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West Indians in Cuba

Perhaps over 100,000 Cubans descend from West Indian immigrants who came mostly in the early part of the 1900's. They typically have mixed names, with a Spanish first name and an English last name. Gloria Rolando tells their story in her film, My Footsteps in Baragua, which Cuban Foreign Office officials have shown all over the Caribbean. She has another film, Cherished Island Memories, which chronicles an immigration from the Cayman Islands in to the Isla de la Juventud in the 20's and 30's.

The West Indian immigrants in Guantanamo founded the Bristish West Indian Welfare Center, whcih now has chapters in other Cuban towns. It boasts a membership of numerous engineers and doctors as well as other educated professionals.

Only a few West Indians in Cuba are rasta, but they exist. And of course reggeaton is now very popular in Cuba, but actually has little to do with the West Indians in Cuba. It was invented by Jamaicans in Panama and developed in Puerto Rico.

Rescuing Our Roots: The African Anglo-Caribbean Diaspora in Contemporary Cuba, 11/2015 by Andrea Queeley

The British West Indian Welfare Center, 5/09 by Jenny Kassman

Caribbean American Children's Foundation, Alberto Jones, Director

Alberto Jones Column

Dialogue with Founding Leaders of Guantanamo’s Social Club ‘La Nueva Era’, Eugene Godfried, 2004: "There is another part of this story and I want to stress this, that when the anglophones of the British West Indian Welfare Center saw us without a place, they offered us their space. Because the Africans, and when I say Africans, I mean to say the Jamaican, Barbadians, Cubans, and all, with that sign of solidarity leant us their center. And they were so generous that they shared the time table for the use of their space with us. For example, if we used the building from Monday to Wednesday, then they would use it from Thursday to Friday. Saturdays and Sundays were also divided among our two organizations."

Samuel Furé Davis, Lázaro de la Rosa Reyes

Marcus Mosiah Garvey and Cuba, by Eugene Godfried, 6/04

Eugène Godfried in Memoriam: a celebration of his life, Guantánamo, July 6, 2010. Billed as a First International Meeting, with plans for follow-on meetings. Sponsored by the Haitian Community and the Anglophone Community in Guantánamo, with the participation of the the British West Indian Welfare Center and the Ballet Folklórico Babul. We have a report from Professor Tony Van Der Meer: Guantanamo's Cuban British West Indian Welfare Center Hosts the 1st International Eugene Godfried Memoriam Gathering, 7/1510.

News of West Indians in Cuba

Visualizing the Caribbean 4/11/2013 Stanford University: "Featured confirmed guests include prominent Cuban filmmaker Gloria Rolando whose work is devoted to the African ancestry, traditions and history of Cuba (1912: Breaking the Silence, 2012; Pasajes del corazón y la memoria 2007; Roots of my Heart 2001; My footsteps in Baragua, 1996; Oggun, 1991), Dominican writer Pedro Antonio Valdéz who won the Dominican National Novel award for Bachata del ángel caído, renowed artist Antonio Fernandez “Tonel” joining us from Mexico City, and literary critic Jerry Carlson (CUNY) presenting on Dominican film."

Cuba town battles to preserve British West Indian ways 12/27/2012 BBC: "The English-speakers have applied for registration as an official association, hoping that will help in their fight to protect their traditions. But four years on they have had no answer."

Este viernes 17: Reggae en Alamar por Marcus Garvey 8/16/2012 Red Observatorio Crítico: "Un género común para grupos de músicos de La Habana, quienes “vienen trabajando en uno de los géneros más representativos del Caribe y menos promocionado en Cuba”. “Sus influencias y aportes a la nueva generación de la música popular son de nuestro interés, así como visualizar una muestra de sus exponentes en La Habana” –explican los organizadores en un promocional. “El homenaje al nacimiento de Marcus Garvey…” será realizado por “…un Grupo de Artistas y Promotores de la Música, con la colaboración de la Dirección Municipal de Cultura de Habana del Este…” –contiene la nota."

Mala in Cuba 7/30/2012 Havana Cultura: "When Mala— a British-Jamaican electronic artist better known as ‘Digital Mystikz’— accompanied his friend and fellow DJ Gilles Peterson to the recording of his latest Havana Cultura album, he wasn’t sure what to expect. The experience, however, allowed Mala to meet some of the Cuban capitals most promising artists—from vocalist Danay Suárez to jazz pianist Roberto Fonseca—with whom he recorded traditional Cuban rhythms. Mala returned home with a laptop full of inspiration, which he then sewed together in his own particular way. The result of this experiment is the album Mala in Cuba, which marries the sound system culture of London with the rhythmic leanings of Cuban jazz."

