Desde Dentro de Cuba.

Distribuido por Cuba Free Press, Inc. -

25 de Enero del 2000


Havana.- In one of my involuntary tours of different police precincts, I met a young Cuban of the black race who was waiting to be transferred to prison to start his sentence for a petty crime. He was with me in prison cell No. 6 of the San Miguel el Padron Precinct also known as the Eleventh Division. (I was there some days ago as punishment for exercising my civil rights in public.) Everyone there called him "El Bizco," the cross-eyed one.

He is 35 and a family man with considerable education which he described after he initiated a conversation about the racial discrimination to which he is subjected. El Bizco was born after the 1959 revolution and emphasized that he had been educated by said revolution about the Marxist-Leninist principles, just like the seven other young cuban of the black race sharing the cell with us because of petty crimes.

"We are not Satan's children," El Bizco said. "We were born of women. We were as innocent when we were born as are white children. But our parents are black, poor, 'marginal' and mostly live in marginal suburbs too."

Some of the other young men there in the cell said they have felt discrimination since they were children in their schools. They talked about "some of the white teachers and white parents who do not want friendships among their children and the black children."

One of the other young men said, "And this is no lie. I lived this and felt it in my own flesh. If I said the contrary, I would be a hypocrite."

El Bizco continued by saying, "I saw how society perceived me, with reservations and doubt and on occasions the rejection was obvious. This is how we were raised, with limitations and discrimination in a socialist system, where it is said that we are all equal. Socialism is far from the truth if it says we get equal treatment."

He said, "To be black in Cuba today is to have limited possibilities whether it means obtaining an important government post or walking the streets at night and sometimes even during the day. It's very rare to find a black man or woman occupying a high position in any sector. The government tries to hide the social inequalities that exist and which extend to all levels of society. It places some of its most faithful and trustworthy black followers in irrelevant posts in the country's economic and political sectors. Of course this is always done under the strictest control with devices created to this end."

El Bizco said, "We black people have ambitions just as the white people do. We would like to hold important positions. We would like to work in clean and decent places. We like to take in the scenery, have fun, dress in the latest fashion and enjoy life's little pleasures just as anyone else. In Cuba, a black person pays dearly for life's little pleasures and rights. The only jobs that are easily available or reserved, if you will, for black people are the menial ones, the low paying ones. They do not allow us to satisfy our fundamental needs because of the high cost of living in Cuba today.

"The rationed goods are not enough for the full development of our children and our families. One cannot find moderately priced clothes or shoes or any other article of goods needed in our homes."

El Bizco said, "The government of Cuba has created stores and establishments where all kinds of foods, clothing apparel, medicine and toiletries are sold at a very high price. This makes a joke of the salaries we receive if we were to take one of our 'reserved' jobs. Therefore even though we may work, the government, with its obsolete politics, continues to maintain a system where there is a big difference between our wages and the price of goods, forcing us to result to criminal activity to obtain the foods, medicines and other articles that are the basic necessities for our children and families.

"Many young black people have left their jobs for these reasons, looking instead for the black or underground markets. We are also known as the 'fighters for our own cause.' Others have stayed at our low-paying jobs and on numerous occasion have had to resort to the underground market or 'to the struggle,' as they say, so as to supply our families with the food and medicine they need as well as the soap, deodorant, clothes, shoes and yes even a little perfume. If we relied on the wages we earn from the government, we would be walking the streets anorexic, shoddily dressed and with body odor. We would be waiting to have a heart attack and die at any given moment due to our malnutrition."

The seven young men agreed with El Bizco and another said, "We will not allow this to continue even if we have to be jailed 100 times more. And if we never leave prison, then our children and our wives will do the same as we did so that our homes have the basic necessities such as food, medicine and clothes."

El Bizco said, "I have sadly noted that the people of my race, the people with kinky hair like myself, are turning each day more violent against life, stimulated by the discrimination that many ignore and by the violence with which we must live in Cuba today. I am neither a politician nor a student of politics, but I am one of those people who feels that the political and economic system of Cuba is not successful in dealing with this endemic discrimination in which we live. They accuse us of being lazy, of slacking. Many are even fearful of us. They see us as beasts, as if we were savages. But no one wants to understand the reasons forcing us to commit petty crimes and sometime resort to violence.

"Many of us who are involved in this tragic play are victims of a social phenomenon that the Cuban government has not solved. To the contrary, with the repressive means they use to control this phenomenon, they make us more violent. The police are constantly on our backs. They denigrate us and repress us. There is not one black Cuban in Cuba who has not been harassed by the police.

"Wherever they (the police) see two black men together, they stop them and ask them to show identification. We are publicly strip-searched. They check our criminal record and even if they find that you don't have a record, they'll still arrest you if they don't like you.

"We are handcuffed and taken to the police precinct only to be released later. There exists in Cuba a relentless persecution against the blacks. No matter who or what a person may be, all they see is a black man."

His voice bitter and full of repressed anger, El Bizco continued the onw-sided conversation: "I am not ashamed of being jailed here. I was fighting for my family. And it's comforting to know that my wife, children, siblings, parents and families in general support my actions even though 'society' condemns me.

"I do not wish to live like the government officials - rich. But I also do not wish to live like a bum, starving, as though that were the destiny God had reserved for the blacks.

"The communists say we are all comrades and that we all have the same rights but the reality is that in Cuba the blacks are accorded "special" treatment by the police and by the politics of employment, wages and the cost that the government has imposed on the island.

"A lot of us black people are graduates of high schools, vocational schools or pre-college schools. We are a black people with a certain cultural and educational level. We know what we are doing; we are creating a law so as to be able to survive another law. This is the fundamental law of life: to survive. This is why I plead innocent in front of God, life and my family. I am conscious of what I did and he who forced me to do it is punishing me. But it doesn't matter. My family, life and God will condemn the guilty parties - those who force me and then punish me."

Later he said, "I remember the words of the president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, when he said: 'If I had to resort to crime in order to feed my family, I would do it with pleasure and will continue to do it.' Everyone at the state level approved of this. This is why we will continue to do what we have to do so as to feed our children and families."

This young man of 35 recognizes that this situation is becoming more dangerous for the future of the Cuban society. He adds that in two more generations, it will be normal for the whole country, not just the black people, to resort to crime so as to survive. This will not be looked upon as an offence but as a necessity. He also said the current situation in Cuba makes racists of people who otherwise would not be and that there seems to be no end to this.

He concluded the long discussion by making a prediction about his race: "In a few years it will be very hard to find a black person in Cuba. More than 85 percent of the penal colony is comprised of blacks."

And just before he retired to his bunk he said, "The blacks in Cuba are in danger of becoming extinct."

Jose Orlando Gonzalez Bridon, from the CTDC for Cuba Free Press

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