As the diplomatic relationship between the United States and Cuba thaws, along with the appearance of President Barack Obama and the First Family’s presence in the island nation, Cuba’s rich Black history should be acknowledged.
While there exists a divide in how Cubans identify racially, there has been a steady presence of Black culture in the country. One of the more notable movements that promoted the inclusion of Black culture in the Cuban landscape was Afrocubanismo. The movement began early in the 20th Century after white scholars began to recognize Cuban’s strong connection to West Africa.
One of the more prominent scholars to examine the connection was Fernando Ortiz, a white intellectual who documented Afrocubanismo. This helped Afro-Cuban writers and scholars such as Nicolas Guillien and Alberto Arredondo to emerge from Havana. Many observers feel the increased awareness of Cuba’s Black culture is similar to America’s Harlem Renaissance period of the 2o’s which exposed Black arts and culture to a wider audience.
Afrocubanismo faded as Fidel Castro’s Cuban Revolution got underway in the ’50’s. The revolution ignited a new appreciation of Cuba’s African roots. Formerly marginalized Afro-Cubans enjoyed new freedoms under Castro’s first decade in power that the previous white power structure never allowed. This included more education, jobs and land to help Afro-Cubans support themselves.