A couple weeks ago, Roberto Zurbano, a top editor at Cuban publishing house Casa de las Americas, wrote a New York Times opinion piece criticizing Cuba’s long history of discrimination against black citizens. “Racism is alive and well,” he wrote, though saying so is “tantamount to a counterrevolutionary act,” since the island’s revolutionary leadership claims that their 1959 takeover lead to equal treatment for black Cubans. On Friday, Zurbano announced that he had been assigned a new, lesser analyst job at Casa de las Americas, implying that the demotion had something to do with the article.
While Zurbano refused to comment on his employment situation when contacted by the Times, he did say that an editor altered the piece’s headline without asking him. “It was a huge failure of ethics and of professionalism,” he said. The headline, which was translated from Spanish, read, “For Blacks in Cuba, the Revolution Hasn’t Begun”; Zurbano claims that it should have been “Not Yet Finished.” However, he told the AP that he did not wish to retract anything in the body of the piece: “I continue to think the same ideas. There is still much to discuss about racism.”
Eileen Murphy, a spokeswoman for the paper, said the Times stands by their editing. “There were numerous versions of the piece sent back and forth, and in the end, Mr. Zurbano and our contact for him (who speaks fluent English) signed off on the final version,” she said. “We knew that Mr. Zurbano was in a sensitive situation, and we are saddened if he has indeed been fired or otherwise faced persecution, but we stand by our translation and editing, which was entirely along normal channels.” The Cuban government has declined to comment on the matter, but La Jiribilla, described as “Cuba’s leading online cultural publication,” has since published an essay saying that Zurbano’s piece appeared “in the wrong publication and with the wrong language.”