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The Cuban Census
an afrodescendiente undercount

Cuba's census, carried out about every 10 years, bases its racial identification on self identification. Since being black in Cuba carries a social stigma to this day, anyone with a drop of white blood can and does consider themselves mixed or white, as is common throughout Latin America.

The 2002 Cuban census was widely use to counter previous estimates of the percentages of afrodescendientes, descendants of Africans.  Previous figures from outside Cuba and even from some Cuban official sources had descendants of Africans (negro, mestizo) at about 60% while the 2002 Census put the white population at 65%. However, this was not much of a change from the previous official census of 1980-1981, which had whites at 70% and which was commonly discounted.

The 1980-1981 census:

whites: 66.1%  blacks: 12%  mixed: 21.9%

The 2002 census:

whites: 65%  blacks: 10.1%  mixed: 24.9%

The 2012 census:

whites: 64.1%  blacks: 9.3%  mixed: 26.6%

The figures come from a table in the report on the 2012 census.

Some Cuban government bodies put the percentage of Blacks in Cuba at around 60% after the 1980 census, but not after the 2002 census (that we have been able to determine). There have been constant efforts at "blanqueamiento" that go back to the 19th century but have been more pronounced in recent years after the rise of tourism, an enterprise dominated by ibero-spanish Cubans.

The image presented in Miami is quite different, where whites complain about how black Cuba has become since "all the whites left for Miami."

The reliance on people's self-identification as white, black, or mestizo (mixed) is a traditional feature of the census.  Many people opt to be white rather than mestizo. Such self identification is now shunned by professional demographers around the planet as it is notoriously unreliable. Another factor may have been deliberate attempts to undercount blacks, reported for both the 1980 and the 2002 census. These reports are of course controversial.

Cuba is no different than many other Latin American countries, where the same racial dynamics and undercounts are at play.

The census figures have an impact in Cuban society as they are used to determine the percentages that should hold sway in various institutions such as schools, work places, etc., in unofficial quotas. Administrators can say, see we have blacks represented at their percentage in the population, we are not discriminating against them. This is structural racism, widely denied, yet very obvious.

(Official 2002 Cuba Census)
Race Total Men Women  % Of Total
White 7,271,926 3,618,349 3,653,577 65.05%
Black 1,126,894 593,876 533,018 10.08%
Mestizo 2,658,675 1,385,008 1,393,915 23.84%
Asian 112,268 56,098 56,170 1.02%

-- see  Note the differences with the 2002 results reported in the 2012 census above.

The CIA Fact Book pre-2002 census entry, as noted at the time in AfroCubaWeb:  "Ethnic groups: mulatto 51%, white 37%, black 11%, Chinese 1%"  [51+11=62%] This entry is no longer available as the CIA now accepts the official 2002 Census:

CIA Fact Book entry (2010): "Ethnic groups: white 65.1%, mulatto and mestizo 24.8%, black 10.1% (2002 census)"

However, internal cables from the US Interests Section in Havana shows that the US government knows better:

OBSERVATIONS OF THE STATE OF HUMAN RIGHTS AND CIVIL SOCIETY IN CUBA 7/28/2009 Wikileaks - US Interests Section Cable: "In spite of official statistics to the contrary, African descendent Cubans probably constitute a majority of the population."

Further back in history, we can see large periods when there were as many blacks as white, as in this entry from Wikipedia:

Official 1775-1899 Cuba Census
White Non-white
Census Number Percentage Number Percentage
1775 96,440 56.2 75,180 43.8
1792 153,559 56.4 118,741 43.6
1817 257,380 45.0 314,983 55.0
1827 311,051 44.2 393,435 55.8
1841 418,291 41.5 589,333 58.5
1861 793,484 56.8 603,046 43.2
1877 1,023,394 67.8 485,897 32.2
1887 1,102,889 67.6 528,798 32.4
1899 1,067,354 67.9 505,443 32.1
According to the Census, the Chinese were counted as white.

The large dip in non-whites from 1841 to 1877 does not appear plausible given than this was a period of massive importation of slaves.  The Mambi Army that fought the Spanish Kings in the late 19th century is now widely believed in Cuba to have been overwhelmingly Black, perhaps as much as 85%.

 Linkstop   Resultados del censo de 2012


Presentan informe nacional del Censo de Población y Vivienda
Granma, 11/12/05
This article is about the demographic features of the population of Cuba, including population density, ethnicity, education level, health of the populace, economic status, religious affiliations and other aspects of the population.The 2002 census figures supplied by the regime claim that 65% of Cubans were white.

