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Foto © Beatriz Morales  2010

Pedro Pérez-Sarduy
poet, author, journalist

Pedro Pérez-Sarduy  is a poet, writer, journalist and broadcaster living in London. He is the author of Surrealidad (Havana 1967, Cumbite and Other Poems (Havana 1987 and New York 1990), and a new novel, Las Criadas de La Habana (2003), The Maids of Havana.

He is also co-editor with Jean Stubbs of Afro-Cuba: An Anthology of Cuban Writing on Race, Politics and Culture (1993) and co-author of the Introduction for the anthology No Longer Invisible/Afro-Latin Americans Today (1995). 

His Journal in Babylon is a series of chronicles on Britain. His first novel, Las Criadas de la Habana (The Maids of Havana), is based on his mother's life stories about pre-and post-revolutionary Havana.  This is the first novel by a contemporary AfroCuban writer on family life in Cuba. He has written numerous articles, some of which we present on this site.

Together with Jean Stubbs, he wrote Afro-Cuban Voices on Race and Identity in Contemporary Cuba (2000), a book based on interviews with Afro-Cubans (living in the Island), which has been published by the University Press of Florida. This book is important because it is the first treatment of racial issues in contemporary Cuba that gives AfroCubans a voice. 

He has been the recipient of a number of awards, including:

Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship Resident in Humanities, Caribbean 2000 Program. College of Humanites, Universidad of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras,   August-December 1997

Rockefeller Scholar in Afro-American Identity and Cultural Diversity,  Center for African Studies and Center for Latin American Studies,  University of Florida, Gainesville, August-December 1993.

Foto ©  2008 Pedro Pérez-Sarduy

Visiting Fellow, CUNY- Caribbean Exchange Program, Hunter College,  City University of New York, March-June 1990.

Writer-in-residence, Center for American Culture Studies, Columbia University, New York, October-December 1989.

In 1999, he did a tour of the US in April and presented at TransAfrica Forum in Washington, DC and at "Race and the 21st Century at Michigan State University" in Lansing.

He has been a radio journalist since 1965, beginning with Cuban national radio as a current affairs journalist and with Cuban television on the first African and Caribbean music show. He was then with the BBC Latin American Service from 1981 to 1994.

Pedro Pérez-Sarduy and Jean Stubbs also co-edited "No Longer Invisible: Afro-Latin Americans Today," covering Central and South America, with each chapter written by a country specialist.

His latest book of poetry Malecón Sigloveinte (2005), was published in Cuba.top

 

 

Pedro's CV gives more details.

 

 Pedro's writings on AfroCubaWeb:

 

  • In Living Memory - Pedro remembers his great- grandmother Sabue born in Africa, 3/00
Interviews

« La crise a accentué le racisme à Cuba », Entretien avec Pedro Pérez Sarduy  Africultures, 4/99, in French,  requires registration.

Social change in Cuba is complex as black and white, Interview in the Seattle Times, 11/24/02

Interview in Jiribilla, 6/02

Published Writings

Afro-Cuba: An Anthology of  Cuban Writing on Race, Politics and Culture 1993

No Longer Invisible/Afro-Latin Americans Today 1995

The Maids of Havana 2002

Afro-Cuban Voices on Race and Identity in Contemporary Cubatop 2000

 

[Photo of Pedro Pérez-Sarduy]
Foto ©  2004 Maria Fernandez Vallecas

 

Pedro Perez Sarduy is in The Portable Island: Cubans at Home in the World, 12/08

Pedro Perez Sarduy has a chapter is in The Portable Island: Cubans at Home in the World, edited by Ruth Behar and Lucía M. Suárez: "Writing from Babylon"

==>

Cubans today are at home in diasporas that stretch from Miami to Mexico City to Moscow. Back on the island, watching as fellow Cubans leave, the impact of departure upon departure can be wrenching. How do Cubans confront their condition as an uprooted people?  The Portable Island: Cubans at Home in the World offers a stunning chorus of responses, gathering some of the most daring Cuban writers, artists, and thinkers to address the haunting effect of globalization on their own lives.

Table of Contents

INTRODUCTION IN TWO VOICES * After the Bridges--Ruth Behar * Our Memories, Ourselves--Lucía M. Suárez * PART I: EN LA MALETA: WITH A SUITCASE IN OUR HANDS * Wherever That May Be--Richard Blanco * I Will Die in Paris in the Sudden Rain...--Verónica Pérez Konina * Exile and Bougainvillea--José Kozer * The Land Is in Me--Damaris Calderón * Notes on the Movement of Trains in Germany--Carlos Aguilera Chang * Easter Sunday and Lake Waban: Two Poems--Nancy Morejón * Avon Calling--Nely Galán * PART II: IDLAS: AFTER EVERYONE HAS LEFT * They Took Me to the Movies While My Mother Packed: Her Bag and other poems--Rolando Estévez * Other Roads to Santiago and other poems--Laura Ruiz * "That's My Theme: The Human Adventure." An Interview with Ena Lucía Portela--Iraida López * From Havana to Mexico City: Generation, Diaspora, and Borderland--Rafael Rojas * Josefina the Traveler: Ceremony for a Desperate Actress (monologue)--Abilio Estévez * Letter to Enrique Saínz (poem)--Jorge Luis Arcos * PART III: REGRESOS: WHEN WE RETURN * In the Middle of Nowhere--Nara Araújo * The Woman Who Wanted Bridges--Ruth Behar * Piedra Jaimanitas--Rosa Lowinger * Going Home Via Africa and Cayo Hueso--Alan West-Durán * Writing from Babylon--Pedro Pérez Sarduy * The Convergence of Time: Being Cuban in the Present Tense--María de los Angeles Torres * PART IV: MÁS ALLÁ DE CUBA: NOW AND THEN WE TRY TO FORGET ABOUT GEOGRAPHY * Citizen of a Certain World--Karla Suárez * My Repeating Island--Gustavo Pérez Firmat * A Cuban Dorothy--Eliana Rivero * Becoming Cuba-Rican--Jorge Duany * Crossing Borders: Notes on Forgetting--Mabel Cuesta * Cuba in my Heart: A Geo-Emotional Condition--Lucía M. Suárez * PART V: ESPERANDO: TO WAIT IS A CUBAN CONDITION * Waiting--Ruth Behar * Gerundios de la Espera--Rolando Estévez 

Ruth Behar is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Michigan. Her most recent book is An Island Called Home: Returning to Jewish Cuba. Lucía M. Suárez is Associate Professor of Spanish at Amherst College. She is the author of The Tears of Hispaniola: Haitian and Dominican Diaspora Memory. 

