Afro-Cubans are Cubans who are of West or Central African ancestry. The term Afro-Cuban can also refer to historical or cultural elements in Cuba thought to emanate from this community and the combining of native African and other cultural elements found in Cuban society such as race, religion, music, language, the arts and class culture.
(9.3% of the Cuban Population) (2012)
|Spanish, Lucumí, Habla Congo, English, Portuguese, Cuban Sign Language|
Abakuá, Arará religion, Cuban Vodú, Palo, Santería
Predominantly Roman Catholic, minorities of Protestant
|Related ethnic groups|
|Arará, Cape Verdean Cuban, Ganga-Longoba, Haitian Cuban, Lucumí people|
According to a 2012 national census which surveyed 11.2 million Cubans, 1 million Cubans described themselves as Afro-Cuban or Black, while 3 million considered themselves to be "mulatto" or "mestizo". Thus a significant proportion of those living on the island affirm some African ancestry. The matter is further complicated by the fact that a fair number of people still locate their origins in specific native African ethnic groups or regions, particularly the Yoruba (or Lucumí; see Olukumi people), Akan, Arará and Kongo, but also Igbo, Carabalí, Mandingo, Kissi, Fula, Makua and others.
Although Afro-Cubans can be found throughout Cuba, Eastern Cuba has a higher concentration of Afro-Cubans than other parts of the island and Havana has the largest population of Afro-Cubans of any city in Cuba. Recently, many native 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 countries, further contributing to the already high percentage of blacks on that side of the island.
The percentage of Afro-Cubans on the island increased after the 1959 Cuban revolution led by Fidel Castro due to mass migration from the island of the largely white Cuban professional class. A small percentage of Afro-Cubans left Cuba, mostly for the United States (particularly Florida), where they and their U.S.-born children are known as Afro-Cuban Americans, Cuban Americans, Hispanic Americans and African Americans. Only a few of them resided in nearby Spanish-speaking country of Dominican Republic and the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico.
The now-defunct Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami put the percentage of Cuba's black population at 29%. 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".
Afro-Cuban descendants in AfricaEdit
African countries such as Nigeria, the home of the Yoruba and Igbo cultures and Spanish 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 Spanish 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.
Haitian Creole language and culture first entered Cuba with the arrival of Haitian immigrants at the start of the 19th century. Haiti was then the French colony of Saint-Domingue and the final years of the 1791–1804 Haitian Revolution brought a wave of French settlers fleeing with their Haitian slaves to Cuba. They came mainly to the east, and especially Guantánamo, where the French later introduced sugar cultivation, constructed sugar refineries and developed coffee plantations. By 1804, some 30,000 Frenchmen were living in Baracoa and Maisí, the furthest eastern municipalities of the province. Later, Haitians continued to come to Cuba to work as braceros (Spanish for "manual laborers") in the fields cutting cane. Their living and working conditions were not much better than slavery. Although they planned to return to Haiti, most stayed on in Cuba. For years, many Haitians and their descendants in Cuba did not identify themselves as such or speak Creole. In the eastern part of the island, many Haitians suffered discrimination. After Spanish, Creole is the second most-spoken language in Cuba. Besides the eastern provinces, there are communities in Ciego de Ávila and Camagüey provinces where the population maintains Creole as a first language. Classes in Creole are offered in Guantanamo, Matanzas and the City of Havana. There is a Creole-language radio program.
The Abakuá religion is a secret society for men, similar to the Freemason orders of Europe. It has not been syncretized with Roman Catholicism and remains close to its origins in southeastern Nigeria and southwestern Cameroon, from the Ekpe society of the Efik people of Cross River State and nearby areas.
Since the mid-19th century, innovations within Cuban music have been attributed to the Afro-Cuban community. Genres such as son, conga, mambo and chachachá combined European influences from Cuban Spanish roots with sub-Saharan African elements. Cuban music evolved markedly away from the traditional European model towards improvisational African traditions. Afro-Cuban musicians have taken pre-existing genres such as trova, country and rap and added their own realities of life in a socialist country and as black persons. Genres like Nueva Trova are seen as live representations of the revolution and have been affected by Afro-Cuban musicians like Pablo Milanes who included African spirituals in his early repertory. Music in Cuba is encouraged both as a scholarly exercise and a popular enjoyment. To Cubans, music and study of it are integral parts of the revolution. Audiences are proud of mixed ethnicity that makes up the music from the Afro-Cuban community, despite there being a boundary of distrust and uncertainty between Cubans and Afro-Cuban culture.
