Brazilian journalist says Cuban doctors arriving in Brazil look like “maids”

For journalist Micheline Borges Cuban doctors look like "maids"
For journalist Micheline Borges Cuban doctors look like “maids”

BW of Brazil: Since the initiation of Brazil’s “Mais Médicos” program to increase the country’s number of doctors per resident rate, a tidal wave of controversy has exploded on the internet. The program touched off protests by the Brazilian medical establishment all over the country who took to the streets in several cities to express their outrage at the government’s latest experiment. While some sites have pointed out the politics involved in this program, other controversies have surrounded comments being made about the Cuban doctors themselves. The Cubans have been called “slaves” that need to “go back to Cuba” and one journalist took to her Facebook account questioning their skills and saying that they looked like maids. Really? Why? What is it about the appearance of these highly trained doctors that would make someone say they look like maids? Here are a few clues: 1) In Brazil, the slavery of Africans lasted for about 350 years. 2) A common saying in Brazil is “white woman for marriage, mulata for sex and black woman for work”, which leads to 3) Brazil has the largest number of maids in the world, which leads to 4) black women are the majority of maids in Brazil and 5) Until a very recent law, Brazilian maids worked in conditions that many say were analogous with slavery

Journalist says Cuban doctors look like ‘maids’

from G1 in Rio Grande do Norte

‘Are they really doctors?’ asked Micheline Borges on Facebook. After more than 5,000 shares, she deleted her account on the social network.

The declaration of a journalist from Rio Grande do Norte about the appearance of the Cuban doctors who came to Brazil to work in the “Programa Mais Médicos” (More Doctors program) sparked controversy in social networks on Tuesday (August 27). The journalist Micheline Borges published that the doctors have the face of “maids” and questions whether the women were really health professionals. “Are they really doctors?”, she contested. She deleted her account on the social network after the impact of the message, which generated more than five thousand shares until 4pm on that Tuesday.

Just a few of the Cuban doctors who have come to Brazil
Just a few of the Cuban doctors who have come to Brazil

“Forgive me if it was prejudice, but these Cuban doctors have the face of a maid. Are they really doctors? Afe, how terrible. Doctors usually have a posture, like a doctor, they impose themselves from their looks … Poor thing of our population. Do they understand dengue (1)? Febre amarela (Yellow fever)? God protect our people ! (sic)”, read the message posted in the morning.

At the G1 news site, the journalist apologized to those who were offended and said she had been misunderstood. “It was an unfortunate comment, I just want to apologize, I was very distressed. I received a very large proportion in social networks, where people interpret it the way they want. I have no prejudice against anyone, I did not want to hit anyone or hurt the image or the profession of anyone,” she said.


The director of the Sindicato das Empregadas Domésticas (Union of Domestic Employees) of Rio Grande do Norte, Israel Fernandes, said he will examine the possibility of going to court against the journalist. “This is absurd. In the 21st century a person still has that kind of thinking. I don’t think this girl is really a journalist. Racism, discrimination is a crime. I’m going to get together with the other members of the union to examine the possibility of going to court. She will respond to these crimes.”

Note from BW of Brazil: Of course there will be those who will argue that there was nothing actually racist about Borges’ comments as, after all, there are also white maids in Brazil. But here’s the point. White women are not stereotyped as maids. When people knock on doors of households in Brazil, people don’t automatically ask white women if the “lady of the house is home” or assume any black woman in a luxury apartment is a maid. White women are not overwhelmingly cast as maids on Brazilian television (2). And the last point, which is actually a question. If one puts two women in the same attire and asks the average Brazilian which woman works as a maid, which woman would they most likely point to? (3) Case closed!


1. Dengue fever, also known as breakbone fever, is an infectious tropical disease caused by the dengue virus. Symptoms include fever, headache, muscle and joint pains, and a characteristic skin rash that is similar to measles. In a small proportion of cases the disease develops into the life-threatening dengue hemorrhagic fever, resulting in bleeding, low levels of blood platelets and blood plasma leakage, or into dengue shock syndrome, where dangerously low blood pressure occurs. Source

2. Carmen Sívia Moraes Rial found in her research that black men and women only appeared in Brazilian commercials in the role of low paid employees, mostly as maids (drivers, gardeners, cooks). Source: “Racial and Ethnic Stereotypes in Brazilian Advertising e Manezinho: de ofensa a troféu.” Da Silva, da Rocha and dos Santos also point out that “The Brazilian discourse constructed, in the symbolic plane, a space of almost total subordination to the black women, in which the character-types are the domestic (or slave in narratives of the era) and the prostitute (with variations of voluptuous or hyper-sensual women). Source: “Negras (os) e brancas (os) em publicidades de jornais paranaenses” by Paulo Vinícius Baptista da Silva, Neli Gomes da Rocha e Wellington Oliveira dos Santos.

