Our sexuality, no matter what, can only be judged in its beauty, by our own way of assuming it respecting the other.
By Ernesto Estévez Rams | firstname.lastname@example.org
September 13, 2020
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
For all the scandal they caused, in life and in death, Robert Mapplethorpe’s photographs, his collection of orchid and lily photos would pass, on a first reading, as almost virgin works. They are not.
Mapplethorpe was a New York photographer who died in 1989 of AIDS. By the time of his death, his photographic work was famous, particularly the black-and-white portraits he took of famous people, including a few Hollywood celebrities, throughout his career.
Robert was a homosexual, a condition which, far from being hidden, he incorporated into his work, to the shock of censorship and to the extent of provoking notoriety. But to say it that way does not do justice to the place the photographer gave to sexuality in his life. Exploring what he considered the individual limits of erotic pleasure, Robert not only exposed his sexuality at its fullest, but also vindicated the dominance that each person should exercise over it to the extent of their own fulfillment.
In an interview with Vanity Fair, when AIDS was already advanced, he summarized the meaning of his most sexually explicit photos, saying that forcing people to do things they don’t want to do is not erotic. Consistency also implied the daring to look beyond the conventional, as long as it was “people looking for a simultaneous orgasm.”
Mapplerthorpe’s work is a continuous cry of an unsuccessful search of the self, in the images that he managed to capture of others. In that sense, through some of his photos, the spectator transforms his condition of observer to that of observed. What happens in all of them is that it is almost impossible not to react to them. In many cases, it makes our subconscious uncomfortable, as it accepts beautifully what the indoctrinated conscious insists on rejecting. A colleague photographer, anonymously, confessed to a chronicler that Robert’s erotic work would not have been acceptable if it had been about heterosexual relationships. He is probably right, such is the prejudice.
The Perfect Moment collection, which displayed explicit photos of high sexual content (of all kinds), was censored as pornography by the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington. The controversy reached such prominence that even members of the U.S. Congress spoke out about the use of public funds to promote art. In 1990, the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati was sued for the exhibition of the collection, which was labeled obscene. The gallery was acquitted, along with its director Dennis Barrie. This was the first time that an art gallery was sued for the contents of an exhibition.
In 1998, a book displaying the Mapplethorpe photos was confiscated by the police in England. A University of Central England student, writing a thesis, took the text to a local store to have copies made of some photographs. The shopkeeper, alarmed by the photos he saw, called the police, who did not believe to was art. The university was required, as a condition for the return of the book, that certain pages of the book be hidden. After six months of back and forth, the book was finally returned without censorship.
The well-known writer, musician and playwright Patti Smith was a Mapplethorpe partner , whom she met in a bookstore in the mid-1960s. The relationship was as deep as it was torrid because, by that time, Robert was still dealing with his sexual identity. Despite their separation as a couple, they remained friends all their lives, and she called him one of the most important people in her life.
In 1969, Patty and Robert moved to the Chelsea Hotel, next door to the El Quijote restaurant. As Craig Brown describesit, when Patti entered the restaurant, “the scene was absurdly typical of the era, with musicians and bottles of tequila scattered in equal proportions. Jimi Hendrix is there with a large sombrero, perched on a table at the end. To his right, Grace Slick and the rest of Jefferson Airplane, sitting around another table. To his left, Janis Joplins in a conspiracy with her musicians”.
It was Bobby Neuwirth, a friend of Bob Dylan’s, who introduced Patti to Janis. He told the singer, “This is the poet Patti Smith. From that moment until Joplins’ death, she called her friend, the poet.
From Porgy and Bess is the famous Summertime aria, whose lyrics are by DuBose Heyward and music by George Gershwin. They were taken out of the original opera, and performed by the most diverse artists over the years. There are said to be more than 25,000 recordings of the song, beginning with its first commercial success in 1936, in the voice of Billie Holiday.
Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong have their version of Summertime, with a memorable trumpet introduction, followed by the irruption of Ella’s voice alternating with Louis’. Can it get any better? Perhaps not, but in 1976 Ray Charles performed it with Cleo Laine at a transcendent height, and Miles Davis (ah, Miles) played it in an instrumental version that was true to his Midas status: everything he played he turned into jazz.
In another vein, Peter Gabriel, with a captivating harmonica introduction by Larry Adler, gave us a Summertime with a guttural voice to break us like a pencil, and Sting, in 1991, did his thing with the Dutch orchestra of the 21st century.
But, in spite of all the excellence of those interpretations, I am left, if I have to choose, with the incomparable Janis Joplin, the voice of several generations who came with the flower boy and opposition to the Vietnam War, along with the breaking of the sexual norms of the 1960s.
How beautiful you are Janis. / You sang as if they were confessions. / It doesn’t matter if the songs were of others, / you made them a testimony of your sins.
Janis Joplin was born in Texas in 1943 and was abused by other students at school as a freak. She was obese and had very bad acne, and was yelled at for doing horrible things, including racially-motivated offenses for getting along with Black people. Her shelters were reading, painting and music. While at the University of Texas, the campus newspaper referred to her as a brave woman, unafraid to distinguish herself from others by the way she dressed, contrary to the conventions of the time, her love of music and her habit of going barefoot.
No one managed the discursive capacity of the scream as she did, / no one managed the body language as she did, / hers was the method brought to the song. The James Dean / of that world she assumed until she broke it / like him: at the wheel of different cars. / All that and more happened before the crows descended / and turned the whole landscape into a firework display.
