Mariela Castro, Homosexuals, and Cuban Politics
This article was originally published in NUEVA SOCIEDAD, No. 218, November-December 2008, ISSN: 0251-3552. <www.nuso.org>.
By: Frances Negrón-Muntaner
FRANCES NEGRÓN-MUNTANER is a writer, filmmaker, and director of the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race at Columbia University in New York. Her books include Boricua Pop: Puerto Ricans and the Latinization of American Culture (New York: New York University Press, 2004; CHOICE Award), None of the Above: Puerto Ricans in the Global Era (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007) and the forthcoming Sovereign Acts (Cambridge: South End Press, 2009). In 2008, she was named a global expert by the United Nations.
MERCEDES ROSA DÍAZ (translator) is a freelance journalist whose work has included reporting for The Philadelphia Inquirer and UPI. She is an adjunct instructor of English and Mass Communication at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania.
During the 1960s, the Cuban state routinely harassed homosexuals and interned them in forced labor camps. But homophobia has now given way to homophilia, and today the Cuban government supports sex-change operations and promotes the rights of sexual minorities. The inspiration of this turnabout is Mariela Castro Espín, daughter of President Raúl Castro. In this essay, the author argues that while this change in political orientation should not be dismissed as inconsequential in relation to gay rights, it also cannot simply be considered a sign of greater democratic participation. Rather, this development may be understood as the result of a process of political “transformism” through which the Cuban state attempts to modernize itself and present a new face to the world.
As the first news stories on Cuba’s commemoration of International Day Against Homophobia began to appear on May 17, 2008, I received dozens of emails, all bearing the same message: “You see!” They read, in various permutations. “Cuba is making progress. It’s not the same place anymore.”
And, indeed, seeing a photograph of Mariela Castro Espín, the daughter of President Raúl Castro, smiling and holding hands with two gay men during the occasion was undoubtedly striking. No less impressive was the fact that due to efforts initiated by Castro Espín in her role as the director of the National Center for Sex Education (CENESEX), the Cuban Ministry of Public Health approved a resolution to finance gender-reassignment surgery for transgendered persons. Just as notable was the news that in the near future, it is likely that legislative reforms will allow civil unions for same-sex couples and adoption of children by gays and lesbians. But, given the history of institutionalized homophobia in Cuba, and the absence of a mass movement led by sexual minorities demanding gay rights, it was impossible not to ask: from whence does the Cuban state’s great love for homosexuals, a love that finally dares to speak its name, come from? Does it mean that, when it comes to popular power, tout va bien in Cuba?
Not necessarily. Although certainly something important is taking place in Cuba, it might not be what it appears to be. Unlike those who uphold that Castro Espín’s work represents a simple project of democratic participation, the step from homophobia to homophilia—or from the Mariel crisis to the smile of Mariela—may be better understood as a form of political “transformism.”1 Through this process, the Cuban state is willing to concede rights and recognition to groups who in the past have been persecuted—and hence remain symbolically charged—in order to give a fresh new face to the national body politic and survive the current legitimacy crisis. And, along the way, also try out the possibility of a new Castro revolution in the not-so-distant future that could change everything while leaving it almost all the same: the ascension of a woman, Mariela Castro Espín, to the Cuban presidency.
The “Cuban Homosexual Thing”
To fully contextualize this move (or what the sudden “queerness” of the state is about) it is important to address what might be called the “Cuban homosexual thing.” As it is well known, from the beginning of the Revolution in 1959, the Cuban state demonstrated a strong animosity toward homosexuals. By 1961, state antagonism erupted on a massive scale as the police began rounding up and detaining “pederasts, prostitutes, and pimps” in Havana neighborhoods.2 This systematic targeting culminated in 1965 with the creation of Military Units to Assist Production (UMAP), which functioned as forced labor camps. In the camps, the authorities confined those branded as “undesirable” or “antisocial” including militant Catholics, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and queers, who were also considered rebellious, dangerous and/or inept from a military standpoint. The UMAP’s avowed objective was to transform them into productive members of society in line with the revolutionary ideology and the state’s labor needs.
