LGBT Tourism in Cuba (Part II)

Maria Matienzo

A cover of Touristic Excellencies of the Caribbean magazine.

HAVANA TIMES, March 20 — I don’t like to leave my promises unfulfilled. So, since I had promised myself not to leave this issue hanging — regardless of the wrongdoing of my tearing out some pages from someone else’s magazine — I wanted to continue with the topic of LGBT tourism on the island and the article about that subject in Touristic Excellencies the Caribbean magazine.

The article begins with this quote “Visibility facilitates integration,” and it gets more interesting when in this same lead it outlines a controversy surrounding sexual discrimination. It reads, “For others, the only way not to discriminate is not to differentiate.”

Nonetheless, Excellencies keeps a certain distance from the matter. It steers clear of any sociological approach and reminds us that it’s only talking about tourism and money.

And that’s fine. That’s what’s expected from a tourism magazine.

Of the photos it uses, of course none of them were taken from the “Week against Homophobia” celebrated in Cuba. And I understand that too.

The problem is that our week is a bit dull, gloomy and gray – despite our being on an island with so much sunshine and in an event held in the middle of spring (it ends on May 17).

Except for the day of the several-block-long conga line, the rest of the activities are talks, lectures and book presentations to those of us who attend and who are overly concerned. The magazine’s colored photos (retouched with Photoshop or not), I don’t think can be found in Cuba, not even during that week.

Sometimes the information we receive on the topic of LGBTs is so dense and didactic that it seems like we’re talking about people who are medically ill, we tend to oversaturate everybody. Then to, some people create a whole joke out of the May 17 parade.

Like one man said to me recently: “Are they trying to make all of us gay? Now they have at least one of them in every TV series.” Since his comment seemed so off the mark, I didn’t even respond I left him there with his “doubts,” if he really had any.

But I realized that sometimes people are not as homophobic as they are opportunistic.

I realized once again the need to implement a system or to encourage a system that fights against discrimination and the harassment of homosexuals, which is something that goes well beyond two or three people yelling their demands for a few little reforms.

Above all, I realized that Cuba as a gay-friendly destination wouldn’t work like it does in Brazil or Argentina, not to mention France, the United States, Germany or Japan.

We would first have to create a more hospitable environment, one where a scandal wouldn’t break out over two women holding hands or caressing each other on the street. In such a climate, people wouldn’t automatically perceive such acts to be pornographic.

So the magazine Touristic Excellencies the Caribbean, if it’s not as utopian as I tend to sometimes be when I dream of the recognition of rights in Cuba, then it’s part of a masquerade, a mime, fantasy, a game to make people believe that the world is actually open to change.