By Lirians Gordillo Piña (liriansgp@gmail.com)

For a Cuban woman, black or of mixed race, leading a single parent family, who finds her livelihood in the informal sector of the economy and lives on the periphery, the covid-19 does not only threaten her health. “Although covid-19 affects all of us, there are sectors that were already in vulnerable situations and that will be much more affected, such as black and mestizo women who have less economic, cultural and social capital to deploy family strategies that allow them to get out of the crisis generated by the pandemic,” Geydi Fundora, professor at FLACSO Cuba and coordinator of the platform Participation and Equity, told SEMlac. Despite the universal social policies implemented by the Cuban State, which seek to mitigate the effects of the pandemic; research and activists have identified economic and social vulnerabilities that impact the health of black and mestizo women in the Caribbean nation. Studies and academic analysis in the country also show the persistence of racism and, in particular, that urban poverty has a black woman’s face. This is compounded by a complex context, aggravated by the pandemic, the economic difficulties facing the country, and the intensification of the U.S. government’s economic and financial blockade of the Caribbean nation. As of August 7, Cuba has registered 2,888 positive cases of the disease, of which 84.6 percent have recovered. Fifty-one percent of those infected are men and 48.9 percent are women. Havana is the province with the most active cases at the moment. Government measures for the control of the pandemic, essential for the favorable behavior of the disease in the country, have put a strain on daily life. The pressures are greater for women, since they are the ones who spend more hours searching for and preparing food, and caring for and doing household chores. Feminist Yuleidys González Estradas believes it is important to investigate and analyze the experience of women in the midst of the pandemic, based on their diversity and context. “Black and mestizo women are as diverse as our circumstances, and our lives are nuanced by multiple conditions,” says the researcher and coordinator of the project La cuarta Lucía, in the city of Bayamo, 666 kilometers from the capital. Like other Cuban feminists, González Estradas questions the current situation of black and mestizo women according to their occupation, an essential aspect for survival in these days of pandemic. Lawyer and feminist Alina Herrera Fuentes also refers to it in her article Inequalities of black and mestizo women in Cuba: challenges before the covid-19, based on data from the Census of Population and Housing, carried out by the National Office of Statistics and Information (ONEI), in 2016: “racialized women had higher unemployment rates, especially mestizo women (4.4%) in relation to white women (3.3%) and black women (3.0%)”. These figures are embodied in women who have gone through other circumstances and intersections that are still not very visible, such as age, migration from rural areas or from the east of the country, being trans women or women who are prostitutes.

“Social isolation was established for all people equally, and although many measures were taken to guarantee life and the resources indispensable for survival, many were left without their fundamental means of income. What strategies did they employ to get ahead? This is something that we still need to investigate and address even in the recovery stage,” says González Estradas. Berta Cáceres, also a member of the feminist network, gives as an example the women who, in the informal market, are dedicated to the sale of handmade articles, cleaning products and food, which they first acquire in stores and stores in foreign currency and then resell at a premium. “If we do a count, we realize that a good part of them are black and mestizo women. We will also see that most of them do not deal in foreign currency or resell household appliances, but mainly in cleaning products, food and other such items. This has been a subsistence practice for many years. It is not by chance, then, that they tried to maintain it during covid-19”, he reflects.

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