This political experiment, however, was short-lived. As a result of international protests and internal dissent, the state officially closed the labor camps in 1968 and instead assumed a gradual process of “rectification” that took on several forms. In the legal arena, the penal code was modified during the 1970s and 1980s so that homosexuals would no longer be considered “criminal figures.” Moreover, the daunting “Law of Homosexual Ostentation” was eliminated.3 At the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s, the Cuban cultural sphere also experienced a greater openness in relation to queer representation. Among the most noticeable signs of this shift was the awarding of the coveted Caimán Barbudo prize in 1989 to Norge Espinoza for his poem “The Wedding Dress”; the publication of formerly marginalized gay writers like Virgilio Piñera; and the release of Fresa y chocolate (Strawberry and Chocolate, 1993), a film produced by the Cuban Film Institute (ICAIC) that became a national and global hit.4
Yet, while the most drastic persecutions against homosexuals diminished, the state still maintained the power to define, exclude, purge, humiliate, detain and marginalize gays, lesbians, and/or transvestites. The state’s power was largely exercised through the application of “social dangerousness” laws that applied to “the special proclivity of a person to commit crimes, demonstrated by conduct that is observed to be in manifest contradiction with the norms of socialist morality."5 Over the past several decades, the state has repeatedly made use of these laws with different levels of intensity both to limit the access to employment of certain persons in schools, universities, and cultural institutions as well as to prevent the formation of a distinctly queer public sphere.
Due to their long-term impact there has been much debate over these policies’ origins. Some scholars have emphasized the confluence of assorted ideologies, including “machismo,” Catholicism, and Stalinism as fundamental to understanding the state’s relation to sexual minorities. Others have highlighted the assumed intimacy between homosexuals and American tourists before the Revolution. Given that many Americans regarded Havana as their sexual playground, revolutionary leaders tended to view gay men as the very incarnation of the feminized excesses and the corruption of “bourgeois Cuba.”6 In immediate terms, the increasing militarization of the Revolution, the aspiration to eliminate political dissidence, and the necessity to provide a scapegoat to channel popular frustration were equally relevant contexts.7
The official version from the government and its supporters abroad is that the state harassment of homosexuals was an error of a Revolution itself besieged by the specter of invasion by the United States. A broader analysis, however, suggests that far from beginning in, or about 1959, anti-homosexual rhetoric has deep roots. Although it was during those first decades of the Revolution when the unpalatable stew of homophobia as state policy was cooked up, heterosexist thinking has been an important feature of Cuban nationalist and revolutionary discourses for two centuries. Since at least the end of the 18th century, influential intellectuals have conceived the Cuban nation in masculine and military terms; Cuban history itself is little more than a recounting of “wars, revolutions, and battles”8 in which, according to historian Abel Sierra Madero, “there was no room for women or ‘the inverted’ [homosexuals]”…because their timid attitudes are detrimental to the state.”9 Dominant national thought has engendered the country as heterosexual and male, and invented an “other,” homosexual and effeminate, who must be vanquished to maintain Cuba’s political honor.
This historical trajectory explains to a great extent why discourses around homosexuality have been so central in the production and reproduction of national subjects. Attention to the sexual, as Sierra Madero has observed, is an efficient way to create “models of behavior…that are desirable for the country, that regulate the processes of reproduction and social mobility, that guarantee the long-time stability of the dominant groups and ideology.”10 Yet, while in the past “machismo” has served as a device to promote social unity in the face of national challenges, at this point, this mechanism is considerably less effective. Masculinist moral slogans like “We want to be like Che!” have lost much of their meaning in an economic context that feminizes its citizens by subjecting them to relentless vulnerability and where the nation exposes itself as an aging body whose masculine ideal has never completely materialized nor managed to eliminate its zones of abject femininity. In this regard, it should not be surprising that the state ultimately chose to adopt critic José Quiroga’s compelling truism that if Cuban “society has been unable to eliminate its queens, the only thing left to do is incorporate them.”11
In addition to its potential to “resolver” some domestic matters, incorporating sexual minorities into national discourse has considerable strategic value in the international realm and serves to remind us how far Cuba—despite the persistence of policies that make difficult the movement of persons, goods, and practices—is integrated into the global order. Unlike the 1960s, when homosexual movements were still relatively weak and gays and lesbians did not generate a great deal of political sympathy, today the legalizing (or not) of same-sex marriage and other civil rights serve as a litmus test to measure the level of barbarity vs. civilization in both Europe and the United States. Equally important is that since the persecution of homosexuals constitutes one of the darkest episodes in Cuba’s post-revolutionary history, the most effective way to remove this stigma is for the state—or better still, the Revolution—to demonstrate not only that it has rectified its mistakes, but that it also works hard to secure the gay community’s citizenship rights and general well being. The fact that the United States is one of the most resistant “Western democracies” to institutionalize sexual minority rights makes Cuba’s state homophilia a new and indispensable point of difference from other countries in a competitive global arena.
