Afro-Cubans (Afro-Cubanos) are Cubans who are mostly of Sub-Saharan African ancestry. The term Afro-Cubans includes the historical or cultural elements in Cuba thought to emanate from this community as well as the combining of African and other cultural elements found in Cuban society such as race, religion, music, language, the arts, and class culture.

Beautiful and Music-loving Afro-Cubans. Courtesy

Unlike other Latin American countries where African descendants can be found in particular region with the state, Afro-Cubans on the other hand can be found in every corner of Cuba. However, Eastern Cuba has a higher concentration of blacks than other parts of the island, and Havana has the largest population of blacks of any city in Cuba. Recently, many African immigrants have been coming to Cuba, especially from Angola. Also, immigrants from Jamaica and Haiti have been settling in Cuba, most of whom settle in the eastern part of the island, due to its proximity to their home country, further contributing to the already high percentage of blacks on that side of the island.

Afro-Cuban dancers perfom in Havana during the Wemilere festival, a traditional event recognizing African roots. AFP/Getty Images

It must be emphasized that until the last decades of the 18th Century, Cuba was a relatively underdeveloped island with an economy based mainly on cattle raising and tobacco farms. The intensive cultivation of sugar that began at the turn of the nineteenth century transformed Cuba into a plantation society, and the demand for African slaves, who had been introduced into Cuba from Spain at the beginning of the 16th century, increased dramatically. Afro-Cubans are descendants of  diverse African ethnic groups shipped to Cuba to cultivate the sugarcane plantation thereby enriching the European capitalists.
The enslaved Africans were from ports of Elmina, Pepper Coast, Dahomey, bight of Biafra, and Central and East African ports. The ethnic groups that formed the core parts of the enslaved Africans were particularly Yoruba (or Lucumi), Igbo and Kongo (Bantu people), but also Arará (Ewe, Fon, Aja, Mina), Carabalí (Efik, Ibibio, Ekoi, Annang), Mandingo, Fula (Fulani/Fulbe), Makua, Mina (Akans, and other Gold Coast slaves) and others.

The shipment of Africans into slavery in Cuba, especially transportation of slaves from the West African coast exploded, and it is estimated that almost 400,000 Africans were brought to Cuba during the years 1835-1864. (That's roughly 1150 per month for 29 years!) As early as 1532, the blacks formed 62.5 percent of the population. In 1841, African slaves made up over 40% of the total population.

Beautiful Afro-Cuban wome in their traditional dress

Apart from enslaved Africans that came directly from the continent of Africa, there was a large number of Haitians and Jamaicans that were imported to Cuba. "Toward the end of 1912, Gómez authorized the United Fruit Company to bring in 1,400 Haitians. Under Menocal, from 1913-21, 81,000 Haitians and 75,000 Jamaicans were admitted." In addition it is estimated that from 1913 to 1927 40,000 negroes a year were smuggled in. Since then and owing to the prolonged economic crisis, few have been brought in even illegally. The companies which have brought in black people during the period of the Republic, were supposed to send them back at the end of their yearly contract, but this was evaded. As El Pais wrote: "The Haitian immigration comes for the zafra, but soon is diverted toward the towns and never goes back to the plantations of his own country, the result being that the following year it is necessary to introduce another contingent."
The late flourishing of the Cuban sugar industry and the persistence of the slave trade into the 1860s are two important reasons for the remarkable density and variety of African cultural elements in Cuba. Fernando Ortiz Counted the presence of over one hundred different African ethnic groups in 19th century Cuba, and estimated that by the end of that century fourteen distinct "nations" had preserved their identity in the mutual aid associations and social clubs known as cabildos, societies of free and enslaved blacks from the same African "nation," which later included their Cuban-born descendants.

Afro-Cuban woman with her cigar

The population estimates of Afro-Cubans in Cuba is a very controversial issue culminating in number of figures aimed at lowering the number of Afro-Cubans so as to ensure the Cuban state`s continuous subjugation and discrimination of the blacks. Recent (2002) population census estimates range from 11.06 million to 11.17 million. At least 50% of the population is classified as mulatto (mixed African and European descent), although the cultural privilege assigned to whiteness probably causes many mulattos to minimize their African heritage. 37% percent of the population claims to be exclusively white, and 11% is classified as "negro." The remaining 1% is Chinese, the result of the importation of 132,000 Chinese indentured laborers between 1853 and 1872 to replace the loss of labor caused by the impending end of African slavery.
The Cuban government`s 2002 official dubious census release was:
 Ethnicity               Percentage                        Estimates
 Whites:                     65%                             7.271.926 
 Blacks:                     10%                             1.126.894
 Mulattos:                   24,9%                          2.778.923.
Total Cuban population:                                  11.177.743
This 2002 outrageous census figure incurred serious aroused wide criticisms against the Cuban government. The Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami, an influential and well-respected Think-Tank condemned the result claiming wrong parameters and variables was used in gathering data. The published Census figures provided no way at all to compare blacks and whites in categories like salary or educational levels. The organization concluded that if right statistical data or an approach were to be used it will emerged that 68% of Cubans "are black." Ramón Colás, who left Cuba in 2001 and now runs an Afro-Cuba race-relations project in Mississippi, said he once carried out his own telling survey: Five out of every 100 private vehicles he counted in Havana were driven by a Cuban of color. The disparity between the census' 11% and UM's 62% also reflects the complicated racial categories in a country where if you look white you are considered white, no matter the genes.
The Minority Rights Group International says that "An objective assessment of the situation of Afro-Cubans remains problematic due to scant records and a paucity of systematic studies both pre- and post-revolution. Estimates of the percentage of people of African descent in the Cuban population vary enormously, ranging from 33.9 per cent to 62 per cent". It uses the number for 51% for mulattoes.

Actress Gina Torres of Suit TV series is Afro-Cuban descent

Race relations in Cuba were/is a strange mix. The Spanish brutally crushed slave revolts and executed noted free blacks for helping insurrections. When Cubans began a revolt against Spain in 1868, free blacks and slaves strongly supported the revolt. Spain anti-revolutionary strategy was often contradictory but effective: they granted freedom to slaves who remained Loyalists and scared white Cubans that black revolutionary generals like General Antonio Maceo was plotting to drive all whites out of Cuba. It is quite strange that after the blacks in Cuba had helped in Cuban revolutions including the one they supported Fidel Castro they are still treated with disdain. 
Cuban state must respect and acknowledge the rights of Afro-Cubans. As the Afro-Cuban sage Fernando Ortiz once said: “Without the blacks, there is no Cuba.”
Afro-Cubans are the only Afro-Latin American descendants  who repatriated back to Africa and have integrated successfully. Countries such as Nigeria, the home of the Yoruba and Igbo cultures, and Equatorial Guinea experienced an influx of ex-slaves from Cuba brought there as indentured servants during the 17th century, and again during the 19th century. In Equatorial Guinea, they became part of the Emancipados; in Nigeria, they were called Amaros. Despite being free to return to Cuba when their tenure was over, they remained in these countries marrying into the local indigenous population. The former slaves were brought to Africa by the Royal Orders of September 13, 1845 (by way of voluntary arrangement) and a June 20, 1861 deportation from Cuba, due to the lack of volunteers. Similar circumstances previously occurred during the 17th century where ex-slaves from both Cuba and Brazil were offered the same opportunity.
Angola also has communities of Afro-Cubans, Amparos. They are descendants of Afro-Cuban soldiers brought to the country in 1975 as a result of the Cuban involvement in the Cold War. Fidel Castro deployed thousands of troops to the country during the Angolan Civil War. As a result of this era, there exists a small Spanish-speaking community in Angola of Afro-Cubans numbering about 100,000.
                          Afro-Cuban dancers

Essential to any understanding any nation and its culture, language is intricately involved with Cuban history and identity. Because of its colonial past, Spanish is the principal and official language of the island and that is what Afro-Cubans also speak, but that does not mean that it was the only language spoken. Enslaved Africans brought to the island spoke languages that are still used in Cuba today, although in religious or ritual contexts, not as vernacular languages. 
Two of the African vernacular languages are Abakuá and Lucumí. Before Akua and Lucumi Afro-Cubans used to speak Bozal. Bozal now forms the basis of spiritual languages of Lucumi and Abakua.
Abakuá is not a conversational language perse but an esoteric language used exclusively for ceremonial purposes that contains a mixture of various initiation dialects (called argots by some scholars) of the Cross River region (Nigeria), specifically derived from Ékpè practice. Abakuá was modeled upon the Ékpè leopard societies of the Calabar region, illustrated by the thousands of ritual Abakuá phrases based upon Ékpè codes, as documented by the Cuban folklorist Lydia Cabrera
(1899–1991). Th e influence of Spanish is minimal, found primarily in the plural endings of words.
Abakua emanated from a variety of distinct ethnic groups of the Cross River region of southeastern Nigeria and western Cameroon (Efik, Ekoi {Ejagham}, Igbo, Ibibio, Annang etc)who were taken as slaves to the Caribbean region from the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries. Because the port from which many departed was called Old Calabar, many of them became known as Calabarí in Latin Americas. So the Calabaris are the originators of Abakua ritual language in Cuba. 
Most of the Abakua ritual words are of Efik-Ibibio lingua franca. For example, Ekório Enyéne Abakuá, the name of the society in Cuba, is interpreted as “a group founded by a sacred mother that is called Abakuá.” This phrase is understood by speakers of Qua-Éjághám in Calabar as Ekoea Nyen Àbàkpà (the forest is the mother of the Àbàkpà community), a meaning appreciated by Abakuá leaders. The Abakuá word íreme (spirit dancer) derives from the Èfìk ídèm; Ékue (sacred drum) derives from the Èfìk ékpè (leopard), "Ese son ereniyo de mue" means "Those are the eyes of the woman."
The Abakuá language has influenced Cuban popular speech, as in the word chébere (chévere), which is used popularly to mean “valiant, wonderful, excellent” after Ma’ chébere, a title of the Abakuá dignitary Mokóngo. The Abakuá terms ekóbio and monína (both meaning “ritual brother”) are used as standard greetings among urban Cuban males. Asére (greetings) derives from the Èfìk "esiere" (good evening). Abakuá-inspired street lingo has been recorded in popular music, as in the song “Los Sitio’ Asere” (Salutation to Los Sitios), which refers to a Havana barrio that is home to several Abakuá groups. (Click here:
Yoruba ceremonial language forms part of each and every aspect of Lucumi, embracing people's
behavior, music, and beliefs. Afro-Cuban Lucumi speakers say "gbe le yo" which means bring joy with you. Nothing concretizes the far-reaching effects of Yoruba ceremonial
language better than rituals because as Clifford Geertz states:
"In a ritual, the world as lived and the world as imagined, fused under the agency of a single
set of symbolic forms, turn out to be the same world, producing thus that idiosyncratic
transformation in one's sense of reality' (Geertz 1973).
Cubans express this fusion of real and imagined life in Yoruba rituals that include ceremonial
language. What follows is a brief presentation of some aspects of ceremonial language in rituals,
specifically the use of Yoruba words, concepts, and music.
One function of Yoruba ritual is to gain the favor of deities, ancestors, spirits, or humans. As a broad concept of performance, the Yoruba concept of ritual subsumes annual festivals (odun), weekly rites (ose), funerals is (inku), divinations (idafa) and initiations and installations of all kinds-known by various Yoruba names according to the particular context (Thompson-Drewal 1992, 19). Many of these words are still used in Afro-Cuban religious practice today although their meaning are often changed. For example, odun now means "the sent one," or "messengers from Orula"; ose is synonymous with "grace." It may also refer to Shango's "axe." It is contended that this word has a number of meanings owing possible to the variety of dialects found in the Yoruba language.
Afro-Cuban Practitioners of Santería, an Afro-Latin religion

Practitioners, have in the chant, a tool that allows them to call for certain actions and reactions from the divine world. These chants, however, also reveal some historical circumstances of Cuban practitioners like the fact that many do not understand Yoruba word-by-word semantics. For example, the following chant has ceremonial meaning for most Cubans but now carries different semantic interpretations.
Eleggua Maddo
Queye Queye ye mmm :II ( repeat)
Queye Queye ye mmm maddo
Ago o/o origa
A Luyá (Chango)
E yamá seró mi changó
E yamá seró mi changó
Bobo araye onicuelé
E ayé
E ayó obalupe obalupe
E ayó obalupe obalupe
This Yoruba chant presents some complications in a number of areas including interpretation, and
meaning as has been cited by others (Velez 2000). For example, much of the extant literature
transcribes Yoruba words phonetically according to Spanish orthographic rules. An oft cited example provides that since there is no “sh” in Spanish, the Yoruba “sh” becomes “ch” in Spanish. Similar complications might also be found in English phonetical renderings of Yoruba. Generally, the meaning of the Yoruba words is lost to most performers. But some have attempted to acquire proficiency in Yoruba. Milian Gali, the foremost olubata in Santiago de Cuba is a case in point. 
In a recent discussion with the authors he indicated that "there are some words that remained the same but others had varied. I learned it orally. For instance, I know personal pronouns: emí, etié, tiguá, aguá (we), tiguó (they), and the main verbs: ñaú (to eat), tubure (to sleep), chiché (to work), ulú (to play the drum), corín (to sign(Gali 2000)."

