment among the people of Cuba. Since slavery was a key component of Spain's economic game plan, it's undoing was part and parcel of Cuba's need for self identification. That explains why there was a call for independence in 1853, and why, in 1865, a Reform Party consisting of property owners and intellectuals was calling for the abolition of the slaves.

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