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Pérez-Sarduy to attend 14th Annual St Martin Book Fair, 6/2016

Too often Cuba is isolated from the rest of the Caribbean, so we consider this a welcome development:

Dear Mr. Pedro Perez-Sarduy:Book Fair Logo

Conscious Lyrics Foundation and House of Nehesi Publishers (HNP), both NGOs, in collaboration with the St. Maarten Tourist Bureau, LC Fleming Foundation, and the University of St. Martin, are cordially inviting you to participate as a guest author in the 14th annual St. Martin Book Fair, June 2 – 4, 2016, at the University of St. Martin and the Territorial Mediatheque—in St. Martin, Caribbean. The theme of the festival in 2016 is: “The Science of It.”
...

The St. Martin Book Fair has been offering to the St. Martin people and our visitors three exciting days of books, literary recitals, cultural performances, multilingual workshops, and exhibitions of
educational and multimedia tools. Guest authors from around the world have included George
Lamming, Xu Xi, Max Rippon, Nidaa Khoury, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Kwame Dawes, Frank Martinus
Arion, Mutabaruka, Tabish Khair, Juliette Sméralda, Lasana M. Sekou, Emilio Jorge Rodríguez, Ece
Temelkuran, Kendel Hippolyte, Chiqui Vicioso, Marion Bethel, Kamau Brathwaite, Fabienne Viala,
Funso Aiyejina, Patrick Chamoiseau, Afua Cooper, Molefi K. Asante, Jr., M. NourbeSe, Nicole Cage,
Steve Gadet, Gillian Royes, Garrett Hongo, Rhoda Arrindell, Christian Campbell, Wena Poon, Francis
Abiola Irele, Tishani Doshi, and Derek Walcott.

We would be honored for you to join us in what promises to be a Charismatically Caribbean book fair.
For additional information, please contact Tel (590) 690.30.73.66, consciouslyrics@yahoo.com, or
visit http://houseofnehesipublish.com/sxm/, http://houseofnehesipublish.com/sxm/st-martin-book-fair/.

Respectfully,
Shujah Reiph
Book Fair Coordinator
Conscious Lyrics Foundation
cc: Mrs. Jacqueline A. Sample, president, HNPF; Mr. Lasana M. Sekou, Projects Director, HNP.

See also Max Rippon Promotes St. Martin Book Fair in Guadeloupe,, MNI Alive, 3/28/16 and St. Martin Book Fair News, House of Nehesi

Spring 2010 Lectures/a>, USA - March 16 - April 8

The Symbolism of Race in Cuba Today, 3/30/10, Harvard University
www.drclas.harvard.edu/events/+cuba_race_today

Pedro Pérez-Sarduy Reads from His New Novel: The Maids of Havana, 3/31/10, Harvard University
www.drclas.harvard.edu/events/+cuba_maids_of_havana
This event is the book launch of the English version of the Maids of Havana.

The Symbolism of Race in Cuba Today

Habaneras, and proud to be black.
Havana 2009


Pedro Pérez-Sarduy

Race and Identity

According to the 2002 census figures released late in 2005, 65% of the population on the island of Cuba is white, 10% black, and 24,9% mulato or mixed. The previous figures were generally held to be: Ethnic groups: mulatto 51%, white 37%, black 11%, Chinese 1%.  

As a result, white Cubans have been saying “I told you, we're the majority”; others celebrate the growing mulato population. The 'one drop' rule obviously does not apply in this Caribbean nation, as blacks are becoming more of a minority. What does this mean? Are blacks being rendered invisible? To what extent has the revolution made a difference? To what extent is that difference true today? What is it like to be black Cuban? 

These are some key questions addressed by Pedro Pérez-Sarduy in his multimedia presentations.

“The pervasiveness of racism should not be underestimated. The problems facing blacks in revolutionary Cuba cannot be ignored, pretending that they will go away. Neither should blacks’ own revolutionary history be underestimated; blacks have in the past taken history into their own hands. Today Cuba has a blacker population than it had in 1959, a more educated black population, and one with a growing  sense of pride in being black as being Cuban.  No matter what happens in Cuba, no matter what sort of government comes to power, black Cubans are a force to be reckoned with and will not easily tolerate their own perceived gains from the Revolution being taken away. Rather they will want to see those gains extended.”

“The Rite of Social Communion", Introduction to Pedro Pérez-Sarduy's book AFROCUBA: An Anthology of Cuban Writing on Race, Politics and Culture,  1993

AfroCubans in the Arts

-The last forty years and beyond: Poetry Reading by Pedro Pérez Sarduy
-An Evening of film screenings - viewing clips of Cuban feature films and documentaries made in the Island by national and foreign visitors about race, politics and culture.
-Workshop on chapters of his first novel Las Criadas de La Habana (The Maids of Havana, forthcoming Spring 2010)

Pedro Perez-Sarduy is an Afro-Cuban poet, writer, journalist and broadcaster resident in London. He was 2004 Charles McGill Fellow in International Studies at Trinity College, Hartford, CT.  He co-edited with historian Jean Stubbs AFRO-CUBA: An Anthology of Cuban Writing on Race, Politics and Culture (Ocean Press/Latin America Bureau, Melbourne/London, 1993. The original Spanish version was published in 1998 by Editorial de la Universidad de Puerto Rico, San Juan.

He co-authored AfroCuban Voices: On Race and Identity in Contemporary Cuba, a book based on interviews with Afro-Cubans currently living and working in the island and discussing race issues (University Press of Florida, 2000). He worked with Jean Stubbs the entry CUBA in Gates and Appiah’s Africana Encyclopedia (1999). He co-authored the Introduction to No Longer Invisible: Afro-Latin Americans Today (London 1995). 