 The Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami says 68% are black.The Minority Rights Group International says that "An objective assessment of the situation of Afro-Cubans remains problematic due to scant records and a paucity of systematic studies both pre- and post-revolution. Estimates of the percentage of people of African descent in the Cuban population vary enormously, ranging from 33.9 per cent to 62 per cent". It uses the number for 51% for mulattoes.

According to the 2002 census, Cuba's population was 11,177,743.
Cuba's official statistics offer little help on the race issue. The 2002 census, which asked Cubans whether they were white, black or mestizo/mulatto, showed 11 percent of the island's 11.2 million people described themselves as black. The real figure is more like 62 percent, according to the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami.

And the published Census figures provide no way at all to compare blacks and whites in categories like salary or educational levels. Ramón Colás, who left Cuba in 2001 and now runs an Afro-Cuba race-relations project in Mississippi, said he once carried out his own telling survey: Five out of every 100 private vehicles he counted in Havana were driven by a Cuban of color.

The disparity between the census' 11 percent and UM's 62 percent also reflects the complicated racial categories in a country where if you look white you are considered white, no matter the genes.
CIA happily adopts the 2002 Cuban Census results with no commentary.

World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples - Cuba : Afro-Cubans, 2008, UNHCR
Since 1989 and the so-called 'special period in peacetime', statistics and analysis concerning social trends in Cuba have been almost unavailable. This compounds a more long-standing problem of information concerning race relations and minorities in the island. An objective assessment of the situation of Afro-Cubans remains problematic due to scant records and a paucity of systematic studies both pre- and post-revolution.

Estimates of the percentage of people of African descent in the Cuban population vary enormously, ranging from 33.9 per cent to 62 per cent. This is partly a question of self-perception, as census figures are based on how Cubans define themselves.

As in many Latin American and Caribbean countries, there is also a large 'mulatto' or ethnically mixed population, and colour, class and social status are closely interlinked. Few Cubans are either 'pure' white or black. Definitions of 'colour' are as much the result of social criteria as of somatic classification. Afro-Cubans are most prevalent in the eastern part of the island and in districts of Havana.

Taking all of this into consideration, the fact that there has been a significant exodus of 'white' Cubans from the island means that Afro-Cubans have now come to represent a larger proportion of the overall population and are now thought to constitute closer to 70 per cent of the total.

Reflections On Race & The Status Of People Of African Descent In Revolutionary Cuba
, Eugene Godfried, 11/2000
Some official documents consider a "mulatto" as being "white". Other documents define Chinese as "white" and yet on other occasions as "black." One can find still other sources, such as the Ministry of External Affairs, that include black and mulattos on the same side of the list resulting in a 63% figure for the segment of African descent, an estimate one also finds in American sources, both governmental and scholarly.

Percentages that are sometimes officially applied, such as whites 70%, blacks 19 %, mulattos 11%, are clearly inadequate. These likely come from the 1980-1981 census, where people were asked to identify themselves along ethnic lines, and are disregarded by most Cuba scholars. Such percentages necessarily lead to partial policies followed by inequality in proportional social relations as a result. Consequently, leading figures directing major policy-making bodies need to accommodate themselves on these patterns of visions and in order to be inspired to have a critical and self-critical attitude when addressing themes regarding the position, participation, and mobility of the people of African descent in the Cuban society.

Cuba. Comite Estatal de Estadisticas (Havana, Cuba). Census of population and housing of 1981: methodological volume, Vol. 17. [Censo de poblacion y viviendas de 1981: tomo metodologico, Volumen XVII.] Jul 1984. [206] pp. Havana, Cuba. In Spa.
This volume describes the methodology used in the 1981 census of Cuba. Information is also provided on scheduled publications of census results and costs. Comparisons are made with other Cuban censuses.
Location: University of Texas at Austin, Population Research Center. Source: APLIC Census Network List, No. 68, Dec 1986.

The Cuban-American counterpoint: Black Cubans in the United States, Dialectical Anthropology, Sep 1988

Race and ethnicity in censuses, Wikipedia   Quotes Esteban Morales.



For Blacks in Cuba, the Revolution Hasn’t Begun 3/24/2013 International Herald Tribune: by Roberto Zurbano - "Raúl Castro has announced that he will step down from the presidency in 2018. It is my hope that by then, the antiracist movement in Cuba will have grown, both legally and logistically, so that it might bring about solutions that have for so long been promised, and awaited, by black Cubans. An important first step would be to finally get an accurate official count of Afro-Cubans. The black population in Cuba is far larger than the spurious numbers of the most recent censuses. The number of blacks on the street undermines, in the most obvious way, the numerical fraud that puts us at less than one-fifth of the population. Many people forget that in Cuba, a drop of white blood can — if only on paper — make a mestizo, or white person, out of someone who in social reality falls into neither of those categories. Here, the nuances governing skin color are a tragicomedy that hides longstanding racial conflicts." [The discussion of the census was added by the New York Times, it does not appear in the original.]

