January 30, 2006

Racism, 1850s Style

Last month I came across some disturbing passages that revealed the racist ideology of the 1850s. The passages came from the book by Alexander Humboldt, The Island of Cuba. More precisely, they came from the Preliminary Essay by J.S. Thrasher that appears at the beginning of the book, which was reprinted in 1969 by Negro University Press. Thrasher originally translated the book, leaving out a chapter opposing slavery, and adding his own pro-slavery slant. What’s particularly disturbing is not the openness of the racism expressed, but realizing that we’ve put much more effort into hiding our racism than into changing it, or working through it.

Thrasher asserts that the slaves benefited from slavery as much as the master. Here we see the point of view of the Spanish Empire and the slave-holding U.S. South. We see that in Cuba, the local Indians were not wiped out, they simply “ceased to exist,” and that slavery was portrayed as a “social necessity,” with “moral” and “material” benefits to the slave. (I can’t help think of the current rhetoric for isolationism and violence.)

Today’s racism is much more polished and hidden, covered up by words like “democracy” and “freedom” and “human rights,” and hard-wired into the way things work. It essentially adds up to the same thing.



Blogger Editorial Prada said...

Mr. Sierra,

First, I’d like to congratulate you for your website, which has a very high quality, especially with respect to the pictures. However, I think you’ve failed to achieve your objective of avoiding the pro- and cons-, for the site has a definite pro-Castro tone. Let me give you an example: you state that the Constitution of 1940 was re-established by Castro’s government in 1959 while the executions, including the execution of a man for selling drugs, were taking place. Failing to mention the fact that the Constitution of 1940 prohibited the death penalty is not only missing a fact but not giving the proper message about what was going on in 1959. On the other hand, we can deduct from your exposition very clearly that Batista was a corrupt government that committed many atrocities.

In addition, the Sosa Blanco’s trial, an authentic “Circus” –as the defendant called it during the trial-, seems to occupy a very prominent place in your account of the facts of 1959. You fail to mention, however, this other trial:

“El antijurídico juicio a 43 aviadores de la Fuerza Aérea. El 13 de febrero habían sido presentado a juicio en Santiago de Cuba, estos 43 miembros de la aviación militar, bajo los cargos de haber bombardeado a los rebeldes. El tribunal estaba presidido por el Comandante de la Revolución Félix Pena, y otros revolucionarios, los cuales absolvieron a todos los encartados, y firmaban la absolución: Feliz Pena, Antonio Michel Yabor, Adalberto Paruas Toll, y Nicolás Bello.
Al enterarse Fidel Castro fue a la televisión, y expresó que había que hacerle otro juicio. En este otro juicio del 5 de marzo, Fidel designó de presidente del tribunal al conocido comandante de la revolución Manuel "Barbaroja" Piñeiro, y de fiscal a su Ministro de Defensa comandante Augusto Martínez Sánchez, los cuales condenaron a los aviadores. Tiempo después aparecía "suicidado", el Comandante Félix Pena, el presidente del tribunal que absolvió a los aviadores en el primer juicio.”
Tomado de: http://www.aguadadepasajeros.bravepages.com/cubahistoria/historia_de_cuba_2.htm
Olaf Dominguez

11:12 PM, February 03, 2006  
Blogger Jerry A. Sierra said...

I’m sorry you feel the site has a “pro-Castro tone.” This is not my intention. The lack of mentioning that the Constitution of 1940 prohibits death penalty is significant, if it is true, and if it applies to the executions. I will look into it, but you make it seem as if I keep information out of the site for political reasons, and that is not so.

This is the complete “Sosa Blanco” entry you refer to , which features a total of 70 words:
January 23. At a public military tribunal held at the sports stadium in Havana, Major Jesus Sosa Blanco (of Batista's Army) is sentenced to death before an exited crowd of 18,000 spectators and 300 reporters. Serving as judges for the military tribunal are Dr. Humberto Sori Marin, Major Raul Chibas, and Major Universo Sanchez.
At night, a group of about 100 women dressed in black protest the executions of "counter-revolutionists."

As for the trial that you say I “fail” to mention, I assure you it is not because I’m trying to hide it, but because I did not know about it. One of the requirements that I insist on is verification. Most of the horrific executions after 1959 that are covered on the site wre reported in newspapers and are verifiable.

The site from which your information comes from does not seem to identify itself anywhere, nor do they say where their information came from. One of the linked pages compares Castro to Hitler.

Another factor for items not appearing in the timetables is that the web site is constantly growing and evolving. My goal is to maintain a commitment to the truth, which may clash with the methods and ideals of extremists (at both ends).

My own feelings are expressed on the blog, not on the site. I do not support the big-bully approach to relations with Cuba, and it’s a fact that this approach has made Castro stronger and more popular in Cuba, Latin and South America and third-world countries. I think the anti-Castro movement is largely responsible for that.

The important thing is for Cuban-Americans to learn about Cuban history, and there’s over 500 years of Cuban history at historyofcuba.com. Cuba is much more than Castro, and always much more than any one man.

11:01 AM, February 09, 2006  
Blogger Editorial Prada said...

Here are three New York Times references to the aviator's trial:

“43 fliers acquitted by tribunal in Cuba” NYT March 3, 1959 pg 8

“Retrial of airmen troubling Cubans” NYT March 6, 1959 pg. 5

“The justice of Cuba” NYT March 7, 1959 pg. 20

All Cubans Constitutions can be accessed in the following website:
Although www.exilio.com it’s an extremely anti-Castro website, and therefore very biased, I find it very helpful, for one can access not only the Constitutions, but also Jose Marti’s complete works.


9:30 AM, February 13, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was just looking at the bibliography in your site and didn't see "Cuba: Order and Revolution" by Jorge I. Dominguez. I bought it at Amazon.com the other day. Very insightful, from one of the leading Cuban social scientists from this side of the Strait.

Another piece of Cuban history information I found recently is "Cuba in the Middle East: A Brief Chronology", which can be accessed at http://www.state.gov/p/wha/ci/14745.htm Besides the chronology of Cuba's participation in Middle East's affairs, it provides a good bibliography on this issue.


10:27 PM, February 13, 2006  
Blogger Jerry A. Sierra said...

Thanks for the heads-up on the book by Mr. Dominquez. I found “Cuba: Order and Revolution as a Reference only title at the library, as well as “Insurrection or Loyalty: the Breakdown of the Spanish American Empire.”
I was able to request another title by Mr. Dominquez, “Cuba: Internal and International Affairs.”

3:34 PM, February 21, 2006  
Anonymous viagra online said...

it's impacted the quantity of racists persons that had in that epoch, fortunately this have changed.

12:46 PM, July 16, 2010  

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