He has completed Journal in Babylon, a series of chronicles on Britain (unpublished) and his first novel, Las Criadas de La Habana -The Maids of Havana-, Puerto Rico, 2001 and La Habana, 2003). Malecón Sigloveinte (La Habana, 2005) is his latest book of poetry. His work is also featured in The Oxford book of Caribbean Verse (Oxford University Press 2005). He was awarded Le Prix du Livre Insulaire, Ouessant 2008, in fiction for the French version of his novel Les bonnes de La Havane. In June 2009 Pedro Pérez Sarduy received the UNESCO Victor Hugo medal in acknowledgement of his writings, ‘which contribute significantly to the protection and promotion of the rights of man/woman and the oppressed’.

Contact:  perez-sarduy at afrocubaweb.com
Just replace the " at " with a @ (no spaces).

Pedro Perez Sarduy on US Visit, 2008

Florida International University poster at the School of International and Public Affairs, 11/20/08

Pedro Perez Sarduy on US visit, 10/07-11/07top

OCT 24-27 WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY IN ST. LOUIS, MO
Host: Department of Romance Languages and Literatures
Washington University, Saint Louis
Romance Languages and Literatures:

OCT 30- NOV 03 DEPAUL UNIVERSITY, CHICAGO, IL
Host: Modern Languages Department of
DePaul University & Afro-Latin@ Institute of Chicago
See poster

NOV 04-06 UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA IN BIRMINGHAM, AL
Host: African American Studies Program &
Dpt. Of Foreign Languages and Literatures
See poster

NOV 07-09 NORTHERN ARIZONA UNIVERSITY, Flagstaff, AZ
Host: Latin American Studies and other centers
See poster

NOV 14 COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY
Host: Barnard College
See poster

Interview in Morning Star, 9/24/07top

Cuba, the Melting Pot. 
By Morning Star. 

PEDRO-PEREZ Sarduy remembers the day in 1959 when Che Guevara came to the central square of his home town Santa Clara. 

"The square was packed," he relates. "We were all excited and avid to see and hear this hero of the revolution. At the front of the crowd were the white Cubans, behind them were the mixed race people and the blacks stood at the back. That's the way things were." 

At the time, Sarduy was just a young boy. Today, he is a leading Afro-Cuban poet, writer and journalist whose most recent book The Maids of Havana tackles the experience of growing up black in Cuba. 

The first Cuban novel to explore the Afro-Cuban heritage, it was critically acclaimed on its release in 2002. 

It relates a saga spanning 50 years from the 1950s to the '90s and, significantly, the narrator is a woman. 

Sarduy began writing down the stories that his mother, a maid, told him and first turned them into poems. Oral history plays a seminal role in African culture and his mother avidly maintained that tradition. 

When she died, he began to reshape the original stories into a fictional narrative. 

"I'm not an anthropologist," explains Sarduy. "I didn't want to do a Cuban 'Roots,' I just wanted to use these stories as a basis for a fictional exploration of Cuban contradictions, particularly the largely ignored role of the black contribution to Cuban life and culture. 

"For me," he says, "race is not an anthropological issue, nor an academic one. It is my life. For many years, we Cubans didn't want to recognise that we are a mixed-race country with two main ingredients - the Hispanic and the African." 

While, in 1959, the Afro-Cubans still had to stand at the back to catch a glimpse of Che, almost all blacks were supporters of the revolution, as it represented their liberation too. 

Today, racial issues and discrimination are not as clear cut in Cuba as in the US or Europe. There are leading figures in government and party who are black, but there are hardly any black TV presenters. 

"In the past," says Sarduy, "black history had been given expression in films such as Ultima Cena, but we called them 'negro metraje' or blaxploitation films, because they only looked at the slave period, ignoring contemporary race issues." 

Only a recent a film El Benny, about renowned Afro-Cuban musician Benny More, addressed these problems. Renny Arozarena, who played More, won best actor at the Locarno Film Festival. 

Sarduy recalls: "When I was studying in Cuba in the 1960s and '70s, I learned all about Greece and Homer's Iliad, but nothing of my own culture. I learned about the massacre of black Cubans in 1912 from my black grandmother. 

"In the past, Cuban culture of African descent was ignored. That was a contradiction that made building a new society flawed," he reflects. 

"Cuba was long in denial about the existence of racial prejudice and discrimination. As throughout the socialist world, it was asserted that a socialist country, by definition, could not be discriminatory and thus the issue was swept under the red carpet." 

One incident in particular backs up this claim. 

When, moved and shocked by the tragedy of Martin Luther King's assassination, the great contemporary Soviet poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko wrote a heartfelt paean to his memory. In it, with inadvertent but embarrassing racial stereotyping, he alluded to King's soul being 'white as a driven snow'." 

Incensed, black Cuban poet Nicolas Guillen answered with a scathing poem describing Martin Luther King's soul as being "black as the coal ripped out of the Earth's entrails." 

Both poets were committed communists, but the sharp exchange underlined the oft-present misguided and dangerous assumption that, under socialism, we all automatically lose our cultural prejudices and references and separate traditions and identities simply disappear or become irrelevant. 

"Of course, life improved tremendously for black Cubans after the 1959 revolution, but race is still a card that favours light skin and gets played every day," says Sarduy. "Played, but not discussed openly, until recently. 

"Young black people, especially through the medium of rap music or reggaeton, are saying things openly that would never have been voiced before." 

So, does Sarduy believe that black Cubans still support the revolution? 

"Yes, I believe so," he replies. "The history of Cuba from the wars of independence and the slave uprisings in the 16th and 17th centuries attest to the involvement of black Cubans in all those struggles. 

"White and black fought alongside each other. There is no better example of that than the legendary 'Bronze Titan,' General Antonio Maceo, who refused to accept a truce with Spain until the slaves were granted their freedom." 

Maceo was second in command of the Cuban army of independence, the outstanding guerilla leader of 19th century Latin America and one of the greatest cavalry generals in history. 

