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Dmitri Prieto-Samsonov: I define myself as being either Cuban-Russian or Russian-Cuban, indiscriminately. I was born in Moscow in 1972 of a Russian mother and a Cuban father. I lived in the USSR until I was 13, although I was already familiar with Cuba-- where we would take our vacation almost every year. I currently live on the fifth floor of an apartment building in Santa Cruz del Norte, near the sea. I’ve studied biochemistry and law in Havana and anthropology in London. I’ve written about molecular biology, philosophy and anarchism, although I enjoy reading more than writing. I am currently teaching in the Agrarian University of Havana. I believe in God and in the possibility of a free society. Together with other people, that’s what we’re into: breaking down walls and routines.

Cuba’s Largest Overseas Diaspora is the Least Known

June 17, 2014 | Print Print |

Dmitri Prieto

HAVANA TIMES — Much of the data collected during Cuba’s last Population and Housing Census, conducted in 2012, has now been published.

One of the questions in the census was the place of birth of those surveyed. There was a space on the questionnaire where the person’s country of origin could be registered.

The number of people who live in Cuba but were born in other countries (3,386 women and 2,627 men) is quite surprising.

According to the census, 1,444 Cubans residing on the island were born in Spain. This does not exactly constitute a diaspora. Cuba, quite naturally, has historical migratory links to what people here sometimes refer to as the “motherland” and Spaniards emigrated to Cuba in a sustained fashion from the early 16th century until 1961.

There are a significant number of Spanish associations in Cuba, organized on the basis of ethnic or regional criteria, or as autonomous communities, which gather immigrants and their descendants. My Cuban grandfather, for instance, was from Leon, Spain and acquired Cuban citizenship years after moving to the island. He never returned to his country of origin. Many of his former compatriots did the same thing.

The second largest group of people who live in Cuba but were born overseas (some 794 individuals) came to the island from the Russian Federation. This is surprising, not so much because of the number of people but because this diaspora is almost completely unknown. And it is a true diaspora: those of us born in the Eurasian country are devoid of any association acknowledged by Cuban authorities and any socialization among us “immigrants” tends to be sporadic and fragmented. There aren’t many places where we can mingle and get to know one another.

Even Cuba’s most renowned ethnologists make no mention of the contribution this diaspora has made to the “ethnic makeup of the Cuban nation,” while there are numerous studies about Arab, Chinese, Jewish and Korean immigration.

As the place of origin of Cuban residents, Russia is followed by Italy (316), the United States (305), the Ukraine (274), Venezuela (237), Mexico (201) and Haiti (200). Together, the Russian and Ukrainian diasporas account for more than 1,000 people.

The children of those who were born overseas, who came into the world in Cuba, are also numerous. The descendants of such immigrants often fondly retain some aspects of the culture and a number of the traditions of their mothers and fathers. These individuals, however, were not registered as such by the census, as the place of origin of one’s progenitors was not asked.

The 2012 census also did not ask about citizenship, ethnicity or religious practices. The figures on place of origin, therefore, include people who hold Cuban citizenship and others who do not.

The ethnicity of those interviewed may be varied: one’s place of birth does not determine it. Many of these people were simply born abroad and never returned to the land of their birth.

The fact that the post-Soviet diaspora (if you’ll allow me to use this term for the sum total of all the diasporas from the former Soviet Union) is the largest in Cuba demands a more in-depth study and efforts to facilitate the socialization of its members.

Residents that were born outside of Cuba (2012 Census).


What's your opinion?

  • CarlosM2000

    Considering a population of 11 million, I think the surprise is only about 6,000 citizens were born overseas. When you consider people that were born before the revolution and came to Cuba as children for various reasons and the amount of children born to Cuban diplomats, business people and students while they were abroad over the last few decades, I’d thought the number would be higher.

    I think it would be more interesting to know how many foreign adults became Cuban citizens after the revolution. That number is probably pretty low.

  • Carlyle MacDuff

    Obviously even those who living under fear and oppression in their native countries and who actively seek to move to another country also seek freedom. Hence few wish to move to Cuba, but for example a quarter of a million per year, move to Canada where there are human rights, freedom of the press, free speech and capitalism. Where is the attraction of “Socialismo”? Cuba’s lack of atttraction isn’t a problem created by the delightful people or the beautiful country with enormous economic potential, it is a consequence of fifty five years of Socialist dictatorship.

