My Take on Cuba’s Parade against Homophobia

Armando Chaguaceda

Parade against Homophobia in Havana, 5/14/2011 Photo: Caridad

This note is short because it was born in the gaps of my Sunday day of rest and because I’m increasingly beginning to believe that it’s possible to say good things in a few words.

What also motivates these comments on the current “Campaign against Homophobia” was caused by diverse and ample looks at the issue, one of which was published here as an excellent chronicle in Havana Times.

It’s likely that some friends involved in that initiative won’t like my opinion, though I’m convinced that those who know me will understand from where my criticisms are coming.  I hope they agree or at least respect them.

I positively value any initiative that aims at eliminating the multiple forms of discrimination that exist in our society…  and I insist on the term “exist” since they do not “persist” only as “remnants of capitalism.”

These involve expressions of a culture of domination (macho, patriarchal, militarist, adult-centric, urban-centric, etc.) inherited since the days of our being a colony, but that have acquired new senses under the socialism of a creole state.

Given the importance of discussing the issue seriously, I considered the discussions in the mass media particularly good.  I found one Spanish language forum on the issue particularly well-argued, critical and objective.

Now then, regarding the march down “la Rampa” (23rd Street in Havana), I’m sorry that I’m not so enthusiastic, because not only was this initiative limited in space and reach, but also everything indicates that it was able to be carried out thanks only to the special leadership of the CENESEX director, Mariela Castro, who we all know is the daughter of the current president.

I’m not scoffing at her well-deserved merits (because she could have been just another “daddy’s little girl” instead of a woman of advanced ideas and actions), but I have to ask why she and her protégés were allowed to do that while other young people aren’t?

Mariela Castro, center, of Cenesex. Photo: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Why don’t other actions also opposed to domination (such as those of the Critical Observatory) and other marches (like the one for non-violence) receive the same level of support or even become objects of mistrust and repression/intimidation?  Isn’t this an indication that social autonomy in our country remains basically absent (and feared) in an environment of borrowed “rights” and tolerated activities?

In addition, I don’t understand why they raised special slogans during the march (for example freedom for the Cuban Five and in support for the country’s leaders).  I believe that chanting them is a matter for each individual but these appeared to have been artificially injected into this march.

Does the LGTB community in Cuba has so many daily opportunities to demonstrate and so few substantive demands that they have the luxury of bringing up the political agendas of other forums?

We can only suppose the reasons for the presence of other slogans, because one never knows if they were imposed as a condition for the march or if (as I believe) they simply served as a legitimation factor.  Even if they were a spontaneous initiative by some people, I found them simply pathetic.

I believe that we’re continuing to waste too much time (in a cultured country where it’s not necessary to lobby with the church and conservative unions) in making legal advances that many homosexuals are demanding.  We are trailing behind Mexico City and Buenos Aires which have already taken the front seat and will soon be followed by other cities and nations.

Also needed are clear signs that homophobia will be punished when, for example, it’s translated in harmful violations of dignity like those frequently committed by our agents of public order against couples or individuals of that sexual orientation.

If that doesn’t occur, the colorful march along “La Rampa” could well remain as one day for celebration among so many months and forms of discrimination.

It reminds me of the “cabildo” festivals celebrated by slaves here in the past.  These were allowed a day of festivities with the benign blessing of the colonial authorities and the slave masters, who knew that the following day they would be worked to the bone out in the fields or in the plantation mansion.

Though I’m glad that some people might feel “queens for a day,” I believe that what we should achieve is everyone being full citizens forever.

3 thoughts on “My Take on Cuba’s Parade against Homophobia

  • According to the World Policy Institute (2003), the Cuban government prohibits LGBT organizations and publications, gay pride marches and gay clubs.[14] All officially sanctioned clubs and meeting places are required to be heterosexual. The only gay and lesbian civil rights organization, the Cuban Association of Gays and Lesbians, which formed in 1994, was closed in 1997 and its members were taken into custody.[15] Private gay parties, named for their price of admission, “10 Pesos”, exist but are often raided. In 1997, Agencia de Prensa Independiente de Cuba (the Cuban Independent Press Agency) reported, that Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar and French designer Jean Paul Gaultier were among several hundred people detained in a raid on Havana’s most popular gay discothèque, El Periquiton.[16]

  • As someone who is involved with the GLBTQ movement in the United States I agree that it is important to question when the movement becomes co-opted by the establishment. I agree that it is a shame that the movement for gay liberation in Cuba is being managed hierarchically by the bureaucracy and that grassroots initiates are looked up with suspicion or repressed. But, I also think it is important to recognize progress even when it is small. For the longest time the Queer Liberation movement in the US was obsessed with being perceived as “legitimate” or “normal”. Some of the first protests for gay rights in the 1950’s involved very benign protests where everyone involved was encouraged to dress “properly” and march in circles with signs politely asking for acceptance into the mainstream.

    It was events like Stonewall that thrust the Gay movement into a more radical era. For better or for worse, I can see Cuba erupting into their own Stonewall one day…with or without the sanction of the state. Even though queers are not longer rounded up on the Malecon..I have had my ID checked along with others on the Malecon…our crime ? Hanging out the “gay area”. One day people will refuse to take these every day injustices. So. I hope queers in Cuba keep organizing in every way they can (both “officially” and from the grassroots)…because one day you will have your Stonewall.

    For those unfamiliar with Stonewall: “The Stonewall riots were a series of spontaneous, violent demonstrations against a police raid that took place in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, at the Stonewall Inn, in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York City. They are frequently cited as the first instance in American history when people in the homosexual community fought back against a government-sponsored system that persecuted sexual minorities, and they have become the defining event that marked the start of the gay rights movement in the United States and around the world.”

  • …have you ever to El Mejunje en Santa Clara? Don’t be so bitterly skeptical…

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