"It is amazing how Cuba has changed since the 1990s," Sarduy says. "After the demise of the Soviet Union, Cuba was forced to confront its own reality. It now stood alone and it had to forge a new unity among the people." 

The Communist Party opened its ranks to those with religious convictions and there was an acknowledgement that Cuba had a mixed cultural background. 

Black people began find to a new pride in their colour and culture. 

Increasingly, in the Cuban arts scene, you can see people returning to their cultural roots. Cuban universities are beginning to teach African studies for the first time. 

Even issues such as sexual discrimination have been shifted up the agenda. Raul Castro's late wife Vilma Espin was a vociferous campaigner for women's and gay rights and now their daughter Mariela Castro Espin is continuing that campaign, demanding that Cuba recognises gay marriage, which would be a Latin American first. 

The long-term future of Cuba, which stands on the threshold of the historic 50th anniversary of the revolution and is coming to terms with the mortality of a great revolutionary leader, is as yet uncertain. 

But Sarduy is sure that, whatever happens to Castro, Afro-Cubans will be among the staunchest defenders of its achievements and most passionate advocates of its continuity. 

"They will hold on to that island for the sake of their ancestors, who fought for this country," he says. "It was not given to them. It was not a handout. They fought for it."

  US Tour: Spring '06'top

AfroCuba, Afro-Cubans and Afro-Cubanía: How Black is Cuba Becoming? 
Tour starts 3/19/05 for 3 weeks

According to the 2002 census figures released late 2005, 65% of the population on the island of Cuba is white, 10% black, and 24,9% mulato or mixed. As a result, white Cubans have been saying “I told you, we're the majority”; others celebrate the growing mulato population. The 'one drop' rule obviously does not apply in this Caribbean nation, as blacks are becoming more of a minority. What does this mean? Are blacks being rendered invisible? To what extent has the revolution made a difference? To what extent is that difference true today? What is it like to be black Cuban?  

These are key questions addressed by Pedro Pérez-Sarduy in his multimedia presentations.

Pedro Perez-Sarduy -2004 Charles McGill Fellow in International Studies at Trinity College, Hartford, CT- is an Afro-Cuban poet, writer, journalist and broadcaster resident in London. He co-edited with historian Jean Stubbs AFRO-CUBA: An Anthology of Cuban Writing on Race, Politics and Culture (Ocean Press/Latin America Bureau, Melbourne/London, 1993 --the original Spanish version was published in 1998 by Editorial de la Universidad de Puerto Rico, San Juan; and co-authored AfroCuban Voices: On Race and Identity in Contemporary Cuba, a book based on interviews with Afro-Cubans currently living and working in the island and discussing race issues (University Press of Florida, 2000). He co-authored the Introduction to No Longer Invisible: Afro-Latin Americans Today (London 1995). He has completed Journal in Babylon, a series of chronicles on Britain (unpublished) and his first novel, Las Criadas de La Habana -The Maids of Havana-, Puerto Rico, 2001 and La Habana, 2003). Malecón Sigloveinte (La Habana, 2005) is his latest book of poetry.

For bookings, you can contact him directly at perez-sarduy_AT_afrocubaweb.com. [replace _A_ with @] 

AfroCuba, Afro-Cubans and Afro-Cubanía: 
How Black is Cuba Becoming?


What is it like to be black in Cuba? How has the revolution made a difference? To what extent is that difference true today? Will the revolution survive with Fidel or without Fidel?

The silences and distortions in history in both pre- and post-revolutionary Cuba, has finally come to and end. Open debates about the chemistry of ‘racialidad’, the complexity of Cuban hybrid are now open for discussion by prominent scholars, writers, artists and non-specialists. 

New generation of hundreds of fully graduated arts instructors from all ethnic background are taking care these issues to make real the promotion of cultural diversity in Cuba, with the goal of advancing the most authentic spiritual values and the transformation of the quality of life for Cubans in their families and communities.

Pedro Pérez-Sarduy at Trinity College, Connecticut for Fall '04 term

[Pedro Perez Sarduy photo]



TRINITY COLLEGE, HARTFORD, CONNECTICUT has appointed Pedro Pérez Sarduy as the Charles McGill Fellow in International Studies for the Fall Term: August-December of the 2004-05 Academic year, effective August 1, 2004.

Pedro will teach two courses one on Afro-Cuba, and the other one onThe Maids of Havana , his first novel. The Maids of Havana (Las Criadas de la Habana) will be discussed at this year's Afro-Latin / American Research Association's conference, "Identity and the Afro-Latin/American World: Rethinking Nation, Ethnicity/Race, and Gender," in Puerto Rico.

Social change in Cuba is complexas black and white

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Seattle Times, 11/24/02, by Jerry Large

Back in 1959, Cubans were celebrating their revolution, but it wasn't necessarily the triumph of Marxism that had people dancing in the streets.

For most Cubans, change was long overdue, and it didn't really matter what horse it rode in on.

The African-descended people who make up most of the island's population hungered for something that would shake up the social mix and allow them to rise from the bottom. They didn't just hunger for it, they'd been fighting for it throughout generations of African enslavement in Cuba.

Here in the United States it's simple; Cuba is communist and communism is bad, and Fidel Castro, in particular, is bad. But in Cuba it's not so simple.

In Cuba there is a longer, deeper struggle being reawakened by young people willing to talk about a taboo subject: race.

Pedro Perez Sarduy, a Cuban journalist, poet and novelist, has been talking about Afro-Cuban aspirations on his latest speaking tour of the United States. He gave a series of speeches in Seattle recently. I spoke with him after he talked to a group of students at Seattle University.

Black Cubans, he said, have to make things work in Cuba. "Black Cubans don't have anyplace to go into exile." White Cubans have made a home for themselves in Miami, and in Spain, but where, he asks, can black Cubans blend in?

Where can a people, whose culture is part European and part African and even a little Chinese, go and feel at home, except at home?

Sarduy said that when he first came to the United States, many people weren't quite sure how to classify a man with dark skin who speaks Spanish. They had a different image of who was Cuban. Of the 3 million Cubans who live abroad, 2.5 million are of primarily Spanish descent, he said.

