HAVANA TIMES — Having casual relationships is something you do when you’re growing up, without fear of getting STDs. When I was young, I was promiscuous, like a lot of my friends. We had sex on stairways, in parks, on rooftops, in rooms they used to lend us…
The adventure of getting to know people, trying out new experiences, like smoking the kind of cigarettes that have you in stitches of laughter, walking the streets in the early morning, slightly drunk, these were all ways we could have fun in the ’80s.
We used to organize parties quite regularly. Somebody offered their house, another person was in charge of the music and together we bought something to drink. We could be up all night until dawn, talking on the Malecon, on the block, there were hardly any attacks on the streets at that time, and it was a safe environment. We were poor and happy, hypocrisy and double standards still weren’t a part of our world.
However, that happiness couldn’t last very long… soon, everything changed: Police raids began searching out gay people at the Casa del Te, on G and 23rd Streets in Vedado. Meanwhile, people were being caught and taken prisoner at Coppelia.
Luckily, I was never present when these things used to happen. They caught some of my gay friends on more than one occasion and put them in the patera, which was what we used to call the jail facility they were taken. Gay and lesbian people could be held prisoner for hours or days on end. Families were greatly affected by this as many found out their son was homosexual in this way. Rejection, fear and exclusion were all incited.
Some jineteras from my neighborhood were taken to a house far from the city, which in reality was a detention center. Then they let them go with a warning.
The Arte-Calle art project, which was made up of alternative artists who used to paint on 23rd Street, was suppressed.
I was called in by a nurse at my health clinic to go and have some blood work done, which included a test for AIDs. I was very frightened because at that time they used to take people to the sanitarium in Los Cocos and wouldn’t let them go outside, as a measure to prevent the disease spreading.
My gay friend was also called to do these blood tests. I have to confess, those were terrifying days, afraid that they would come to get us, but they didn’t. After a few weeks, we picked up the courage to go and get our results, they were negative.
I had a boyfriend once who was stopped at the entrance to the Habana Libre Hotel, when Cubans weren’t even able to sneak a peek at the hotel lobby. They took him to the police station and forced him to strip down to his underwear. He experienced psychological coercion, of course. The incident has since traumatized him about anything to do with the police.
These were sad events in the past that changed our lives and our way of thinking. We’ll never be able to feel as free as we felt before.