In other words, through the recognition of gays and transgendered people, the state apparatus readjusts the way it imagines the Cuban body politic and how it handles its member-citizens, while joining the list of the most “liberal” states in the world.12 If during the heroic period of the Revolution, Fidel’s physicality—dressed in olive drab, erect, and impenetrable—was attuned to a body politic that was militarized and ready for war against Yankee imperialism, the contemporary moment brings forth other demands. The stability and future of the Cuban state, ailing and in ruins, seems to currently require a different kind of body, more on the sweet and friendly side, and completely at home with masks: a feminine body.
In more than one sense, it would seem ironic that Mariela Castro Espín is the leader of this self-proclaimed “sexual revolution.”13 On the one hand, her uncle and her father were responsible for the repressive policies against gays. On the other hand, since the beginning of the Revolution, rumors have swirled around the bisexuality of Raúl Castro, whose popular nicknames include “The Faggot” and “La China” (the Chinese Woman), for his presumed homosexuality, his supposed effeminate manners, and his alleged delight in talking about “sex and queers.”14 Not surprisingly, the premise of Raúl’s homo- or bisexuality frequently appears in dissident discourses in Cuba. A recent example is the underground song by the punk rock group Porno para Ricardo (Porn for Ricardo) entitled “El General,” in which Raúl is described as a “tyrannosaurus, alcoholicus, bisexualicus.”15
But, precisely for all these reasons, Castro Espín might be the only one capable of carrying out this delicate sex change operation on the Cuban body politic with minimum bloodshed. Although there has been talk in the past about the possibility that the former vice president of the Council of State, Carlos Lage or the (also former) minister of Exterior Relations Felipe Pérez Roque might succeed the Castro brothers, the fact is that Castro Espín has certain biographical attributes that make her particularly attractive as a prospective leading lady.
For starters, besides being Raúl’s daughter, she is the daughter of Vilma Espín, who for almost five decades directed the Federation of Cuban Women, and whose leadership is credited with the integration of women in “productive and revolutionary work.”16 Alongside her status as the child of Raúl and Vilma, and pardon the ensuing redundancy, Mariela is a woman (and, as far as is known, neither bisexual nor lesbian)—an identity that facilitates envisioning a different relationship between gender and nation. The importance of Castro Espín’s heterosexual femininity in making her a desirable political figure cannot be underestimated. In the succinct words of several journalists from the Spanish daily El Mundo: “Mariela is a Castro, but above all, she is a woman.”17
Moreover, Castro Espín has the credentials to talk about sex: she is a sexologist and since 2000 has been the director of CENESEX, a state institution whose objective is to coordinate “sex education in Cuba” and promote “the training of local community leaders.”18 As director of CENESEX, Castro Espín has been the driving force behind a series of initiatives that include AIDS-prevention campaigns, employment training for transvestites and the transgendered, and the promotion of tolerance for sexual minorities. Apart from her administrative experience, Castro Espín has written more than a dozen articles about sexuality and is the author of nine books, including What Happens to Us During Puberty? which was reprinted in Cuba in 2008.19
Still, her gender and professional background are not in themselves valuable enough currencies to convert her into a viable candidate. While her membership in the Castro family and the centrality of sex in her professional life are critical, she also needed the right circumstances to arise. And these materialized after Fidel Castro’s medical condition worsened in 2006. At the time, Fidel made the previously unthinkable decision to delegate some of his responsibilities—including the Presidency of the Council of State and command of the armed forces—to his 77-year-old brother Raúl, who since 1959 had served as minister of the Revolutionary Armed Forces, among other roles. Just as important was that once Raúl Castro, who is widely perceived as lacking his brother’s charisma, was elected president in 2008, he immediately crafted himself into a Chinese-style reformist leader. That is, although he maintained a hard line with dissidents, he opened spaces for popular discourse and propelled economic reforms that eliminated some of the most humiliating and repressive restrictions, including the prohibition against the purchase of cellular phones and those forbidding Cuban residents to check into local hotels.