Afro-Cuban music can be divided into religious and profane. Religious music includes the chants, rhythms and instruments used in rituals of the religious currents mentioned above. Profane music includes rumba, guaguancó, comparsa (carnival music) and lesser styles such as the tumba francesa. Virtually all Cuban music is influenced by African rhythms. Cuban popular music, and much of the art music, combines influences from Spain and Africa in ways unique to Cuba. For example son combines African instruments and playing styles with the meter and rhythm of Spanish poetic forms. While much of the music is performed in cut-time, artists typically use an array of time signatures like 6/8 for drumming beats. On the other hand, clave uses a polymetric 7/8 + 5/8 time signature.
Afro-Cuban arts emerged in the early 1960s with musicians spearheading an amateur movement bringing African-influenced drumming to the forefront of Cuban music. For example, Enrique Bonne's drumming ensembles took inspiration from Cuban folklore, traditional trova, dance music, and American Jazz. Pello de Afrokan created a new dance rhythm called Mozambique that increased in popularity after his predominantly afro-Cuban folklore troupe performed in 1964.
Before the revolution, authorities considered Afro-Cuban religious music a lesser culture; religious drummers were persecuted and instruments were confiscated. After the revolution, Afro-Cuban music could be practiced more openly, but authorities were suspicious due to its relation to Afro-Cuban religions. The first revolutionary institution created for the performing "national folklore" (Afro-Cuban artistic traditions) was Conjunto Folklórico Nacional. Despite official institutional support from the Castro's regime, Afro-Cuban music was treated mostly with ambivalence throughout the second half of the 20th century. Audiences looked down on traditional and religious Afro-Cuban music as primitive and anti-revolutionary, music educators continued pre-revolutionary indifference toward afro-Cuban folklore, and the religious nature of Afro-Cuban music led to criticisms of the government's whitening and de-Africanization of the music.[clarification needed] Religious concerts declined, musical instruments related to Santería were confiscated and destroyed, afro-Cuban celebrations were banned outright, and strict limits were placed on the quantity of religious music heard on the radio and television. These attitudes softened in the 1980s and 1970s as the afro-Cuban community began to fuse religious elements into their music. In the 1990s, Afro-Cuban music became a mainstay of Cuba's tourism economy. Members of religious groups earned their living by performing and teaching ritual drumming, song, and dance, to tourists visiting the country.
Rap was adopted in 1999 and solidified with the rise of hip-hop group Orishas. Cuban hip-hop focused on criticism of the Cuban state and the global economic order, including racism, colonialism, imperialism, and global capitalism.
Other cultural elements considered to be Afro-Cuban can be found in language (including syntax, vocabulary, and style of speech).
The Afro-Cuban religions all maintain some degree of use of African languages. Santería and Abakuá both have large parts of their liturgy in African languages (Lucumí, Igbo and Ñañigo, respectively) while Palo uses a mixture of Spanish and Kikongo, known as Habla Congo.
According to anthropologists dispatched by the European Union, racism is entrenched in Cuba. Afro-Cubans are systematically excluded from positions in tourism-related jobs, where they could earn tips in hard currencies. According to the EU study, Afro-Cubans are relegated to poor housing, and African Cubans are excluded from managerial positions.
