BLACK, BROWN AND WHITE RELATIONS
Black,brown and white relations were complicated on the island of Cuba. Unlike their Anglo-Saxon counterparts, most male Spanish émigrés, in the 17 and 18th centuries came to the New World without wives. It was inevitable they would make liaisons with women, some white, some not, and this would influence the racial and cultural components of their descendants.
The subjugation of the indigenous population of Cuba was horrendous. Yet within a couple of decades there were many unions between the largely male Spanish colonists and indigenous women. Their children were called ‘mestizos’, but Cubans called them ‘guajiros‘ which translated to ‘one of us’.
Traces of Taino DNA have been revealed in individuals throughout Cuba, and while it was thought the Tainos suffered the “Great Dying” at the hands of the Spaniards, the truth we now know is that thousands of Taino descendants are alive and well, not only in Cuba, but in other parts of the world.
Their knowledge of herbs is now attracting global interest. Cuban children are trained in herbal medicines, and local gardens, even in cities, are always organic and stocked with natural medicine plants.
My own paternal grandfather, Jaime Soteras Ribas, came with his brother to the island at the turn of the century. The two Catalonian brothers settled in the area of Solis, where Jaime established a retail store and bakery. Prior to his marriage to my paternal grandmother, Antonia Maria Gonzalez D’Estrade, he established a relationship with another woman, a mulatta, and had two boys with her.
He married Antonia, but always recognized his sons, Jaime and Manolo. Jaime, became a well-known painter in the United States and migrated to the city of New York. His brother, Manolo, continued to live in Santiago de Cuba.
Antonia Maria was not too pleased when she married Jaime Soteras and proceeded to give birth to seven daughters. In those days, baby daughters did not have the same ‘cachet’ as giving birth to a male heir. Antonia Maria resorted to a dramatic novena, climbing on her knees the many steps to the top of the Cathedral of our Lady of Charity. It proved successful, because her seventh child, a boy, was my own father, Angel Luis Soteras. She became pregnant three times after my father – all girls.