The Unfortunate Anti-Gay Statements of Daniel Chavarria

Vincent Morin Aguado

Saying that repression against gays didn’t occur in Cuba is outrageous. Photo: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES — When there’s a lot to say, it’s better to write little. When it comes to the award-winning Uruguayan writer Daniel Chavarria, who has lived among us for so long, it was unfortunate to hear about the slip he made by denying proven facts concerning the repression of homosexuals in Cuba, something that must be eradicated.

His disavowal was notable because the matter reverberated here in Cuba, especially among intellectuals. Ethically, what the author of the popular novel Joy said was very wrong.

But I’m taking this opportunity to comment on the National Literature Award, which was presented to this imaginative writer. On several occasions he has addressed national issues with the perspective of a well-educated person, though undeniably his is the view of an outsider – because it’s impossible to appreciate things with the naturalness of Cubans ourselves.

I never try to belittle awards given to others out of the desire for mine to be respected, however modest they might be. Making such judgments is the responsibility of a literary jury. This being the case, what makes me upset is that his Chavarria’s work is considered “national.”

From my point of view, Daniel Chavarria’s literature expresses an approach to our reality from the experience of a Rio Platense [someone from Uruguay’s Rio de la Plata area].

I’ve read several of his many stories, which are certainly of great publishing successes – both here in Cuba and abroad.

One only has to point out his short novel Priapos to get an idea of his limited understanding of the abakuas, something particular to someone who is not culturally Cuban. In short, the decision to award him a national prize is ethically and aesthetically questionable.

I join the justified outrage over the unfortunate statements by the Uruguayan writer, but I protest the use of offensive phrases and epithets against him because they don’t contribute to the debate.

To contact Vincent Morin Aguado, write to: [email protected]


One thought on “The Unfortunate Anti-Gay Statements of Daniel Chavarria

  • I read a book many years ago by a U.S.American journalist who visited Cuba in the 60s. His conclusion was that it was the Cuban people themselves who persecuted homosexuals, not the government, because the trials were held by people’s tribunals. Indeed he claims that when Fidel heard what was really going on he put a stop to it. The Cuban people associated homosexuality with the terrible sexual depravity that had made Cuba the brothel of the States. Thankfully this is changing now. Having said that, I still think there is a much deeper debate to be had about homosexuality. The designation of these people as a particular category among others is a relatively new idea, dating to the beginnings of psychiatry. Before that same-sex relations were viewed simply as a prohibited behavior that some people indulged in. Personally I think it was the prohibition of the behavior that was the problem. Many people will not like this, but more and more I am thinking there is no such thing as a gay person, only behavior. Why is it that in Ancient Greece and Samurai Japan, homosexual behavior was the norm? There are certainly some people who feel compelled to act in a certain way for whatever reason, but I do not believe that marks them out as different. We still do not understand what causes homosexual behavior, though we know it is not totally genetic. Even the genetic causes could be a result of the way the world treats people with certain genes. Persecution is wrong. I wish the debate would move on.

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