No Segregation in Prerevolutionary Cuba
Tuesday, November 10, 1998; Page A20
I take exception to poet Pablo Armando Fernandez's statement that Cuba
"was a brutally racist country before the 1960 revolution not unlike Alabama
before the civil rights movement" [Travel, Oct. 18].
Granted there was, as in other countries, de facto social segregation with
clubs only for people of color -- which, in turn, were divided into clubs for
blacks and for mulattos. There were also social clubs where you could find
only white members. However, from the beginning of the republic in 1902,
Cuba's constitutions prohibited discrimination by race. Therefore, there were
no segregated schools, work places, armed forces, hotels, restaurants,
restrooms or water fountains.
People of color did not have to sit in the back of the buses or cede their
seats to white people, as it was in the American South until the mid-1960s.
There was no discrimination in sports, and many of our key athletes were
colored, such as Oreste Minoso and Martin Dihigo in baseball and Kid
Chocolate and Kid Charol in boxing. In music there were Perez Prado (Rey
del Mambo) and Bola de Nieve among others.
From 1902 until 1933 people of color served in key ministerial and elective
positions, including president of the country, chief of the armed forces and
president of the senate.
OSCAR A. ECHEVARRIA
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