Fidel Castro’s Unforgettable Homophobia

Detail from “Isla 70” (1970) by Cuban painter Raul Martinez, a veiled defense of sexual freedom in Castro’s Cuba. (Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes)

Commissioner Luis Pavon became a scapegoat so Fidel Castro could come out “clean” from the repression of homosexuals during the Five Gray Years.

By Yunior Garcia Aguilera (14ymedio)

HAVANA TIMES – In 2010, in an interview Fidel Castro gave to the Mexican newspaper La Jornada, the former leader admitted, for the first time, his responsibility in the persecution of homosexuals in Cuba. He first asked the journalist for time to remember, as if this had happened in a distant and foggy past. Then, stammering, he put in a skilful phrase so that readers could deduce that it wasn’t exactly his fault.

He said this: “A great injustice! Whoever did it. If it was me, me… I’m trying to outline my hand in all of this because I don’t have this kind of prejudice, at all.”

Anyone who is familiar with the terrible history of the Military Units to Aid Production (UMAP) could pick up on his cynicism, especially when he explained himself saying: “It’s true that I couldn’t deal with this issue at the time… I had my head immersed with the Cuban Missile Crisis, the war, and political matters, mostly.”

Twelve years later, Miguel Barnet tried to work magic to exonerate him completely. The old poet said he didn’t understand why Fidel had taken on this blame, “when he wasn’t the one responsible.” Then, he took advantage of the occasion to shower him with praise, classifying his behavior as “honest and brave.”

The icing on the cake? On November 12th, they tried to clean the late dictator’s rap sheet in a Cubadebate podcast, wiping away any homophobic stain there may be. Abel Prieto said that the Five Gray Years, with parametracion (standardization) included, was a betrayal, an opportunistic distorsion of the essence of Fidel’s “Words to Intellectuals” and praising his “ecumenical” call.

Either they were all overcome with a sudden bout of amnesia, or they’re a bunch of crooks. The Revolutionary Government’s own Department of Stenography has published the disgusting speech Fidel Castro gave, in full, in front of the stairs outside Havana University, just two years after his “Words to Intellectuals”.

On that March 13th 1963, in front of a euphoric young crowd that didn’t stop laughing, clapping and shouting “firing squad”, Fidel treated himself to showing his true colors. He felt a lot more at ease there than in the place where he pronounced the dogma that would govern cultural policy. At the Library, he admitted he felt a little lost, bored maybe, listening to discussions he didn’t understand. The bearded 35-year-old, without any interest in putting on a song and dance, paraphrased an old phrase from Mussolini and adapted it to his revolution. The awful thing here is that this quote would be used time and time again to commit all kinds of crimes against human dignity.

If anyone still has any doubts about what Fidel Castro was alluding to with the phrase “incurable counter-revolutionaries”, you just had to stand there in front of those steps, two years later. The exalted Comandante let his thirst for blood loose every time he said the words “death penalty” against a long list of people he called “byproducts”, which was met with an ovation from his audience.

Suddenly, someone from the crowd wanted to add something, shouting: “the loose-legged, homosexuals.” The bearded man’s eyes lit up. That’s when he vomited one of the worst phrases any dictator has ever uttered in the second half of the 20th century.

His exact words, between laughter, were the following: “Lots of these lazy young men, sons of the bourgeoisie, are walking around with their extra tight pants, some with a guitar, and an Elvis Presley flair, and they have taken their debauchery to the extreme wanting to go to some public spaces and organize their feminine shows unimpeded. Don’t confuse the serenity of the Revolution and the impartiality of the Revolution with weaknesses of the Revolution. For our society can’t accommodate these degenerates. Socialist society can’t allow for these kinds of degenerates.”

Every time anything is said about the Five Gray Years, parametracion or the UMAP, cultural leaders look for a way to blame everything on Luis Pavon, the official who directed the Cultural Council at the time. But you just need to read another fragment from Fidel Castro’s speech, to clearly understand that Pavon was nothing more than a scapegoat. The homophobic Comandante said: “There are a few theories, I’m not a scientist, I’m not an expert on the matter [laughter], but I always saw one thing: the fields don’t give you byproducts.” Then, he finished off: “So, I believe our agriculture needs arms.”

There’s nothing else to say.

Read more from Cuba here on Havana Times

2 thoughts on “<strong>Fidel Castro’s Unforgettable Homophobia</strong>

  • Bob Michael’s. So we should never mention Hitler, Pinochet, My so, Stalin, Franco’s crimes against humanity please explain to me why we need not to talk about Castro’s crimes.

  • Cuba has many major problems currently. I question the benefits of spending time now debating what someone, now deceased, did 50 + years ago. We need to devote our energies to solve current problems, not assign blame for the past.

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