On one occasion, Janis was crying inconsolably, because a flirt of the night had left with another woman. Dressed in magenta and pink, wearing a kind of scarf with purple feathers, depressed by her failure, she said to Pattyi, “This always happens to me, partner. Another lonely night”. Patti accompanies Janis to her room and listens to her tell of her unhappiness over and over again. As a consolation, Patti confesses that she has written a song for her and sings it to her to encourage her. In an explosion of depressed joy, Janis jumps from the song “That’s My Song,” she screams, as she arranges her scarf in front of the mirror. Two months later she was dying of a drug overdose.
I don’t know if Robert Mapplethorpe ever photographed Janis Joplin directly, but I can’t wait to see her in the magenta, pink and purple orchids that I can guess behind her photos, even in the gray ones. The photographer’s orchids transcend innocence to become what is perhaps his most aggressive break.
Far from the shocking direct message against conventionality, those photos where the flowers end up being pure eroticism. They express a transcendent, and in a certain way fulminating, apprehension of something beautifully ungraspable. They shout to us that our sexuality, no matter what, can only be judged in its beauty, by our own way of assuming it respecting the other.
March 1, 2020
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
Cuban TV apologizes to the TV audience for the mutilation of the scene from the film “Love, Simon” in the space Thinking in 3D this Saturday, February 29, where the protagonists, two young homosexuals, were kissing.
In view of this error, we want to report that the corresponding analysis is being carried out, since the omission does not respond to homophobic positions of the ICRT and its directors of TVC, as some have referred to on social networks.
The film will be broadcast entirely in the same space and we will announce it to the audiences in due course.
The inclusive vision of Cuban society pushes daily against cultural stereotypes. It is the duty of all to walk on the side of the just and to advance as the country that constitutionally recognizes “the cult of Cubans to the full dignity of man.”
On video, “Love, Simon” trailer
This note widely reproduced in the Cuban media. Examples:
By Julio Martínez Molina
February 8, 2020
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews
Three very recent films on the international scene, two of them exceptional and one of less artistic importance, are interconnected by both the sensitivity and the tenderness with which they have focused the love between two women. Their stories among the most beautiful provided by this thematic plot in the history of the screen. And to affirm it on a slope that has illuminated masterpieces like Carol and wonders like Disobedience is no small thing.
There are certain gay films with male characters who emulate rabbits in their animalistic urge to fornicate at all times, in any space, with anyone, through the vicissitudes of many bodily fluids and little love. On the other hand, these three stories of lesbian romance stand out in contrast, by celebrating the union of a couple with the understanding of an absolute physical and mental communion, one that dispenses with third parties. Then there’s the finding in the person loved the supreme enjoyment in the physical and spiritual, the acceptance of the other with all its burden of differences, their respect as a human being. This does not imply the overflow of eroticism and passion inherent in every bond that also possesses flesh and desire, manifested in the plots of these three filmic pieces bordered by intense sexual passages.
The first two are the Spanish Elisa and Marcela (Isabel Coixet, 2019) and the French Portrait of a Woman on Fire (Céline Sciamma, 2019); the other is the English The Secret of the Bees (Annabel Jankel, 2018). All of them have been directed by women and perhaps that is where the depth of the formation of the six central characters and their human richness lies; fundamentally the complicity in the approach to their sentimental and moral universes.
Co-written and directed by the Catalan Coixet, Elisa and Marcela, is based on true events that took place in primitive Spain, the first homosexual marriage in the history of that country. It occurred in 1901 by two Galician girls, albeit under the premise of a lie: one of them disguised herself as a man. Although it is still valid today, as they could never undo it, in the absence or flight of their spouses.
Teachers Elisa (Natalia de Molina, in another of the notable compositions of a career in ascent) and Marcela (Greta Fernández, the revelation actress of the moment in the Spanish Peninsula) fight at arm’s length to maintain their relationship in a patriarchal scene of ecclesiastical omnipotence. It is still far from being prepared in the psychological and cultural orders to metabolize such a bond. Misunderstood, rejected and ridiculed, the two young women must leave three countries on two continents in order to continue to be together.
The kernel of the story has to be peeled off in the lyricism by which Coixet approaches a love story. It’s shaped, seen and told from the presupposition of that incomparable beauty arising from loving and honoring being the object of veneration and desire. The intimate scenes of the two central characters are carefully beautiful, and they testify to their mime, to the carnality and spirituality of their passion, to the joint desire to please and love each other; in spite of the hatred and ignorance that hangs over both of them. De Molina and Fernandez, especially the first one, were great.
The visual splendor of black and white photography, great in several shots of interiors, enhances the film.
Portrait of a Woman on Fire, is sensory as the three previous works of its director, garments the model gradualness through which Sciamma works the romantic attraction of its protagonists. In the first hour of the film, which is calm in its progression and full of details, references and subtleties (those furtive or frontal glances of Héloïse, the lady to be painted, towards Marianne, the painter!
The two are also in conflict with each other. It was 1770 and the beautiful young bourgeois Héloïse had to be painted, in order to send the canvas to the rich Milanese man who was to marry her. Marianne represents, there is no other, given the time and the conventions, an episode that – although probably the most important thing in her life and never forgotten by her – has to be closed within itself once the lady travels to Italy with her husband.
Noémi Merlant (Marianne) and Adèle Haenel (Héloïse) compose two memorable characterizations. This is decisive in the sense of capturing their characters’ attempt to curb an instantaneous drive and the vehemence with which they accept it and give themselves over to the love affair after realizing how futile the commitment is. The stylization of Portrait of a Woman on Fire is largely due to the observation of the bodies and the close-ups. It’s pure filmic visual poetry that dialogues and transmutes with the pictorial space of the story. Thanks to the mailbox of Claire Mathom, the director of photography.
