HAVANA TIMES – Cirle Tatis Arzuza (a Colombian YouTuber, anti-racism activist and advocate for Africa’s cultural heritage) experienced “unpleasant events” in Cuba because she looked Cuban.
According to her Instagram account, she felt discriminated against as soon as she landed in Cuba. When she arrived in Vinales, the owner of the house she was staying at thought she was Cuban and took a deep sigh of relief when she clarified where she was from.
“As a Cuban, you don’t want Cubans in your home?” Cirle asked the owner. “They have no respect, they damage everything, they are boisterous, I don’t like them,” the man answered.
Luckily for her, her foreign origins “saved” her. She was allowed to stay at the hostal. The “risk” of not being accepted, even with a booking in advance, is a feeling that many Cuban clients suffer, especially at some tourist accommodation/hotels or state-run and private services.
A few months ago, Ana Maria and her Canadian partner wanted to spend a weekend at the Hotel Covarrubias in Las Tunas. At the Reservations Desk, the receptionist asked if they were married and what the age difference was between them.
“When I told her that he was 15 years older than me and that we were just seeing each other, they “warned” us: even though you have a reservation at the hotel, they might not let us stay,” Ana Maria tells us. “Nearly everyone thinks that I’m a jinetera (hooker) just because I’m black and because I’m with a foreign guy.”
Luis Hernandez, an employee at Cubanacan’s Sales Office in this province, confirms that every establishment reserves the right to allow admission or not.
“Many tourists have complained about seeing very young Cubans with old foreign men in hotels where many families stay,” he says. “There are tourist accommodations, especially on the lower end of the scale, where you can see many cases of (alleged) prostitution.”
As there is no law stipulating any of this, customer protection within Cuba’s domestic business system falls back on Resolution 54/2018. However, nothing is stipulated in this resolution about the right of admission.
Only clause m, from the chapter about customer rights, explains that they should receive a friendly, transparent, fair, non-discriminatory or non-abusive service when it comes to quality, quantity, price, weight, volume, measure of products and services wherever they are purchased.
NATIONAL TOURISM AT A DISADVANTAGE
Cirle’s “bad experiences” in Cuba included the time when her and her partner tried to change money at a hotel, but the guard told them that the service was only available for guests. If they wanted to change money, she would need to wait outside.
“If you only change money for customers, why would you change it for Mario? Because he was a tourist, like the guard himself said, but I was also a tourist, spending 2000 euros in his country. So what was the difference between Mario and I?” Cirle wondered. “I never in my wildest dreams thought that looking Cuban because I was Black might cause me so much humiliation.”
During her stay at a 5* hotel resort in Cayo Guillermo, she and a friend were treated with disdain, after being confused with one of “those Cubans who leave the country and then change their accent when they come back to seem different.”
“I was there, paying exactly the same as they [their partners] were, white and European men, but I didn’t deserve decent treatment,” she also said on her Instagram. “It was as if I deserved better treatment if I said I wasn’t Cuban.”
Even when there were 1,689,804 local holiday-makers in 2018 (36% of the total), there have been many complaints from Cubans about being treated poorly at various tourist establishments.
The Cuban president, Miguel Diaz-Canel, pointed out the following during the minister of Tourism’s annual assessment: “we have to defend a single quality: the highest quality possible, both for international and national tourists. We can’t differentiate between one person and another. We all have to be served to the best of a professional’s ability.”
Just over five months since these declarations, stories continue to reel in.
Recently, Cuban singer Ana Yadira Cabanas complained on her Facebook page about the fact that the Hotel Parque Central in Havana, refused to allow her to go out on the terrace because, according to the guard, “the hotel reserves the right to admission or not.”
“It seemed like I was going to rob something by the way the guard treated me, that or he thought that I didn’t have enough money to enter a place like this one,” Cabanas wrote on the social media platform. “Complaining to his manager was worse, because he was even more despotic and rude than the guard.”
As there is no space for Cuban citizens to file formal reports, Cubans have decided to use social media to show their unhappiness with some services or recount events when they were victims of discrimination.
Miguel Angel Diaz also wrote on his Facebook page that in a disagreement about the hike up of transport prices to Vinales, a private driver blurted out that he didn’t let Cubans on board his car.
Pissed off he got out of the car, while the rest of his foreign companions wondered what had happened.
“I’s very common for Cubans who offer services to international tourism, to use discriminatory terms for their fellow Cubans.” Diaz said.