On the island, as much as 70 percent of the population is black or mixed race. (The government says 62 percent, but that is widely considered to be too low.) Cuba, like the rest of Latin America, plays down its darker roots, he said, so it's not surprising people outside see Cubans as mostly white.

Sarduy, who speaks Portuguese, French, Spanish and English, was a BBC reporter covering Latin America in the 1980s and saw a widespread denial of racial issues. (See www.afrocubaweb.com for more about Sarduy.)

The first time he visited Mexico City, he was very surprised to find that the people on the streets didn't look like the very European-looking people he'd seen on Mexican television.

Sarduy tried to give the Seattle University students some history, to tell them the troubles between the United States and Cuba didn't start with Castro.

It has been a long, shared history. Marc McLeod, an assistant professor of history at SU, said there was a lot of discussion in the 1800s about making Cuba a state, especially in the South, which wanted to add a slave state.

And the United States ruled Cuba through a military government from 1898-1902, and again from 1906-1909, and has intervened in the island's affairs on several occasions.

Castro is just the latest irritant in relations between the two nations.

In the United States, many people view Cuba through the eyes of people who fled the country in the wake of the revolution. They are mostly descendents of the Spaniards who ran the island.

They saw Cuba as a paradise before the 1959 revolution, Sarduy said. It was for them, but not for black Cubans, who after slavery mostly were limited to menial jobs and treated as social inferiors.

The revolution improved health care, education and employment for black Cubans, but it didn't erase the social order that has white Cubans on top.

Black Cubans, perhaps, put too much faith in the revolution. Sarduy was 16 and enthusiastic when the new government took power. And like other black Cubans, he expected racial inequality to be addressed. But, the revolutionaries said, be patient, class is the thing. Eliminate class differences, and racial discrimination would go away.

People in this country still say that, just like the communist revolutionaries; it's class, not race, that matters. But the truth is that both matter.

Life did improve tremendously for black Cubans after 1959, but race is still a card that favors light skin, and gets played every day. Played, but not discussed openly, until recently.

Young black people, especially through the medium of rap music, are saying things openly that would never have been voiced before. They denounce racism and demand to be treated as equals. The battle for Cuba continues.

Sarduy said whatever happens after Castro, black Cubans will not be pushed aside. "They will hold on to that island for the sake of their ancestors, who fought for this country. It was not given to them. It was not a handout. They fought for it."

Jerry Large: 206-464-3346 or jlarge@seattletimes.com.

Pérez Sarduy US Tour, Spring '03

by Roberto Diago

Pedro Pérez-Sarduy Race & Identity in Cuba Multimedia Seminar:

Afro-Cuba, Afro-Cubans And Afro-Cubanía:
'How Black Is Contemporary Cuba Becoming?

For Five Weeks on Early Spring 2003: March 1 - April 7. Dates available.

Topics are those presented below, some of which are expanded on his multimedia seminar page:

For Fidel Castro, Race Matters and Is Not Divisive Afro-Cuba, Afro-Cubans And Afro-Cubanía: 'How Black Is Contemporary Cuba Becoming?
Hybrid Cultures: The Maids Of Havana
Myth And History In Literary Reconstruction
Marginalization and Representation In Afro-Cuban Hip-Hop

See Testimonials from some of his past presentations at US colleges.

Interested parties should contact Pedro Pérez Sarduy at sarduy@afrocubaweb.com
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FOR FIDEL CASTRO, RACE MATTERS AND IS NOT DIVISIVE

At the Third Congress of the Communist Party in 1986, it was acknowledged that racial discrimination and racism had not been eliminated. Cuban President Fidel Castro challenged the political structures and the entire society to address the issue, declaring: 

"The hypocritical societies that promote racial discrimination are afraid to talk about this, but revolutionary societies are not."

In February 1999, on the occasion of the Congress on Education, Fidel Castro began to be more specific when he said that after 40 years of Revolution, there still existed in Cuba some aspects of discrimination inherited from slavery which can be observed in the entrance of the young into universities. Remembering the first years of the 1959 Revolution, he observed:

"We thought that if we decreed absolute equality of rights, that should have been sufficient to abolish these remnants, however today, we can see that the poorest sectors are still those of the descendants of those slaves."

In our first volume  AfroCuba: an anthology of Cuban Writing on Race, Politics and Culture, we were dealing with the "non-topic" for quite a few years before it became an acceptable topic.

In September 2000, during a visit to the United Nations, Fidel visited the Riverside Church, in Harlem, one of his favorite sites of the Big Apple. In one of his marathonic speeches he delighted the crowd with this words:

"I am not claiming that our country is a perfect model of equality and justice. We believed at the beginning that when we established the fullest equality before the law and complete intolerance for any demonstration of sexual discrimination in the case of women, or racial discrimination in the case of ethnic minorities, these phenomena would vanish from our society. It was some time before we discovered that marginality and racial discrimination with it are not something that one gets rid of with a law or even with ten laws, and we have not managed to eliminate them completely, even in 40 years.

There has never been nor will there ever be a case where the law is applied according to ethnic criteria. However, we did discover that the descendants of those slaves who had lived in the slave quarters were the poorest and continued to live, after the supposed abolition of slavery, in the poorest housing.

There are marginal neighborhoods; there are hundreds of thousand of people who live in marginal neighborhoods, and not only blacks and mixed race people, but whites as well. There are marginal whites, too, and all this we inherited from the previous social system. I told you that our country is on its way to a new era. I hope someday to be able to speak to you of the things we are doing today and how we are going to continue to do them."

And he and his team began to work in that direction. In his speech at the inaugural of the Curso de Formación Emergentes de Profesores Integrales de Secundaria Básica, in September, 2002, the leader of the Revolution announced that after graduation, a large number of those graduates would be supporting a new program for accelerated teaching of junior high school teachers. Focusing on the race topic in Cuba again, he said:

The diverse social and ethnic composition of the student body at this new institution is exemplary. We are pleased to be advancing towards a society of full equality, equity and justice, in which any remnants of the objective discrimination inherited from centuries of slavery and poverty, allowing only a part of the population to enjoy the fruits of education, are being definitely eradicated.