Cuba holds a special place in Caribbean history, since slavery existed there almost until 1900. In view of this, the first important fact to be borne in mind is the volume and continuity of the slave trade. Christopher Columbus "discovers" Cuba in 1492 and this brought Spanish conquistados to the Latin Americas. The Conquistados started raiding the land of the natives and robbed them of their natural resources. In fact, the Genovese capo's favorite Caribbean money-maker: threatened to chop off Indians' hands off if they don't bring him enough gold.
.Adechina Remigio Herrera(obara Meji)
The great Afro-Cuban Babalawo and the founder of the Cabildo of the Virgin of Regia. 

According to E. Bradford Bums in his seminal work: "Latin America: a Concise Interpretive
History (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1972), p. 20," the first African slaves reached the New World as early as 1502, and they were brought by the Spaniards. In 1508, Sebastián de Ocampo also sailed around Cuba, proving it was an island. This was against the general belief then that Cuba was part of North America.
In 1511 Spanish Conquistado Diego de Velázquez conquered Cuba, fought the Taíno, the Arawak Ciboney, and other nations, then founds several towns, including Havana. ( Historically, Pánfilo de Narváez was credited for establishing the city of Havana 1514, named after a local chief, San Cristóbal de Habana.) What was even gruesome for the Tainos was that when the Spanish arrived, about 2500 Taino welcomed them with a awesome feast but the Spanish conquistados took advantage of the Tainos cultural hospitality gesture in welcoming visitors to slaughter, disembowl, and hack the unprepared Tainos into pieces until their blood runs as in a river.  Hatuey, a Taíno chief who had come to Cuba from Hispaniola to warn his people of the Spaniards, was captured and burned at the stake.
Juan Gualberto Gómez Ferrer (July 12, 1854 – March 5, 1933), an Afro-Cuban revolutionary leader in the Cuban War of Independence against Spain. He was a "close collaborator of [José] Martí's," and alongside him helped plan the uprising and unite the island's black population behind the rebellion.

With the massive extermination and gradual disappearance of the Taino-Arawak labourers and natives from Cuba, the Spanish conquistados were left with no choice but to rely on importation of African slaves. As a result in 1513 Spanish Landowner Amador de Lares got permission to bring four African slaves from Hispaniola which most people erroneously vouch as the first record of slavery in Cuba. Between 1514 and 1523 couple of African slaves were brought in by the conquistados and were forced to work in the mines of Cuba as replacements for the rapidly disappearing enslaved indigenous Taino-Arawak labourers who were unable to endure substandard work conditions, Cuba's Taino and Ciboney Indians (numbering 50,000)were quickly decimated by disease and ill-treatment. 
The large-scale introduction of African slaves to Cuba dates back to 1524, when the Spanish Crown allowed Cuban colonials to import 300 Africans to work in gold mines. The african slaves were seriously maltreated and made to work like donkeys even when they were exhausted. The first recorded uprising of enslaved Africans in Cuba took place in 1533 at the Jobabo mines. There were frequent uprisings thereafter with the participants escaping into the mountains and linking with indigenous Taino groups to form independent African maroon settlements called Palenques. From these enclaves they mounted raids on Spanish settlements.
Mining activities came to an end with the discovery of large supplies of precious metals in nearby
Mexico and in South America, however Cuba remained important for other reasons.
Due to its location on the Windward Passage linking the North Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, Cuba became part of the most important trade route in the New World. Gold, silver and emeralds from Spanish mining centres in Bolivia, Peru; and Mexico was transshipped to Havana, Cuba, for the final leg of the journey to Spain.
As the capital of Cuba, Havana became a major transshipment point, which reduced local interest in producing sugar in the surrounding countryside. There were therefore no plantations consequently the enslaved African population was used in Havana for very urban occupations These included loading and unloading the ships and working in associated urban activities such as construction (shipbuilders, carpenters, stonemasons,) as well as domestics, merchants, small shopkeepers, and even itinerant street vendors. This would later form the basis for the urban Afro-Cuba population. Havana also held a monopoly on local trade, having been decreed the only port that could ship goods to Spain. Havana's prosperity made it an attractive prize for pirates and rival colonial powers throughout the 16th and 17th centuries. But slave imports were limited.
Cuba's need for slaves rose precipitously in the last quarter of the eighteenth century, when a free market economy and increased demand from Spain stimulated sugarcane and coffee production.
Large numbers of Africans began arriving in Cuba in the late 1700s only after the British took the
prospering Havana from Spain during the ‘7 Years War' and occupied both the city and port from 1762-3. The British brought 10,000 Africans into Cuba in less than 10 months mostly to work in the sugar factories (ingenios) of the outlying areas. Cuba was transformed into a highly structured plantation society with all the attendant class and caste relationships with cruelty towards Africans being routine practice. The continuing increase in Cuban slavery in the 19th century provoked powerful resistance, which in turn fueled European reprisals. As a result uprisings continued across Cuba throughout the 1830s.
The slave trade with the West African coast exploded, and it is estimated that almost 400,000 Africans were brought to Cuba during the years 1835-1864. (That's roughly 1150 per month for 29 years!). Between 1810 and 1870 Cuba acquired about 600,000 slaves and although Britain prohibited the Transatlantic Slave Trade, Africans continued to be sold into slavery in Havana's markets until the last slave ship arrived in 1867.
Although the exact number of slaves from each African culture will never be known, most came from one of these groups, which are listed in rough order of their cultural impact in Cuba:
(a) The Congolese from the Congo basin and SW Africa. Many tribes were involved, all called Congos in Cuba. Their religion is called Palo. Probably the most numerous group, with a huge influence on Cuban music.
(b)The Oyó or Yoruba from modern Nigeria, known in Cuba as Lucumí. Their religion is known as Regla de Ocha (roughly, 'the way of the spirits') and its syncretic version known as Santería. Culturally of great significance.
(c)The Kalabars from part of Nigeria and Cameroon. These semi-Bantú groups (Igbo, Efik, Ekoi, Annag, Ibibio) are known in Cuba as Carabali, and their religious organization as Abakuá. The street name for them in Cuba was Ñáñigos.
(d) The Dahomey, from Benin. They were the Fon and Ewe, known as arará in Cuba. The Dahomeys were a powerful and terrible people who practised human sacrifice and slavery long before Europeans got involved, and even more so during the Atlantic slave trade.
(e) Haitian immigrants to Cuba arrived at various times up to the present day. Leaving aside the French, who also came, the Africans from Haiti were a mixture of groups who usually spoke creolized French: and religion was known as vodú.
(f)From part of modern Liberia and Côte d'Ivoire came the Gangá.
(g)Senegambian people (Senegal, the Gambia), but including many brought from Sudan by the Arab slavers, were known by a catch-all word: Mandinga. The famous musical phrase Kikiribu Mandinga! refers to them.
(h) Ghana also came Asante-Fanti people formerly known in South Americas as Mina and in Caribbeans as Cromantins.
Víctor Emilio Dreke Cruz (born 10 March 1937 in Sagua La Grande) is a Cuban Communist Party leader of notable African descent, and a former commander in the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces

Spanish colonialists continued to maltreat the African slaves. This led to a pockets of uprisings. However, the Spanish brutally crushed slave revolts and executed noted free blacks for helping insurrections. When Cubans began a revolt against Spain in 1868, free blacks and slaves strongly supported the revolt. Spain anti-revolutionary strategy was often contradictory but effective: they granted freedom to slaves who remained Loyalists and scared white Cubans that black revolutionary generals like General Antonio Maceo was plotting to drive all whites out of Cuba ... "
It must be noted that as early as 1532, the blacks formed 62.5 percent of the population. 
Afro-Cuban  and Cuban leader Antonio Maceo Grajales, is considered the “most popular leader of the nationalist movement.” Maceo was the son of a Venezuelan mulatto and an Afro-Cuban woman.  He joined the independence movement in 1868. During the thirty year period of the Cuban War, he ascended to the rank of general

In 1841, African slaves made up over 40% of the total population. Fernando Ortiz, Los negros esdovas, gives the following percentages (a few points off here and there) from official sources:
179243.6 (50.9 correct)
Toward the end of 1912, Gómez authorized the United Fruit Company to bring in 1,400 Haitians. Under Menocal, from 1913-21, 81,000 Haitians and 75,000 Jamaicans were admitted.
Thereafter, the legal entries were:
In addition it is estimated that from 1913 to 1927 40,000 negroes a year were smuggled in. Since then and owing to the prolonged economic crisis, few have been brought in even illegally.
The companies which have brought in black people during the period of the Republic, were supposed to send them back at the end of their yearly contract, but this was evaded. As El Pais wrote: "The Haitian immigration comes for the zafra, but soon is diverted toward the towns and never goes back to the plantations of his own country, the result being that the following year it is necessary to introduce another contingent."
The late flourishing of the Cuban sugar industry and the persistence of the slave trade into the 1860s are two important reasons for the remarkable density and variety of African cultural elements in Cuba. Fernando Ortiz Counted the presence of over one hundred different African ethnic groups in 19th century Cuba, and estimated that by the end of that century fourteen distinct "nations" had preserved their identity in the mutual aid associations and social clubs known as cabildos, societies of free and enslaved blacks from the same African "nation," which later included their Cuban-born descendants. Soon after Emancipation in 1886, cabildos were required to adopt the name of a Catholic patron saint, to register with local church authorities and when dissolved, to transfer their property to the Catholic Church.
Paradoxically, it was within the church sponsored cabildos that Afro-Cuban religions and identities coalesced. Even after they were officially disbanded at the end of the 19th century, many were kept up on an informal basis, and were known popularly by their old African names. Some survive to this day. The cabildos not only preserved specific African practices, their members also creatively reunited and resynthesized many regional African traditions, some, as in the case of the Yoruba, long separated by migration and war.
While the formally organized cabildos were a primarily urban phenomenon, individual and collective African practices also continued to flourish at the sugar estates, known as ingenios or centrales. These were more like small, self-contained industrial townships than "plantations." About 80% of the newly-arrived (Africans) known as bozales, were sent to them, and many centrales became centers of specific African "nations."
Forged in the cabildos and amidst the grueling labor at the sugar mills, four major Afro-Cuban divisions (Lucumí, Arará, Abakuá, Kongo) are represented in Cuba.
Cuba was also the last Caribbean territory to abolish slavery, in 1886. It is in this context that the
continued slave resistance is intricately interwoven into the struggle for Cuban independence and would later continued to inspire and contribute to the Cuban revolution. 
As in all the previous battles Afro-Cubans also played a prominent role in the War of Independence
(1895-8) led by Jose Marti, which finally ended Spanish colonial rule. White and black, without regard to pigmentation, suffered and struggled side by side during the independence wars. Black General Maceo and black General Moncada, who were both noblemen, had more than loyal white officers; and no man was more honored than the ex-slave Juan Gualberto Gomez, one of Cuba's finest patriots and most brilliant journalists. "The war began in Oriente" wrote Man de Ia Cruz, "because there the negro is loved, not feared." And the independence assemblage at Guaimaro voted immediate emancipation. The blacks struggled far more persistently for national independence than did the whites.
With national freedom, the whites, though grateful to the black, were in a superior economic and intellectual condition and controlled most of the wealth. The black people, recently lifted from slavery, less educated, was kept in subordinate position. Although the average white Creole hotly disclaims any such thing as color prejudices. A little conversation with the white Cuban soon reveals the real barrier that exists.
In 1849 the Cuban Economic Society used the phrase, "150 negroes produce 400 tons of sugar." And as Márquez Sterling adds nearly a century later, "The slave served as the machine. Machines later freed the slaves, but did not free the blacks; and this most miserable slavery which weighs down the spirit of the country, from which both blacks and whites suffer, spreads through the land, carpeted with sugar-cane, ignorance, superstition and poverty.
However while the constitution of 1901 guaranteed formal equality for all Cubans, those in control pursued a policy of blanqueamiento (whitening) whereby 400,000 new Spanish immigrants were invited to enter Cuba between 1902 and 1919, making it the most Spanish of Latin American countries.
Post revolution
By 1959 the Cuban revolution had outlawed all forms of formal discrimination and institutional racism. Its wide-reaching economic and social reforms clearly benefited the majority of Afro-Cubans who were the lowest on the social scale. Access to housing, education and health services improved dramatically, as did the representation of black people among a wider range of professions. Afro-Cuban women have been particular beneficiaries of the revolution's progressive social legislation, gaining much-improved employment opportunities.
Yet, however radical the assault on institutional racism, little was achieved in eliminating racial
discrimination. Attempts by intellectuals to raise the issue of racism in revolutionary Cuba were harshly dealt with in the 1960s, and the government insisted that it had eliminated racial discrimination.
Afro-Cuban lady