Under these conditions, Castro Espín emerges as a figure capable of embodying the idea of change proposed by her father. Not coincidentally, it was in 2008 that the sex reassignment measure became law and that Castro Espín became increasingly visible as the organizer of a series of events in support of what CENESEX refers to as “sexual diversity.” The most important affair was the aforementioned celebration of International Day Against Homophobia in Cuba, during which state institutions sponsored a supportive gathering on homosexuality that included panel discussions, theatre productions, film screenings, and literary readings in Havana and other provinces.
The activities that took place in the capital were particularly significant to enhance Castro Espín’s political profile. In addition to counting on greater resources and the participation of hundreds of lesbians, gays, transvestites, and transgendered people, important officials like Ricardo Alarcón, president of the National Assembly of Popular Power, attended various events. Castro Espín also managed to have the Union of Young Communists—an organization that historically had demonstrated strong hostility toward homosexuals—finance a transvestite performance at the Astral Theatre, a place that is, as a variety of commentators pointed out, “usually reserved for matters relating to the Battle of Ideas.”20
That such a major drag performance took place at the Astral Theatre was quite fitting. At stake during the transvestites’ temporary takeover of the venue was nothing less than the nation’s future—a matter that became evident in both big and small details. For instance, according to theater critic Rufo Caballero, the drag queens danced, sang, and represented “notable sketches of Cubanidad” beneath an “enormous and beautiful Cuban flag” that covered almost the entire stage.21 Similarly, other intellectuals and journalists present spared no words to stress that the night was not about homosexual rights as such, but of engraving “a historical day of for the Cuban nation” and a “victory…of the Cuban nation.”22 It should then not be surprising that the spectacle overflowed from the stage to the floor. In the words of Caballero, the cross-dressers “in tears, thanked [Castro Espín] with flowers and hugs.” Arguably, she deserved the praise not only for her work as an activist, but also for being the transformista who gave the best performance of the evening.
From almost every angle, the event was a rousing success. Castro Espín’s efforts seemed to have made countless gays, lesbians, transvestites, and transgendered people finally feel like they had a place in the nation. Furthermore, she was embraced by a significant number of observers, including intellectuals, journalists and artists, who came to see Raúl’s daughter as the embodiment of their political aspirations. (After all, the show was for them too.) Caballero, for one, could hardly contain his joy when he wrote that CENESEX was the “institution that heads the democratic forces of a Cuba open to change; an institution that knows that Revolution means that people will live without hateful exclusions, without omissions, without prohibitions, without silences.”23 With comparable optimism, writer Leonardo Padura understood the events as an indication of the “profound mutation of the collective mind” that would lead Cubans to “a freer, more satisfactory range of individual options.”24
Outside of Cuba, the reception by similar social groups was not much different. Even before the events, score of articles and interviews in Latin American and Spanish publications provided Castro Espín with an ample platform on which she could promote her ideas concerning Cuba’s future. In these outlets, Castro Espín repeatedly affirmed that, “Cuban society is ready for a process of necessary transformations…with or without Fidel.”25 Moreover, she described her father’s political initiatives with great optimism, repeating phrases like “change,” “stronger democratic participation,” and “rebirth in every sense.”26 And just as she had charmed many inside Cuba, the great majority of foreign journalists were delighted with Castro Espín’s style, and showed it by showering innumerable flattering adjectives on her, including “charismatic woman,” “natural leader”—and perhaps the most significant—“the jovial face of the Revolution.”
Hello, deja el Show!
Without a doubt, Castro Espín offers a gentler face to the Cuban state. Extending constitutional rights to sexual minorities also represents a major accomplishment that should not simply be ignored or minimized. (After all, as philosopher Michel Foucault reminds us, the state is not always repressive; it offers discourses, pleasures and recognition as well.27) Moreover, the possibility of redefining politics so that it includes more than battles and wars, great (heterosexual) men, and military exploits is significant. Nor can we underestimate the impact produced by disseminating anti-homophobic discourses in official circles and in the street, as evidenced by numerous bloggers around the world who attempt to insult Castro Espín by calling her (what else?) a “dirty dyke.”