Fidel Castro affirmed that in 5 years, Cuba would have more than 30,000 graduates with this new educational concept. He meant that these steps are of enormance import for Cuba's educational revolution.

"President Salvador Allende School, is a genuine pedagogical institute, will serve as a model that will make a profound mark on the history of education in Cuba."

Cuba is working on a kind of second educational revolution. Lecture halls and university level specializations are opening up even in the towns, with free tuition and books. Africans, Latin Americans, and even low income North Americans are studying in Cuban Universities.

It was a few months before, in Durban, South Africa where Fidel Castro make another profound analysis on racism: 

"Racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia are not naturally instinctive reactions of the human beings but rather a social, cultural and political phenomenon born directly of wars, military conquests, slavery and the individual or collective exploitation of the weakest by the most powerful all along the history of human societies.

Cuba speaks of reparations, and supports this idea as an unavoidable moral duty to the victims of racism, based on a major precedent, that is, the indemnification being paid to the descendants of the Hebrew people which in the very heart of Europe suffered the brutal and loathsome racist holocaust. 

However, it is not with the intent to undertake an impossible search for the direct descendants or the specific countries of the victims of actions occurred throughout centuries. The irrefutable truth is that tens of millions of Africans were captured, sold like a commodity and sent beyond the Atlantic to work in slavery while 70 million indigenous people in that hemisphere perished as a result of the European conquest and colonization. The inhuman exploitation imposed on the peoples of three continents, including Asia, marked forever the destiny and lives of over 4.5 billion people living in the Third World today whose poverty, unemployment, illiteracy and health rates as well as their infant mortality, life expectancy and other calamities --too many, in fact, to enumerate here-- are certainly awesome and harrowing. They are the current victims of that atrocity which lasted centuries and the ones who clearly deserve compensation for the horrendous crimes perpetrated against their ancestors and peoples."

President Fidel Castro voting,
college 4, district 7,
Santiago de Cuba

On the occasion of  the 1/18/03 television Round Table concerning the elections for National Assembly, Fidel Castro mentioned the race and gender issues when he observed that among the candidates for delegates there was on this occasion a number of graduates of the university and of higher education, there were more women, and there were more blacks and mestizos, the fruit of the educational and social justice effort developed under the Revolution.

In the 1993 National Assembly, the percentage of blacks and mestizo delegates was 28,36%, in the one resulting from the 1997 – 98 general elections, this proportion was 28,29, and now in 2003 they are 32,84% of the candidates.

The most recent of his speeches, Fidel Castro Ruz, at the closing session of the Pedagogy 2003 Conference, 2/7/03, contains a remarkable discussion of this topic, one which Mr. Sarduy will be covering in his Spring Tour. The BBC's Fernando Ravsberg declares in Advierten sobre racismo en Cuba : "Many blacks think that this is a historic speech and that the Cuban press has not given it the same exposure as they have the president's other speeches."

So, for Fidel Castro since coming to power in 1959, race matters and is not divisive, contrary to what many have said in Cuba and abroad on this topic.

AFRO-CUBA, AFRO-CUBANS AND AFRO-CUBANÍA: 'HOW BLACK IS CONTEMPORARY CUBA BECOMING?

For some critics the Cuban revolution, far from being a model of racial tolerance and inclusion, is racist at its core. Others says the Island needs an affirmative action program.

Out of his regular visit to Cuba, Perez-Sarduy argues provocatively that Afro-Cubans (by far the largest racial group out of more than 11 millions inhabitants) in the Island are articulating the need for a race-specific agenda as key in countering exclusionary (Hispanic/Latin rather than African/Caribbean) with inclusionary (island and overseas) definitions of nation and nationalism - this refers to his published works. At the same time, the vitality of Cuban "popular culture", with its strong ingredient of (negrura) blackness, pushed cultural authorities on the island to re-appraise its preservation and commercialisation. 

Even so: How far are Afro-Cubans defining themselves as black before Cuban? Culturally, the nation and its nationals are torn about definitions of Cuban and Afro-Cuban, some seeing this as irrelevant, others seeing it as the issue of an identity threatened -- and not for the first time.

Fifty minutes Multimedia presentation about his finding in the Island among "una nueva generacion de cubanos negros" proud to be Cuban and revolutionaries, but also worshipping openly their African background. 

HYBRID CULTURES: THE MAIDS OF HAVANA

MYTH AND HISTORY IN LITERARY RECONSTRUCTION

Originally this was an informal chat with his informant, but later it became Las Criadas de La Habana (The Maids of Havana), a novel whose point of departure begins with a narration of the life of Marta, Pedro's mother, a black servant whose lack of formal education does not prevent her from developing a sophisticated understanding of life. This unschooled woman starts writing about the two worlds of wealthy whites and poor black women in their service, with the latter's dignity. 

They were years of great upheaval: the rich were leaving (mostly to the US), the poor were being given new opportunities. For Marta, the main character and many friends, it had become a thing of the past that they had been maids in homes in Havana's elegant residential districts, that they had paid extortionate rates for their wretched slums, and that neither they nor their children could harbor hopes for the future, much less a college education.

The fresco of various periods -since a teenager in the 1930's, a wife and then a divorcee through the early years of the revolution, to a widow and grand-mother in the mid nineties - are narrated from the optic of these women, in a series of separate yet inter-related stories linking new generations of maids.

Immersed in the upheaval of the early years of the Cuban Revolution, Perez-Sarduy has been following the main racial development in his birth country since 1959, where at the age of 16 he participated in the dismantling of the racial barriers in the segregated Parque Vidal (Leoncio Vidal city Square) and other venues in his home town of Santa Clara, capital of the former Las Villas province. This prolific poet, journalist, art critic and novelist Perez-Sarduy will be back in the US for 5 weeks visit this Spring 2003.

 

 MARGINALIZATION AND REPRESENTATION IN AFRO-CUBAN HIP-HOP

 A week in August/02: 8th Havana Hip-Hop Festival. While hip hop has been assimilated and globalized by mega-record companies, toning down wit banality their message, Art is a different business in Cuba. Cuban ‘raperos’ sings what they want to say. They’re talking about Cuban sociedty from the perspective of people who were born and raised in Cuba during the socialist revolution.