On various occasions, Fidel Castro explicitly condemned racism and affirmed his government's
commitment to equality. However, critics of official policy allege that educational policy and official
culture remained strongly Euro-centric. Afro-Cubans have not, for example, been widely represented in the higher echelons of the ruling Communist Party nor in the upper levels of the civil service or state industries. And, with few exceptions, Afro-Cuban women have not yet reached the highest professional strata.
While the Cuban state often marshals Afro-Cuban culture to represent ‘‘Cuba’’for instance, in the
performance of Afro-Cuban ‘‘folklore’’ shows for tourists-there is little explicit discourse in Cuba
about the current and future political status of Afro- Cubans as ‘‘Blacks.’’ Although a large proportion of Cuba’s population appears to be of African descent, or ‘‘with characteristics,’’ Whites predominate in positions of political power in Revolutionary Cuba (1959–present), much as they did in the Republican era (1902–58). 
Political assertions of ‘‘Black’’ ethnic identity have been seen, by successive Cuban governments,
as posing a challenge to national identity-which, in official conversations, is asserted to be the egalitarian blend of Spanish and African ‘‘blood’’ which was shed together during Cuba’s
nineteenth-century wars for independence. In this manner, Cuban nationalist ideology follows a Latin American pattern where Whites enjoy social, economic and political privileges, including overwhelming representation in mass media outlets, while racism remains masked by the state’s official championing of mestizaje (racial ‘‘mixture’’).
Ever in the background of the current Cuban government’s nervousness about political assertions
of ‘‘Blackness’’ is the memory of a violent event which occurred less than thirty years after Cuba’s
1886 abolition of slavery, and only ten years after the founding of the independent Republic of Cuba. In 1912, Cuba’s Republican government massacred some 3,000 Afro-Cuban supporters of the Partido Independiente de Color, a political party which championed the rights of Blacks. Race-based political organizations were banned, although social clubs with racially affiliated memberships were not suppressed until the early 1960s. Currently, when Cubans publicly discuss the nation’s Black population, this is usually with reference to ‘‘history’’ (slavery and Republican-era racism) or ‘‘culture’’ (Afro-Cuban religious and musical influences on Cuba’s popular customs) rather than addressing specific race-based policies. Given the paucity of explicit race-based political programs and organizations initiated by, and advocating for, Cuban Blacks, recent ethnographic studies have instead focused upon Revolutionary Cuba’s official cultural policy with respect to Afro-Cubans (Brown 2003a, b; Hagedorn 2001).
Afro Cuban performers entertain at Callejon de Hamel in Havana.

In general, however, Cuba’s Black population has strongly supported revolutionary policies from
which Afro-Cubans have benefited so disproportionately in terms of improvements in access to
education and employment, and in health indices. In the mid-1970s, many Cubans, especially Blacks, took notice of Castro’s explanation for the participation of Cuban military, health and educational personnel in socialist Angola’s effort to repel U.S.- and South African-backed UNITA rebels: Castro declared that Cuba was an ‘‘Afro-Latin’’ nation.
This acknowledgment of Africa as Cuba’s anti-colonialist ally and genealogical ancestor disrupted the persistent whitening (blanqueamiento) tendency in Cuban society. Cuba’s political recognition of Africa abroad increasingly influenced Cuban cultural policy and educational curricula at home, bolstering the recognition of Afro-Cuban contributions to national history and culture.
Cuba’s booming tourism sector, which operates in hard currency, further exacerbates the toxic brew of race and economics. Even as Afro-Cuban music and ‘‘folklore’’ (popular religious practices) are increasingly mobilized to represent ‘‘Cuba’’ and generate tourism revenues, Afro-Cubans often find themselves marginalized from the tourism sector. Resident White Cubans are deemed to have the ‘‘good presentation’’ necessary to secure employment in the beach resorts and hotels from which, until recently, Afro-Cubans and mulatos have been excluded. Black Cubans-even those who have straightened their hair and strive to exemplify what Cubans call ‘‘good culture’’-complain that they are routinely rejected for tourism jobs-at least those of the formal variety. Predominantly Black and mixed-race independent contractors risk arrest on a daily basis while working in the informal economy (resale of pilfered goods, sex workers, unofficial tour guides, unlicensed taxis) which services the tourism sector. In a nutshell, Afro-Cuban ‘‘traditions’’ have symbolic capital for representing ‘‘Cuba,’’ particularly its past, contemporary Blacks are identified with Cuba’s present-day reputed pleasures and vices, while Whites operate the regulated and lucrative business ventures which promote ‘‘Cuba’’ and its economic future.
Afrocubanismo Movement in the 1920s and 1930s
During the 1920s and 1930s Cuba experienced a movement geared towards Afro-Cuban culture called Afrocubanismo. The movement had a large impact on Cuban literature, poetry, painting, music, and sculpture. It was the first artistic campaign in Cuba that focused on one particular theme: black culture. Specifically it highlighted the struggle for independence from Spain, black slavery, and building a purely Cuban national identity. Its goal was to incorporate African folklore and rhythm into traditional modes of art.

                                 Afro-Cubans in houston, Texas

History of the Movement
The movement evolved from an interest in the rediscovery of African heritage. It developed in two very different stages. The first stage stemmed from European artists and intellectuals who were interested in African art and musical folk forms. This stage paralleled the Harlem Renaissance in New York, Négritude in the French Caribbean, and coincided with stylistic European Vanguard (like cubism and its representation of African masks). It was characterized by the participation of white intellectuals like Cubans Alejo Carpentier, Fortunato Vizcarrondo and Lydia Cabrera, Puerto Rican Luis Palés Matos, and Spaniards Pablo Picasso and Roger de Lauria. The African-inspired art tended to represent Afro-Cubans with cliché images like a black man sitting beneath a palm tree with a cigar.
Poems and essays by black writers began to be published in the 30s in newspapers, magazines and books where they discussed their own personal heritage. Afro-Cuban artists began to realize that the movement brought light to the once-marginalized black race and culture. It became a symbol of empowerment and individuality for Afro-Cubans within the established Western culture of the Americas and Europe.
This empowerment became a catalyst for the second stage to be characterized by Afro-Cuban artists making art that truly reflected what it meant to be Afro-Cuban. Beginning in the 1930s this stage depicted a more serious view of black culture like African religions and the struggles associated with slavery. The main protagonist during this stage of the movement was Nicolás Guillén.
Results of the Movement
The lasting reputation of the Afrocubanismo movement was the establishment of a New World art form that used aesthetics from both European and African culture.[6] Although the actual movement of Afrocubanismo faded by the early 40s, Afro-Cuban culture continues to play a vital role in the identity of Cuba. It has been the Cuban Revolution that opened up a space for extended research of African ethnic roots in Cuba. The rhetoric of the Revolution incorporates black history and its contribution as an important stratum of Cuban identity. The Revolution has funded many projects that restore the work of Afro-Cubans in an effort to accommodate an African-driven identity within the new anti-racist Cuban society
Religious belief
Beginning in the sixteenth century in the wake of the first Spanish conquistadors through the latter part of the nineteenth century, the Afro-Cubans -- were from numerous ethnic groups, the Yoruba peoples from West Africa, known in Cuba as the Lucumí (derived, according to most researchers, from the word Ulkumi, an ancient Yoruba kingdom), predominated at a certain period when these syncretic processes were being gestated. 
Two cuban woman are being cleaned by Santeros, priests of the Afro-cuban Santeria (Yoruba) religion

Also, from this part of Africa (Nigeria) came the Ibo, the Efik from Calabar (known in Cuba as the Carabalí), the Fon, and Ewe (or Dahomean)  known as Arraras and numerous other peoples. Outstanding, due to their great numbers and their having a powerful presence, were representatives of the Congo ethnic groups: Loango, Mondongo, and others (Bantus) who came from Central Africa.
Cuban Santeria priests, also known as babalaos, gather for the Hand of Orula initiation ceremony for Rafale Lazaro del Pino,

As late as circa 1870, contraband slaves continued to flow into Cuba even after the slave trade had officially stopped. That is why in the first third of the twentieth century some older “negros de nación” (African-born slaves) could still be found who remembered well the traditions and customs of their homeland and were able to transmit them to their descendants. This fact greatly fostered the continuity of the religious systems, as well as our understanding of them today.
Elliott Rivera is babalwo from the Afro-Cuban Santeria. He is a trance medium and works a lot with his ancestors. He gives you the chance to feel and hear the wisdom coming from your own ancestors.

