Project Rainbow Unites Cuba’s LGBTIs

Isbel Diaz Torres 

Yasmin during the Fifth Critical Observatory Social Forum, in Cocosolo. (Photo by Isbel Diaz Torres)

A new initiative of civil struggle for the rights of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transsexuals and intersexual people (LGBTIs) has emerged in Cuba.  And me?  Of course I’ve joined in.

Finally we’ve decided to struggle in a coordinated way!  We readily turned to the call of a friend: Yasmin S.  Portales.

I’ve known Yasmin for some time, just as I’ve know her husband and her son.  Theirs is a beautiful family whose principal characteristics, in my opinion, are honesty, intelligence and courage.

Those features would have been enough to understand the seriousness of the call made by Yasmin, but on top of this, both of the adults are members of the Bloggers Cuba collective and the two are also activists in the Critical Observatory Activist Network.  That’s how things are with them.  As, we say here in Cuba, you have to “have your skirt or your pants on right” to engage in such activism.

The call by Yasmin — like her other writings, always charged with irony — can be read on her personal blog.  Months ago we had talked together about the need to be organized, but this time she took me by surprise.  In fact that’s not strange, because Yasmin shows an incredible combination of responsibility and caution mixed with bravery and energy.

The news, in fact, is that our group has now had its first face to face meeting.

True, only 50 percent of the members could attend.  Difficulties with stable Internet connections and e-mail, as well as the July holidays, affected a good part of those who had responded positively to the call.

Notwithstanding, that didn’t stop us.  We begin discussion around the founding document and we proposed a limited number of actions for what is left of the year.  All of this will become richer with the contributions from the rest of the body and this will all come out publically as a kind of a working platform.

“Now we know who we are, and that we have a community of interests,” Yasmin wrote in an e-mail message.  Although it seems like little, the truth is that it’s quite a bit for a beginning.  In a society where apathy is preponderant, to succeed at recognizing and organizing ourselves as a group of people with the desire to work is a big step.

A few members of the Proyecto Arcoiris (The Rainbow Project) (Photo by Rogelio M. Diaz Moreno)

The discussions held at the first encounter were very important.  They allowed us, those who didn’t know each other personally, to discover the human beings behind our mere names.  We could also consider the scope and limitations of this new proposal that has arisen to enrich the Cuban panorama.

It’s impossible to ignore the existence of other initiatives, ones that operate through state-run institutions as well as those springing up independently from civil society.  Each of those efforts has its own characteristics and is not always included as a rich and complex range of interests accessible to the general public.

The unique characteristics of Proyecto Arcoiris (Project Rainbow) will be outlined in a document that ultimately reflects the consensus of the participants.  It must, necessarily, differentiate itself from already existing initiatives.

In her blog, Sandra Alvarez made clear what seems to be one of the principal goals of the collective: “I perceive of Proyecto Arcoiris as a civic exercise that will allow us to accelerate the ratification of the new Family Code, whose approval by the National Assembly has been on hold for more than 16 years.”

To me it seemed like what was grasped among those who attended was the desire to enter into an inclusive dialogue without asymmetries.  It would be disastrous if we positioned ourselves on a pedestal to reach the Cuban LGBTI public to learn their interests.  Nor does it seem feasible to lower our demands of the state institutions with whom we must interact.

I feel the same as Yasmin when she asserted, “I have political rights, I have civic responsibilities, and I have a problem with the laws of this country.”  Symmetry in dialogue, I repeat, will be something that can perhaps fortify this initiative.  We must seek to raise the consciousness of all citizens to understand the need to transform our reality.


Isbel Diaz

Isbel Diaz Torres: Pinar del Rio and Havana are my cities. I was born in one on March 1, 1976, and I’ve always lived in the other. I am a biologist and poet, though at times I’ve also been a musician, translator, teacher, computer geek, designer, photographer and editor. I’m very non-conformist and a defender of differences – perhaps due to always having been an ever-repressed “model child.” Nothing enthralls me more than the unknown, nature and art; these serve as my sources of mystery and development. A surprising activism has been born in me over the recent period. Though I’m not very sure how to channel it, I feel that it’s a worthy and legitimate energy. Let’s hope I have the discernment to manage it.

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