Despite being weighed down by dramatic and visually mellifluous decisions in the resolution, as well as appeals to misplaced magical realism and less nuance, The Secret of the Bees is also another tender female story. It is the 1950s in a rural Scotland that does not forgive the “lesbian” Dr. Jean (Anna Paquin, in a work of introversion unaccustomed to the actress in recent times), much less its clandestine union with the young worker Lydia (Holliday Grainger). The relationship between the two, despite their desire for anonymity, will be revealed in the air of a closed atmosphere of intolerance.
In director Jankel’s eyes, this love is marked by tenderness. Although the observation of the two women’s intimate space never reaches the degree of visual sophistication of the films of La Coixet and La Sciamma, such scenes are also very beautiful. Perhaps they are less stylized, but not all of them need to be assumed in such a way.
Cuba: Defenders of a Provocation Disguised as a March
By Marco Velázquez Cristo
Undated. Translated June 1, 2019.
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews
The approval of the new Constitution by the great majority of the Cuban people generated much frustration in the feverish minds of Miami and of government officials of the country in which they reside. Their brutal media campaign, money sent and influences carried out, could not avoid the failure of their intentions to achieve a result contrary to what was obtained.
Faced with this fact, which is inserted in the midst of an intensification of the aggressiveness of the U.S. administration, mainly towards Venezuela and Cuba, whose revolutions they wish to destroy for well-known reasons, they have decided:
To carry out actions on the physical stage accompanied by media campaigns that position opinion matrices that create doubts about the implementation of what is established in the new Magna Carta. [These include] promoting the idea that the government swindled the people and that the rights contained therein will not be allowed to be exercised.
As part of this action, they invoke, among others, its Article 56 that establishes: “The rights of assembly, demonstration and association, for lawful and peaceful purposes, are recognized by the State provided that they are exercised with respect for public order and compliance with the requirements established by law. According to the “scholars” who play games with our enemies, this article was violated because the “march” of May 11 had a lawful purpose and respected public order.
The efforts of notorious counter-revolutionary ringleaders to transform it into a political provocation stripped it of its true essence in the struggle against homophobia and transphobia. These known and opportunely-denounced intentions motivated its non-authorization, which deprived it of its licit [legal] character. I remind those who like academicism that the word licit is an adjective that refers to that which is authorized. Besides, what the mentioned elements wanted to do had nothing licit, as was later shown.
With regard to respect for public order: The mere fact of contravening what a member of the police has indicated to a person or group of persons constitutes a violation of public order. In addition, the street is a public good of infrastructure and its private use whatever its purpose requires an enabling title that must be granted by the public administration and lacked the march that.
In addition to not having the proper authorization [which they had] not planned to secure, which could have caused, as repeatedly explained by the authorities to the participants, interruptions and other inconveniences in traffic and even possible accidents on a road as important as Malecón.
The march of marras was, in reality, an attempt at a 0political provocation with divisive and destabilizing ends, orchestrated from the unscrupulous manipulation of the feelings of the members of the LGBTI community, as we denounced in the post “Cuba: March or chronicle of an announced provocation” where we stated:
“… the orientations coming from Miami are: to encourage the holding of public marches with apparently innocuous motives that leave the government without arguments to prohibit them or else doing so generates the rejection of the sectors of the population that are affected. Take advantage of those authorized to “denounce violations of human rights and democratic liberties.
The enemy put its media machine and its network of internal lackeys into action in a vain attempt to confuse public opinion, presenting this provocation as a genuine march of the LGBTI community.
To this were lent some who, without being part of the traditional counterrevolution, acted as this one, jumping exalted to the stage of the internet to dance an unbridled cancan against state institutions and their leaders, sharing the stage and singing in tune with the flower and cream of the internal and external mercenarism that rewarded them with their applause and the publication of their diatribes against what they say they want to preserve.
I am not referring to members of the LGBTI community, but to those who, despite the publication of videos, interviews with LGBTI activists, exposed arguments and demonstrated who were behind the march and the reasons why it was not authorized. They try to make all this invisible and insist on questioning the authorities and describing their actions as repression when it is evident that they did not exist.
Among these, there are those who, in order to sustain their criticisms, allude to similar ones made by public personalities who do not understand that, in Cuba, the validity of opinions is not measured by the sector of society from which they come, nor by the person who makes them. This is because the Constitution that they so like to invoke establishes that we all have equal rights and worth. We do not all practice adultery, nor do we consider anyone to possess a superior intelligence or above the rest of those who debate in the social media.
Others who reacted hysterically at first, now cautiously keep silent or nuance their approaches perhaps thinking it will save their honor. Someone in the networks expressed their hope that they would publicly rectify their conduct. This has not yet happened [and so] they are too arrogant to acknowledge their “mistake” or simply prefer to remain silent so as not to disdain what they consciously expressed knowing perfectly that it was not true.
These fools, whose egocentrism and vanity lead them to believe that they have the power to speak on behalf of the people are those who repent, even if they say the opposite of ever having shown themselves to be revolutionaries. Every day their discourse and interests move further away from that which they claim to defend.
People who, in contrast to them: They do not deny or repent of their work, they do not seek excuses to justify having erected it, they do not cease to create because they continue to believe in it, they do not contradict or practice political equilibrium, they continue to sing to their Revolution with pride and without fear of defeats that will never come.
In the conduct of those who claim to be paradigms of the struggle for the rights of the LGBTI community, there is much hypocrisy, opportunism and false concern for the destinies of the revolution.
The institution which has truly led the struggle against Homophobia and Transphobia and for the recognition of the rights of the people who make up the LGBTI community has been the National Center for Sex Education (CENESEX). Its main directors did not irresponsibly throw themselves at the networks to question the decision taken. They were informed, understood its need and supported it. They placed their trust in the institutions of the Revolution, not in the manipulative word of the enemy.