The following are the African religions brought by the enslaved Africans to Cuba and is still practiced by Afro Cubans:
Lucumí/Regla de Ocha/Regla de Ifá
The ancient religious system of the Yoruba people of Western Nigeria known in Cuba as Regla de Ocha (for its fundamental Rule of Ocha) is characterized by a well-developed, structured mythology and a rich liturgy that merged with various popular Spanish Catholic practices and beliefs in a process of amalgamation or syncretism. The old Yoruba deities (orichas) were identified in their various attributes and manifestations (caminos) with diverse Catholic saints and various advocations of the Virgin Mary, such as Nuestra Señora de la Caridad, Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes, and others. Thus arose the religious system that underwent a process of syncretization, producing a spontaneous, popular reconciliation of different religious beliefs that were blended, consciously or unconsciously, or in many cases survived in juxtaposition, in what some authors refer to as parallelism.
Lydia Cabrera and other scholars theorize that the slaves fashioned their religion to a certain extent, as a deceptive tool to escape retaliation for practicing forbidden “heathen” rites, as enforced by white masters or Spanish Catholic authorities. They also attribute development of the syncretism to a logical consequence of the African cosmovision, coupled with the slaves’ subconscious psychological need to see their gods survive in a strange environment. Most serious Lucumí religion scholars agree that prayer formulas in the Spanish language, the names of groups (cofradías) and saints’ day festivals, and the so-called velorios de santos or popular rituals like bembés, where the non-initiated can participate, represent mostly external, superimposed Catholic elements and not integral, internal elements.
Congo/Bantú: Palo Monte/ Mayombe
One of the variant forms of the Reglas de Congo, Palo Monte, or Palo Mayombe is the most common of the religious cults derived from the Bantú (Congo) of Central Africa, who occupied a vast territory from the southern part of Cameroon through northern Angola to Mozambique and also extended to what is now Congo-Brazzaville. It encompasses various Congo religious systems: Regla Conga, Biyumba, Musunde, Quirimbaya, and Vrillumba. There was also a later variant which admitted whites -- Regla Kimbisa del Santo Cristo del Buen Viaje, established by Andrés Facundo Cristo de los Dolores Petit. This Rule, while expanding its membership and furthering Catholic influences in many of the rituals, as well as also expanding the cult to Yoruba orichas, was viewed as betraying Congo secrets to the ruling whites.
The emphasis of the Bantú/Congo religious practices lies in the magical or sorcery aspects of African beliefs, in tandem with healing practices. The name “Palo” denotes the sticks and branches from the forest (el monte) utilized in the elaboration of a sacred object (nganga) used for spells. Often maligned, practitioners of Palo (paleros) are accused of practicing black magic or witchcraft, with rites utilizing corpses and dangerous herbs and spells for evil purposes.

Palo involves a specialized cult of the dead with emphasis on magic practices such as pacts with the dead, typically made in a graveyard along with the creation of a nganga. This nganga is placed in a special iron cauldron filled with ritual objects of nature (bones and sticks) and imbued with magical powers. All of these practices and attributes of sorcery with the dead (trabajos con muertos) involve the idea of evil witchcraft and make Palo experts or leaders very much feared and regarded as dangerous. In Miami, as in Cuba, they have made the headlines by stealing corpses for use in their ngangas. The Africans themselves were implicated by this negative image as they capitalized, to their advantage, on the fear of their sorcery by the whites in power. All these magic rites have earned Palo the epithet of “the dark side of Santería,” the term encompassing in this instance not only the Regla de Ocha but also the Congo-based cults. The various forms of Palo Monte practices feature deities taken both from the syncretism of Catholic saints and the Yoruba orichas.

Afro-Cuban Religion: Santeria Temple (Cabildo de los Congos Reales de San Antonio)
The Congo presence in Cuba was documented in colonial times in the eighteenth century, with Alejo Carpentier reporting the existence of a “Cabildo de Congos” in 1796. Bantú/Congo peoples continued reaching Cuba’s shores well into the last part of the nineteenth century and are second in importance only to the Yoruba, according to some sources. In contrast with the Reglas Lucumí, the Reglas Congas survived most strongly in the eastern section of Cuba, around Santiago de Cuba and Guantánamo. Congo influence, rites, and figures have since spread throughout the island, particularly in the ritual drawings of a cosmogram (traza or nganga-marking), which is traced while chanting sacred songs or mambos. In Havana and its environs, Congo and Yoruba beliefs coalesced to beget a cult to Zarabanda -- the Congo counterpart of Ogún, the powerful god of metals -- another instance of syncretic processes among diverse African ethnic practices.
Another example of syncretism is the fact that, although African dialects are used in their rituals, paleros also add some Arabic words to their chants and greet each other with the “Salaam alaikum” used in Islamic nations. For a complete examination of Congo religious practices, cosmology and structure, beliefs in death and the ancestor spirits, with interesting references to Cuban practice, see the documented monograph by Wyatt MacGaffey (1986), Religions and Society in Central Africa: The BaKongo of Lower Zaire, or the informative study by Simon Bockie, (1993) entitled Death and the Invisible Powers “the World of Kongo Belief,” which has an extensive and up-to-date analysis of Congo ancestor worship.
Arriving on Cuba’s shores in large numbers, the Ekoi peoples of the Calabar Coast of Africa made a lasting impact on the customs, folklore, popular language, and traditions of the island. This contribution is most evident in the creation and existence of the Cuban Abakuá (or Abakwa) Secret Society, whose members are also known as ñáñigos, and appears to be a direct legacy of the ancient Egbo society of the Ekoi and Efik ethnic groups of this particular coast in West Africa. Similar types of associations are very typical of this part of Africa where secret and mutual assistance brotherhoods are abundant and constitute a significant part of the ethnic tradition. The most powerful of these brotherhoods, the Egbo society, was transplanted to Cuba by these groups known in Cuba as Carabalí, because they originated in the Calabar region of the African continent. Furthermore, the Ekoi claim to have started the whole concept of these societies, which were prevalent into the early twentieth century and still exist in Cuba.
To illustrate the extent to which the Carabalí customs prevailed in Cuba, according to well-known anthropologists, the initiation ceremonies for the seven grades through which the aspirant must pass before admission to deeper teachings or revelations of any except the lesser mysteries were carried out almost verbatim in nineteenth-century Cuba. Moreover, Cuban popular argot is interspersed with Abakuá-derived words, which have been carried over from ritual to common usage, even to the common slang term for woman, jeba, and epithets like chévere, which originally meant a brave, macho man and is now widely used to mean “swell” or “cool.”
In Africa, this strictly male association allowed only men to be admitted into the brotherhood, except for an occasional affluent or powerful woman who was allowed to become an honorary member of all grades but never achieved full membership or knowledge of the mysteries (Courlander, 1996: 570-575). However, in Cuba, restrictions for women were even stricter. No women were ever allowed to become members.
The ancient Ekoi societies also bore resemblance to the Spanish civil associations (cabildos) prevalent in Seville and other parts of Andalucía, a fact that facilitated their transport and subsequent syncretism and transculturation. Thus, the stage was set for a merging of the two traditional institutions. In Cuba, the Abakuá society was a cabildo whose membership cut through various cults or ethnic groups. A practitioner of Santería could also be an Abakuá brother (ecobio) because membership, besides conferring a certain prestige, also offered an opportunity for mutual assistance. Membership required a period of testing, instruction, initiation, and a complex set of obligations, duties, and responsibilities within a rigid formal structure. Rites included singing, dances, blood and other kinds of offerings, ablutions, processions, use of African languages, and drum playing. Prevalent in Havana, nearby Regla, Guanabacoa, and in the port of Matanzas and the city of Cárdenas in that same province, members of the Abakuá societies took prominent parts in the Havana carnival dances where they danced in folk dance groups (comparsas). Their secret symbols (anaforuanas) have been amply documented by Lydia Cabrera and their musical instruments by Fernando Ortiz.
The term Abakuá originates from the region of Akwa, where a similar antecedent society, that of “Leopard-men” of the Efik/ Efor, flourished in West Africa and wielded considerable power up to the early twentieth century. Remarkably, as the traditions were handed down in Cuba, they retained their vitality and dynamism, due in part to the constant influx of new slaves from the Akwa region. The slave trade dragged on in Cuba into the latter part of the nineteenth century, with the last contingents smuggled in around 1870. The Calabarí were one of the last ethnic groups to be transported to the island, and their first society in Cuba was founded in 1836. For all the above reasons, the Igbó vocabulary has been surprisingly preserved, as have the rites and costumes of ceremony participants. Even the music, singing, and drumming is recognizable as an inheritance from the Efik and Ekoi peoples. It is a complex, hierarchical society with clearly defined functions, bound together by strict initiation oaths; authority resides in the king (iyamba, jefe). Surprisingly, the numerous officers in the ceremonies in Cuba have preserved the same titles as in Africa, up to and including the priestly morwa, who evokes, controls, and guides the visiting spirits, although rites exhibit some elements of syncretism with Catholic practices.
Other Afro-Cuban Religions: Arará and Haitian-Derived Voudun
To a lesser extent, Afro-Cuban religious complexes have also undergone the influence of other ethnic groups. From the Dahomey region of Africa, Haitians transplanted Voudun (or Voodoo, meaning spirit, deity, or image) their syncretic, highly complex religious system. It encompasses diverse cults in which Dahomean deities and traditions predominate. These Dahomean, Fon-speaking ethnic groups were transplanted to Cuba in the years between 1770 and 1820 among the slaves of the French plantation owners who fled there due to the revolution in St. Domingue, Hispaniola.
Vodun religious influence was reinforced in the twentieth century when many Haitians migrated to Cuba as sugarcane laborers. By this time, there had also been slave imports from the Dahomey/Ewe/Fon ethnic groups who had created their own distinct form of Reglas Ararás. The religious system that ensued was simpler and did not include a conglomerate of as many religious cults as Haitian Voudun, but it was sufficiently similar so that the incoming Haitians could identify with it. In Cuba, some Ararás and Lucumís (Yoruba) came to regard each other as colleagues, and many spoke both languages, Fon and Lucumí (MacGaffey and Barnett, 1962: 206).
Arará religious cults, who traced their origins to the Ewe-Fon of Dahomey, featured an elaborate pantheon of gods known as luases (like the Voudun loas, meaning mysteries), many of whom were borrowed from or merged with the Yoruba deities. In veritable African syncretic fashion, Arará religious practice also shows traces of Congo influences. Though now rarely practiced in their original form, the Arará thrived in Matanzas, where there were many African enclaves that survived until recently, and in Santiago de Cuba, where Haitian influence was strong. Reminiscences of their Ewe/Fon origins are still found in the instrumental ensembles of the music derived from the Arará tradition. Voudun, on the other hand, was prevalent first in the mountainous, rural areas, but it has now spread to the suburbs of cities such as Camagüey and Santiago. These Dahomean religious beliefs preserved in the Arará rites were named from a cognate of the Haitian Dahomean “Rada,” derived from the town of Allada in Dahomey.
Grupo AfroCubano de Matanzas.

The music of Cuba, including its instruments, performance and dance, comprises a large set of unique traditions influenced mostly by West African and European (especially Spanish) music Due to the syncretic nature of most of its genres, Cuban music is often considered one of the richest and most influential regional musics of the world. For instance, the son cubano merges an adapted Spanish guitar (tres), melody, harmony, and lyrical traditions with Afro-Cuban percussion and rhythms. Almost nothing remains of the original native traditions, since the native population was exterminated in the 16th century.
kati hernandez afro cuban dance

Since the 19th century Cuban music has been hugely popular and influential throughout the world. It has been perhaps the most popular form of regional music since the introduction of recording technology. Cuban music has contributed to the development of a wide variety of genre and musical styles around the globe, most notably in Latin America, the Caribbean, West Africa and Europe. Examples include rhumba, Afro-Cuban jazz, salsa, soukous, a wide variety of West African re-adaptations of Afro-Cuban music (Orchestra Baobab, Africando), Spanish fusion genres (notably with flamenco), and a wide variety of genres in Latin America.
The Rumberos de Cuba music and dance ensemble

 Fernando Ortiz, the first great Cuban folklorist, described Cuba's musical innovations as arising from the interplay ('transculturation') between African slaves settled on large sugar plantations and Spaniards from different regions such as Andalusia and Canary Islands. The African slaves and their descendants made many percussion instruments and preserved rhythms they had known in their homeland. The most important instruments were the drums, of which there were originally about fifty different types; today only the bongos, congas and batá drums are regularly seen (the timbales are descended from kettle drums in Spanish military bands). Also important are the claves, two short hardwood batons, and the cajón, a wooden box, originally made from crates. Claves are still used often, and cajons (cajones) were used widely during periods when the drum was banned. In addition, there are other percussion instruments in use for African-origin religious ceremonies. Chinese immigrants contributed the corneta china (Chinese cornet), a Chinese reed instrument still played in the comparsas, or carnival groups, of Santiago de Cuba.
Cuban music has been immensely influential in other countries. It contributed not only to the development of jazz and salsa, but also to the Argentine tango, Ghanaian high-life, West African Afrobeat, Dominican Bachata and Merengue, Colombian Cumbia and Spanish Nuevo flamenco and to the Arabo-Cuban music  developed by Michel Elefteriades in the 1990s.
Omar Sosa and the Afro Cuban Quartet

