Too Far to Be Heard: Varadero, the other Cuba

Jimmy Roque Martínez

At the luxury hotels of Varadero.

HAVANA TIMES — The 6th International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual and Intersexual Association for Latin America and the Caribbean (ILGALAC) was held at Varadero’s expensive and luxurious resort in Cuba this year.

I had the fortune and privilege of participating in the gathering as a member of Cuba’s Proyecto Arcoiris (“Rainbow Project”), an anti-capitalist and independent collective that works for the rights of the LGBTI community in Cuba.

In addition to Proyecto Arcoiris, Cuba’s National Center for Sexual Education (CENESEX) and its social networks, the National Prevention Center (CNP) and the Cuban Multidisciplinary Society for the Study of Sexuality (SOCUMES) participated in the conference.

Our organization acknowledged the work carried out by these institutions and voiced its opinion on a number of shortcomings and difficulties being faced by our society.

Some of the problems discussed were related to Cuba’s extremely limited Internet access and the reduced nature of the island’s civil society, limited by the country’s laws and policies (which prevent its legalization, establishment and development). The fact this civil society and individuals are denied access to the mass media was another issued addressed.

The non-inclusion of homosexual couples in the 2012 population census was once again publicly condemned.

We drew the attention of participants to the need of having institutions accept criticisms from independent organizations and vice-versa. We also expressed our support for the proposal of including a pronouncement against the US blockade in the declaration drafted at the gathering and the proposal to refer to the United States as an imperialist power (this last suggestion was not included in the declaration).

For the first time in its history, our organization exercised the right to vote as an official member of ILGALAC. We were also able to establish important contacts and hear of the experiences, achievements and difficulties of many groups and individuals, something vital for the development of our work.

It’s a shame other individuals linked to our project and other Cuban men and women who have no institutional affiliations were unable to participate; that the organizers chose Varadero as the venue, and that registration was expensive and so much was spent on unnecessary luxuries during the gathering. These placed restrictions on participants, both Cuban and foreign.

Some foreign delegates chose to stay at casas particulares instead of paying the high costs set down by CENESEX and Havantur. At least two young women (from Mexico and Colombia) decided not to participate and to stay in Havana. Many others didn’t even come to Cuba.

Varadero is not Cuba and is very far away from the majority of the members of the island’s LGBTI community. Their problems cannot be heard so far away.

That said, we were able to participate, express our points of view, balance the debate and break the hegemony of official institutions some. We demonstrated that institutions and civil society must work together, as we are fighting for the same rights.