Controversial Monuments – Thoughts from Revolutionary Cuba

A silhouetted Jose Marti guides the way in Havana, Cuba [Photo by Author]

The debate on removing monuments which laud colonialism, white supremacy and which celebrate slave owners, racists and promote a one-sided view of history has recently seen an upsurge in the Caribbean.

The scenario in the English speaking countries reflects problems in manifesting the democratic will of the people. As in all aspects of life the decision making is in the hands of political parties in Parliament, which often becomes an impediment to advance.

In Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago recently petitions, mass action and other initiatives called for the removal of monuments to Nelson and Columbus respectively. In both countries, whilst accepting petitions and giving tacit approval to the wishes of the people, each Parliament has kicked the issue into the long grass.

Similar debates are taking place in revolutionary Cuba. Several articles published on-line have criticized the presence of the monument to José Miguel Gómez in Vedado, a suburb of capital city, Havana, and in the province of Santa Clara. Contention focuses on the early 19th century President’s role in a deadly political dispute in which many AfroCubans perished.

We present for reader’s interest and further investigation links to articles published in blogs and websites from Cuba.

Monuments to Racism in Cuba

https://comunistascuba.blogspot.com/2020/06/monumentos-al-racismo-en-cuba.html

The article Monuments to Racism in Cuba authored by Frank García Hernández and published in the blog comunistas appears to be the catalyst for the current debate. It’s controversial opening sentence suggests why. ‘While in the United States, Europe and Latin America, anti-racist demonstrations demolish statues of slavers and Christopher Columbus, in Havana and in Santa Clara, two monuments to Cuban President José Miguel Gómez – who in 1912 massacred more than a thousand Afro-descendants – survive.’

Journalist Alejandro Gavilanes writing in medium.com responds to the controversy and addresses many of the assertions presented in Monuments to Racism.

See https://medium.com/@alejandrogavilanes/a-prop%C3%B3sito-de-monumentos-al-racismo-en-cuba-1fe0b97df2a3

In the article To knock down a statue is as historic as building it – Part One academics Julio César Guanche and Maikel Pons Giralt explore the historical background which informs the article Monuments to Racism.

See https://comunistascuba.blogspot.com/2020/06/tumbar-una-estatua-es-tan-historico.html?fbclid=IwAR0cGuEoK4DRnRelESk-6eVYcEr9nuoX6qAEyoFcA1P_eyN5VLNen-dz9rw

In the article To knock down a statue is as historic as building it (Part Two) academics Julio César Guanche and Maikel Pons Giralt offer further commentary on Cuban political history and address the main issues, protagonists and political factors in an investigation of the approach to racism on the island after 1959.

See https://comunistascuba.blogspot.com/2020/06/tumbar-una-estatua-es-tan-historico_30.html

Alina Bárbara López Hernández analysis published in Cuban blog jovenacuba.com presents a wide ranging survey of the issues ventilated in Monuments to Racism.

See https://jovencuba.com/2020/06/29/racismo-retos/

See also the audiovisual Calle G – Tumbleno [Tear it Down] from 2011.

Audiovisual Calle G – Tumbleno [Tear it Down] from 2011.

[Photo – Monument Jose Marti, Plaza de la Revolucion – Havana, Cuba – By Writer]

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