The Washinton Post
November 10, 1998

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


                            © Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company