In my opinion, whoever agrees with the adversary, gives him credit, scandalizes in his favor, does not believe in state institutions, demerits its actions, forecasts an uncertain future for the Revolution, cannot be a revolutionary. All the more so if this type of behavior coincides with moments of danger for the homeland like the present ones.
By Víctor Hugo Robles, El Che de los Gays
May 14, 2019
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews
For more than 10 years, the National Center for Sex Education of Cuba CENESEX has convened and organized the Cuban Days Against Homophobia and Transphobia. It is a popular and important event that includes academic, cultural, social, political and street activities, including the so-called “Cuban Conga” or “Pride March” in neo-capitalist reading, a public demonstration where the LGBTI community of the island travels the main streets of Havana to make their demands visible. Every year, the beautiful capital of Cuba and a provincial city are the scenes of these awaited activities promoted by public institutions of the Cuban State, social organizations, youth groups and sexual diversity networks that work together with CENESEX.
CENESEX is the coordinating center for the national sex education program in Cuba, a valuable and world-renowned institution. It was created in the 1970s as a response to the request made by Cuban women, organized in the Federation of Cuban Women, at its second Congress in 1972.
At that meeting, the women raised the need for sex education for their daughters and sons. Cuban women benefited from the programs of what is now called reproductive health promotion or sexual education. Later, since the 90’s, it was the LGBTI community that was incorporated in the central concerns of CENESEX, particularly with the realization of the Cuban Days, celebrated in May of each year in the context of the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.
Historic Advances in LGBTI Rights
From the beginning, valuable and unprecedented activities have been developed that educate the population, sharing experiences, feelings and information about sexual education, HIV/AIDS prevention and the rights of the LGBTI community that seeks, demands and demands civil rights. Rights that they gradually conquer.
It is remarkable and demonstrable that the work of CENESEX has allowed great advances such as the incorporation into the National Constitution of non-discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity, being the ninth country in the world to achieve this, as well as the institutionalization of comprehensive public policies for LGBTI people and the creation of social and legal guidance devices, the construction of a comprehensive health mechanism for trans persons, including free genital adequacy surgeries, recognition of all forms of family and approval of a transitional clause in the National Constitution that opens the door to equal marriage by eliminating gender binarism, moving from the definition of “man and woman” to “spouses”.
It is not a little, rather a lot, considering the timid advances in LGBTI rights in neoliberal capitalist societies such as ours. The promoter of these actions and director of CENESEX is the renowned sexologist Mariela Castro Espín, daughter of Vilma Espín and Raúl Castro, the most outstanding niece of the mythical Fidel Castro Ruz.
The photo of the dead Che
I was present at the Cuban Days Against Homophobia and Transphobia in 2014. I was a protagonist and witness of the active participation of a diverse community committed to change, added to the refreshing enthusiasm of many young people to participate in CENESEX activities, including the crowded “Cuban Conga”, which in Chile we call “Sexual Diversity March”.
On that occasion, I remember, seeking to run the fence of what was possible and symbolically allowed, I appeared and broke into the march with an emblematic photo of the dead Che surrounded by red feathers. It was a rebellious and daring gesture, typical of the acts I seek and try to star in.
The action did not go unnoticed and provoked diverse reactions and comments, so much so that I had to go up to the main stage at the end of the Cuban Conga to explain the reasons for my intervention, receiving the applause of the present public. There I said that Che’s missing body had been discovered in Bolivia on June 28, 1997, just in time for International Gay Pride Day.
I explained to them that this is why I call myself “The Gay Che” and use the guerrilla star to intertwine desires and revolutions. In Cuba, it was surprising but my action was understood. Nobody censored me, although the foreign press, particularly the Miami correspondents, made a feast with the images of my performance pointing out that “Mariela Castro leads the Gay Pride march with a photo of the dead Che”, thus seeking to generate political repercussions that could affect the image of Mariela Castro and CENESEX.
I did not fall into the trap of that mercenary press and I shared my reasons with my comrades who listened to me with affection. “Life is necessary with irreverence,” said our beloved and unforgettable Gladys Marín in Chile, generously valuing the actions of “El Che de los Gays.
I relate this episode because I can attest to the respectful work of the friends of CENESEX, especially Mariela Castro Espín, who, beyond the legitimate pain and discomfort caused by seeing the photo of the dead Che in a public march of sexual diversity in Havana, understood the deepest and most political meaning of my crazy staging. I’m always opening paths of fraternal and internationalist dialogue in a besieged rights revolution that is built and rebuilt every day.
Some time later Mariela was in Chile and together with other local sexual diversity activists we shared with her these crazy experiences, projecting the struggles of the LGBTI community in Cuba and Chile. Since the 1970s with President Salvador Allende en la Moneda, the friendship between Chile and Cuba has been part of our political history and that includes the history of sexual diversity movements.
The “independent” march
The deplorable events that took place in the self-proclaimed “independent” LGBTI march of last Saturday, May 11, appear as the other side of a complex process of changes and transformations that the LGBTI community in Cuba is living and promoting. Although it was a march or walk that could be understood as legitimate and even fair due to the controversial cancellation of the official Cuban Conga, its convocation, its organizers and the media repercussion that the international press encouraged make us maintain that it was a staging studied and prepared.
It wasn’t from CENESEX, but from the U.S. Embassy in Havana, an office that did not hesitate to send its diplomats to cover and participate in the “independent” march. The U.S. Embassy in Havana itself publicly unmasked itself by writing on its official Twitter account: “We closely observed that #The Alternative March began peacefully, but then there were aggressive arrests. The regime denies the Cuban people their fundamental rights. We are with the people of Cuba.
The blatant declaration of the imperialist diplomacy of Donald Trump’s government says “it is with the people of Cuba” but omits that the United States maintains and deepens a condemnable and inhuman economic blockade of almost 60 years that punishes not only the Cuban “regime”, as they call the Cuban Revolution in the U.S., but an entire people.