Enrique Patterson describes race as a "social bomb" and says that "If the Cuban government were to permit Afro-Cubans to organize and raise their problems before [authorities] ... totalitarianism would fall". Esteban Morales Domínguez, a professor at the University of Havana, says that "The absence of the debate on the racial problem already threatens ... the revolution's social project". Carlos Moore, who has written extensively on the issue, says that "There is an unstated threat, Afro-cubans in Cuba know that whenever you raise race in Cuba, you go to jail. Therefore the struggle in Cuba is different. There cannot be a civil rights movement. You will have instantly 10,000 black people dead. [...] The government is frightened to the extent to which it does not understand African Cubans today. You have a new generation of Afro-Cubans who are looking at politics in another way." Barack Obama's victory has raised disturbing questions about the institutional racism in Cuba. The Economist noted "The danger starts with his example: after all, a young, Afro-cuban, progressive politician has no chance of reaching the highest office in Cuba, although a majority of the island's people are of mostly African descent"
In the years between the triumph of the revolution and the victory at Playa Girón the Cuban government was one of the world's most proactive regimes in the fight against discrimination. It achieved significant gains in racial equality through a series of egalitarian reforms early in the 1960s. Fidel Castro's first public address on racism after his rise to power was on March 23, 1959, at a labor rally in Havana, less than three months after he defeated Fulgencio Batista. He is quoted as saying: "One of the most just battles that must be fought, a battle that must be emphasized more and more, which I might call the fourth battle--the battle to end racial discrimination at work centers. I repeat: the battle to end racial discrimination at work centers. Of all the forms of racial discrimination the worst is the one that limits the colored Cuban's access to jobs. " Castro pointed to the distinction between social segregation and employment, while placing great emphasis on correcting the latter. In response to the large amount of racism that existed in the job market, Castro issued anti-discrimination laws. In addition, he attempted to close the class gap between wealthy white Cubans and Afro-Cubans with a massive literacy campaign among other egalitarian reforms in the early and mid-1960s. Two years after his 1959 speech at the Havana Labor Rally, Castro declared that the age of racism and discrimination was over. In a speech given at the Confederation of Cuban Workers in observance of May Day, Castro declared that the "just laws of the revolution ended unemployment, put an end to villages without hospitals and schools, enacted laws which ended discrimination, control by monopolies, humiliation, and the suffering of the people." Although inspiring, many would consider the claim to be premature."
Research conducted by Yesilernis Peña, Jim Sidanius and Mark Sawyer in 2003, suggests that social discrimination is still prevalent, despite the low levels of economic discrimination. After considering the issue solved, the Cuban government moved beyond the issue of racism. His message marked a shift in Cuban society's perception of racism that was triggered by the change in government focus." The government's announcement easily allowed the Cuban public to deny discrimination without first correcting the stereotypes that remained in the minds of those who grew up in a Cuba that was racially and economically divided. Many who argue that racism does not exist in Cuba base their claims on the idea of Latin American Exceptionalism. According to the argument of Latin American Exceptionality, a social history of intermarriage and mixing of the races is unique to Latina America. The large mestizo populations that result from high levels of interracial union common to Latin America are often linked to racial democracy. For many Cubans this translates into an argument of "racial harmony", often referred to as racial democracy. In the case of Cuba, ideas of Latin American Exceptionalism have delayed the progress of true racial harmony.
In spite of all the promises and speeches by government leaders, racial discrimination against Afro-Cubans continues to be a major Human Rights issue for the Cuban government, even resulting in riots in Central Havana, a mostly black neighborhood in the capital.
Most of the Latin population of Tampa in the 1950s was working class and lived in restricted areas, ethnic enclaves in the vicinity of Tampa's hundreds of cigar factories. African Cubans were tolerated to an extent in the Latin quarter (where most neighborhoods and cigar factories were integrated). Ybor City and its counterpart, West Tampa, were areas that bordered on other restricted sections-areas for U.S. blacks or whites only. In this Latin quarter, there existed racial discrimination despite its subtleness.
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: African culture. Specifically it highlighted the struggle for independence from Spain, African slavery, and building a purely Cuban national identity. Its goal was to incorporate African folklore and rhythm into traditional modes of art.
History of the movementEdit
The movement evolved from an interest in the rediscovery of African heritage. It developed in two very different and parallel stages. One 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 such as Cubans Alejo Carpentier, Rómulo Lachatañeré, Fortunato Vizcarrondo, Fernando Ortiz 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 such as a black man sitting beneath a palm tree with a cigar.
Poems and essays by Afro-Cuban writers began to be published in the 1930s in newspapers, magazines and books, where they discussed their own personal heritage. Afro-Cuban and Afro-Cuban heritage artists such as Nicolás Guillén, Alberto Arredondo and Emilio Ballagas brought light to the once-marginalized African race and culture. It became a symbol of empowerment and individuality for Afro-Cubans within the established Western culture of the Americas.
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 movementEdit
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. Although the actual movement of Afrocubanismo faded by the early 1940s, 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.
