International Year for People of African Descent in Cuban culture
CUBA welcomed the International Year for People of African Descent, declared by the United Nations, with an intense program throughout 2011.
According to UN Resolution 64/169, the year was a n opportunity for governments to strengthen national measures and regional and international cooperation to the benefit of persons of African descent.
Such actions, the documents states, should be related to the full enjoyment of economic, cultural, social, civil and political rights.
Interconnected events in Cuba prompted reflections on the global invisibility suffered for centuries by people of African descent.
Sponsored by UNESCO, Havana hosted a workshop on the Immaterial Culture of People of African Descent with the participation of researchers from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Paraguay and Uruguay.
Herman Van Hoof, director of UNESCO’s Regional Culture Office for Latin America and the Caribbean, emphasized education as the basis for eliminating racial and cultural discrimination, beginning with the characteristic diversity found from south of the Rio Bravo to Patagonia.
Referring to Cuba, Van Hoof stated that although the issue is a complex one, the country has undertaken countless activities around it, one graphic example being the Cuba 2011 Book Fair, which included a roundtable organized by UNESCO, UNICEF and the UN Population Fund.
One special initiative during the year was the 1st Encounter of Filmmakers from Africa, the Caribbean and their Diasporas, which promoted dialogue between 60 producers and academics from 27 countries.
The signatories of the meeting’s 20-point Final Declaration stated their determination to offer their creativity to the peoples.
The theme was also reflected in the photographic exhibition African Descendants, Guanabacoa-Cuba, by film director Robert Chile, shown in Old Havana’s Fototeca after touring other countries such as Spain, Argentina and the United States.
Another event in Cuba in the context of the International Year for People of African Descent was the theoretical workshop Cuba, Slavery and Society in Havana, with representatives from Mexico, the United Kingdom, the United States and Puerto Rico.
The social aspect and literary treatment of the universally repudiated phenomenon of slavery included a specialists’ debate organized by the Historic and Social Literature Section of the Cuban Union of Writers and Artists (UNEAC). From the initial session participants attempted to present a comprehensive view of the issue, considered a crime against humanity, which has left its mark on Cuban history, as Jorge Renato Ibarra. Coordinator of the event, stated.
Among many other examples, the 27th Film and Video Festival Plaza 2011 dedicated three days of its program, October 20-23, to the International Year for People of African Descent.
The colloquium Our Unavoidable Voice: Black contributions to Cuban Culture, organized by the Nicolás Guillén Foundation and the Cuban Union of Writers and Artists (UNEAC), took place last October. Convening it, writer Tomás Fernández proposed that the history of Africa and of Black culture in Cuba be included in school study programs, starting in elementary education.
Also outstanding in its activities was the UNEAC José Antonio Aponte Commission against Racial Discrimination.
Referring to the theme during the 8th Ordinary Session of the Cuban Parliament, Mariela Castro, director of the National Sexual Education Center, recalled that racism, like all forms of discrimination, has a socioeconomic origin with relations of domination imposed by power groups in class societies.
The Cuban Slave Route Committee affirmed that it is to give continuity to the UNESCO project based around the need to break the silence surrounding the treatment of slaves and slavery in different parts of the world.
Speaking about the results and perspectives of the committee’s work, Cuban researcher Jesús Guanche highlighted national and international scientific events related to the subject during the 14th Social Anthropology and African-American Workshop.
The Ortiz-Lachatañeré Colloquium, the Festival of Fire, the Caribbean Which Unites Us and the Wemilere Festival of African Roots at the Guanabacoa History Museum were all outstanding, the Cuban Slave Route Committee coordinator confirmed.
Cuba was also represented at international events on the theme, such as the High Level Ibero-American Encounter in San Salvador de Bahía, Brazil.
At this event, Cuban Culture Minister Abel Prieto emphasized the need to raise popular awareness of racism and all forms of discrimination to avoid positions of force, fascism and racial hatred being imposed on immigrants.