It’s a condemnable economic blockade that Trump wants to extend to the unimaginable, including a criminal and unprecedented maritime blockade around Cuba, the largest island of the Antilles.
From my social networks I saw this transnational political operation confirmed by reliable checks and information received from Havana, unleashing various comments, criticisms and condemnations of my right to critical expression, the same freedom that my detractors demand but that they neither apply nor recognize for others.
On the night of May 11, after seeing various videos, photos and images, studying the public profiles of the organizers and gathering background information from Cuba, Chile and Argentina, I wrote my legitimate opinion on Facebook, being replicated directly by Mariela Castro Espín.
My convinced and informed text said: “Advances in the rights of LGBTI communities always have contradictions. It moves forward steadily, stops momentarily, and sometimes seems to backtrack. The images of the diversity march on the streets of Havana this Saturday, May 11, 2019, hide not only the legitimate desire for greater spaces of rights for all, but also the staging of an orchestrated operation that seeks to question the unique and indispensable work of Cuba’s National Center for Sex Education CENESEX.
The freedom that is publicly demanded is twinned with support for the US invasion of Venezuela and the political-media destabilization of left-wing governments in Latin America and the Caribbean. The indelible colors of our rainbow are proudly painted with anti-imperialist brushes.
Written with accurate information, contrasting the headlines of the international press, I recognized and valued the important work of CENESEX, transforming my opinion into a wall of hurried and unfounded regrets, criticisms and accusations such as those that indicated that I justified violence and arrests.
Nothing could be further [from the truth] than to argue and endorse arrests, as I have always demanded in Chile when students, young people, women and Mapuches are arbitrarily and unfairly arrested. Neither CENESEX, nor Mariela Castro, nor Vicente Feliú, nor Silvio Rodríguez, much less the LGBTI activists of the world that we see (and feel) with concern how they seek to discredit the historic work of Cuba’s National Center for Sexual Education and the virtuous leadership of Mariela Castro Espín.
Nothing and no one justifies or guarantees arrests just as we do not justify or guarantee that rainbow flags are used by anti-communist opponents who use and abuse our agendas of social-sexual transformation to favor and promote the activities of the external and internal Cuban opposition.
It is reprehensible that a legitimate demonstration for LGBTI rights in Cuba is manipulated by the detractors of the Cuban Revolution and the National Center for Sexual Education hoping -mistakenly- to undermine the arduous, señero and intelligent work of Mariela Castro Espín who, confronting painful expressions published against CENESEX and its leadership, dialogued in the “Round Table” program of Cuban television, reaffirming the emancipating principles of the Cuban Revolution.
Francisco Rodriguez Cruz, an LGBTI journalist from Cuba, an active blogger and an important sexual diversity activist on the island, wrote a heartfelt column on his personal blog, “Paquito el de Cuba,” lamenting the facts and pointing out the text:
“The negative repercussion of these events demonstrated that the march was not a success, as those who defend their anti-government agendas more than our rights as LGBTI people say, but a serious error that we could pay with a very high cost of splits, extremisms and setbacks in future dialogue processes, if we are not capable of critically analyzing what happened and thus draw lessons to overcome it.
Like “Paquito,” assuming attacks and misunderstandings for openly distrusting the motivations of the organizers of the event and carrying out a critical analysis of the political-public repercussions of the spectacular public event, I decided to take an open position against a new attack on the Cuban Revolution and all its brave people.
It would have been simpler and more comfortable to remain silent enjoying the local capitalist comfort as fellow activists and sexual diversity organizations who prefer political and ideological neutrality have done.
It is not the time for neutrality, doubts, or silences, much less fear of denouncing the blows of the empire infiltrated in our diverse cultural and sexual struggles. In the current regional political and ideological scenario, the U.S. government seeks to stick its noses and military troops in Venezuela, our beloved Cuba being the final objective.
I raise my voice to warn against the use of multiple destabilizing imperialist strategies, including flying the flags of sexual diversity, longing to destroy the revolutionary utopias of left-wing governments in Latin America and the Caribbean in times of right-wing advance in the region.
From Santiago de Chile, remembering and thanking the generous and infinite solidarity of the Cuban people with our own people in past times, I send my affectionate embrace to all those Cuban brothers and sisters, comrades and comrades who fight every day to defend a courageous revolutionary journey. The time has come to raise and wave with more strength the rainbow flags but painted with proud and indelible anti-imperialist colors.
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews
Playuela Beach, located next to Cayo Guillermo, has been the site chosen to build one of the hotels that will undoubtedly be visited by the LGBTI community.
According to Mathu Hotel in Cuba, the country plans to open the Rainbow Muthu Hotel, the first hotel facility dedicated to the LGBTI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex) community in October 2019.
The new hotel will have 248 rooms of high comfort, five restaurants, three bars, a room of animation and all the necessary facilities for the practice of aquatic sports.
“A perfect #LGBT-Friendly hotel, for an escape to #cayoguillermo #granmuthurainbow, will be an incredible place to visit all year round with these incredible rooms and views,” says one of the facility’s promotions.
The Muthu Hotel representation in Cuba has summoned CENESEX to help in the selection and training of the personnel that will work in the facilities; in addition to collaborating in events, promotions and campaigns.
By Redacción Razones de Cuba
May 16, 2019
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews
There are many images that swarm in social networks and in different international press media about the march that last May 11 which was called by some “independent activists” of the Cuban LGBTI community. In the vast majority of them, there is a morbid delight in showing the detention of four people who insisted on continuing the march, disregarding the considerations of the authorities who, in the absence of an official permit, urged the participants not to continue marching through traffic-filled streets.