    • John Goodrich

      Be serious.
      The reason the vast majority of people in Latin America and the Caribbean migrate is to find work and/or a better place to raise their families.
      The U.S. news is full of stories of thousands of children fleeing the (U.S. caused) violence in Honduras and other countries where the U.S. “War On Drugs” has caused enormous civil disruptions which re added to the economic plight already in existence due to U.S. enforced neo-liberal capitalism WHICH DOES NOT WORK IN UNDERDEVELOPED COUNTRIES .
      I find it interesting that even with the “wet foot-dry foot)” clause of the Cuban Adjustment Act making it possible for any Cuban who wishes to risk his/her or their families lives by floating onto a Florida beach ( and thereby adding to the counter-revolutionary propaganda war) to gain automatic admission to the U.S. that only about 25,000 Cubans a year choose to do so out of a population of 11,000,000 while some 75,000 Jamaicans emigrate to the U.S. each year out of a population of 3,000,000 and the Jamaicans are not considered to be politically oppressed.
      Do the math.
      Secondly,
      You’d do well to understand the difference between Cuba’s state economy and socialism .
      Of most significance is that a socialist system requires a bottom-up democratic way of operating which is absent in Cuba which is a Leninist ( cadre-led , top-down) system .
      This lack of the democracy which is central and instrinsic to socialism and communism means that no literate person, no educated person, no objective person should ever refer to those economic and social systems that existed in the USSR, in China, in Vietnam, in Eastern Europe, in Cuba as anything but state run systems .
      Calling Cuba communist is scholastically invalid but more importantly, it demonstrates the writer who does so as either uneducated or someone who is deliberately misrepresenting the two systems for their own purposes…..or both .
      It is impossible to hold a fair debate without both sides agreeing on terms and what they mean and I strongly suspect those who have a pronounced history of misrepresenting socialism .and/or communism are not really interested in a fair debate and so seek to confuse the terms so as to avoid some very logical but unwelcome conclusions.

      • Moses Patterson

        Who says YOU get to define socialism? Can you provide a link to a CREDIBLE source that corroborates your definition of socialism? The way you harp on literacy, education and objectivity, I am inclined to believe that you are one of these guys who decided he was too smart to go college and instead spent those years working in a Blockbuster video. Your whole “no true Scotsman” shtick is stale. It is one thing to argue that socialist systems in the USSR, China, Vietnam and Cuba have failed as socialist states because … well, they suck. It is a horse of a different color to claim they never really existed as socialist states. Do you know you are claiming that more than 1 billion people who live(d) under these regimes are mistaken, to say nothing of just about everybody else on the planet who believes the these governments are (were) socialist regimes? So, send just one source, other than your mom, who agrees with you.

        • ThomasD

          My impression is that mainly americans/american media call these leninist dictatorships ‘socialist’. Im from Europe and people over usually don’t associate these countries with ‘socialism’. This might be the case because half of the political spectrum over here refers to itself as ‘social’ or ‘socialist’. Or perhaps the core idea of worker control over production is stronger many parts of the world than in the US.

      • gtmunyan

        …always the apologist for the failed dictatorship of the Castros…an incredible and consistent disability to recognize the truth…a tragic “true believer” destined to eventually be proven totally wrong.

      • Carlyle MacDuff

        Dear Mr. Goodrich, I was serious but it is obvious that your mind was not clear when you read Dmitri Prieto’s article – or if by chance it was clear then my sympathy. I wrote nothing referring to your beloved US and neither did Dmitri Prieto. There appears to be a compulsion in your mind to drag in your country like a dead cat in everything you contribute and to ignore subject matter. This does you little credit and you should take a pause for reflection or as I have previously advised you, take some Milk of Magnesia to settle the bile in your stomach

  • Griffin

    Before the Revolution, Cuba was a country immigrants moved to. Since the Revolution, it has become a country people move away from.

    There are over 21 thousand Cubans living in Canada, for example. The only Canadian I know of who lives in Cuba is businessman, Cy Tokmakjian, who resides in La Condesa Prison.

  • emagicmtman

    Seems like a lot of citizens of Haitian origin, especially in Guantanamo and Santiago, were not counted.