Arts and entertainmentEdit
- Laz Alonso - actor
- Renny Arozarena - actor
- Gastón Baquero - poet
- Jake Cannavale - actor
- Matt Cedeño - actor and model
- Celia Cruz - singer
- Sammy Davis Jr - singer, dancer, actor
- Rosario Dawson - actress
- Ángel Escobar - poet
- Lola Falana - actress, singer and dancer
- Rome Flynn- actor
- Sara Gómez - filmmaker
- Nicolás Guillén - poet
- Nestor Hernández - photographer
- Georgina Herrera - poet
- Wifredo Lam - artist
- Coco López - artist
- Faizon Love - actor
- Mellow Man Ace - rapper
- Nancy Morejón - poet
- Luis Moro - actor and filmmaker
- Gina Torres - actress
- Alexis Valdés - artist and comedian
- Afro-Cuban All Stars
- Francisco Aguabella — percussionist
- Federico A. "Tata Güines" Soto Alejo — percussionist and bandleader
- Carlos Alfonso — bassist and leader of Síntesis
- Félix "Chocolate" Alfonso — conguero and bandleader
- X Alfonso — singer
- René Álvarez — singer and bandleader; one of many vocalists to have recorded with Arsenio Rodríguez
- Eugenio "Totico" Arango — rumba singer, composer and bandleader
- Alfredo "Chocolate" Armenteros — trumpeter and bandleader; cousin of Benny Moré
- Justi Barreto — composer and percussionist
- Guillermo Barreto — percussionist with Israel "Cachao" López
- Abelardo Barroso — singer and bandleader
- Mario Bauzá — musician and songwriter; brother-in-law of Machito
- Ignacio Berroa — percussionist
- Leo Brouwer — composer and guitarist
- Descemer Bueno — singer, composer and record producer
- Luis Mariano Calzado — singer and bandleader; brother of Pedro Manuel "Rudy" Calzado and Sergio Calzado
- Pedro Manuel "Rudy" Calzado — composer, singer and bandleader; brother of Luis Mariano Calzado and Sergio Calzado
- Sergio Calzado — singer and bandleader; brother of Luis Mariano Calzado and Pedro Manuel "Rudy" Calzado
- Cándido Camero — percussionist
- Humberto Cané — tres player and singer with Sonora Matancera; son of Valentín Cané
- Valentín Cané — co-founder/director of and musician/singer with Sonora Matancera; father of Humberto Cané
- Héctor Casanova — singer and bandleader
- "Changuito" — percussionist and former member of Los Van Van
- Félix Chappottín — trumpeter and bandleader; when Arsenio Rodríguez left Cuba never to return he handed over to him leadership of his group
- Julito Collazo — percussionist and singer
- Celia Cruz — singer
- Miguelito Cuní — singer with Arsenio Rodríguez and Félix Chappottín
- Anga Díaz — percussionist and former member of Irakere
- Carlos Manuel "Caíto" Díaz Alonso — singer and maracas player with Sonora Matancera; he was the high voice in the coro of this band, accompanied by Rogelio "El Gallego" Martínez Díaz
- Barbarito Diez — singer
- Addys D'Mercedes — singer
- Juan "Curba" Dreke — rumba singer
- Carlos Embale — singer renowned for his recordings of son montuno and, especially, guaguancó; was for many years lead vocalist with Septeto Nacional de Ignacio Piñeiro
- Richard Egües — flute player, a member of Orquesta Aragón
- Gonzalo Fernández — flautist, bandleader and composer
- Ibrahim Ferrer — singer (Buena Vista Social Club)
- Ezequiel "Lino" Frías Gómez — pianist and composer with Sonora Matancera
- Benito "Roncona" González — iconic rumba singer
- Juan de Marcos González — musical director of the Buena Vista Social Club
- Rubén González — pianist (Conjunto de Arsenio Rodríguez and Buena Vista Social Club)
- Graciela — singer; stepsister of Machito
- Francisco Raúl "Machito" Gutiérrez Grillo — singer, musician, and bandleader
- Marcelino "Rapindey" Guerra — singer and composer
- Orlando "Cascarita" Guerra — singer
- Amaury Gutiérrez — singer
- Óscar Hernández — songwriter; known for his lyrics "Ella y yo" and "La rosa roja;" cousin of Alberto Arredondo's mother
- Generoso "Tojo" Jiménez — trombonist
