JASON JOHNSON - So, I want to start with this. We`ve had conversations in pop culture in America over the last couple of years about the erasure of Afro Latino faces and voices. I want you to sort of tell our audiences, what are we not hearing about the faces of the people initiating these protests in Cuba right now? Who is really behind this, and what are they really asking for?
AMALIA DACHE, AFRO-CUBAN AMERICAN SCHOLAR: Yes, we`re not talking about is the Afro-Cuban -- the Afro-Cuban movements, or Afro-Cuban leaders that are leading the movements to free Cuba, Dennis Solis, and Luis Manuel Arturo Alcantara, Michael Sorvo these are leaders of the San Isidro Movement that started in 2018. So, we`re not hearing that, these uprisings.
The catalysts were Afro-Cubans and artists across the island that wanted to express their lack of freedom of expression, the repression of the state of their freedoms in Cuba, and so we`re not hearing from the voice of Afro- Cubans on this issue. We`re not talking to Afro-Cubans on this issue when it comes to issues of race and racism under the dictatorship, and we`re focusing on things like the external embargo, instead of focusing on things like the internal embargo, or what we call the internal blockade of food and medicine like COVID vaccines because Cuba is not allowing COVID vaccines to come in through the COVAX program that UNICEF offers for free. They`re blocking medicine and food.
JOHNSON: In the United States, I think all too often the discussion of Cuba is always sort of, it`s pretty much just in the hands of white Cubans. We hear from Marco Rubio, we hear from Ted Cruz.
Who are some activists and organizers perhaps in Florida who have been talking about the issues in Cuba for years that have been either marginalized or we haven`t heard their voices so much that may have initiated or enlightened us as to where this protest was going to come from.
DACHE: Well, in Cuba, not necessarily in the United States, afro-Cubans arguing about issues of race. For example, there are activists in Cuba who are speaking out about this issue. Again, the San Isidro movements, the Patria Y Vida movement. Patria Y Vida is the reggaeton artists that are in the United States and in Cuba, pushing the issue of repression and this is what they are rapping about. This is what the hip hop lyrics are about.
Patria Y Vida is homeland or life. It`s basically saying we want an end to communism, we want an end to the dictatorship. This is coming from reggaeton artist Gene de Zona and others from the island that I mentioned. So, that`s what we`re not associating the uprising to, these leaders, these leaders that in Cuba are risking their lives.
And just like we know in the United States, black leaders and black voices and especially black women`s voices in the civil rights movement, for example, and in the organizing that was taking place in 2014, 2015, they`re erased. We don`t have intersectional perspectives.
And what I call to the American people to do is have an intersectional perspective on Cuba, and place Afro-Cubans at the center of this debate.
JOHNSON: So, your family -- you are from Cuba. Your family came over on the boat lifts in the 1980s. One of the things that I think is interesting is that the way Cuba is discussed in the United States is usually -- it`s sort of a rallying cry for the far right or far left. On the far right, oh, it`s terrible, they`re evil, communists. And on the left, oh, Cuba is this amazing place where there`s free health care and racism doesn`t exist.
Tell us about what the real Cuba is right now for your average person when it`s not being used as a football for lack of a better word between the hard right and hard left in America.
DACHE: Well, just really, this is a quick history point that will address this issue. In Cuba in 1961 when this new regime came in, they said they eradicated racism, and you know what they did, they got rid of 200 black organizations across the island, so they outlawed black organizations, they outlawed associating or organization across racial lines because they said they eradicated racism. So, can you imagine the United States after the civil right movement, we got rid of all black organizations, we got rid of the black church because in Cuba you weren`t allowed to organize across religious lines either.
So, these are the issues we`re missing. These are the conversations we`re missing that Cuba, the rhetoric of Cuba being a black power aligned country is part of an old discourse, an old discourse that belongs in the 1960s, not in 2021. Because guess what? In Cuba, black history can`t be taught in schools.
So, the debates we are having in CRT in the United States, guess what? We can`t teach CRT in Cuba. It`s against the government.
JOHNSON: I`m pretty sure that Marco Rubio is screaming about critical race theory would be ashamed to find out that he`s actually aligning himself with the dictatorship in Cuba.
JOHNSON: One of the last things I want to point out here is just very quickly, Black Lives Matter has asked for the embargo against Cuba to be stopped. There are many organizations in the United States that say we are part of the problem.
Is this really -- is the United States responsible for this uprising? Is this really some outside thing, quickly, or is this really an indigenous movement.
DACHE: Let me say two things, Jason, one, the United States is the number one exporter of meat to Cuba, all right? They spend $100 million in buying chicken.
Another thing, Black Lives Matter could not exist in Cuba. They`re outlawed.
JOHNSON: So, yes, clearly a difference.
Thank you so much, Amalia Dache.
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