Otorgan Premio Internacional Casa del Caribe al Doctor Norman Girvan. 7/9/2012 Casa del Caribe: "El eminente intelectual jamaicano Doctor Norman Girvan recibió el Premio Internacional Casa del Caribe en la clausura del Coloquio El Caribe que nos Une de la edición XXXII de la Fiesta del Fuego, otorgada a personalidades que han contribuido con su obra al enriquecimiento cultural y la unidad de los pueblos de la región. Girvan, uno de los más importantes exponentes del pensamiento contemporáneo anticolonial y antihegemónico en el Caribe anglófono, tiene once títulos publicados sobre profundos análisis desde la sociología, la antropología y otras disciplinas, de las culturas derivadas de las economías plantacionistas como casi todos los países del área. Fue profesor en universidades de Jamaica, Trinidad y Tobago, Estados Unidos, Canadá e Inglaterra."

500 Cuban health workers to relieve understaffed hospitals in Jamaica 1/19/2012 AP: "Jamaica’s government says that about 500 Cuban health workers will work on the island for the next two years to bolster understaffed clinics and hospitals. Health Minister Fenton Ferguson said Thursday that 117 doctors and nurses are expected to arrive in February."

Interpretations of Garveyism Over Time in Jamaica and Cuba 11/25/2011 76 King Street - Journal of Liberty Hall: The Legacy of Marcus Garvey: by Samuel Furé Davis, published in 2009

The Caribbean Diaspora from the African Diaspora. The Cuban Chapter 5/30/2011 Cuba Now: by Graciela Chailloux - "The 1929 world crisis represented the end of a frenetic sugar growth in the Island that lost its support in the international market. Unemployment took over the national life, as for Cubans as for foreigners, so the resource at hand was the massive deportation of Haitians and English-speaking West Indians, and the promulgation in 1934 of a law that guaranteed employment in every company to 50% of the Cubans."

Race and Class in Cuba 1/24/2010 Jamaica Observer: "As luck would have it, my home in Kingston, Jamaica, was right next to the Cuban embassy, so I went there often. When I informed them excitedly that I wanted to study blacks in Cuba, I was told that I should go to Oriente, the Eastern part of the country, as that was where all of the blacks were. I would come to learn that this was an expression of the white Cuban tendency to claim that all blacks were descendants of Jamaican and other West Indian immigrants to Oriente. When I would protest that the Spanish had lots of slaves and that all of the blacks could not possibly be descendants of West Indian immigrants, known derogatorily as pichones (literally blackbirds), I was told that all of the ones who had come as slaves had inter-married, as the Spanish were so much less racist than the British. White Cubans expressed sympathy for the Jamaicans who were under the British, who did not mix with them, supposedly, and so the black population there was not able to dilute itself and move up the racial hierarchy."

This is where my father is from 11/20/2009 Island Mix: Post on Gloria Rolando's film "My Foosteps in Baragua" - "Migration has been and is a constant theme in the life of the people of the Caribbean. In the municipality of Baragua, in the present province of Ciego de Avila, Cuba, the stories and customs of the English speaking West Indians and their descendants still remain alive. In the style of the documentary are merged family memories in a process very familiar to other Caribbean people: for example the trip from Jamaica, Barbados, and other islands to Panama and subsequently to Cuba which started the heady development of the sugar industry in the early years of this century. Direct testimony does not preclue the poetry present in the charm of the environment of the old sugar barracks, the re-creation of the traditional music and dance such as the Maypole, and the use of old photos that allow us an imaginary approach to that past."

The new 'brigadistas' - More Jamaicans get scholarships to study in Cuba 6/15/2009 Jamaica Gleaner

Jamaican Gov't sends storm aid to Cuba 9/23/2008 Jamaica Gleaner: "IT WAS no easy task on Saturday in Santiago de Cuba for the 16 crew members from the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) Coast Guard, who toiled for almost seven hours in the heat of the sun, unloading relief items. The 2,771 boxes, which included food, household supplies and pharmaceuticals, were taken to Cuba on the JDF Coast Guard's Middlesex vessel."