The African beliefs and practices certainly influenced Cuba's music. Polyrhythmic percussion is an inherent part of African music, as melody is part of European music. Also, in African tradition, percussion is always joined to song and dance, and to a particular social setting. The result of the meeting of European and African cultures is that most Cuban popular music is creolized. This creolization of Cuban life has been happening for a long time, and by the 20th century, elements of African belief, music and dance were well integrated into popular and folk forms.
The clave rhythmic pattern is used as a tool for temporal organization in Afro-Cuban music, such as rumba, conga de comparsa, son, mambo (music), salsa, Latin jazz, songo and timba. The five-stroke clave pattern represents the structural core of many Afro-Cuban rhythms. Just as a keystone holds an arch in place, the clave pattern holds the rhythm together in Afro-Cuban music. The clave pattern originated in sub-Saharan African music traditions, where it serves essentially the same function as it does in Cuba. The pattern is also found in the African diaspora musics of Haitian vodou drumming and Afro-Brazilian music. The clave pattern is used in North American popular music as a rhythmic motif or ostinato, or simply a form of rhythmic decoration.
Rumba is a music of Cuban origin, but entirely African in style, using only voice, percussion and dance. It is a secular musical style from the docks and the less prosperous areas of Havana and Matanzas. Rumba musicians use a trio of drums, similar in appearance to conga drums (they are called tumba, llamador and quinto) or, alternatively, wooden boxes (cajones) may be used. 
Lazaro Galarraga and Lorenzo Penalver perform traditional rumba drumming, which has roots in the slave quarters of 19th century Havana, Cuba, while Kati Hernandez performs an accompanying dance 

Also used are claves and, sometimes, spoons. There is always a vocal element, African in style, but sung in Spanish: call and response vocals. There were three basic rumba forms in the last century: columbia, guaguancó and yambú. The Columbia, played in 6/8 time, was danced only by men, often as a solo dance, and was swift, with aggressive and acrobatic moves. The guagancó was danced with one man and one woman. The dance simulates the man's pursuit of the woman. The yambú, now a relic, featured a burlesque of an old man walking with a stick. All forms of rumba are accompanied by song or chants.
Rumba as a cover-all term for faster Cuban music. This usage started in the early 1930s with The Peanut Vendor. In this sense it has been replaced by salsa, which is also a cover-all term for marketing the music to non-Cubans.
Rumba in the international Latin-American dance syllabus is a misnomer for the slow Cuban rhythm more accurately called the bolero-son.
Rumba is usually seen in Cuba in the performances of professional groups on set occasions. There are also amateur groups based on casas de cultura, and on work groups. Like all aspects of life in Cuba, dance and music are organised by the state through Ministries and their various committees.
                                            Rumba dance

In Cuba, the word comparsa refers to the neighbourhood groups that take part in carnival. Conga is of African origin, and derives from street celebrations of the African spirits. The distinction is blurred today, but in the past the congas have been prohibited from time to time. Carnival as a whole was banned by the revolutionary government for many years, and still does not take place with the regularity of old. Conga drums are played (along with other typical instruments) in comparsas of all kinds. Santiago de Cuba and Havana were the two main centers for street carnivals. Two types of dance music (at least) owe their origin to comparsa music:
Conga: an adaptation of comparsa music and dance for social dances. Eliseo Grenet may be the person who first created this music, but it was the Lecuona Cuban Boys who took it round the world. The conga became, and perhaps still is, the best-known Cuban music and dance style for non-latins.

Mozambique: a comparsa-type dance music developed by Pello el Afrokan (Pedro Izquierdo) in 1963. It had a brief period of high popularity, peaked in 1965, and was soon forgotten. Apparently, to make it work properly, it needed 16 drums plus other percussion, dancers...
Tumba francesa
Immigrants from Haiti have settled in Oriente and established their own style of music, called the tumba francesa, which uses its own type of drum, dance and song. It embodies one of the oldest and most tangible links to the Afro-Haitian heritage of Cuba’s Oriente province and developed from an eighteenth- century fusion of music from Dahomey in West Africa and traditional French dances. This survives to the present day in Santiago de Cuba and Haiti.

Afro-Cuban Creole Choir of Cuba. The descendants of Haitian immigrants that settled in Cuba until the late fifties, The Creole Choir of Cuba is a ten-piece ensemble of voices and percussion who sing the music of their ancestors in a highly personal manner. Singing in Creole (Haiti’s second language), their lyrics speak about their history and heritage. Some songs were written centuries ago, while others, like “Tande,” were composed to talk about the cruel years of the Duvalier regime. Their rhythms are very Cuban, though. Upon hearing them at first, you feel that you are listening to a very roots-based sound of Afro-Cuban music. But when the lyrics begin, you notice that it is not Spanish. The music is often syncopated, with different layers performed by the women and men in the group, and the melodies are followed by dance moves that might include audience members who are pulled in by the group as they walk around the audience. (Ernest Barteldes) 

Arará and Afro-Cuban Music: The Heartbeat of Black Atlantic History
                                          George Preston
                                 Professor Emeritus, CCNY-CUNY
                            Founding Director, Museum of Art and Origins
Music – like its sister performance arts dance and theatre – is experienced as an art of the moment. We experience the songs we listen to in a series of moments as fleeting and metered as our pulse, our heartbeat.
The songs we listen to, no matter what style of music, are composed of the formal elements of music: rhythm, harmony, melody, and counterpoint. When we listen to Afro-Cuban music, does it ever occur to us that the formal terminology that we use to describe the structure and composition of Western music is applicable to Afro-Cuban music? And that there is a history of form to this music? When listening to this music, as we feel its pulse, do we at least sense the historical trajectory of this music?

To begin with, this is a music that was banned – yes, prohibited by law. And at various times, government attempted to control or marginalize this music. The use of batá, for example, was censored on radio in Cuba. The music of the cabildos, Arará, was banned from the airwaves, and then later given proscribed exposure and marginalization. Doesn’t this sound like the history of Black American music? Yet, from the very beginning, Cuban classical, folkloric and popular music freely mined the ores and bedrock of Afro-Cuban music and processed them into “acceptability,” just as Elvis Pressley “homogenized” or “pasteurized” the music of the “down home blues” of the
American Blacks. This is the same as selling refined white sugar to the countries that grow sugar cane or aluminum products to countries that mine bauxite.
This music arrived in Cuba with the first importation of slaves in the 16th century. The slaves who were abducted to Cuba came mainly from what was called the “Slave Coast.” It was the habit of the Europeans to name the parts of Africa they visited by the commodities they took from that region. Grain (from dry rice farming that was imported to the U.S. Carolinas) came mostly from the Grain Coast: Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. Large quantities of Ivory gave the Ivory Coast its name. Ghana, called El Mina by the Portuguese, was known as the Gold Coast. Cameroon was so named because of the rich beds of shrimp at the place called Rio Cameroes. Togo, Dahomey (now Benin), Nigeria, Rio Muni, Gabon, Congo and Angola were called the Slave Coast. Of course, it is important to note that large quantities of slaves arrived from all of these regions
regardless of the nomenclature. This mix of ethnicities found its way to Cuba as it did to all of the other slave-labor economies that contributed to the wealth of the Americas.
In the midst of oppression and cultural repression, the slaves managed to create enclaves of cultural continuity. These were religious/social organizations called cabildos or confraidos. One of the earliest of these of historical record is Arará Migano formed by the Migano clan of Dahomey. Arará is most likely of 18th century origin. But like most of the African fraternities it did not have an uninterrupted continuity. But by the 1880’s Arará Migano and other cabildos were revived under new laws that attempted to proscribe their activities. In 1890, Migano was revived, suppressed for two years, only to reemerge.
Although the cabildos originally attempted to confine membership strictly on a tribal basis, the checkered and fractious history of Cuba contributed to the interaction of various tribes and clans and – of course – Catholicism. Under these conditions, Kongo, Yoruba and other elements began to emerge within what was once an exclusive cabildo or confraido. As a result some cabildos are named variously after ethnic groups, clans, Catholic saints, African deities and even the names of drums, ceremonies or African port of embarkation to the New World: Cabildo del Rey, Lukumi, Santeria, Pataki, Nanigo to name but a few. Nonetheless, we can easily identify the Arará (old Dahomey) Vodun deities with Nago/Yoruba (southwest Nigeria) counterparts: Afra is Elegba (Elegua); Ogun Baleio is Ogun and Akeito is Ochosi.
By the 1920s, this music, that had been forbidden, marginalized and banned from radio, began to make inroads into popular culture. So-called “polite” Cuban music began to mine the music of the cabildos in the same fashion that Bartok, Chopin, Dvorak, Mozart and other composers of classical music had mined the folk traditions of Europe. One of the outstanding examples of this is the advent of the son from Oriente.
           Afro-Cuban All Stars

Arará had its stronghold in the Matanzas province, but with the advent of the son, key innovators in a new Cuban music (such as the great Arsenio Rodriguez) were free to mix these traditions. Meanwhile, the close fraternity of jazz, Cuban and Negro (as they were called in those days) musicians from the United States began playing together and creating new sounds. Latin Jazz, Charanga, Pachanga, Salsa, and Boogaloo – these all have their roots in the cabildos.
Albert Murray says that the difference between Black American sacred and secular music is the lyrics. Did this happen in Cuba? When you listen to Arará, perhaps you will begin to isolate certain forms and connect them to the history of Black Atlantic music. If you are interested in pursuing this idea, I suggest you take a look at George Brandon, Santeria from Africa to the New World; George Eaton Simpson, Black Religions in the New World; and Philip Sweeney’s Rough Guide to Cuban Music.
Arará is a significant contribution to Black Atlantic culture and the world. But like so many contributions to world arts, it may face extinction and exist only in the forms that it influenced. What irony! Whether you speak Dutch, English, French, Portuguese or Spanish, you are speaking in the tongue of your colonizing Father. But your Mother spoke African. It is only an accident that you were born into one of these European languages and not another: what if the caravel had arrived a day earlier at El Mina or was delayed by the overland shipment coming to Kisama?
Your ancestors would have landed at a different port in the New World.