With a multimedia Power Point presentation, I will open a window through which contemporary and innovative artistic expression will allow us to see what politics hides about the dynamism that characterise Cuba in the twenty-first century. 

Certainly, this dynamism incubates the anguish which accompanies alienation brought about by changes in living conditions, generation differences and inevitable global connectedness, which continuously buffets the Island in the Tropical sun.

Cuba, a danceable population, where people still dance in and by couple, in outdoors ballroom, street parties, and private gathering where blind dates take place, is open again to new trends in rhythm with a kind of Afro-Cuban ritual Hip-Hop expression geared to be danceable with politically African correctness. Their message is about awareness and worshipping the African ancestors and denouncing racial profiling and stigmas in their socialist country.

What follow is an excerpt of song 53 7 CUBA (Phone code of Cuba + Havana) by Paris resident Hip-Hop group, ORISHA (deity in the Yoruba language of Santeria, one of the main Afro-Cuban religions practised in Cuba):

"Dónde estás tú, mi Rampa*
El sol que canta
la Catedral
el Capitolio
se levantan en el oido
de estas voces
23 y 12,
Vedado,
Paseo del Prado
tus leones lado a lado
forman parte de mis tradiciones
mis emociones
eres tu mi Cuba
como tu ninguna
Kábio sile [Ká woó sí lé o: Let us beget life in the house]
soy yoruba que no quede duda
que si lloro es porque la extraño
no ver mi malecón, a mis amigos de mi zona
los que nacieron conmigo
los que jugaron conmigo"

Pedro Pérez-Sarduy  is a poet, writer, journalist and broadcaster living in London. He is the author of Surrealidad (Havana 1967) and Cumbite and Other Poems (Havana 1987 and New York 1990), co-editor with Jean Stubbs of Afro-Cuba: An Anthology of Cuban Writing on Race, Politics and Culture (1993) and co-author of the Introduction for the anthology No Longer Invisible/Afro-Latin Americans Today (1995). He has finished two unpublished works, Journal in Babylon, a series of chronicles on Britain, and a first novel, Las Criadas de La Habana (2001, The Maids of Havana), based on his mother's life stories about pre-revolutionary Havana.  He has written numerous articles, some of which we present on this site.

Together with Jean Stubbs, he has finished Afro-Cuban Voices on Race and Identity in Contemporary Cuba, (University Press of Florida, 2000) a book based on interviews with Afro-Cubans (living in the Island. This book is the first treatment of racial issues in contemporary Cuba that gives Afro-Cubans a voice.

He has been the recipient of a number of awards, including:

Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship Resident in Humanities, Caribbean 2000 Program. College of Humanites, Universidad of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras,   August-December 1997

Rockefeller Scholar in Afro-American Identity and Cultural Diversity,  Center for African Studies and Center for Latin American Studies,  University of Florida, Gainesville, August-December 1993.

Visiting Fellow, CUNY- Caribbean Exchange Program, Hunter College,  City University of New York, March-June 1990.

Writer-in-residence, Center for American Culture Studies, Columbia University, New York, October-December 1989.

In 1999, he did a tour of the US in April and presented at TransAfrica Forum in Washington, DC and at "Race and the 21st Century at Michigan State University" in Lansing.

He has been a radio journalist since 1965, beginning with Cuban national radio as a current affairs journalist and with Cuban television on the first African and Caribbean music show. He was then with the BBC Latin American Service from 1981 to 1994.

Pedro Pérez-Sarduy and Jean Stubbs also co-edited "No Longer Invisible: Afro-Latin Americans Today," covering Central and South America, with each chapter written by a country specialist.

Pérez Sarduy US Tour, Fall 2002

The tour was in October and November and covered Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York,  North Carolina, Washington State, California, and Florida, followed by the Guadalajara International Book Fair in Mexico. The main topics were the ones in his multimedia seminar, updating his views about race, politics, and culture in Cuba after a two months and a half Havana residency at the Callejon de Hamel, Cayo Hueso, Centro Habana. He also presented his novel [Las Criadas de la Habana], which was launched in Havana during the February 2002 International Book Fair, and some of his latest poetry and Q&A. Again with his multimedia.

Fall/2002 Tour Oct 16 ­ Nov 26

Mt. Holyoke College, MA
Latin American Studies

University of Connecticut, MA
Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies

Vanderbilt University, Nashville TN
Spanish & Portuguese Department

Winston-Salem State University, NC
Office of International Programs

Queens College, CUNY, NY
Latin American Area Studies

Columbia University, NYC
Institute for Research in African-American Studies

Columbia University, NYC
Teachers College

Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY
Department of Romance Languages and Literatures

New College of Florida, Sarasota, FL
Diversity and Gender Programs and Education

Seattle University, Washington

Evergreen State College, Tacoma, Washington

University of Washington, Washington
MECHA (Latino Student group)
and Black Student Union

LELO (Northwest Labor and Employment Law Office),
Washington

Pomona College, CA
History Department and Latin American Studies Program

Dominguez Hills, LA, CA
The Center for the Study of Global Diasporas
The Department of Chicana/o Studies
The Africana Studies Department
The College of Arts and Sciences

Pitzer College , Claremont, CA
Spanish studies

Interview in Jiribilla, 6/02

http://www.lajiribilla.cubaweb.cu/2002/n60_junio/1458_60.html#arriba


Pérez Sarduy US Tour, Spring 2002

Tue February 26, 2002
DePaul University, Chicago, IL
Afro-Cuba, Afro-Cubans and Afro-Cubania:
How Black is Contemporary Cuba Becoming

Time: 7:30 pm
Place SAC 154


Thur February 28
School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Hybridy and Post Colonial Identity
Time: 6-8:00pm
School Auditorium

Fri, March 1
The Art of Place Workshop
Masters in Writing Class
Time: 1:00-2:15pm

Mon, March 4
Afro-Cuba, Afro-Cubans and Afro-Cubania:
How Black is Contemporary Cuba Becoming

