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Against the Stereotype of the illegal Immigrant in Cuba

Against the Stereotype of the Immigrant in Cuba
January 26, 2015
Yenisel Rodriguez Perez

HAVANA TIMES – I once saw ethnologist Miguel Barnet, Chair of the
Association of Cuban Writers and Artists (UNEAC), in a bout of
ill-intentioned perplexity. The man of letters was giving the opening
speech for a social sciences symposium that addressed the issue of
illegal settlements in the capital, mostly populated by immigrants from
other provinces.

His remarks were mostly a condemnation of those places and their
inhabitants, but his criticisms were unclear, particularly because he
left it up to the audience to work out the inquisitional lesson of his
speech.

The academic asked those present why such precarious shanties existed in
socialist Cuba, as though these were a kind of spontaneous mutation with
no apparent cause.

All the while, he claimed to be in a state of “profound confusion”.
After all, an ethnologist doesn’t make a habit of attacking impoverished
and marginalized populations, least of all someone like Barnet, who is
known as the biographer of Cuba’s last run-away slave.

This way, he washed his hands like Pontius Pilate and left the dirty
work in the hands of his audience, government academics in their majority.

This experience was a kind of foretaste of the radicalization of Cuba’s
internal migratory policies, whose most radical directives are something
of a dirty secret, today masked with the discourse of a sustainable
urban planning that is being promoted at all levels.

When we read between the lines, we note that one of the chief interests
of the campaign is to continue with and extend the forced deportations
of internal immigrants.

How much have these immigrants contributed to enriching the daily life
of Havana? Why are we only shown the negative aspects of this
illegalized immigration?

These are the questions that come to mind when I see the complicity of
scientific thought and common sense in forced deportations.

One of the causes of this are our classifications. What does being a
fourth or fifth generation resident of Havana, a condition many defend
with pride, actually mean? Does it signify a kind of urban or
cosmopolitan purity?

All of this is born of the fallacy surrounding one’s place of origin, a
double-edged sword that is deliberately used in the case of illegalized
immigration, as it is applied chiefly to the poor, the marginalized and
the excluded.

Many people and sectors of the population who were not born in Havana
become residents of the capital through official channels (most are
government officials and institutional staff), on the basis of
incoherent arguments that contradict migratory directives themselves.

The government uses the terms “legal” and “illegal” immigrant, and the
category of resident and many others, according to its interests,
relying on popular superstitions and traditional negative stereotypes.

That is why we must question the exclusive and discriminatory terms and
concepts that are diluted in our common sense.

Similarly, we must overcome popular prejudices that assign regionalist,
racist and xenophobic attributes to people, attributes that facility
people’s complicity in these forced deportations.

I make special emphasis on the logic applied to single men devoid of
families, who are subject to very unjust treatment during deportation,
including imprisonment and physical mistreatment.

Source: Against the Stereotype of the illegal Immigrant in Cuba – Havana
Times.org – http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=108871

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