Cuban woman smoking cigar. basiajago

Grammatical Structure, Historical Development, and Religious Usage of Afro-Cuban Bozal Speech
                                   Isabe1 Castellanos
                           Florida International University
In the middle of the nineteenth century, in the small Cuban town of San Marcos de Artemisa, Manuel Cabrera Paz, a little known bard, wrote a lengthy poem entitled "Exclamaciones de un negro en las fiestas efectuadas con motivo de la inauguraci6n del patron de este pueblo de San Marcos, el dia 25 de abril de 1857."' A fragment of the composition reads:
(1) Yo llega, quita cachucho
cucha musica bonito
de ese guitarra chiquito
que lo toua con sermcho.
Yo ta mira gente mucho;
musiquero no parese
iute ve cosa como ese! . . .
Yo levanta sojo isiaa!
imusiquero ta bomba
brabacoba de la grese! (Fernsndez de la Vega and Pamies 1973:125)
I arrived, took off my cap
heard a beautiful music
coming from that small guitar
that is played with a handsaw.
I see many people;
but I can't find the musician,
imagine something like that! . . .
I lift up my eyes, siaa!
the musician is perched
in the attic of the church.'
What concerns us here is not this composition's dubious literary merits, but the fact that it is entirely written in bozal, a creolized language once spoken in Cuba by African slaves and their
descendants. The poem by Cabrera Paz is far from being exceptional.
In 1847, Bartolome Jose Crespo y Borb6n published his comic play Un Ajiaco o la Boda de Pancha Jutia y Canuto Raspadura, in which most of his characters spoke in bozal. Many nineteenth century Cuban writers (Gelabert, Villaverde, Suarez y Romero, Bachiller y Morales, De la Torre) either mention this language variety or employ it in their works. In the twentieth century, Lydia Cabrera found many old people who regularly used bozal. For instance, her informant Ta M6nico
Biabanga spoke thus:
(2) "Tanze so mismo rey viejo Ekoi. . . . NC muri jaya tiempo
tiempo ante, y piritu die bob6 pecao que mue coge,
ne contra lo rio la suete lo rey Ekoi, y bar6n quita
neye, mata mue pa pone un religion. Obon Tlnze e rey
mueto que enta pecao y pad bong6. (Cabrera 1970:80)"
"Tanze is the same old king of the Ekoi. . . . He died a
long time ago, and his spirit turned into a fish that
was caught by a woman, she found in the river the charm
of the Ekoi king, but a man took it away from her, he
killed the woman in order to institute a religion.
Obon Tanze is the dead king who entered a fish and
became a drum."
Nowadays, bozal has all but disappeared as a regular vehicle of communication, and its usage is restricted to religious settings. Cabrera's transcriptions of Afro-Cuban chants and prayers are strictly
accurate, be they in Lucumi, Congo, Abakua, or bozal.
Afro-Cuban women

                                   I. Grammatical features
                                             A. Number
One of the most salient features of Afro-Cuban bozal is the absence of a plural marker and its indication by determiners that signal quantity or by the context. Since verbs also lack number
inflections, sometimes it is difficult to determine whether a specific clause is in the singular or in the plural. I have looked at eighty noun phrases from my corpus that clearly possess a plural meaning, and in sixty-nine (86.2 percent), find no morphological marker:
(3) Alla tiera nosotro hombre no cabe po pueta, muje no cabe po pueta (Cabrera 197917).
     There, in our land, men do not fit through the door, women do not fit through the
(4) Bueno dia to lo Tata, bueno dia to lo Mama (Cabrera 197982).
     Good morning to all the fathers, good morning to all the mothers.
(5) To dia ute habla con me (Cabrera 1970:108).
     Every day you speak with me.
(6) Gayina negro son mucho y toito pone guebo blanco (Monia Delgado 1901:37).
     There are lots of black hens, and all of them lay white eggs.
Two observations: First, in bozal, there is an almost categorical absence of final //s/, and this fact may lead to the belief that the lack of plural marker obeys phonological rather than morphosyntactic
constraints. There are, however, cases like example 3, in which the word muje (woman, women) is found in a clear plural context. If this were a process of phonological reduction, one would expect to find mujere, instead of muje'. Second, in the previous examples, the copula son and the article lo give the impression of plural, but these forms are invariable with respect to number.

                                      B. Gender
Modifiers in bozal most frequently employ forms that correspond to masculine modifiers in Spanish. Moreover, articles and other determiners show traits that may alter the specific analysis of gender agreement. For all of the above reasons, I decided to restrict my analysis to agreement between adjectives and feminine nouns. Confining the data in this way guarantees greater reliability in the results of the analysis, but considerably limits the sample. Of the thirty-seven noun phrases that fulfill the previous conditions twenty-four (65 percent) are cases of zero agreement. Besides example 6, I found, among others:
(7) Cosa gueno (Cabrera 1979:123)
     Good thing
(8) Santa Barbara bendito (Cabrera 1971:114)
       Holy Saint Barbara
Nevertheless, an incipient gender can be detected in the corpus, as I will show immediately in my discussion of articles.
                                   C. Articles
The article system of bozal is extremely variable. Granda (1971:485) has noticed a frequent absence of articles in sentences such as:
(9) Yo aprende divino (Cabrera 1979:158).
      I learned from the diviners.
(10) Mayombero iiama con mambo (Cabrera 1979:123).
      Mayomberos (Congo priests) call with mambos (songs).
In general, articles
behave in the following manner: there are two definite articles (la and lo) to be found in specific and presupposed noun phrases:
(11) Yo tiene la pecho premio pur nelle (Fernhndez 1968a:143).
        I have my chest all wrung out by her.
(12) Lo ingenio cuero na ma (Cabrera 1979:91).
     In the sugar mill [one receives] only whippings.
There is, as well, one indefinite article with two variants (uno, un) in noun phrases that are specific, but not presupposed:
(13) Un chino Manila puso uno pincho . . . (Cabrera 1979:58)
       A Chinaman from Manila put a stick . . .
All other cases are frequently marked by absence of articles:
(14) Negro criollo son ma mijo que congo (Fernhndez 1968a:145).
       Creole blacks are better than Congos.
The contrast between presence versus absence of articles is clearly
shown in the following example taken from a Congo song (Cabrera
1979:40, emphasis mine):
(15) Ah Mayor son malo
       tira cuero do mano
       Marayo parta lo Mayora. . .
      Ah! Overseers are bad
      they whip [you] with both hands
      May a lighting bolt fall on the overseer. . . .
Absence of articles is also very noticeable in those noun phrases in which some other determiner appears after the noun:
(16) Iku ese cane na ma (Cabrera 1970:108).
       That dead person is merely flesh.
(17) Tu ve bariga mio (Crespo y Borb6n 1847:55).
       You see my belly.
(18) Yo so piera ese Cabrera 1979108).
        I am that rock.
I have already mentioned that there exist two definite articles in bozal (lo, la) which are used in both singular and plural contexts. La occurs with nouns that would be feminine in Spanish in 68.9 percent of the sample, and with masculine nouns in 31.1 percent. La appears twice as frequently as lo, and the latter occurs with masculine nouns in 90 percent of all cases. It is possible that la is an older form, and lo arises as an incipient way of marking gender. This is also suggested by the fact that only la is found in the oldest samples of bozal at my disposal, some eighteenth century popular songs gathered by Lezama (1965~174-175).
(19) Su messe, la cabayero . . .
      Your honor, the gentleman . .
(20) Ni biene con la Ifa.
       He comes with the problem.
The indefinite article occurs with masculine and feminine nouns in equal proportion.
(21) Un guja (Cabrera 197982)
      A needle
(22) Uno gueno regalito (Crespo y Borb6n 1847:64)
      A good gift
(23) Uno visita (Gelabert 1881:119)
        A visit
The article una appeared in just four samples, and in three of those it occurs with feminine nouns. The almost exclusive demonstrative determiner is ese, which modifies both masculine and feminine nouns and may precede or follow the noun:
(24) Ese Mayora (Cabrera 1979:42)
       That overseer
(25) Pollo ese no viene (Cabrera 1976:65).
       That chicken does not come.'
It is my hypothesis that determiners were originally invariable with respect to gender in Afro-Cuban bozal. In a subsequent stage, an initial distinction between lo and la emerged, followed by a very
incipient differentiation between un, uno, and una. Gender agreement between nouns and determiners appears to be more advanced than that of nouns and other noun phrase modifiers, such as adjectives.
                                     D. Pronominal System
Personal pronouns-the only ones to be studied here--are extremely variable in Afro-Cuban bozal, as is shown in the following chart:
(26)1st person singular       You                                  Nina, yo va lo Nfinda.
                                                                                Girl, I go into the forest.
(27)1st person plural          Nosotro                             Nosotro ta mira chino.
                                                                                We were looking at the Chinaman.
(28)2nd person singular      Tu                                    Tu saca muje ese.
                                                                                 You took that woman out.
(29)    "                              Ute                                   Ute ve cosa como ese.
                                                                                 You see a thing like that.
(30) 3rd person singular       Ne                                   Ne muri jaya tiempo.
                                                                                 He died a long time ago.
(31)     "                             E                                      E mimo dici tu ta ole.
                                                                                 He said that you are stealing.
(32) Singular and plural       Nelle                                 Nelle tiene un bariga.
                                                                                 She has a belly.
(33)         "                         Neye                                Toito neye ta carga.
                                                                                 All of them are loaded.

(34) 1st person singular          You                                iQuien nama yo?
                                                                                  Who calls me?
(35)       "                              Me                                 Si yo me muere . . .
                                                                                  If I die . . .
(36)       "                              Mi                                  Contramayora manda mi.
                                                                                  The slave driver sends me.
(37) 2nd person singular         Ute                                E da come ute to.
                                                                                 He gives you all the food.
(38)       "                              Te                                Cuando cometa te sali . . .
                                                                                When the comet showed up to you . . .
(39)       "                               Ti                               Yo va conta ti un cosa.
                                                                                 I am going to tell you something.
(40) 3rd person singular           Yo                              Yo va cura ne.
                                                                                 I am going to cure him [her?].
(41)       "                               E                                 Yo tumba e.
                                                                                 I throw him down.
(42)       "                                Lo                              Pa ace lo que yo quiere . . .
                                                                                To do what I want . . .
(43) 3rd person singular           Nelle                           Varon quita nelle.
                                                                                Men take away from them.
(44)      "                                Neye                           Moso ta mirando neye.
                                                                                The young men are looking at them.
I have found no examples of plural object pronouns for the first and second persons. In the case of the third person, only nellel-neye may be singular or plural. A frequent-though far from categorical feature of Afro-Cuban bozal is the lack of differentiation of subject and object pronouns, particularly in the first and third person singular and the third person plural, as shown in examples 26, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 40, 41, 43, and 44. This alternates with differentiated forms as in examples 38, 39, 42. I have not been able to determine which factors promote each of the third person singular variants (nelle, ne', and 4). Otheguy (1973:330) suggests that ne' occurs only as a subject
pronoun and e' as an object pronoun. However, in the corpus, I find several instances--as in example 40-in which nt is used as a complement.
In one of the oldest samples (allegedly from the eighteenth century), ne is also used as a copy of the subject (Lezama 1965176, emphasis mine):
(45) Mira sojo d'ese nima
       candela d parese
       iQue nima son ese
       que ne parese maja?
      Look at the eyes of that animal
      fire they look like
      What animal is that
      which it look. like a snake?
One of Lydia Cabrera's informants (1970:259, emphasis mine) employs ne' in identical manner:
(46) Divino entonce ne mata mue. . . .
       The diviner, then he kills the woman. .
And a similar function is fulfilled by lo in La Boda de Pancha Jutia and Canuto Raspadura (Crespo 1847:9-10, emphasis mine):
(47) Branco que vivi la Bana lo come mu puquitica.
       The whites who live in Havana, they ate very little.
(48) Cumpare, poque cunvite lo debe se a la campana
Compadre, because the feast it must be held when the bell [rings].
The insertion of a pronoun as a copy of the subject is a feature that is frequently found in creoles.
                          E. Possessives and Parataxis
I have already shown that the determiner ese may either precede (as in example 24) or follow the noun (as in example 25) and that in the latter case no article is found in the first position of the noun phrase. The same is true of possessive determiners, although the forms that precede and follow the noun are differentiated:
(49) Cuando sueta ute va come mi casa (Cabrera 197958).
       When they let you go, come to my house to eat.
(17) Tu ve bariga mio.
      You see my belly.
Also, as is the case in other creole languages, possessive noun phrases are frequently paratactic, i.e., they lack conjoining elements, such as prepositions:
(50) Garabata, gaina guine (Cabrera N.d.:Record No. 7, side 2).
       Turn around, Guinea hen.
(51) Ni boton camisa aparecio de chino (Cabrera 197958).
       Not even the button of his shirt was left of the chinaman.
Nevertheless, on occasions, possession is signaled by a prepositional phrase.
(52) Ori de gente (Cabrera 1971:77)
      A person's head
I tried in vain to determine throughout the corpus the factors that promote one or the other construction. Variation was simply too inconsistent. I decided, then, to concentrate on the speech of three of Lydia Cabrera's informants, two of whom-Francisquilla Ibafiez and TA M6nico Biabangfi-are very often explicitly identified in Cabrera's works. In doing so, I discovered a marked tendency to employ prepositional phrases if one of the nouns is [+ human]:"
(53) Barriga de Mabona (Cabrera 1979174)
       Mabona's belly
(54) Ereniyo de mue (Cabrera 1970:68)
       The woman's eyes
The preference for parataxis in Afro-Cuban bozal is not restricted to possessive noun phrases, but is commonly found in other constructions as well. For instance the preposition a appeared in just
seventeen of seventy-seven possible contexts (22 percent):
(55) Ekoi viene buca pa lleva mundo la verda (Cabrera 1970:259).
       The Ekoi come to find [it] to take truth to the world.
The same is true of the preposition en, which is absent in 54.2 percent of all cases, as in examples 47 and 12.
                                         F. Verbal System
Bozal has two copulative verbs: sonsometimes reduced to sowhich occurs with predicate nouns as in
(56) Ese son ereniyo de mu6 que mata, son Sikan y pesca (Cabrera 1970:68).
      Those are the eyes of the woman who was killed, it is [both] Sikan and a fish.
It also occurs with predicate adjectives that indicate a permanent state or condition:
(57) Alla gaina son grandisimo como vaca (Cabrera 1979:18).
       Hens are big like cows there.
(58) Nelle son bunco (Crespo y BorMn 1847:64).
       He/she is an ass; they are asses.
The second copula-ta-is used with predicate adjectives that indicate a transitory state.
59) Yo ta namora (FernAndez 1868a:143).
      I am in love.
It also selves as a locative verb:
(60) Aqui ta yo (Moha Delgado 1901:37).
       Here I am.
Copulative verbs are invariable with respect to person and number, although I have found a few instances of a form e, an obvious reduction of Standard Spanish es, like in example 2. I also found a variable absence of copula in 12 percent of all cases, particularly in those which signal a transitory stage:
(61) Pritu separao (Cabrera 1970:263).
       The spirit is separate.
(62) Chino enganchao (Cabrera 1979:58)
      The Chinaman is caught.
This tendency towards verbal simplification so common in creolized codes-is one of the most salient characteristics of Afro- Cuban bozal. Bozal has two basic verbal forms: the first is a reduction of the Spanish infinitive, e.g., muri, dici, llega; while the second is similar to the Spanish third person singular present indicative: mira, sabe, mata, llega. The first form may be preceded by one of three markers: ya, which indicates perfective aspect and rarely appears in the corpus:
(63) Ya yo ve la cosa mundo (Cabrera 1979159).
       I have seen the Cosa-Mundo
Ta indicates duration, almost always in the present, but occasionally in the past:
(64) iTue ta habla? pue yo ta cucha (Cabrera 1976:65).
      You are speaking? well, I am listening.
(65) Yo no ta mira cuando Cuevita Mabona gonizando Cabrera 1979:174).
       I wasn't looking when Cuevita Mabona was dying.
Va indicates future reference, and, bozal distinguishes between the
future and other members of the irrealis category:
(66) Nelle va Ilora (Fernandez 1868a:145).
       He/she/they is/are going to cry.
When the first form is unmarked, it indicates punctuality in the past:
(67) Ne muri jaya tiempo (Cabrera 1970:88).
       He died a long time ago.
The second form, which is always unmarked, may refer to a habitual or iterative action.
(68) Ta dia ute habla con mi (Cabrera 1970:lOS).
       You speak with me everyday.''
Similarly, it may signal irrealis modality, with the exception of the future:
(69) Si yo me muere . . . (Cabrera N.d.:Record No. 14, side 2)
       If I die . . .
It is used as an imperative as well:
(70) Trae akuko (Cabrera 1971:77).
       Bring a rooster.
(71) Ndiambo, mira le lo (Cabrera N.d.:Record No. 6, side 2).
       Spirit, look at the watch.
It seems to us that the features analyzed here are sufficient to demonstrate that bozal exhibits grammatical characteristics simplification of verbal forms, variable absence of copula, a tendency
toward paratactic constructions, etc.-that clearly distinguish it from other Spanish dialects. On the other hand, these features are shared by other widely documented and studied creole languages. Let us now explore the socio-historical processes that made its birth possible and that eventually promoted its demise as a regular vehicle of communication.