3. The subordinate position of black women in the social imagination was the focus of a campaign in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul in 2010. This image is also at the center of discussions of the need to adapt policies to improve the image of black women.

About Marques Travae 3747 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.


  1. I have traveled to Brazil hundreds of times, doing the mid 80s and 90s as a crew member, for an international airline. and fall in love with the people the food and hospitality. as an African-American I am so disappointed with the racial and intolerance being reported.

  2. Very interesting that a woman who is less educated would question these doctors credentials based simply on their race. Cuba is known the world over for having an excellent medical program and some of the best trained doctors globally, even Hugo Chavez chose to go to Cuba for his cancer treatments when he was alive. Their medical schools are not easy to get into, they have a very high standard for entry and completing the course, these doctors are some of the best and brightest in Cuba. That Micheline creature is an imbecile who knows nothing about the world, ‘it’ is a travesty to the journalism industry.

    The black doctors from Cuba would be of great benefit to the people of Brazil, especially the black populace who I am sure do not get the best care from the white doctors in their own country.

  3. Very disappointed. I’m a Black Cuban. I’ve been excited about traveling to Brazil for so long, but in comparison to the US, if anything, i’ll experience MORE racism?

    If websites like this didnt expose the truth, we would never know. 🙁

  4. What a stupid racist person. I am so sick and tired of Black women having to experience this. And more people need to call out White WOMEN for their anti-Black female racism!

  5. What an ugrateful hag. She has so much hate in her its blindsiding her from whats important and she doesnt even care about her own people, because if she did, her heart would have been thankful. Not everyone is a pretentious pig like her with their noses up in the air. If she feels she’s so special maybe she should take her simple minded behind to med school and show how she looks the part. Pig!

  6. If I was apart of the Cuban Doctors going to Brazil, I’d turn right around and go back and say “No Thanks”. Your Public Health problem YOU figure it out. I can wait to get their and start helping the Afro Brazilian Community because I don’t take no sh*t.

  7. The dilemma for these medical folks in the Americas is that they are facing a highly skilled medical professionals from Cuba in different shades of skin colors. I have seen these Cuban doctors in Haiti after the earthquake, their performance was unmatched — They did not amputate like the Dominicans did.— The humanity from these Cuban doctors earned them the title — “ANGELITO” — As they are LOVINGLY called.

  8. Personally her comment is very racist and full of prejudice and very typical of Brazilian middle class.

    How many times I read the word empregadinha in Facebook.

    I always comment back. How are you defining the other as empregadinha and if so, what is the problem with being a domestic worker?

    Seriously the human equality should arrive in Brasil.

    Please president of the domestic workers union sue this people! They must think twice before keeping this discourse where empregadinha is human with no value.

    Because Brazilian middle class are so incompetent they are unable to look after their children, to make their beds, to cook their own food and to wash their own dirty dishes.

    Hopefully they will start to do their homework and teach to the new genation self responsibility, not exploitation of the labour of someone who has less education just because of the social inequality which just now had started decreased!

    Welcome Cubans! Please be careful dont be the election propaganda of Labour Party in the remote areas; as we know the remote areas elected this party when they decided to give money to the poor area in remote areas.

    This government had no money what so ever to improve the hospitals or the condition of all the workers inside the hospitals around brazil. But suddenly they have money to employ Cubans, Argentinians and Portugueses.

    Please Cubans fight for your equality of salary and benefits ; because the majority black of you dont deserve a small salary and less benefits then the majority whites of argentinians and portugueses.

    Lets improve the health and the mental health of this Brazilian mind so alienated from the real struggle!

  9. As a black american i’ve honestly never realized how lucky I am to be American… Black Americans complain alot about racism… In all reality after going to Brazil at times I think we over complain (I know some that read this won’t like that last statement). When I went to Brazil I seriously felt like I was back in the 1940’s. Every time I went to a nice restaurant people would stare at me. Every time I told people I was there on vacation they looked at me in shock and assumed I was an entertainer. Never in my life have I been treated like that in my life smh. Brazil is a racial hot mess.

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