More Than 3,000 Needy Jamaicans Benefit from Corrective Eye Surgeries in Cuba 9/13/2006 Jamaica Info Service: "On its one-year anniversary, the Jamaica-Cuba Eye Care Programme has successfully facilitated corrective eye surgeries for more than 3,000 needy Jamaicans, and has been hailed by healthcare officials from the governments of both countries as a partnership marked by "solidarity"."

Conexión de jazz a lo cubano en Jamaica 5/24/2006 Cubarte: "Los jardines del jazz, el evento bimensual que desarrolla en Jamaica el hotel Pegasus, de Kinsgton, el último domingo de esos meses alternos, tuvo en abril de este año una Conexión cubana que contó la presencia del saxofonista de la Isla, Jesús Fuentes, líder musical de la Banda "Las Canelas". En el 2006, en el segundo show de Fuentes actuaron Seretse Small, la Banda “The True Democrats” y la baterista Ouida Lewis, entre otras figuras. El espectáculo, que se desarrolla en esa prestigiosa instalación de más de 30 años de experiencia en Kingston desde hace más de un lustro, tiene su noche culminante en diciembre cuando se presentan las principales estrellas de lo Mejor ocurrido en el espacio jazzístico… Las noches del jazz del Pegasus de Kingston Jamaica son patrocinadas por el Banco de Crédito y Comercio, cadena privada CVM TV, la compañía de café Wallenford y la línea Air Jamaica, entre otros."

First ever Cuban film festival comes to Jamaica 6/13/2005 Jamaica Observer: includes Gloria Rolando film Hijos de Baragua, My Footsteps in Baragua, here listed as Children of Baragua.

Rethink Position On Cuba Says Jamaican Minister To U.S. 12/15/2004 HardBeatNews: "Jamaica’s Foreign Minister, K.D Knight, is urging the George Bush administration to rethink its policy on Cuba. Knight, according to the Jamaica Observer, made the suggestion to Ambassador John Maisto, the U.S.’ permanent representative to the Organization of American States, during a meeting on Monday."

Marcus Mosiah Garvey and Cuba 7/6/2004 AfroCubaWeb: "Marcus Garvey died in 1940. The ideas of Marcus Mosiah Garvey were of great interest to the later to be formed Rasta movement in Jamaica, therefore he was a predecessor to the Rastas. The Rasta movement has a significant presence in present day Cuba, thanks to the work done and examples set forth by Robert Nesta "Bob" Marley, who is adored by a cross section of the Cuban youth and people."

Oldest U.S. base overseas harbors hometown feel 12/22/2003 Sun Sentinel: In reality, the US has reneged on thousands of pension payments to largely black West Indian Cubans - "The dwindling of the commuters, who range in age from the 60s to the 80s, presents a problem for the United States. The five men -- down from 10 a year ago -- carry pension payments to the hundreds of former base workers living in the surrounding towns. There is no other way for the U.S. government to transfer money to individuals in Cuba. "We can't just hand dollars through the gate," McCoy says. "We are working with the State Department to come up with a solution." "

Jamaica braces for tourism competition from Cuba 10/24/2003 Jamaica Observer: "...Local hotel and airline interests have already established ties with Cuba," Assamba said. "... We wholeheartedly support the lifting of the US travel ban on our regional neighbour (and) we look forward to establishing strong tourism partnerships, at various levels, that can benefit both our countries."

Crying wolf with Cuba 5/15/2003 Nassau Guardian: "The U.S. is now conveniently re-inventing international laws and precedents because of the mighty dollar. It is absurd. The Bahamas Government must stand for something. We should not be told by an Ambassador, who disgraced our Defence Force and thinks of every Bahamian male as a suspect, to support a resolution against our Cuban brothers, whose blood helped to free South Africa. Comedy cannot describe this request. Madness cannot describe such an attempt by the U.S. If one day the U.S. dreams that our Minister of Foreign Affairs is a terrorist, he may be arrested and held by the United States without trial at Guantanamo Bay and be tortured. Is that democracy or freedom - U.S. - style?"