                              11. Historical Development
Some scholars such as Sidney Mintz (1971) and Humberto Mpez Morales (1981) have concluded that social conditions in Cuba and in other Spanish possessions were not favorable for the formation and development of creole languages, except in rare circumstances such as the ones surrounding San Basilio de Palenque, in Colornbia. It ~s true that historical circumstances in Cuba-when seen as a whole-do not seem propitious for the development and maintenance of a stable
creole throughout the country, as was the case in many other European possessions in America. Today, it is clear, however, that far from being a uniform institution, slavery was actually an extremely fluid social reality, which adapted in many different ways to its environment, bringing forth in it many dissimilar reactions. In Cuba, as shall be seen, slavery exhibited different traits at different historical periods and under diverse social conditions. Urban slavery diverged from rural slavery. The institution was not the same at the early historical stages of conquest and colonization and later, after Cuba became a fully developed colony. For this reason, what would not take place on a general level throughout the country could occur-and in fact did occur-in some separate geographical regions or in some individual sectors of society. Thus, some very specific factors of the ever-changing slavery system promoted pidginization and creolization in certain parts of the island; whereas in other regions and sectors they provoked a rapid displacement toward the superestrate language. The history of slavery in Cuba can be divided into two distinct stages: the pre-plantational period, which comprises the sixteenth, the seventeenth, and part of the eighteenth centuries, and a second phase which emerges during the second half of the eighteenth century and
lasts until the abolition of slavery in 1886. Since the sugar plantation becomes the economic core of this second period, I shall call it the plantational stage.
After the brief gold rush of the first colonists, Cuban economy was based primarily on the breeding of cattle. This activity demanded vast uninhabited spaces for pasture and very few laborers. For a long time, the most dynamic factor in the Cuban economic complex was the stay of the fleets in the port of Havana. These sources of income, however, were not sufficient to guarantee a high index of growth. The colonists decided to explore other venues of economic development.
First, copper mining, whose age of splendor-never extraordinary--ended around 1610. Also, the building of ships, an industry which did not consolidate until the middle of the eighteenth-century. Last but not least, the cultivation of tobacco and the production of sugar cane, which during the sixteenth and the seventeenth centuries was of secondary importance. For the first two and a half centuries of Cuban history, the country's pre-plantational economy was based primarily on agriculture (mostly tobacco), cattle raising, and crafts. Capitalist development was still incipient, semifeudal remnants were numerous, and class tensions were relatively mild. Cuba was composed primarily of very small communities-the only important city was Havana and small productive units in which masters and laborers were able to establish direct and intimate personal contacts. In other words, it was a society open to the mitigating factors of slavery and not favorable for the maintenance of African languages and the formation of pidgins and creoles. The shift toward Spanish was, at this time, the dominant sociolinguistic force.

Songing bird Christina Milian is of Afro-Cuban ancestry

Traditional Cuban historiography maintained that the island had remained in total socioeconomic lethargy until the British, who overtook Havana from 1762 to 1763, opened the doors to commerce
and unleashed, as if by magic, the forces that would lead to the creation of a new society. Ramiro Guerra (1938:129, 175-176) was a dissenting voice with respect to these views. More recently, Levi Marrero (1978a, 1978b, 1980) has amply demonstrated that the British aggression was preceded by six decades of sustained economic growth. Those years saw the emergence of an incipient capitalist class which descended primarily from the old cattle ranch oligarchy. This class,
which acquired substantial wealth between the years of 1741 and 1762, invested primarily in the tobacco and the sugar industries, and these would soon displace cattle raising from the dominant position it maintained until then in the island's economy.
In the second half of the eighteenth century, then, Cuba was ripe for the revolution that would irrevocably transform its social structure. In the 1760s the island had sufficient population and economic development for a transition toward an economy dominated by sugar production. A series of international events, such as the Haitian revolution, would also push it in the direction of a sui generis plantational society, similar in some respects to those of Jamaica, Haiti and other European colonies in the Caribbean, but at the same time very different from them; a plantational society that operated under the sign of a peculiar dualism, since the traditional and rather moderate forms of slavery coexisted, in precarious balance, with the new brutal ways of plantation slavery, based primarily on the intensive exploitation of human labor.
The establishment of an economy dominated by sugar production promoted the massive importation of slaves. It is estimated that, through legal or illegal means, more than 700,000 slaves arrived in Cuba in less than a century. Levi Marrero (1983:1, translation mine) explains it thus:
"In 1774, the colored population amounted to 75,180 persons, 60 percent of which
were slaves; in 1867, the inhabitants with African blood added up to 793,318, and
58 percent were slaves. This multiplication by 7.9 in 93 years is not a sign of a
high natural rate of growth of the black and mulatto population; on the contrary,
this figure masks a tragic demographic reality, since no less than 752,000 Africans
were introduced in the island, legally or illegally, between 1764 and 1868."
A vast and complex ethnic, cultural, and linguistic diversity characterized the African regions from which the Cuban slaves originated. Some groups-the Yoruba, for instance--were well represented and their languages survived until today, under the protection of their religious functions. Most tongues, however, disappeared rather quickly.
Any process of massive repopulation carries with it inevitable cultural and linguistic consequences. And the earliest references to Afro-Cuban bozal speech are from the period of transition toward a
plantational economy, in other words, between 1750 and 1800. Pedro Agustin Morell de Santa Cruz, the new bishop of Cuba, arrived in Havana in 1754. He soon asked the priests to try to learn the African languages spoken by slaves. If this were not possible, they, at the very least, ought to learn bozal:
"They therefore have need of a special minister who accommodates to their
rudeness and speaks to them with great clarity, repeating the same thing over and
over again, and who can teach them in the accents and the corrupt ways in which
they pronounce the Spanish language."
In other words, the Bishop proposed the use of bozal as a vehicle of communication between priests and slaves. A few years later, in 1796, Antonio Nicolas Duque de Estrada stressed the same principles in his catechism entitled Explicacion de la doctrina christiana acomodada a la capacidad de 1os negros bozales, and unwittingly offered us an initial description of Afro-Cuban bozal:
"So that (the slaves) may understand, it is necessary to use familiar comparisons,
and, as much as possible, one must refer to those things that they use: the oxen,
the mares, the shacks, the plots, the sugar mill boilers, etc., and as often as
possible one should speak to them in the language that they use, without cases,
without tenses, without conjunctions, without agreement, without order."
The sudden arrival of hundreds of thousands of Africans in the plantational period left a profound mark in Cuba's cultural and linguistic development. What was the fate of African slaves who arrived in the island after their long voyage? A fortunate few would remain in the cities as domestic servants, and they would be in constant contact with the Spanish speaking population. For these, the process of shifting toward Spanish started immediately. Most Africans, however, were taken to the sugar and the coffee plantations. In the plantations, slaves shared their lives with people of very diverse ethnic and linguistic origin. Their contacts with whites were few and, as a result, their exposure to the Spanish language was limited and sporadic. Let us examine, as an example, the ethnic composition of the personnel at the San Felipe and Santiago sugar mill, in Jibacoa, at the end of the eighteenth century. In 1786 there were 74 slaves, four of them Cuban-born. There were 31 carabalies (from the Calabar region), 14 congos (Bantu), and one lucumi (Yoruba). Marrero (1984:219) tells us that the personnel included one mayoral (overseer) from Guanabacoa, one contramayoral (driver) from Puerto Principe, and three free workers, one of them from the Canary Islands. In most cases, overseers were white and drivers were black. If the three free workers were white, the proportion of blacks at the mill was of 93.7 percent. These conditions, far from being exceptional, were the usual ones throughout the century dominated by a plantational slave economy, particularly in the large centers of sugar production in the provinces of Havana and Matanzas. There are still towns in these two regions where over 90 percent of the population is black. Situations such as these are extremely favorable for a process of pidginization and creolization. As Gillian Sankoff (1979:24-25) explains:
"The plantation system is so crucial because it was unique in creating a catastrophic
break in linguistic tradition that is unparalleled. It is difficult to conceive of
another situation where people arrived with such a variety of native languages;
where they were so cut off from their native language groups; where the size of
no one language group was sufficient to insure its survival; where no second
language was shared by enough people to serve as a useful vehicle of
intercommunication; and where the legitimate
language . . . was inaccessible to almost everyone. . . . I think that to understand
what happened in any particular case, we must become better historians. We must
learn more about their conditions on plantations in order to understand what kinds
of communication possibilities existed there, and how these affected pidginization
and creolization."
In the case of Cuba, there exists documentary proof of pidginization. Several scholars make reference (Pichardo 1875; Ortiz 1916; Mpez Morales 1971; Moreno Fraginals 1978) to "word lists" of diverse provenance that were used by masters as a rudimentary form
of communicating with African slaves.27 Let us examine some of these terms:
"cucha-cucha: to hear, to listen
llari-llari: to cry, to get sick
quiquiribd: to die
mano-machete (literally: machete hand): right
mano-garabato (literally: garabato hand): left."