- Enrique Jorrín — violinist, composer, and inventor of the cha-cha-chá rhythm
- Pedro "Peruchín" Jústiz — pianist and composer
- Pedro Knight — trumpeter with Sonora Matancera, second husband, manager after 1967, and eventual widower of Celia Cruz
- Rolando Laserie — singer
- Xiomara Laugart — singer
- Félix "Pupi" Legarreta — violinist, composer and bandleader
- Calixto Leicea — trumpeter, songwriter, and arranger with Sonora Matancera
- Pío Leyva — singer and songwriter (Buena Vista Social Club)
- Olivia Longott — singer
- Israel "Cachao" López — bassist, composer, and bandleader, creator of the mambo and the first to record Cuban jam sessions (descargas)
- Orestes "Macho" López — pianist and songwriter; brother of Cachao
- Orlando "Cachaíto" López — bassist (Buena Vista Social Club); nephew of Cachao and Macho
- Antonio Machín — singer and bandleader
- Kalimba Marichal — Mexican-born singer, actor, and athlete
- Rita Marley — singer, humanitarian, and widow of Bob Marley
- Cheo Marquetti — singer and bandleader
- Luis Marquetti — composer; cousin of Cheo Marquetti
- Virgilio Martí — rumba singer
- Osvaldo "Chihuahua" Martínez — timbalero, güirero, composer and bandleader
- Rogelio "El Gallego" Martínez Díaz — guitarist, bandleader and composer; longtime director of and coro singer with Sonora Matancera
- Mellow Man Ace — rapper
- Celeste Mendoza — singer
- Pablo Milanés — singer
- Christina Milián — singer
- Rita Montaner — singer, pianist and actress
- Benny Moré — singer and bandleader; cousin of Alfredo "Chocolate" Armenteros
- Mario "Papaíto" Muñoz — percussionist and singer; was a member of Sonora Matancera
- Fats Navarro — jazz musician
- Bola de Nieve — singer and pianist
- Armando Peraza — percussionist
- Ignacio Piñeiro — musician, bandleader, and composer
- Omara Portuondo — singer (Buena Vista Social Club)
- Luciano "Chano" Pozo — Afro-Cuban/jazz percussionist, composer, and bandleader
- Dámaso Pérez Prado — "the king of mambo," composer, and the creator of the bachata rhythm, a variant of the guaracha
- Lázaro Prieto — bassist and bandleader; member of the influential conjunto founded by Arsenio Rodríguez
- Miguel Quintana — singer and bandleader
- Francisco "Compay Segundo" Repilado — singer (Dúo Los Compadres, Grupo de Compay Segundo, and Buena Vista Social Club), composer and bandleader
- Orlando "Puntilla" Ríos — percussionist, singer, and bandleader
- Arsenio Rodríguez — musician, bandleader, and songwriter
- Yotuel Romero — singer
- Lázaro Ros — singer
- José "Malanga" Rosario Oviedo — traditionally regarded as the most brilliant dancer of the different types of rumba and, above all else, as the most iconic dancer of rumba columbia
- Gonzalo Rubalcaba — jazz pianist
- Armando Sánchez — conguero, composer and bandleader
- Ramón "Mongo" Santamaría — musician, songwriter, and bandleader
- Ramón "Monguito el Único" Sardiñas Quián — singer
- René Scull — singer; cousin of Arsenio Rodríguez
- Jon Secada — singer
- Sen Dog — rapper and member of Cypress Hill
- Antolín "Papa Kila" Suárez — bongocero with Arsenio Rodríguez
- Gustavo Tamayo — güiro player with the groundbreaking band of Israel "Cachao" López
- Rozonda Thomas — singer and composer
- Bebo Valdés — pianist
- Carlos "Patato" Valdes — conga player and composer
- Chucho Valdés — pianist and leader of Irakere, son of Bebo Valdés
- Alfredito Valdés — singer; brother of Marcelino Valdés and Vicentico Valdés, and one of the many vocalists to have recorded with Sonora Matancera
- Alfredito Valdés, Jr. — pianist; son of Alfredito Valdés
- Marcelino Valdés — singer; brother of Alfredito Valdés and Vicentico Valdés
- Vicentico Valdés — singer; brother of Alfredito Valdés and Marcelino Valdés, and one of the many vocalists to have recorded with Sonora Matancera