Jamaica agradece propuesta de Cuba de aumentar número de médicos en el Caribe 12/12/2002 Radio Havana: "Jamaica acogió con gran beneplácito la propuesta cubana de reforzar la presencia de su personal médico y paramédico en el Caribe, lanzada por el presidente Fidel Castro recientemente en La Habana. La iniciativa fue expuesta por el máximo líder cubano durante una reunión especial entre Cuba y el CARICOM, efectuada con motivo de los 30 años de relaciones de la mayor de las antillas con Jamaica , Barbados , Guyana y Trinidad y Tobago. El ministro de salud de Jamaica, John Junior, elogió la propuesta cubana de aumentar su destacamento médico en el Caribe, los cuales -agregó- ayudarán a combatir el Síndrome de Inmunodeficiencia Adquirida (SIDA) en la zona. En todo el Caribe existen actualmente unas 440 mil personas infectadas con ese virus mortal, de los cuales 60 mil fueron diagnosticados este año."

Cuban Plan Against AIDS Well Received by Caribbeans 12/11/2002 Prensa Latina: "The Caribbean nations welcomed the Cuban initiative to reinforce the regional struggle against AIDS by increasing the presence of its health personnel in the rest of the area. According to Jamaican Public Health Minister John Junor the proposal by the Cuban government includes raising the number of specialists to help fight against the disease. Although the details of the program have not been revealed yet, the Caribbean peoples and governments welcomed the idea of strengthening the fight against AIDS in the region, said the health minister. Junor also stated that the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat entrusted Saint Kitts & Nevis and its Prime Minister Denzil Douglas to analyze the details of the Cuban initiative."

Violence Forces Gay Jamaican Men To Seek Asylum Overseas 12/2/2002 Black World Today: Those who focus on homophobia in Cuba may want to consider it in its Caribbean context - "When the United Kingdom (UK) granted asylum to three Jamaican men last month, it once again shone the international spotlight on the severe homophobia that have cost many here their homes, their jobs and even their lives. The men were granted asylum on the grounds that ”severe homophobia” in this northern Caribbean island, had endangered their lives, and that the Jamaican government failed to protect them from violence."

De los ancestros jamaicanos le viene el ritmo 8/19/2002 Victoria, Cuba: "Con la rítmica alegría del calipso y ante un numeroso público que sigue el Encuentro Nacional de Artistas Aficionados, en el Pabellón Cuba de La Rampa, irrumpió en el escenario el grupo músico-danzario avileño La Cinta, de larga tradición en el género."

Cuban widow gets benefits after 25 years 5/30/2002 Palm Beach Post: "Her husband, Ruben Bancroft, was born in Cuba and worked at the base from 1942 until his death in 1977 at age 58. He commuted daily from his home in Guantanamo." - Classic story of a West Indian Cuban, many of whom worked at Guantanamo and are denied a pension: "There could be as many as 5,000 pensioners or their survivors in Cuba entitled to benefits, he said lawyers in Cuba have told him. Boca Raton attorney Charles Randall, who joined Enriquez in filing the lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington, said many owed money are suffering deprivations."

Guantánamo embraces an ethnically rich past 1/27/2002 Sun Sentinel, Fort Lauderdale: "The Cuban revolution in 1959 brought an end to these migrations, but to find the Guantánamo of old with its rich ethnic blend just ask for La Loma del Chivo, Goat's Hillock, on the eastern edge of town. There, descendants of the West Indian settlers still cook up saltfish and dumplings and offer them up in perfect English with a sweet island lilt. The red pods of the ackee tree, Jamaica's national tree, peek over concrete walls. And every Saturday at the 96-year-old Tumba Francesa Pompadu, the only remaining Haitian cultural center, Haitian descendants drum out the rhythms of their ancestors' homeland and dance the dances modeled long ago after French favorites like the minuet. "It was a social criticism," said Emiliano Castillo Guzman, 37, one of the Tumba's drummers. "The slaves tried to imitate or mock their masters with these dances. In the beginning their festivals were held in huts on the sugar cane plantations or the coffee plantations."

La pobreza golpea a los orientales 1/13/2002 El Nuevo Herald: what they fail to mention is the disastrous impact of the Guantanamo US Naval Base on the economy of Oriente: it takes up the best deep water port in the Caribbean for US fantasies.

 

Links/Enlaces

Rastas in Cuba

Reggaetón Cubano - Cubaton

Rescuing Our Roots: The African Anglo-Caribbean Diaspora in Contemporary Cuba, 11/2015, by Andrea J. Queeley

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