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T-shirtsColonialist images in contemporary Cuba

With the increase in tourists, many of them from Europe and South America, Cuba has seen a great increase in the number of disrespectful images one can find for sale on the streets, especially in places such as Old Havana and Varadero, prime tourist areas. This imagery has also spread to t-shirts, some even worn by Black Cubans, such as those at left.

Gloria Rolando has touched on this issue in her new movie, Dialog with My Grandmother:

"This film project will also offer a very different image from the one that the local tourist industry attempts to project, namely the sexual stereotype of mulatas in extremely insensitive and provocative poses; also black women with prominent lips, breasts, buttocks, holding cigars of exaggerated sizes. These trinkets are not funny and not amusing. Instead these insensitive souvenirs sold in Cuba project a false understanding of the real image of black women in general. It is through the recognition of womanist community leadership that I draw attention to the misrepresentation of the current Afro Cuban experience through the promotion and sale of consumer products via the exaggerated, affected misappropriation of African Diaspora representation."

There is a tradition of these images going back at least 100 years. Ugly cartoons were common in the build up to the Massacre of 1912. They are by no means confined to Cuba, and they are enjoying a resurgence not only in Cuba but also in Colombia, the US, and elsewhere.

See our Picture Gallery: statuettes for sale in Varadero, a major tourist resort east of Havana and Matanzas, itself a cradle of African culture in Cuba. It is unlikely these were being sold through a government store, as there are strict penalties for producing and selling pornographic images. Intersectionality!

A related issue is the number of costumed caricatures running around in Old Havana.  Is this the best Havana has to offer?

Articles/Artículostop

Estatua de hombre con su pinga
Statue on sale in Varadero
See Gallery
Foto de archivo - Anciana negro fumando un enorme puro cubano junto a la catedral de la habana Personajes como este son una vista común en las calles de La Habana Vieja  4/23/2016 123RF 

Normalization circus update: super-sizing the apartheid nightmare  4/1/2016 Babalu Blog: with mammy smoking a cigar

Antiracism and the Cuban Revolution: An Interview with Devyn Spence Benson  3/8/2016 AAIHS: "On one hand, you have leaders who are making antiracist declarations. They’re publicly announcing their solidarity with Afro-Cubans and African Americans and also with global antiracist and anti-colonial struggles of the 1960s. But then at the same time, you have revolutionary cartoonists drawing Afro-Cubans in the same stereotypical way that they had in the pre-revolutionary period. You see the same exaggerated features, infantile caricatures, and minstrel-like comical sketches of black people. As I discuss in my book, many of these revolutionary cartoonists had fought in the Sierra Maestra and were part of the 26th of July Movement. They were not just peons submitting drawings to the newspaper; rather, many of them were actually close to the revolutionary leadership."

Surprise! Three American journalists find Castrogonia somewhat irritating, but fascinating  6/25/2015 Babalu Blog: with mammy smoking a cigar

Gobierno cobrará más impuestos a cuentapropistas de la Habana Vieja  12/19/2012 Café Fuerte: "Disfrazarse como dandy o habanera en el casco histórico de la Habana Vieja tendrá un costo mensual a partir del próximo año, según una nueva regulación que fija impuestos adicionales para este tipo de trabajadores privados. A partir del 1ro de enero, los cuentapropistas que laboren en la zona de conservación -atendida por la Oficina del Historiador de la Ciudad de La Habana- deberán pagar un 10 por ciento de sus ingresos personales para la contribuir a la “restauración y preservación” de los bienes patrimoniales del lugar, de acuerdo con la Resolución 394/2012 del Ministerio de Finanzas y Precios."

Golliwogs: New Versions of Old Racist Dolls (Trigger Warning)  11/5/2011 The Society Pages: "The golliwog (also spelled golliwogg) is an old racist caricature, clearly similar to blackface minstrel-type or mammy figures in the U.S. It emerged in the 1800s but was popularized when James Robertson and Sons adopted a golliwog named Golly as the logo for their jam around 1910"

La Habana Vieja, un imán de 'personajes'  10/13/2010 Univision: "La Oficina del Historiador de la Ciudad, cuya labor de restauración ha salvado y realzado cientos de edificios en el corazón colonial de la urbe, también ha ayudado a promover un paisaje cultural plagado de músicos, teatro de calle, zanqueros, artesanos y "figurantes". La atracción es variada. Los visitantes lo mismo se pueden encontrar a Coralia, que limpia las calles cantando y se reconoce como "una barrendera con flores" -las lleva por todo el cabello-, que a Roberto y sus perros "salchichas" ataviados con relojes en las patas, gorras, camisetas y espejuelos."

CUBA: LOS PERSONAJES COSTUMBRISTAS DE EUSEBIO LEAL  10/24/2009 Bacutey Cubano: "Arroyo Naranjo, La Habana, octubre 22 de 2009 (PD) Se les puede ver por el casco histórico de la ciudad, a la sombra de la Catedral o El Templete, por la calle Obispo, la Plaza de Armas o los alrededores de la Bodeguita del Medio. La Oficina del Historiador de la Ciudad de La Habana les concede licencias como “personajes costumbristas” para que luchen los fulas como puedan."

“Souvenirs” from Savannah, Georgia  2/9/2009 The Society Pages: "But, newly made, currently produced reproductions of Black women slaves, as salt shakers and magnets? How is that alright? To me this is almost as creepy as if they were selling Klu Klux Klan robe magnets. Is it that as a Northerner I’m more uncomfortable around issues of slavery, than, say, a Southerner would be? I feel a similiar way when I see confederate flags outside of their historical context– and there were plenty those for sale in tourist stores as well."

Memín Pinguín provoca un incidente diplomático  7/15/2005 Jiribilla: "A finales de junio la impresión y venta, en estampilla de correo, de personajes de una ingenua y popularísima serie de comics, Memín Pinguín, puso en tensión a la Casa Blanca y a los gobernantes de México, con sus respectivos órganos de opinión. Algo que del lado de acá del Río Grande se considera parte del folklore y uno de los valores que exaltan la bondad y el respeto desde la llamada industria cultural, del lado de allá fue recibido como un mensaje ofensivo a los afroamericanos. Aunque el debate surgió con todas las trazas de resultar efímero, sirvió para evidenciar viejas diferencias e incomprensiones, no poco de la conocida preponderancia estadounidense (donde hasta la palabra “negro” resulta racista pero enraízan una “cultura” que convierte en aromáticos guetos la vida de algunos sectores poblacionales), más el acecho de intereses que aprovechan cualquier ocasión para ganar puntos en una permanente carrera electoralista."


Links/Enlaces

Negro Soy Yo: Hip Hop and Raced Citizenship in Neoliberal Cuba, By Marc D. Perrytop 2016

Negro soy yo

 

Memín Pinguín, comic book character in Mexico

 

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