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THE PUZZLE OF RACIAL INEQUALITY IN CUBA, 1980s–2010s

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  29 March 2021

Alejandro de la Fuente
Affiliation:
Afro-Latin American Research Institute, Harvard University
Stanley R. Bailey
Affiliation:
Department of Sociology, University of California, Irvine
Corresponding

Abstract

Contrasting perspectives on racism and racial inequality collide in contemporary Cuba. On the one hand, government officials argue that Cuba is a racially egalitarian country; though vestiges of historical racism subsist, systematic discrimination does not. On the other hand, social movement actors and organizations denounce that racism and discrimination are systemic and affect large sectors of the Afro-Cuban population. To draw these visions into scholarly dialogue, our analytic strategy consists in the comparative examination of both narratives as well as the empirical bases that sustain them. Using data from the 1981, 2002, and 2012 Cuban Censuses for the first time, as well as various non-census evidentiary sources, both quantitative and qualitative, we examine how racial inequality has evolved in Cuba during the last decades. Our analyses of census data suggest that racial stratification has a limited impact on areas such as education, health care, occupation, and positions of leadership. We find, nonetheless, that an expanding and strikingly racialized private sector is fueling dramatic income inequality by skin color beyond the reach of official census data. Our analysis sheds light on how different data can convey profoundly different pictures of racial inequality in a given context. Moreover, we highlight that significant contradictions can coexist in the lived experiences of racism and racial inequality within a single country context.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
© The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of Hutchins Center for African and African American Research

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