Radio Cadena Agramonte
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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Of the Nationalities Cuba is Made up, the African Root Emerges Strong



By Yamylé Fernández/ Radio Cadena Agramonte.
yamyle@rcagramonte.icrt.cu

For the Cuban people the African stamp is like a strong well-planted root.

For a good reason there is a saying in the island that reads: “el que no tiene de congo, tiene de carabalí” (he who doesn't have Congo [blood] has Carabalí), and so it establishes that even the fair-skinned people in Cuba could have an ancestor of African origin.


Millions of people were brought to America as slaves from the Birthplace of Humanity. Torn from their ancestral hearths these men and women mingled with the Iberians, the indigenous population and with those who came from other parts of the world to form what is today the Cuban nationality.  

Dozens of them joined Carlos Manuel de Cespedes during the first days of the war against the Spanish colonial yoke in the 19th century, and did not hesitate in taking up arms to conquer the freedom of a Homeland that they acknowledged like their own.

That's why when we celebrate the African Day – honouring the founding of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in 1963-, the historical event acquires special connotation in Cuba, because of the unbreakable bonds existing between the island nation and the Dark Continent.

The commemoration is much more representative if one takes into consideration that it coincides with the arrival to Cuba, on the same day but in 1991, of the last combatants that took part in the Operation Carlota, a Cuba’s military deployment to counter South African attacks to Angola.

That heroic epic gained a place in the history like one of the greatest examples of internationalism, being the westernmost island of the Greater Antilles the only nation in the Western Hemisphere that supported Angola militarily in its struggle for sovereignty and freedom, and from where our country only brought the mortal remains of more than 2,000 combatants and the affectionate friendship that ties our both nations.

More than three decades later, the presence of Cuba remains in Mama Africa: health care providers, teachers and construction workers have gone to cooperate in Angola, Ethiopia, Ghana, Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau, Burkina Faso and Congo and mitigate the pain of a population that lives in most impoverished continent.  

On the other hand, Africans from diverse countries are taking university degrees in the island. The Medical Sciences School, the Ignacio Agramonte University and the Jose Marti Pedagogical University are the places where these students are being trained in the city Camagüey, some 530 km east of Havana.

This is the best way to collaborate with a continent that, in spite of having important natural resources, has inherited the evils left by centuries of colonialism and exploitation.

According to the most recent report by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), of the 50 countries with the lowest Human Development Index, 40 are African, and of approximately 950 million people who live in this portion of the world, more than 300 millions live with less than one dollar per day.

Besides, many of its inhabitants have limitations to access basic services such as education, health and fresh water. Likewise, the continent is fiercely and constantly battered by epidemics as malaria and AIDS, above all in Sub-Saharan Africa.

There is still a great deal to do in our mission to collaborate with the African people, rich in culture and traditions.

The time for Africa came long ago, and taking immediate steps are needed.