In the video that Razones de Cuba shares with its readers, we see the exchange between a PNR official and several of the demonstrators, without any weapon whatsoever, in a tone of respect and logical argumentation. The media tends to silence these details, trying to show that the march was repressed in its entirety and not to give birth to these testimonies that the vast majority of the participants in the demonstration held a dialogue with the authorities, without outbursts or any desire to break with institutionality.
Respect, reason, and peace: cardinal points of citizen tranquility, for the search in Cuba of individual and general well-being under the rule of law.
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
I have taken some time to reflect on the regrettable events that occurred during the 12th edition of the Day Against Homophobia. I pause at this moment with the conviction that this is not a finished debate.
I am the founder of the Cuban Days Against Homophobia, at a time when the idea that all activism in relation to sexual rights is political had already matured in me; therefore, it will always be permeated by specific political values and ideologies. Whoever does not situate himself from this angle sins out of naivety or tries to manipulate the complex reality.
No ideological struggle is free of contradictions and the complex process of building political consensus (if that is possible between Cubans) always has advances and setbacks.
The march not authorized by the government last May 11 was not produced only by the suspension by the State/Party of the traditional conga included in the programs of the Cuban Days against homophobia. The antecedents and the conjunctures that I perceive are:
Unique vertical dialogue and legitimacy of the CENESEX leadership by the State/Party in the fight against homophobia.
The State/Party’s obsessive and pernicious fear of horizontal leadership and the emergence of LGBT groups within civil society collides with a gradual public awareness of sexual rights as human rights. The formation of activists by CENESEX and the Cuban Days against Homophobia have generated a critical mass of activists that overflows institutional spaces and challenges the doctrines of control of thought and action that are generated from there. There are also many good people who are activists without having been linked to any institution.
Since a group of activists introduced the Yogyakarta Principles in 2007, their use has expanded to advocate non-discriminatory policies on sexual orientation and gender identity in accordance with international human rights law. The heterogeneity of these groups includes many ideological positions that fluctuate between radical Marxists, bourgeois social democrats, anarchists and neo-liberals and neo-annexionists. There are also the usual mercenaries who serve any ideology. For the monochrome vision of the State/Party and its institutions, these people are nothing more than counterrevolutionaries and any initiative arising from them is criminalized, in the name of national unity. It does not take into account that except for the neoliberals, annexionists and mercenaries, there are many progressive people who would put forth, from organized civil society, anti-discriminatory public policies.
Arbitrary arrests, violent repression, censorship and discrediting are neither revolutionary nor do they adhere to the Martian principles of a Republic, as endorsed in the recent Constitution.
2. The Cuban Days against Homophobia and Transphobia have lost their political character and their capacity for interlocution with people with non-homoregulatory sexualities and genders.
From the first editions, tensions arose in conceiving this space as a political and revolutionary celebration or commemoration. The result has been the celebration and the dangerous approach to banality and to what we wanted to avoid: to turn it into a march of Cuban gay pride with strong classist and neoliberal inspiration. While recognizing that pride in our identity is a political attitude, the conga itself has distorted that meaning and the parade of its leaders in pink convertible cars, the floats, the carnival atmosphere and the strange participation of transnational emporiums such as Google (in edition 11) are just some of the most notorious elements of this point.
The suspension of the conga last May 11 and the change of the party at the same time that the unauthorized march would take place, was a very counterrevolutionary and irresponsible maneuver. The high participation in the march and the follow-up in the social networks by the participants in the celebration of what was happening in the Padro speak for themselves of the fragmentation and violence that could have been avoided.
The parade of more than 100 people, peacefully chanting slogans in favor of sexual rights and recognizing rights for all citizens, without counterrevolutionary expressions along the Prado promenade, moves away unfounded statements (such as those accompanying the conga suspension) that the march was organized from Miami. What happened in the end, with the crude police repression and the detention of four people, was a provocation far removed from the meaning of the march. The presence of the media was taken advantage of and the unfortunate events that are now circulating in the news were unleashed.
On the other hand, the rich public exchanges with LGBT people have not taken place in Havana for more than six editions. Written speeches, the introduction of other just causes but without the conviction of those present, have hampered citizen participation. It would seem that music, half-naked bodies, transformationism [cross-dressing] and dancing in the conga are the fundamental objective. The essentially political has been enclosed to academic spaces where we cook in the same sauce.
3. The State/Party has negotiated with the rights for sexual orientation and gender identity like a pendulum.
This point is also complex. Without a doubt, CENESEX, the leadership of its director Mariela Castro and the voice of numerous activists have contributed to placing the rights of LGBT people on political agendas and in human rights discourses in Cuba. However, in the international context, pendulum positions have been shown. In 2010 our State/Party had to rectify its vote at the United Nations when it aligned itself with third world countries that condemned homosexuality with the death penalty and did not consider it to be the cause of extrajudicial executions. Since then, our representatives have been absent from several votes on LGBT rights, especially at ECOSOC.
From 2011 to date, the need to eliminate all forms of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is recognized in documents issued by the State/Party that include the Statutes of the Communist Party of Cuba and the Labor Code Law. However, from 2012 to 2013 serious tensions were generated by the public speeches of numerous activists associated with CENESEX on pending policies, including marriage equality.
On this issue, the director of CENESEX herself has expressed opinions that vary according to the circumstances. Her speech was finally profiled in favor of marriage equality during the debate on the constitutional project. Later we learned that in the same period the Catholic Church had been the mediator in the restoration of diplomatic relations between the governments of Cuba and the United States. At this point I paraphrase the Apostle [: in politics what is most important is what is not seen.
