A Small Place in Cuba for Freedom

Nonardo Perea

Mariela Castro

HAVANA TIMES — Some time ago, I had the opportunity to attend a lecture given by the pedagogue, psychologist and director of Cuba’s National Center for Sexual Education (CENESEX) Mariela Castro.

Castro, daughter of president Raul Castro, was speaking with a gay man in the conference room. The young man told us that, during his stay in Spain, he had visited Chueca, a gay neighborhood.

It had struck him as an extraordinary place. Never before had he experienced the feeling of freedom as closely. There, no one paid any attention to his evidently gay behavior, much less the way people were dressed – as the majority there had the same sexual orientation, there was no intolerance of any kind.

Mariela Castro, known for her quick, intelligent answers, immediately refuted what the gay man said, saying that her work was aimed primarily at the inclusion of all genders and that she was not in favor of ghettos, that the most important thing was to teach homosexuals and heterosexuals to co-exist on the basis of mutual respect.

It was immediately evident to me that our lecturer was not gay and had never been the victim of homophobia in her life, and that she also hadn’t had any of the disagreeable experiences that many Cuban homosexuals – who have been abused in unimaginable ways – have suffered in the course of history.

Personally, I believe the kind of inclusion she supports will not be possible for the time being. Though it is true things have changed slightly for us (gay bars have been authorized in the capital, and transvestites are no longer detained by the police), heterosexuals continue to look down on gays and to yell terrible things at them on the street. It isn’t news to anyone that the vast majority of alleged heterosexuals do not tolerate differences or other sexual preferences.

I see the inclusiveness Mariela Castro speaks of as distant as I do the legalization of gay marriage, which I do not believe will be arriving any time soon in Cuba. From what I can see, no one (expect her) cares about homosexuals in Cuba, and everything done in favor of the gay community is done at a snail’s pace and solely to be able to tell the international community that everything in the government’s power is being done to grant Cuban homosexuals their rights.

Castro, San Francisco

That’s what’s important, telling the world that “homosexuals are important to us.”

I also don’t see why we have to share Mariela Castro’s opinions about the ghetto. I am in favor of such ghettos, because I believe that, if we had a space for ourselves, life would be more agreeable. I want to make clear that I am also in favor of full gender inclusion and equality; that would be marvelous. As a gay individual, I treat all persons equally and respect their taste and ways of dressing. But we can’t bury our heads in the sand. The kind of inclusion Mariela is referring to in many of her talks is nothing but a pipe-dream.

This country is not ready for such gender inclusion, and only gays realize this (just as blacks feel the latent racism in our society all the more intensely).

Doing a Wikipedia search, I found an immense list of countries with gay neighborhoods. These neighborhoods did not strike me as marginal ghettos but rather as places for freedom that, in a sense, afford sexual or gender minorities’ safety.

As usual, I would like to close with a question. I would like to know whether any survey has ever been conducted among Cuban lesbians and gays, asking them whether they would be in favor or against such “ghettos”, and what would happen if the vast majority were in favor.

List of Gay Neighborhoods
Country Neighborhood City
Brazil: Baixo Augusta, Sao Paulo
Brazil: Jardins, Sao Paulo
Canada: Plateau Mont-Royal, Montreal
Canada: Church and Welledey The
Annex St. James Town, Riverdale, Toronto
Canada: Davie Village,
Colombia: Chapinero, Bogota
USA: Asbury Park, Nueva Jersey
USA: Boystown, Chicago
USA: Castro, San Francisco
USA :Greenwich Village Chelsea New York
USA :Hillcrest, San Diego
USA :South Beach, Miami
USA Ybor City Tampa, Florida
USA West Hollywood, Los Angeles
Mexic:o Zona Rosa, Mexico City
Mexico Zona Romántica, Puerto Vallarta

Country Neighborhood City
Germany: Nollendurfpllatz, Berlin
Germany: Colonia
Spain: Chueca, Madrid
Spain: Gaixample, Barcelona
Spain: Playa del inglés Yumbo Maspalomas, (Gran Canaria)
Spain: La Nogalera Torremolinos, (Malaga)
Spain: Sitges, (Barcelona)
France: Le Marais, Paris
France: Saint-Pierre, Burdeos
UK: Liverpool
UK: Canal Street, Manchester
UK: Soho, London

Country Neighborhood City
Japan: Shinjuku ni- chome, Tokyo
Japan: Doyama, Osaka
Singapore: Tanjong Payar, Singapore
Thailand: Silom, Bangkok

Nonardo Perea

Nonardo Perea: I see myself as an observant person and I like to write with sincerity what I think and live first hand. I’m shy and of few words; thus it’s difficult for me to engage in conversation. For that reason, my best tool for communicating is writing. I live in Marianao, Havana and am 40 years old.

2 thoughts on “A Small Place in Cuba for Freedom

  • November 4, 2014 at 11:17 am

    An interesting report. If I may offer a couple of corrections on the gay districts in Canada:

    In my city, Toronto, the chief gay district if Church & Wellesley, an area centred around the intersection of those two streets. The Annex & Riverdale are not particularly “gay”, although they are upscale, urban areas with a tolerant cultural diversity. In Vancouver, the main gay neighbourhood is Davie Village.

    I’m not a fan of the term “ghetto” as it implies an area where a given population is forced to congregate for safety. While once true, that is not the case in most major cities today.

    Reinaldo Arenas, the great Cuban writer, hated the self-segregated gay society he found in exile in New York City. He preferred a culture where gays and straights could mix freely without having to strictly define oneself by where one lived.

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