El color de la piel en Censo Cuba 2012 (II) 3/18/2013 Negra Cubana: "Luego de las múltiples objeciones que recibieron los resultados del Censo del 2002[1], acerca de la composición étnico-racial de la población cubana; aun existen reclamos orientados a advertir las posibles implicaciones socioeconómicas que para los afrocubanos y afrocubanas tiene el hecho de que en los resultados ofrecidos por dichas investigaciones no es posible cruzar la variable “color de piel” con cualquier otra. De manera que si le interesa conocer la tasa de fecundidad de las mujeres negras, cuáles son las profesiones en las que negras y negros están sobrerepresentados o la cantidad de personas negras en puestos de dirección, sus preguntas nunca serán respondidas por un Censo realizado en la Cuba post-revolucionaria."

El color de la piel en Censo Cuba 2012 (I) 3/17/2013 Negra Cubana: "Cuando en junio del 2013 se ofrezcan los resultados del Censo Cuba 2012, una vez podremos confirmar que la investigación estadística y demográfica más importante de una nación no tiene suficientemente en cuenta revelar la realidad de las personas afrodescendientes de la Isla."

Call to Count Gays in Cuba Census 9/2/2012 Havana Times: "How many homosexuals are there in Cuba? How many same-sex couples are living together? How many transsexuals does the island have? And how many bisexual and lesbian households exist in Cuba? Answers to these kinds of questions are being sought by Cuban journalist and blogger Francisco Rodriguez*, a well-known government sympathizer and gay activist on the island."

Population and Housing Census in September 2012 10/1/2011 Cuba Headlines: The previous census counting ethnicity was in 2002 and grossly undercounted los afrodescendientes,.

Color Cubano by Elíades Acosta Matos 5/21/2009 Progreso Weekly: "Acosta was chief of the Department of Culture of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba." A rank apology for the status quo that repeats a fundamental lie in the ibero spanish canon: "Nationwide, 65.2 percent of the population is white, but the number of mestizos increased by 4 points since the previous census." [Acosta, it is more like 65% afrodescendiente!]

Cuban Color 2/12/2009 Progreso Weekly: By Elíades Acosta Matos, former head of the Committee on Culture of the Cuban Communist Party’s Central Committee, unfortunately repeats the falsehoods of the last census - "Nationwide, 65.2 percent of the population is white, but the number of mestizos increased by 4 points since the previous census."

‘Obama Effect’ Highlights Racism in Cuba 12/15/2008 New America Media: "Cuban authorities offered statistical analysis to bolster their view, which revealed the lengths to which Havana was prepared to deceive others even as it deceived itself. Of Cuba’s population of 11.2 million people in 2002, officials declared, 65 percent were white, 10 percent were black, and 25 percent were mulatto. This racial breakdown matched exactly the breakdown of members of Cuba’s parliament: 65 percent white and 35 percent people of color. The implication was as obvious as it was ridiculous: Cuba had achieved “perfect” racial representation between the people and their representatives. Europeans scoffed at such claims. In fact, most independent census reports of the Cuban nation puts the number of “whites” at anywhere from 20 to 35 percent; everyone else is black or mulatto."

Presentan informe nacional del Censo de Población y Vivienda 11/12/2005 Granma: Figures from 2002 Census just released - total population: 11.177.743; whites: 65% - 7.271.926; blacks: 10% - 1.126.894; mulatos: 24,9% - 2.778.923.

Cubans Jittery About Providing Census Information 9/6/2002 Black World Today: "An intense campaign by Cuba's socialist government is aimed at calming fears that the new Census on Population and Housing, which begins to be carried out on Saturday, could uncover irregularities like black market purchases or illegal housing arrangements. Every day, the government-controlled radio and TV stations loudly insist on the benefits of knowing exactly ''how many we are'' and the need to assess the conditions of housing as well as shortcomings in the areas of housing and social security in this Caribbean island nation."

Cuba: Census To Measure Two Decades Of Changes 8/27/2002 Black World Today: "''Besides evaluating how many college graduates we have, the census will enable us to find out how many of them are working in jobs related to their studies, and how many people work, are looking for a job, or have more than one source of employment,'' he added. The census will also provide more specific data on the aging of Cuba's population of 11 million, 14 percent of whom are over 60. In addition, it should shed light on internal migration flows, the number of couples living together without being married or separated without getting divorced, the increasing number of female heads of households, and the makeup of the population in terms of skin colour."


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