More recently, the elimination of article 68, which opened up the possibility in the Constitutional Bill of recognizing marriage equality, was a complicit wink from the State/Party to the fundamentalist religious groups, which have gained strength in Cuba and enjoyed complete freedom to demonstrate against the aforementioned article. In the meantime, they maintained tight control over the activists associated with the institution and no street actions were allowed against religious and fundamentalist hate speeches.
The first three months have passed since the proclamation of the Constitution and there is no debate or concrete action to comply with the complementary laws that define the adoption of the Family Code within two years. The approval of this Law will be taken to a referendum, thanks to the decisions of our representatives, experts in dictating policies through decree-laws in agendas that are peremptory to them.
I note that the Christian churches have been too quiet during the present day, although we know in good faith that many of their proselytes were in the vicinity of the feast organized by CENESEX doing their fundamentalist ideological work.
4. The 11/5 march marks a historic milestone in the construction of a Cuban LGBT movement.
Depends. Not thefirst unauthorized gear. It is preceded by some actions in the late 1990s, the wedding between a transgender person and a gay man, and other unpopular attempts that were marked by interests to subvert order. Most of these unconvinced activists are in the United States because of the gratifications of their political masters. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that we have many more here who will do the impossible to torpedo any attempt at civil organization that dialogues with the State/Party.
We also have former activists who now live abroad, who are patriots and want to continue participating in the construction of a sovereign nation and have every right to do so.
Some have said that what happened on Saturday compared to May 1968 in Paris. Others have evoked the Stonewall Rebellion*, whose legacy has been taken as a global reference but which has been distorted by the generation of a universally classist, elitist LGBTI movement that reproduces the essences of the market and patriarchal domination of heteronormative oppression. In fact, in many countries, an attempt has been made to found anti-system movements and praxis that move away from the ideological right-wing and the political and commercial banalization of the international LGBTI movement.
What happens from now on will depend on concerted action and the lessons learned from these experiences. The permanence in force of a Law of Associations that limits and subsumes the rhetoric of a besieged square plus the fragile mechanisms of citizen participation hinder these actions.
Some view the march as a matter of winners and losers and focus their activism on opposition to CENESEX and Mariela Castro. With such a narrow vision it is not possible to make much progress either. Having a government institution to deal with these issues is necessary, but it does not limit the recognition of the right of LGBT people to self-organize as part of civil society, with the capacity to participate and challenge policies.
The march of May 11 also reflects that Cuba is not Paris 68 nor New York 69. A good part of political participation and the exercise of civil rights are done in social networks. The call became viral and despite the final outcome, people came to express their positions on this issue. To say that everyone was deceived or confused is contempt for people’s intelligence and at the same time, we must be very careful about who (or whom) benefits from results alien to our struggles.
On the other hand, to those who believe themselves to be owners of the Revolution and of thought, I inform you that a change of era has occurred in Cuban society. Comply with the Constitution and return the Revolution. [Santos Suarez, May 13, 2019]
*The Stonewall Inn bar was the epicenter of a rebellion of gay men and transgender people against police harassment in New York City in 1969. June will be 50 years old.
Author: Miguel Febles Hernández | email@example.comMay 16, 2019 19:05:11
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.
CAMAGÜEY. – For those who insist on the siege, intolerance and excessive attack against everything that smells of Revolution, Mariela Castro Espín has the exact answer: the irreverent and “undisciplined” who star in this marvelous revolutionary experience do not allow themselves to be dominated by anyone.
In a meeting with professors and students from the Carlos J. Finlay University of Medical Sciences in this province, the director of the National Center for Sexual Education (Cenesex) referred to the challenges facing the Cuban people today in the face of the intensification of the aggressive policy of U.S. imperialism.
She placed special emphasis on the media campaign orchestrated in recent times by external and internal enemies to discredit the reality of the Cuban Revolution, its dreams, goals and desires, and the marvelous quality of this people, united by values and by an emancipatory historical project.
Faced with so much hostility, attempts at manipulation and bad intentions that only try to confuse, dismantle processes and put an end to the Revolution, the deputy to the National Assembly of People’s Power called to counterpose to it the intelligence, sensitivity, and commitment of the true patriots.
In that first battlefront, Cenesex is marching today, as an institution of the Cuban State in charge of advising on the definition of policies related to the defense of sexual rights, through comprehensive sexuality education and health promotion.
Together with an enthusiastic team of specialists and activists, she also carries out active research, organizing educational and community programs, and carrying out educational campaigns, such as the one she has been promoting for twelve years in the country against homophobia and transphobia.
“That is what we fight against: everything that generates discrimination, inequalities and inequities to humiliate, exclude and take away rights and opportunities,” said Mariela Castro Espín, referring to the essence of the work of the institution she directs, which she rightly called: educate in the sense of freedom.
The twelfth edition of the Cuban Days Against Homophobia and Transphobia, based in this city, has been a step forward in the effort to make the motto that presides over it a reality: All rights for all people, knowing that, along with the necessary legal changes, a profound process of cultural transformation must also take place.
Translated and edited by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews
It is very likely that these lines will not satisfy any of the parties involved in what happened this Saturday, May 11, in the so-called “independent” LGBTI march from Parque Central to the Havana Malecón, but I feel the obligation to comment on and broaden some of the considerations I have already made in social networks, whatever the risks involved.
As I have already said, I regret the events that occurred almost at the end of the walk through the Prado capital of about 200 people, who despite not having the proper authorization, the police authorities and the Ministry of Interior accompanied and guarded for several blocks of that extensive walk.
It was the EFE agency that reported that within that group there were those who apparently had the intention of provoking an incident, and did not obey the instructions of the police, to be able to create, in front of the cameras, the spectacle that had been proposed. This teaches us once again that LGBTI people must be very clear so that they do not manipulate us or use us for political ends against not only the Revolution, but also our own rights and conquests.
