Racist graffiti and swastikas in Havana
On Wednesday the graffiti between Línea and 11 was still there, in El Vedado. If it did not spark more controversy, this was due to its location difficult to see by most passersby. It read "Muerte a los negros (Death to blacks), noted DIARIO DE CUBA journalist Waldo Fernández Cuenca.
It is the second time that a phrase of this kind has been reported in recent weeks. In early May the IPS news agency reported the concern expressed by some intellectuals after the appearance of a similar message painted near the intersection of Línea and 14, in the same neighborhood.
The fact that a message like this can be left in a central location, with no one showing up to erase it, contrasts with the alacrity with which phrases condemning Castro or the Government are expunged from all such public places.
Just a few months ago, on the Calzada del Cerro, two anti-Government phrases were swiftly replaced with "¡Viva Fidel!" and "La Revolución es eterna."
In its report the IPS cited the indignation of intellectuals, activists and Internet users, who called for concrete actions against emerging manifestations of racism.
The writer and researcher Heriberto Feraudy circulated an email in which he reported having seen, on April 20, upon leaving the El Ateneo bookstore, the phrase "Muerte a negros" near Línea and 14, accompanied by "a swastika."
"Pure fascism" said Feraudy, who took and posted a photo of the graffiti. However, he found even more worrisome the fact that he noticed “the presence of a well-known academic expert in Economics," who was apparently apathetic about it.
"That's the way things are. And there are still people who bristle and are distressed when Raúl (Castro) talks about blacks and mestizos," added Feraudy, president of the José Antonio Aponte Commission against racial discrimination, attached to Cuba's National Union of Writers and Artists.
"If I hadn't seen it, I wouldn't have believed it. Mamma mía! What is happening on my beautiful island? All we're missing now is the KKK," reacted a Facebook user, identified as Manuel Antonio Zayas.
Meanwhile, the intellectual Gisela Arandia, a member of the Cuban chapter of the Articulación Regional Afrodescendiente for the Americas and the Caribbean, called the event "very serious, because the racist message is framed in an ideological context of support for fascism."
According to the IPS, Arandia said that "the most important thing is its meaning as an expression of the collective imagination."
She said that she hoped that "this new racist action would help us to emerge from the morass and organize the kind of public, anti-racist actions that our era demands."
Likewise, Deyni Terry, the coordinator of the Racial Unity Alliance project, said: "This is more than an offense, it is an assault on our human rights, and we ought not remain silent or act dumb. We must respond and seek to determine each person's responsibility, go to the neighborhood, investigate ... "
"People think that this is global social capitalism, and get things mixed up, daring to express racist ideas that violate the dignity of black men and women," she added.
Terry, who is a jurist, vowed to support legal actions to prevent such manifestations. "With my unmistakable color and my sharp tongue (...) I will, from my profession and occupation, do whatever is necessary," she said.
Other voices expressed that the text found by Heriberto Feraudy might have been written by a foreigner, since the phrase "Muerte a negros" omits the article "los," required in Spanish. The graffiti reported by Waldo Fernández Cuenca does include the article.
Others noted that swastikas can be found drawn or etched on the walls of several Cuban cities.
Intellectuals and activists have condemned the continuing expressions of racism, discrimination and prejudice against those of African descent, although many people and institutions are reluctant to discuss the problem, in a country where the Government claims that it eliminated racial segregation more than 50 years ago.
On 27 March an article published in the print edition of the weekly Tribuna de La Habana, an official Communist Party publication, sparked controversy in the capital.
The article "¡Pero Negro, ¿tú eres sueco?!" [Hey, black guy, are you Swedish?] was criticized for its use of racist language to assess the visit to Cuba by US President Barack Obama and his family.
Also causing concern have been job postings on websites specifying that candidates must be white to apply for certain positions.