LGBT Tourism in a Cuban Magazine

Maria Matienzo Puerto

Photo: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES, March 9 — This past Saturday I went to a party with some friends of some friends. That might seem a little like a tongue twister, but anyone who has gone through this knows it’s the main reason that — even with music, rum and food — you usually end up in a corner of a house extremely bored.

While I was sitting there, I found some issues of the magazine Excelencias del Caribe and began leafing through them.

I should explain that normally I wouldn’t have even thought of touching such a magazine since it’s geared to tourism and, as you know, we Cubans have no access to that, such a magazine or anything that it offers; including the sweetened image it sells, not only of Cuba but the entire region.

But boredom can cause anything.

Thumbing through to page eight, I came upon a headline that read “LGBT Tourism.” I was blown away, stunned, amazed. Plus there was this hyperlink for viewing related items.

When I was finally able to close my mouth, I committed a bit of mischief: I tore the pages out and put them in my pocket. (Sorry, I couldn’t do anything else to be able to write about this later.)

In my enthusiasm, I didn’t care what was being said in the story or what kind of treatment they were giving the issue.

I simply couldn’t manage to believe that in a magazine published in Cuba — a heterosexist magazine, which not only sells the fantasy of the Cuban or Caribbean mulatta (to them they’re all the same) or the Photoshop retouched image of the Caribbean — was talking about gay tourism.

This magazine is edited in a Cuba that’s too “butch” and where, despite the advocacy work of the Center for Sexual Education (CENESEX), not one single law has been passed recognizing the right to free sexual identity. Though Objective 57 of the recent National Conference of the Communist Party of Cuba discussed and recognized sexual orientation and other forms of discrimination, I’m still not satisfied.

That was the very least they could do, while I think they could go farther if they were to educate people to respect differences more, no matter what these might be.

Anyway, returning to the magazine, the issue is that they’re now addressing the matter. Though the magazine didn’t speak of the specific destination of Cuba, it’s obviously on the table.

The consequences? We’ll see. The infrastructure? We’ll see.

They’re taking the first steps to make visible what has been happening in Havana since the 90’s.

I don’t even think that they have kept statistics on this, but it’s true that destination Cuba has been open for some time now, especially for men.

Perhaps what will be achieved through this will be to strip the stigma of prostitution from international LGBT tourism.

I think I’ll have to write about this subject again. But I’ll have to give myself a chance to settle down from the initial excitement and look at other aspects of the article that are not so encouraging.

Maria Matienzo

Maria Matienzo Puerto: I dreamed once that I was a butterfly who had come from Africa and discovered that I had been alive for thirty years. From that time on, I constructed my world while I was sleeping: I was born in a magic city like Havana; I dedicated myself to journalism; I wrote and edited books for children; I met to discuss art with wonderful people; I fell in love with a woman. Of course, there are certain points of coincidence with the reality of my waking life and it’s that I prefer the silence of reading and the pleasure of a good movie.