Everything indicates that the bet of some well-known figures of the so-called dissidence, who never worried or occupied themselves with constructive proposals or messages for our rights as LGBTI people, was to dilute the atmosphere even more during this twelfth edition of the Cuban Days against Homophobia and Transphobia, and it is evident that in part they achieved it.
In contrast, however, like the crowded Diversity Party with several hundred attendees, where most of the LGBTI community and its most systematic activists – including participants in the illegal march – were present until almost midnight, it did not merit the same media attention.
But my doubts about this demonstration began long before, and I shared them with several people who were aware of its details, without receiving a convincing answer.
Why call it for Parque Central, in Old Havana, and not in some of the Vedado scenarios where, for eleven years, the Conga against Homophobia and Transphobia has been taking place, and whose cancellation this year was the alleged cause of the call to hold it? What groups are those who have habitually used this area of Parque Central and the Capitolio, to attempt some pale anti-government protest?
The call for the march set a place and time to begin, but it was never clearly stated what the route would be or where the possible participants would go. Wasn’t that definition or was the intention not to go anywhere, but to reach a certain state of massive tension?
If the purpose was to show discontent to the authorities, why didn’t they go to shout “We want the conga”, for example, at the Gala on Friday the 10th at the Karl Marx Theater, where none other than the Secretary of the Council of State, the Ministers of Public Health and Justice, the President of the People’s Supreme Court and the Attorney General of the Republic, among other leaders of the country, were present?
Many criticisms have been generated by the statement of the director of the National Center for Sex Education that behind the organization of this march there were groups of people residing in Miami.
I personally do not know what the origin of this idea was, but I can testify to the ardent enthusiasm and the broad promotion they carried out on social networks, including my Facebook wall, subjects who no longer live in Cuba and systematically devote abundant time and efforts -almost incredible for those who, I suppose, have other daily occupations much more absorbent and unpostponable that capitalism imposes on them-, only to criticize any action or reaction of Cenesex, its specialists and activist networks.
I can also attest -because I greeted them with sincere affection and even took pictures with them- to more than one person known and trained as an activist in the community networks linked to Cenesex who live in the United States and traveled expressly to Havana to be in the Jornadas, and very particularly in this march that did not have official permission.
I am aware of the bad taste that lets us talk about all this. Believe me, it hurts me to do it. Among other reasons, because almost certainly it is very probable that I too am committing some injustice with my perhaps subjective and partial appreciations, even if they are based on the real and objective elements that were within my reach.
In fact, a colleague and friend whose judgment I greatly appreciate and who, for years, has been a participant in my activist and blogging efforts on these issues, has alerted me with sincere concern about the risks to my “credibility as a communicator and activist”, by this taking such an unusual position in me, that I always prefer balance and benevolence when assessing human behavior.
But I refuse to make any kind of personal calculation in the face of such a painful situation, where those of us who are the main victims now want to pass ourselves off as perpetrators. Whatever it is, it will be; even if it implies any individual setback that has little or no relevance.
The least important thing now is to tell the truth, so that in the midst of all this bullshit hope is reborn in a cause that, sooner or later, it will be their turn to continue cultivating and carrying on with other people who will surely do it better than those of us who did it up to this point.
To those who, in good faith, and with legitimate discontent, participated in the walk, I thank you with all my heart. They did what they thought should be done for a just cause, as I have done many other times, not without making mistakes and suffering the consequences. I would never question the intentions of that possible majority of those present, which I am convinced did not premeditate nor could they suppose the provocation in which it finally ended up being involved.
And I say more. Were it not for my close and unconditional commitment to the Organizing Committee of these Days – which brings together so many valuable people who have put all their passion and mind into this collective work, including unspeakable pain when we have not managed to do something like we believe our people want, expect and deserve – and the most information I could have on the evolution and possible consequences of this event, perhaps I would have been in that same fragile position, with my rainbow flag over the Prado.
The negative repercussion of these events demonstrated, however, that the march was not a success, as those who defend their anti-government agendas more than our rights as LGBTI people say, but a serious mistake that we could end up paying for with a very high cost of splits, extremisms, and setbacks in future processes of dialogue, if we are not able to critically analyze what happened and thus draw lessons to overcome it.
For my Party and the Government, I believe that the message has also been very clear.
I explained this in my previous text when I tried to explain how it was the Revolution itself that empowered us and made us aware of our rights in this more than a decade of educational strategy and political struggle against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. It facilitated the creation of spaces for our intimate and collective realization -such as that emblematic Conga that was suspended this year-, which we can no longer and do not want to renounce, even if it means defending them from any threat, with the intelligence and courage that we have always been capable of in Cuba throughout our entire history.
To all parties involved in what happened on the Paseo del Prado, even if they are not fully or partially satisfied with these harsh words I have written here, I reiterate that we have no choice but to try to exorcise ourselves from our own demons, restlessness, prejudices, and grudges, and start again to move forward, to heal this temporary wound and continue with the construction of that more just, progressive and inclusive society, to which the vast majority of our people aspire.
I am Francisco Rodríguez Cruz, also known as Paquito, from Cuba; I am a Marti follower and an author; I am a communist and gay journalist; I am a convinced and superstitious atheist; I am the father of a son whom I have adored and have been a partner for fifteen years with a seronegative man who loves me; I have been an AIDS patient since 2003 and am a survivor of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma for more than twelve years; I am a university professor and a student of life; a follower of Cuban economic issues and a passionate devourer of universal literature; an incontinent and belligerent moderate; a friend of my friends and a compassionate friend of my enemies; often wrong and never repentant; a hardened and eternal enthusiastic optimist; alive and kicking; in short, another ordinary man who wants to share his story, opinions and desires with you…