Actress Rosario Dawson is of Afro-Cuban ancestry

Unfortunately, those who have studied this topic have limited themselves to exploring the probable origin of these lexical items, without commenting on their importance as a clear documentary
evidence of pidginization. Mpez Morales (1981:326) argues, for instance, that only one of these words, piquinini, is of probable Portuguese origin and that this fact disproves that bozal was a
creolized code. The difficulty resides in identifying all possibility of pidginization and creolization with the theory that traces the origin of all Caribbean creoles to a Portuguese-based African creole, later relexified. Today the monogenetic theory is in a frank process of revision. What is important about these word lists is that they document the existence of a simplified code which made use of reduplication (a frequent feature of pidgins) and which served a communicative purpose between slaves and plantation administrators. Furthermore, plantation slaves rarely shared the same "tribal or
cultural origin" (Moreno Fraginals 1978:8). This means, then, that the pidginized code had to serve as well as an elementary form of communication among many Africans who did not share a common language. It does not seem probable that a stable pidgin emerged in Cuba. Rather, the conditions in which rural slaves lived required a rapid expansion of the pidginized variety in order to more adequately satisfy their communicative demands. Although not a great deal of data on which to base my hypotheses exists, the historical information seems to indicate that Cuba must have passed from a "pre-pidgin continuum" to an accelerated process of creolization.
Some nineteenth century Cuban writers referred to Afro-Cuban bozal speech. Esteban Pichardo (1875:x, translation mine) describes it thus in his Diccionario Provincial casi razonado de Vozes y Frases Cubanas:
"Another relaxed and confused language can be heard daily throughout the island,
everywhere, among blacks who come from Africa, as it happens with the French
Creole of Santo Domingo: this language is common and identical among blacks,
be they from any nation, and they keep it forever, unless they have come as young
children: it is a disfigured, mumbled Castilian, without agreement, number,
declension nor conjugation, without a strong R, without final S or D, LL is
frequently confused with N, E with I, G with V, etc.; in other words, a jargon that
results more confusing in those who have most recently arrived; but which can be
understood by any Spanish speaker, with the exception of some words that are
common to all and that need to be translated. . . . Blacks born in Cuba speak the
same as whites in their vicinity, although in Havana and Matanzas there are some
called Cwros, that use an I instead of an R or an L [sic]."
Pichardo's observations, although inaccurate in some respects, are of extraordinary documentary value for several reasons. First, the scholar points out that bozal was a language common to all slaves, "be they from any nation." I have already stated that Africans of very diverse ethnic and linguistic provenance were brought to Cuba as slaves. If bozal is simply a "corrupt" variety of Spanish, disfigured by the interference of multiple African languages, no one would expect such a code to be described as a language that is common to all. On the contrary, one would expect the members of each group to introduce specific features from their native tongues. In addition,
Pichardo-like Duque de Estrada before him--describes some of the grammatical traits of bozal and I can corroborate that they coincide with those found in my corpus. Finally, the scholar very perceptively points out that bozal is similar to the "Creole French" spoken in Santo Domingo, in other words, to Haitian Creole.

Actor Laz Alonzo is of Afro-Cuban ancestry

One of Pichardo's affirmations, however, seems to disprove that a process of creolization took place in Cuba. It is well known that the principal creators of a creolized code are the members of the second generation-the children of foreignerswho expand it and use it as a native language. Pichardo states that "blacks born in Cuba speak the same as whites," a thesis also sustained by Bachiller y Morales (1881:l00-101) and apparent in the 19th century vernacular theater, in which bozal speech was exclusively reserved for African characters. The answer to this apparent contradiction can be found in the following affirmation of Jose Maria de la Torre (185454, translation and emphasis mine):
"Blacks born in Cuba can also be divided into those born in cities and towns, and
those born and raised in the countryside (called criollos de campo [countryside
creoles]) since the latter possess peculiar and rougher language and manners."
In other words, the authors cited previously (including the vernacular theater playwrights) based their observations of bozal on the speech of urban blacks, whose living conditions disfavored the preservation of a creole language. De la Torre simply confirms an undisputable fact: "in certain rural areas where the black population had little contact with whites, many descendants of African slaves regularly used bozal. This situation persisted until well advanced the present century. Once
more Lydia Cabrera's informants provide proof: Francisquilla Ibanez, Calixta Morales, Jose de Calazan Herrera, Juan O'Farrill, J. S. Baro-none of them was born in Africa. All of them spoke in bozal well into the 20th century. By that time, however, use of bozal was exceptional, rather than common.
Just as historical developments favored the formation of Afro-Cuban bozal, further historical events provoked its demise as an everyday language and promoted its displacement by standard Cuban
Spanish. During the 1860s, the slave trade was abolished and, with it, the continued linguistic contact with the African continent. Later, the Ten Years War (1868-1878) and other developments led to the eventual abolition of slavery in 1886. The change from slave to free labor coincided with a period of revolution in the sugar industry. Small, traditional sugar mills were displaced by huge centrales that attracted workers from many different parts of the country toward the central and eastern regions. A massive process of internal migration took place and substitution of bozal by Spanish intensified. Blacks and whites fought together in the War of Independence (1895-1898)
Later, in the Republican era, the railroad--which brought together eastern and western Cuba at the beginning of the twentieth century--and the construction of the Central Highway had a strong
integrative impact on the Cuban population. The use of standard Spanish was also favored by increased access to formal education and to the media, particularly to radio broadcasts. These are some of the reasons why usage of bozal as a regular system of communication was restricted by the 1950s to older people, especially in those regions where the black population remained relatively stable and isolated. It is precisely in those areas-some towns of Matanzas like El Perico, Pedro Betancourt, and Uni6n de Reyes, for instance--where the original African tongues were preserved as vernacular languages for a longer period of time. Today, all Afro-Cuban languages (Lucumi,
Congo, and Abakua) as well as bozal are used exclusively for religious purposes.
Afro Culture in Cuba                              
'                             111. Religious Usage
Both Regla de Ocha (Santen'a) and the various Reglas Congas (Palo Mayombe, Kimbisa, etc.) make use of Afro-Cuban bozal speech. Congo rituals rather early initiated a process of shift from the original language toward Spanish, as can be observed in the many mambos, or songs, that are intoned in standard Spanish. Many others, as can be attested by attending congo liturgies and by listening to Lydia Cabrera's (no date) music recordings, are entirely in bozal. This language is also the preferred means of addressing the spirits of the dead during congo ceremonies. Lydia Cabrera (1979:121, translation and emphasis mine) explains:
"It is curious that the Nganga priests that we have met, who spoke and knew long
prayers in "Congo language", would mix the Bantu words with Spanish ones
pronounced as boroles in addressing the spirits, something that does not happen
in the case of the Olorichas (santeros) who know their language well and address
their gods in Anago (Yoruba). An old Congo priest explains, with more or less
accuracy, that "this was done by Congos and their children for the benefit of the
rellollos (members of the third generation) at a time when everyone spoke Spanish,
just in case a munangueye (a brother) could not understand them and bemuse his
is the way the dead people liked to talk, since hey spoke in bozal."
In other words, members of the very pragmatic congo Reglas, devoted primarily to the cult of the dead and to their manipulation through magical means, use bozal or Spanish in addressing the spirits, since the African tongue may not have been their native language. On the other hand, members of Regla de Ocha trust in the linguistic competence of their orishas (deities), who may understand Spanish, but prefer their native Yoruba. Both paleros and santeros frequently participate in misas espirituales (spiritual masses), that is, synchretic rituals whose primary objective is to seek communication with and protection from the spirits of the dead, particularly through the provocation of the state of trance in one or more mediums. In all the misas espirituales attended
by me, trance speaking has been in bozal. Although most speakers employ a number of traditional bozal features (verbal invariability, paratactic constructions, lack of gender and number agreement), by no means is the bozal used in these sessions a uniform code. Some, for instance, employ verbal inflections more frequently than others. It is believed that the closer this lengua (language) resembles Spanish, the more "refined" the dead person was in his or her life. Nevertheless, it is important to keep a formal distinction between Spanish (the language of everyday interaction) and the code supposedly employed by the spirits of the dead. This distinction serves two principal
purposes: 1) it emphasizes the difference between "normal" profane talk and communication with the spirits; 2) it symbolically distinguishes between the initiated, adept at understanding bozal, and the beginners or uninitiated, who miss a great deal of what is being said due to their lack of competence in this code.
Some features observed by me in one informant are the following:
"1. Unification of subject and object pronouns:
     Ti mini kun yo.
Literally: She/he is coming with I.
   Akodda ri yo.
Literally: He remembered I.
2. Lack of verbal inflections and regularization of forms:
     Ti min
      Is coming
3. Variable substitution of /d/ by Irl in initial position:
    Rio [Dios]
   Risi [dice]
4. Variable raising of lo/ into /u/ and of /el into /i/, particularly in unstressed final position:
   Malafu [malafo]
   Ri [de]
5. The lexicon is for the most part Spanish, but there is a frequent substitution of more contemporary or "sophisticatedn terms by older or simpler ones, sometimes associated with the slave experience: baracon (barracon [slave quarters]) instead of casa (house); agua ri Papa Rio
(literally: agua de Papa Dios [water of Daddy God]) rather than agua bendita (holy water); karo mucho buya (literally: carro mucha bulla [car lots of noise]) in place of ambulance; welerura (hueledura) instead of perfume (perfume).
Afro-Cuban dancer

It is important to stress that, in spite of variations, there is a considerable degree of internal coherence in the bozal speech of this informant, and that communication is rapid and fluid. It is evident in listening to her that her speech performance, far from being chaotic or random, is governed by grammatical and phonological rules. It is obvious, moreover, that this person could not have attained this linguistic competence by simply reading written sources in which bozal appears. Attendants to the misas espirituales speak to the spirits in Spanish, who always respond in bozal. Since some may not understand what is being said to them, certain older and more experienced
members of the religious community assume the role of interpreters and translate the spirit's messages. Bozal, then, still plays an important role in Afro-Cuban religion and it is solely in this context that it has been preserved until today.
Any attempt at verifying prior creolization must take into consideration, as Rickford (1977) has pointed out, linguistic and sociohistorical criteria. Both are essential in analyzing the peculiar fate
of Afro-Cuban bozal and its accelerated rate of change. A plantational economy and society emerged and disappeared in Cuba in record time: a little over a century of profound technical, demographic, political, and social transformations. In parallel fashion, the sociolinguistic profile of the island suffered radical alterations. One of them was the emergence of a creolized language called bozal, which in the same period of time was born, developed, and disappeared as a regular
means of communication, while retaining important religious functions. Language is always intimately related to the ways in which people think, feel, work, and live. The evolution of Afro-Cuban bozal speech vividly illustrates this relationship.

Afro Culture in Cuba

Also part of the Obini Bata repertoire is a contemporary interpretation of the dance of Oya, a warrior goddess of wind and storms. Wearing military green (instead of Oya's multi-colored skirt) and

Santeria Dancers at Casa de Africa


he 15th Annual IFE-ILE Afro-Cuban Dance Festival will feature over 8 dance and drumming workshops as well as dance parties

Gina Torres, Afro-Cuban

Laz Alonzo, Afro-Cuban


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