- Pablo "Bubú" Vázquez Gobín — co-founder of and contrabassist with Sonora Matancera; father of Elpidio Vázquez and Javier Vázquez
- Elpidio Vázquez — contrabassist with Sonora Matancera, succeeding his father Pablo "Bubú" Vázquez Gobín; brother of Javier Vázquez
- Elpidio Vázquez, Jr. — contrabassist with Sonora Matancera, the third consecutive generation of his family affiliated with this group
- Javier Vázquez — songwriter, arranger, and pianist with Sonora Matancera; son of Pablo "Bubú" Vázquez Gobín and brother of Elpidio Vázquez, he succeeded Lino Frías on piano as a member of Sonora Matancera
- María Teresa Vera — guitarist, singer and composer
- Alejandro "El Negro" Vivar — trumpeter; member of the seminal ensemble lead by Israel "Cachao" López
- Lupe Victoria "La Lupe" Yolí Raymond — singer
- Yusa — female bassist
- Rafael Zequeira — guitarist and singer
- Salvador Valdés Mesa — First Vice President of Cuba, former trade union leader, Political Bureau of the Communist Party of Cuba
- Juan Almeida Bosque — politician and composer
- Víctor Dreke — Cuban revolutionary and second-in-command to Ernesto "Che" Guevara in the Congo
- Juan Gualberto Gómez — 1890s revolutionary leader, close collaborator of José Martí; served as a member of the committee of consultations that drafted and amended the Constitution of 1901 and as a Representative and Senator
- Mariana Grajales — part of the Cuban Independence War; Antonio Maceo's mother
- Esteban Lazo Hernández — politician
- Antonio Maceo — 1890s revolutionary leader
- Jorge Luis García Pérez — human rights activist
- Rafael Serra — writer and political journalist
- Harry "Pombo" Villegas — Cuban Communist guerilla
- Enrique Tarrio - activist and leader of the far right Proud Boys movement.
- Arnaldo Tamayo Méndez — cosmonaut; first Latin American and first person of African descent in outer space
- Aroldis Chapman — MLB
- Gilbert Arenas — NBA
- Javier Arenas (American football) — NFL
- Yoel Romero — Olympic wrestler and mixed martial artist
- Hector Lombard — Olympic Judoka
- Alexis Vila — Olympic wrestler
- Bert Campaneris — MLB, cousin of José Cardenal
- José Cardenal — MLB
- Joel Casamayor — boxer; WBC Lightweight Champion
- José Contreras — MLB
- Martín Dihigo — Negro leagues, Baseball Hall of Fame
- El Gran Lotario- Wrestler
- Juan Carlos Gómez — boxer; former WBC Cruiserweight Champion
- Liván Hernández — MLB, half-brother of El Duque
- Orlando "El Duque" Hernández — MLB
- Yoan Pablo Hernández - Professional Boxer;He held the unified IBF and Ring magazine cruiserweight titles between 2011 and 2015, as well as the WBA interim cruiserweight title in 2011.
- Kid Chocolate — boxer; former World Featherweight and Junior Lightweight Champion
- Orestes Kindelán — most prolific home run hitter in the history of amateur Cuban baseball
- Minnie Miñoso — MLB
- José Nápoles — boxer; former World Welterweight Champion; also known as "Mantequilla" Nápoles
- Sergio Oliva — only bodybuilder to have ever beaten Arnold Schwarzenegger in a Mr. Olympia competition
- Tony Oliva — MLB, three time batting champion
- Luis Ortiz — professional heavyweight boxer and former WBA Heavyweight Champion
- Brayan Peña — MLB
- Tony Pérez — MLB Hall of Fame
- Anthony Echemendia — amateur wrestler
- Juan Pizarro — MLB
- Yasiel Puig — MLB
- Ana Fidelia Quirot — athlete
- Alexei Ramírez — MLB
- Sugar Ramos — boxer; former WBA Featherweight Champion
- Alexis Rubalcaba — amateur boxer
- Félix Savón — amateur boxer
- Javier Sotomayor — world record holder in high jump
- Teófilo Stevenson — amateur boxer
- Luis Tiant — MLB
- Regla Torres — volleyball player
- Cristóbal Torriente — Negro leagues, Baseball Hall of Fame
- Jorge Orta — MLB
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