Tomás Fernández Robaina: Leading authority on Afro-Cuban experience

tomas-fernandez-robainaOne of Cuba’s leading authorities on the Afro-Cuban experience will speak in the Twin Cities this coming Friday and Saturday.

Tomás Fernández Robaina, author of many books and articles on the history of the African presence in Cuba, will make two presentations, one at the University of Minnesota on Friday, Nov. 13 and the other at Sabathani Community Center, 310 E. 38th St., Minneapolis, the following day, Nov. 14. The theme of both talks is, “The Complexity of the Struggle of African Descendants in Cuba Today.”

For the Saturday presentation at Sabathani, Robaina will be joined by Al McFarlane, founder of Insight News, and host of “Conversations with Al McFarlane.” An Afro-Cuban descendant himself, McFarlane is well-acquainted with issues of race in Cuba as well as in the United States. August Nimtz, University of Minnesota professor of political science and African-American and African studies and co-editor of “Race in Cuba: Essays on the Revolution and Racial Equality” will moderate and participate in that discussion.

The purpose is to have a discussion about the role of race in Cuba and the United States, how the two realities are similar and different.

Robaina, a researcher at the National Library in Havana and a professor at the University of Havana, has been a key figure in the ongoing discussions in Cuba for more than two decades on the race question of Backs and “mulattos” in particular.

While all of Cuba experienced a downsizing of economic opportunities, those of African origin were especially hard hit. Though the topic had once been actively debated in the early years of the Cuban Revolution, which commenced in 1959, by the end of 1962 it ceased to receive much attention, according to Robaina.

Robaina is a member of Cuba’s National Union of Artists and Writers and author of “Blacks in Cuba, 1902-1958: Notes on the History of the Struggle Against Racial Discrimination,”

With President Obama’s initiative last December to reestablish diplomatic relations with Cuba and the putting in place of a process to normalize relations between both countries, there has been an ongoing discussion in Cuba about what would normalized relations means for its population. Robaina said that has especially been the case for Cubans of African descent since the goal of Obama’s initiative is to return capitalism to the island.

The event at Sabathani, which will also include a short documentary on the race question in Cuba, will begin at 1 p.m. For more information on the talks visit

November 10, 2015
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