Beautiful and Music-loving Afro-Cubans.Creole Choir of Cuba. The descendants of Haitian immigrants that settled in Cuba until the late fifties, The Creole Choir of Cuba is a ten-piece ensemble of voices and percussion who sing the music of their ancestors in a highly personal manner. Singing in Creole (Haiti’s second language), their lyrics speak about their history and heritage. Some songs were written centuries ago, while others, like “Tande,” were composed to talk about the cruel years of the Duvalier regime. Their rhythms are very Cuban, though. Upon hearing them at first, you feel that you are listening to a very roots-based sound of Afro-Cuban music. But when the lyrics begin, you notice that it is not Spanish. The music is often syncopated, with different layers performed by the women and men in the group, and the melodies are followed by dance moves that might include audience members who are pulled in by the group as they walk around the audience. (Ernest Barteldes)
Apart from enslaved Africans that came directly from the continent of Africa, there was a large number of Haitians and Jamaicans that were imported to Cuba. “Toward the end of 1912, Gómez authorized the United Fruit Company to bring in 1,400 Haitians. Under Menocal, from 1913-21, 81,000 Haitians and 75,000 Jamaicans were admitted.” In addition it is estimated that from 1913 to 1927 40,000 negroes a year were smuggled in. Since then and owing to the prolonged economic crisis, few have been brought in even illegally. The companies which have brought in black people during the period of the Republic, were supposed to send them back at the end of their yearly contract, but this was evaded. As El Pais wrote: “The Haitian immigration comes for the zafra, but soon is diverted toward the towns and never goes back to the plantations of his own country, the result being that the following year it is necessary to introduce another contingent.”
The late flourishing of the Cuban sugar industry and the persistence of the slave trade into the 1860s are two important reasons for the remarkable density and variety of African cultural elements in Cuba. Fernando Ortiz Counted the presence of over one hundred different African ethnic groups in 19th century Cuba, and estimated that by the end of that century fourteen distinct “nations” had preserved their identity in the mutual aid associations and social clubs known as cabildos, societies of free and enslaved blacks from the same African “nation,” which later included their Cuban-born descendants.
The population estimates of Afro-Cubans in Cuba is a very controversial issue culminating in number of figures aimed at lowering the number of Afro-Cubans so as to ensure the Cuban state`s continuous subjugation and discrimination of the blacks. Recent (2002) population census estimates range from 11.06 million to 11.17 million. At least 50% of the population is classified as mulatto (mixed African and European descent), although the cultural privilege assigned to whiteness probably causes many mulattos to minimize their African heritage. 37% percent of the population claims to be exclusively white, and 11% is classified as “negro.” The remaining 1% is Chinese, the result of the importation of 132,000 Chinese indentured laborers between 1853 and 1872 to replace the loss of labor caused by the impending end of African slavery.
The Cuban government`s 2002 official dubious census release was:
Ethnicity Percentage Estimates
Whites: 65% 7.271.926
Blacks: 10% 1.126.894
Mulattos: 24,9% 2.778.923.
Total Cuban population: 11.177.743
This 2002 outrageous census figure incurred serious aroused wide criticisms against the Cuban government. The Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami, an influential and well-respected Think-Tank condemned the result claiming wrong parameters and variables was used in gathering data. The published Census figures provided no way at all to compare blacks and whites in categories like salary or educational levels. The organization concluded that if right statistical data or an approach were to be used it will emerged that 68% of Cubans “are black.” 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% and UM’s 62% also reflects the complicated racial categories in a country where if you look white you are considered white, no matter the genes.