Yet, without dwelling on absolutes and while valuing the changes, it is just as necessary to closely examine the content of these new discourses promoting tolerance and inclusion. Not just because, as cultural critic José Quiroga writes, the Cuban state is “not just any state” when it comes to homosexuality. But also because in the not-so-distant future Castro Espín might assume the role of a lifetime as president, or at least, a key figure of the Cuban transition, to a (more) modern state.28
In and out of Cuba, Castro Espín’s work has often been recognized as a radical defense of homosexuals, transvestites, and transgendered people against prejudice. However, a closer reading reveals that her pro-homosexual discourse is marked by what we can refer to as a “maternalismo” or maternal authoritarianism. This is quite clear in her statements to the press and television media where Castro Espín expresses the needs of transvestites in terms very similar to those commonly used by mothers when referring to children or adolescents. For instance, the matter is not that transvestites should be allowed to freely socialize and determine for themselves how they want (or not) to be politically represented. Rather—as Castro Espín suggests in a video produced by CENESEX titled, Sexuality: A Right to Life—transvestites should be “attended to,” “listened to,” and above all “understood.”
Equally important, care should be taken to prevent homosexuals from “organizing,” because, as Castro-Espín affirms, this “could lead to an episode of self-segregation, isolation and not of greater social connection and naturalization of their sexual condition within society.”29 It is also ironic—if consistent with the state discourses that justified the repressive policies of the 1960s—that CENESEX’s maximum aspiration is to transform transvestites into “productive and useful” members of society. In the words of Mayra Rodríguez Lauzurique, coordinator of CENESEX’s “Men Who Have Sex With Men” project, the group of transvestites closest to the organization “has found a productive space to serve society because they are becoming sexual health promoters so that they can work with their comrades.”30
Given the political limitations of this discourse it should come as no surprise that gays soon put it to the test. Perhaps encouraged by Castro Espín’s own work, on June 25, 2008—barely a month after the celebration of International Day Against Homophobia—various independent groups attempted to organize a gay pride march, with the assistance of the Unity Coalition, a LGBT outfit from south Florida. Although it is unclear whether the effort was a performance or a more conventional attempt to organize, according to articles that appeared in the Miami Herald, the Sun Sentinel and El País, activists were looking for a formal government apology for past anti-homosexual repression and demanding a stop to the cruel treatment of people with AIDS.31 Regardless, the demonstration was cancelled after nine of the key organizers were detained, including Ignacio Estrada Cerero, president of the Cuban Commission on Human Rights for Persons with HIV-AIDS; and Aliomar Janjaque, president of the Foundation LGBT Reinaldo Arenas In Memoriam, an organization named in honor of the most well-known gay dissident writer in post-revolutionary Cuban history.32
Castro Espín responded to these attempts to expand the gay political sphere with complete approval of the state’s actions. In an open letter to Dr. Pierre Assalian, a prominent Canadian sexologist who had sent a message to several Cuban addressees asking, “What happened? I thought Cuba was more open???,”33 Castro Espín described the march as a “pathetic performance” of anti-Castro groups financed by the United States, and denied that the government had made any arrests.34 Later in the letter, Castro Espín also dedicated a paragraph to highlighting her own work which, she said, generates “much sympathy throughout the world,” and ended with a veiled threat: “I assume that the WAS [World Association for Sexual Health] is not a political organization and that it has the professional responsibility not to play into media campaigns that discredit it as a global scientific organization.”35
This hardline stance was not, however, new. Before this incident, Castro Espín had rejected the idea of a gay pride march in Cuba with the argument that it was not “pertinent” for the country because what was truly important was “understanding the need to be more human.”36 In this sense, and paraphrasing Fidel Castro’s statement in his famous “Words to Intellectuals” speech of 1961, Castro Espín’s motto in relation to gay self-determination could well be: “Within my sexual revolution, everything; outside my sexual revolution, nothing.”
