Cuba Now Has Two Black, Female Vice Presidents
Cuba's new government is more inclusive than ever, but will it lead to a real change in race relations in the country?
The Cuban government has undergone a major shift in leadership.
With the appointment of Miguel Mario Díaz-Canel Bermudez as president, this will be the first time in 60 years, that Cuba will not be under the leadership of a member of the Castro family. Along with this major change comes the appointment of more women and Afro-Cubans into governmental positions than ever before, reports the New York Times.
Most notably, three Afro-Cubans women have been appointed vice presidents, Salvador Valdes Mesa as first vice president as well as two women Inés María Chapman and Beatriz Jhonson, who are both engineers from Eastern Cuba. There are a total of three women in the new council.
Though the appointment of women and Afro Cuban people into positions of power is a major milestone for the country, many remain skeptical that this move will quell racial and economic disparities in the country, as many still hold onto beliefs put in place by Castro of Cuba as a post-racial society. Some argue that though these officials are more than qualified, their appointments may be partially for show.
A big day for Cuba overall, but congratulations to Ines Maria Chapman and Beatriz Johnson Urrutia, two black women… https://t.co/u4FsZ5W7ca— Ben Munise ☭LulaLivre (@Ben Munise ☭LulaLivre)1524177787.0
Nonetheless, many view the changes as real progress.
"Yes, it has great significance," Ramón Colas, a black anti-Castro activist living in political asylum in Mississippi told the New York TImes. "The Cuban revolution has historically been white, and seen from the outside as a revolution by white men, where black people were part of the crowd, spectators who were silent or applauded, but never participated."
He says it's up to the black officials to make a conscious decision to speak out against racial inequality, though they will likely face pushback.
"Wouldn't it be great if they used those positions to say, 'As a black Cuban, I am against injustice against black people in Cuba?' " he said. "I doubt that they can do that. They are not allowed. Fidel declared that racism is a problem that ended."
Alejandro de la Fuente, a Harvard University Cuba Atudies professor, told the New York Times that, statistically, the country has seen progress when it comes to closing the gap in life expectancy between blacks and whites and in closing the educational gap as well, though there is still work to be done.
"Even if this was window-dressing, it would mean they feel the need to dress the window in a certain color," he said. "And that is something one would not have said 30 years ago."
Earlier this month, Epsy Campbell Barr became vice president of Costa Rica, making her the first black, female vice president in Latin American history.