Does Everybody Count in Cuba?

Fernando Ravsberg*

Advertising for the population census that begins on September 15 (Photo: Raquel Perez)

HAVANA TIMES — In some sectors of Cuban society, homophobia is at such a level that it’s not enough to deny legal rights to same-sex couples, now they don’t even want to take a census of the ones that currently exist even without the permission of laws or churches.

In the blog “Paquito el de Cuba,” Cuban journalist Francisco Rodriguez has been complaining about the national authorities who are running the 2012 Population and Housing Census because they’re refusing to count the gay couples’ marriages, which have no legal standing.

Officially, the Cuban authorities are giving technical arguments; but Paquito, an activist for the rights of the LGBT community, says the real problem is that “there isn’t the political will on the part of the leadership of the country to correct this.”

The Cuban journalist reminded us that if it were only an “incorrect technical decision,” they could have found a quick solution – as was done in several “Latin America countries and other regions during the current round of UN census taking.”

What’s interesting and new is that this time the LGBT community isn’t sitting on its hands. Paquito is pointing to a loophole that indicates that the census is by “declaration,” meaning that the authorities are required to record information that facilitates citizens.

Journalist Francisco Rodriguez calls for the LGBT community to fly rainbow flags outside their homes. Photo: Raquel Perez

Rodriguez is proposing that homosexuals who live together declare their consensual union to the pollsters and ask them to record them as couples, “even though later the Cuban Statistics Office (ONE) won’t tabulate them, since it was already decided to do this in an exclusionary and discriminatory manner.”

He adds that gays and lesbians who maintain stable relations with their partners but don’t live together in the same home have the right to request that the pollsters record them as “in a union with another person of the same sex.”

Rodriguez also states that “transgender people have the right to declare themselves male or female, according to their gender identity, even when their sexual organs are male or female, and they can ask to be recorded as such on the census questionnaire.”

He is calling on his community “not to squander the opportunity to talk to the young students who will be responsible for the census” and to explain to them about “the right to the freedom of sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as respect for diversity.”

The proposal doesn’t break the law; on the contrary, it takes advantage of legal opportunities to assert their civil rights, ones expressed in the draft Family Code, which for years has been lying in the drawers of the Cuban parliament.

Both the attitude of the legislature and the position the census officials reveal that homophobia is not only a social problem but is deeply rooted in some institutions in the country that operate so as not to recognize the rights of the LGBT community.

Paquito is calling on people to avail themselves of the September 15 census by realizing a mass coming out of the closet by those who have been marginalized. He is encouraging them to make themselves visible by flying the rainbow flag in front of their homes or by wearing identifying shirts and day packs.

Transexuals are asked to make their own decision whether they want to me censed as a man or woman. Photo: Raquel Perez

This call contains a double challenge: If it fails it will give new impetus to the homophobes in power, but if it is successful it will send a powerful message to all of society. It will show that the LGBT community is capable of mobilizing itself in defense of their rights.

Up until now they have been demanding equality “through the appropriate channels,” but in practice this has fallen on deaf ears. The current proposal involves raising a silent cry that no one can say they didn’t hear.

Now we’ll see if the members of that community understand that their future depends largely on themselves. But doesn’t depend only on them; the rest of society can also demonstrate that solidarity, justice and equality are conditions that concern us all.

On September 15, my wife (who’s a Cuban) plans to hang the rainbow flag in front of our house, joining those who want to build a nation where all Cuban men and women really count.
(*) A Havana Times translation of the original published by BBC Mundo.


One thought on “Does Everybody Count in Cuba?

  • Cuba’s LGTB has an official patroness / advocate in the person of Mariela Castro. Afro-Cubans have no such luck in high-profile political lobbying, and no local or BBC / foreign journalists to champion their issues, including their being properly counted in the national census. The need for accurate census figures for the Afro-Cuban population cannot be overstressed. Typically official Cuban figures (as well as those of the the Hispanic Cuban-American institutions) represent this segment of the population as an insignificant minority, and they are marginalized and projected only into prominence as “musicos y deportistas” with a solitary political figure such as the late Commandante de la revolucion, Juan Almeida Bosque, or the current member of the secondary collective Vice Presidency, Esteban Lazo Hernandez, as window dressing. Despite Fidel’s declaration that “We are an Afro-Latin people. African blood runs freely through our veins”, despite the elimination of racial discrimination by law, despite remarkable internationalist supoort to Africa and the Caribbean, Cuba’s cabinet has always been predominantly Hispanic-Cuban as has been the leadership of its major state institutions and representatives. Yet Afro-Cuban’s as a group have been overwhelmingly supportive of the revolution. The current administration of Raul has no hesitation having a dialogue with the conservative white Cuban Catholic hierarchy and granting it the position of a political arbiter. There is no such parallel dialogue with the leaders of the Afro-Cuban religion or major Afro-Cuban figures in the party.

    My greatest fear is that should the revolution fail and/or be betrayed, there would be a confluence of political goals and power between the white Cuban exilio and the remnants of the white historic leadership to the detriment of the Afro-Cuban population. The events in Eastern Europe completely support this hypothesis.

    I, too, recommend that during the census exercise, Afro-Cubans fly the pan-Africanist / rastafarian red, gold and green flag.

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