Castro Espín’s political impulse then appears to be one of regulation rather than change in the way in which Cubans articulate their differences, claim desire, or enhance their political participation. This bent was anticipated in the very slogan for International Day Against Homophobia in Cuba, “Diversity is the Norm,” which has been the subject of reflection by independent bloggers. In one of the sharpest comments to date, “Diversity by norm, or normalizing diversity?” a blogger from the pAladeOinDeleite site asks, “Which way does the balance tilt—toward diversity or toward the norm?”37 Well-known Generation Y blogger Yoani Sánchez further emphasized the irony of promoting sexual tolerance and not political tolerance, and having the means to change one’s sex but not the country’s president through a popular vote. “I don’t understand very well…how we can be so progressive regarding homosexual marriage and not allow…us to ‘marry’ other political tendencies or social doctrines,” wrote Sánchez in a blog titled “Coming Out of the Closet.” “There are thousands of Cubans trapped in their closets of double standards, who are repressing their true opinions…they are waiting for their own Mariela Castro to publicly say: ‘We also have to accept these people and tolerate their differences.’”38
It is just as significant that the normalizing tendency of Castro Espín’s project extends beyond her “maternalismo” and desire for political control. Whether by conviction and/or calculation, on repeated occasions Castro Espín minimizes the terrible impact of the state’s homophobic policies on Cuban lives. In an interview with the Italian press, for example, she affirmed that “in Cuba, homophobia is mild, not aggressive…it is true that there was a difficult period during the 1960s and 1970s, but homosexuals were rejected throughout the world during that time.”39 Homosexuals are then “victims” of individual or social prejudice, not state policies. “This [the Cuban state] is designed for participation,” Castro Espín explained. “The problem is that not all leaders know how to go about using the participative processes, and that is a shame.”40
Ultimately, Castro Espín’s sexual revolution appears to not entirely break with gendered notions of nationhood. It is striking that lesbians are hardly mentioned or addressed by her programs or discourse. Moreover, despite much media coverage stressing Castro Espín’s political independence from the state, even in her own narrative, paternal authority constitutes this agency. On more than one occasion, Castro Espín assures readers that all her actions are approved by her father, who supports her in every way, and who has advised her “to do things like your mother: carefully, respectfully, delicately. Without breaking ties; that’s how I have done it.”41
In this regard, Castro Espín’s style of political feminization or Cuban transformismo is reminiscent of other Caribbean national settings. Over the past decades, for example, the Dominican military—one of the most conservative institutions in that country—has promoted the integration of women to its ranks. Similar to Cuba, the feminine presence is the result of an ongoing process of modernization, which, however, does not alter the essential purpose of the army, nor its repressive role in times of crisis. As researcher Lilian Bobea has written, “the integration of women in the armed forces is a response to the necessity to gain legitimacy on the part of the armed forces. In the Dominican Republic, just as in other countries in the region, the military needs to strengthen its image after a history of authoritarian governments.”42 Within this context, the incorporation of women in the army or the state has the effect of reestablishing the “legitimacy” of institutions or states in crisis without necessarily democratizating those structures.43
Madame President Castro
In a feminine and familiar way, Castro Espín then proposes a “leap to modernity” for a state that is looking to ensure its reproduction even if it is forced to shed some skin.44 Regardless of risk, even the most optimistic believe that only someone with Castro Espín’s pedigree would be able to transfer a bit of what she has been able to do for homosexuals, transvestites, and transgendered people to the rest of the Cuban population. In a blog post titled “The Future President,” dissident journalist Luis Cino—who himself has suffered state harassment—suggests: “Perhaps Mariela will be able to…soften our everyday coexistence, change social power relationships and the way they are exercised. Something is something. It would be worth it to try, even for the governing elite. Trapped in a labyrinth of old slogans and inefficient formulas, could they have any future candidate in mind who could surpass Mariela?”45
While some Cubans become enthused with the idea of a body politic with a woman’s face, there is no doubt that outside the island, the international press—paraphrasing merengue singer Juan Luis Guerra—has already “fallen in love with her” and is willing to cooperate. In fact, one could argue that Castro Espín’s candidacy was launched internationally in the Argentine newspaper Clarín, when journalist Hinde Pomeraniec asked her “Are the Cuban people ready to be governed by a woman?” and Mariela replied clearly and straightforwardly, “Yes, they are.”46
There remains, of course, the question of whether the so-called “fairy godmother of the transvestites,” who according to her friends sympathized with Mikhail Gorbachev’s perestroika and is herself a “free spirit” who has married three times (twice with foreigners), is more of a “woman” than a “Castro.” At the end of the day, there is also the question of whether Che’s “New Man” will ultimately, be a woman. One way or another, however, we have to keep in mind that in the Caribbean, a “mariconería” can refer to a presumed characteristic of homosexuals, just as it can mean some bothersome nonsense or an unexpected gesture that throws one off balance. Only time will tell which one of the three it will be.
