by    /  July 9, 2012  / No comments

Havana Celebrates Gay Pride Day

Yasmín Silvia Portales, founder of the Rainbow Project. Photo: Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

A decade ago, the late pro-government journalist Guillermo Cabrera Álvarez, from the newspaper Juventud Rebelde (Rebel Youth) (the official organ of the Union of Young Communists), convened a spontaneous crowd to kiss in the Plaza of the Revolution.

  1. Is it worth-while to focus on the last images and letters coming from the inside of the last living utopia on Earth? Is Cuba by now a contemporary country or just another old-fashioned delusion in the middle of Nowhere-America? A Cold-War Northtalgia maybe? Can we expect a young within that Ancien Régime still known as The Revolution? I would like to provoke more questions than answers.
  2. Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo was born in Havana City and still resides and resists there, working as a free-lance writer, photographer and blogger. He is the author of Boring Home (2009) and is the editor of the independent opinion and literary e-zine Voces.

Even as an institutional initiative, that collective “kiss” was censored by the authorities without explanation. Cuban socialism never cedes public space to its citizens, apparently for fear that “counterrevolutionary enemies” (dissident and exiled Cubans) will “manipulate” the news.

However, this year on June 28, following a call from the Rainbow Project, a group of “free-kissers” convened in Havana for a downpour of love and friendship to commemorate Gay Pride Day, a date which is never celebrated in our “macho-Leninist” revolution.

Days earlier, the hashtag #Mua (onomatopoeia for a kiss) went viral on Cuba’s Twitter, and even romantic pictures circulated, such as one of LGBT activists Ignacio Estrada and his transsexual wife, Wendy Iriepa, who are HIV-positive founders of the freelance project Puertas Abiertas (Open Doors).

Despite the activity on Twitter, on the evening of June 28 the Rainbow Project meeting was disappointingly short. It ran for less than half an hour and was attended by just two dozen people. But it was still exciting to hear the blogger and leader of the Rainbow Project, Yasmín Silvia Portales, call for a fight against “all forms of discrimination in Cuba,” and then define herself as “anti-capitalist” (perhaps to avoid repression as there were several officers dressed in civilian clothes also in attendance). She then issued the challenge that today “the Revolution will be feminist or it will not be anything at all, will be anti-racist or it will not be anything at all, will be anti-homophobic or it will not be anything at all, will be open to criticism from all citizens or it will not be anything at all.”

A euphoric applause and kisses both fraternal and passionate crowned her words. Fortunately, hope is not a question of statistics. Just a few are needed to keep the spark alive and speak for the rights of our minorities.

Translation: Pamela Moore

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