Wheaton College, Norton, MA

Tue, March 5
Afro-Cuba, Afro-Cubans and Afro-Cubania: 
How Black is Contemporary Cuba Becoming

Brown University, RI

Tue, March 12
Harvard University, School of Education
Cambridge, MA

II International Conference: "Family in Africa and the African Diaspora"
"La Familia en Africa y la Diáspora Africana" 9-13 April 2002

Pedro is presenting on race, his new novel The Maids of Havana, and the bolero, which plays a role in his novel: http://www3.usal.es/diasporafricana/

Pedro Pérez Sarduy (Escritor y periodista, Reino Unido)
"Familia, raza y bolero en Las criadas de La Habana"

     www3.usal.es/diasporafricana/english/Program.htm

Testimonialstop

"On behalf of the students and faculty of the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, I would like to thank you for speaking at the University of Connecticut. Your presentations of " Marginalization and Representation in Afro-Cuban Hip-Hop" and "Afro-Cuba, Afro-Cubans, and Afro-Cubanía: How Black is Contemporary Cuba Becoming?" were a tremendous contribution to many students and faculty of various disciplines on our campus. Your use of music and slides was particularly interesting and effective.

It was an honor to have you visit and I hope that our staff made you feel welcome and your time in Storrs was enjoyable. Please, feel free to call upon us in the future. We would be delighted to hear about any developments in your work." -- Peter Kingstone, Director Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, University of Connecticut


"Pedro's visit was absolutely wonderful; he was engaging, inspiring and humorous. He read from his work, talked about Cuba, about writing from a woman's perspective, and answered several questions. Matter-of-fact, he stayed until 3. My students asked some very thoughtful questions and, at one point, he said: "I will remember this class for a very long time." He even took photographs of us!

The feedback from students afterwards was positive. He helped them see some new dimensions of how "place" operates in poems and fiction. His passion for art remained everywhere in our classroom after he left."  -- Mary Cross, professor at DePaul University and Chicago School of the Art Institute, concerning Perez-Sarduy’s visit to the Master in Fine Arts writing class, entitled "The Art of Place."

"Pedro Perez Sarduy is an invaluable treasure around young people. At every one of the International Colloquium of the biennial National Black Theatre Festival he has been a part of since 1993 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, the way the audience and fellow participants enthused about his presentations has also contributed to making the Colloquium as much as the festival an object of pilgrimage for aficionados of the American theatre every other year."  Professor Sope Oyelaron, Winston-Salem State University, Coordinator, International Colloquium, National Black Theatre Festival

"Poet, essayist, scholar, broadcaster, lecturer... I first met Sarduy in Havana in 1985, and we have been colleagues and collaborators since. Sarduy wrote a chapter on Carnaval in Havana in my 1993 (soon to be rereleased in paperback by Ian Randle) Cuban Festivals. We were together at the University of Puerto Rico, discussing literature and performance. We also have been on panels together at the International Carnival Conferences at Trinity College, Hartford, and Port of Spain, Trinidad. Sarduy is a riveting lecturer, capable of entertaining while simultaneously teaching. He is a world traveler and brings a global, particularly Afro, perspective to his lectures. I recently heard Sarduy discuss a trip to Brazil. What an eye-opener!"  Professor Judith Bettelheim, Department of Art History, Emory University

"Pedro Perez Sarduy's visit in Maryland was an unequivocal success, a profoundly enriching educational experience that brought Afrocuban issues close to his audience. In his public presentations, radio talk-show appearance, poetry reading, and classroom discussions, his insight, breadth of experience, political savvy, patient articulateness and expansive knowledge combined with his charm, wit, and verve to loan a warm and human expression to the rich wealth of information provided. As a scholar, Pedro Perez Sarduy is a spokesperson for the rennaissance of Afrocuban culture and as a poet, the voice of a generous humanness and a fecund humor. His intervention here with students and the public has left a lasting impression and has opened an ongoing discourse about the culture and politics of Afrocuba at a time when such an opening is urgently needed."  Christopher Powers, Johns Hopkins University

Pedro Pérez Sarduy's two-day visit to the Washington College campus in late March, 2000 was a truly memorable occasion. It was part of a series of a events that marked the tenth anniversary of our chapter of Sigma Delta Pi, the International Spanish Honorary Society. In addition to speaking to an Advanced Spanish class, he gave a public reading of his poetry at our Literary House and a lecture/slide presentation on Afro-Cuban culture and history. In this way a wide spectrum of our students and faculty were able to hear him, meet him personally, and learn from his marvelous store of knowledge and experience. His visit stimulated much interest in Cuba, its culture and literature, and the conversation continues! George Shivers, Washington College

The message that you brought to our campus regarding the African presence in Cuba was one that was most welcomed and for many long overdue. The panel discussion that you participated in, a comparative look at race in Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, was especially rewarding because it put developments in Cuba since 1959--achievements and challenges--in proper perspective. We look forward to your return one day.  August H. Nimtz-Jr. University of Minnesota

Contacting Pedro Pérez Sarduy and Jean Stubbs

They can be reached via perez-sarduy at afrocubaweb.com
Just replace the " at " with a @ (no spaces).

Obtaining Perez Sarduy and Stubbs' books

Afro-Cuba: An Anthology of Cuban Writing on Race, Politics and Culture (1993)  is published by Ocean Press in Australia. It is available in major bookstores but they can also be obtained directly on-line at the Amazon Bookstore ==> [Order from Amazon].

No Longer Invisible/Afro-Latin Americans Today (1995) is also available via Amazon.com ==>

Afro-Cubans Voices on Race and Identity in Contemporary Cuba is available from Amazon.com. It is available in major bookstores. To order from Amazon, just click ==>

Afrocuba: Una Antologia De Escritos Cubanos Sobre Raza, Politica y Cultura, Editorial de la Universidad de Puerto Rico, Primera Edicion en Castellano, 1998

Las Criadas de La Habana (The Maids of Havana).  To order from Amazon, just click ==>

Pedrox.jpg (5806 bytes)
Pedro in 1997

Contacting AfroCubaWebtop

Electronic mail
acw_AT_afrocubaweb.com [replace _AT_ with @]

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