1 For further discussion of the concept of transformism in Antonio Gramsci, see Giuseppe Prestipino:
«Teoría marxista: Dialéctica in Gramsci» in Herramienta. Revista de Debate y Crítica Marxista,
2 Emilio Bejel: Gay Cuban Nation, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 2001, p. 97.
3 Abel Sierra Madero: “Del otro lado del espejo. La sexualidad en la construcción de la nación cubana,”
2006, pp. 149-150, mimeograph.
4 José Quiroga: «Cuba: la desaparición de la homosexualidad», Unpublished paper, 2007, pp. 3-4.
5 A. Sierra Madero: op. cit., p. 150.
6 For more details see Frances Negrón-Muntaner y Yolanda Martínez-San Miguel: “En el centenario de ‘Para Ana Veldford’ de Lourdes Casal” in Debate Feminista, 2006, pp. 166-197.
7 For more information, see José Quiroga: Tropics of Desire: Interventions from Queer Latino America, New
York University Press, NuevaYork-Londres, 2000, pp. 128-130.
8 A. Sierra Madero: op. cit., p. 4.
9 Ibid., p. 12.
10 Ibid., p. 4.
11 J. Quiroga: ob. cit., p. 1.
12 “Castro Illness May Raise Cuba's Gay Hope” in PinkNews.co.uk, 2/8/2006, <www.pinknews.co.uk/news/articles/2005-2116.html>.
13 Ángel Tomás González: “La hija del general y su revolución sexual” in El Mundo, 17/6/2007,
14 “¿El presidente de Cuba Raúl Castro es bisexual?” <www.sitiosargentina.com.ar/notas/2008/febrero/Raúl-castro-homosexual.htm> .
15 Porno para Ricardo, “El general,” 2007.
16 “Diversidad por norma o normado de la diversidad” en pAladeOinDeleite, 18/5/2008, <http://paladeoindeleite.blogspot.com/2008/05/el-primer-17-de-mayo-celebrado.html>.
17 Consuelo Font, Virginia Casado y Ángel Tomás González: “La otra crónica” in El Mundo,
18 “Proyecto de capacitación y educación sexual en áreas del PDHL/Cuba”, Cenesex, <http://www.
19 Mariela Castro Espín: ¿Qué nos pasa en la pubertad?, Pueblo y Educación, La Habana, 2008.
20 Rufo Caballero: “Revolución quiere decir que la gente viva” on the CENESEX website, 17/5/2008, <www.cenesex.sld.cu/webs/diversidad/articulo_rufo.htm>.
24 Leonardo Padura: “La diversidad posible” in La República, 28/5/2008, <www.larepublica.com.uy/
25 EFE: “Mariela Castro: Cuba está preparada para transformaciones con y sin Fidel,” 8/3/2008,
26 Alesandra Coppola: “Mariela Castro Espín, la cara jovial del socialismo” in Kaos en la red, 4/1/2008, <www.kubakoetxea.com/cuba-ahora/entrevista-con-mariela-castro.pdf>.
27 Michel Foucault: Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings, 1927-1977, ed. Colin
Gordon, Pantheon, Nueva York, 1980.
28 J. Quiroga: op. cit., p. 9.
29 Eduardo Jiménez García: “La sociedad cubana ante la homosexualidad. Más relajados. No más tolerantes,” interview with Mariela Castro in Alma Mater, 23/5/2003, <www.almamater.cu/sitio%
30 In Lizette Vila: Sexualidad, un derecho a la vida, video, 2005.
31 See Ray Sánchez: “Cuba’s Gay Pride Parade Cancelled” in Sun Sentinel, 25/6/2008, <http://
www.sun-sentinel.com/news/local/cuba/sfl-0625,0,7044420.story> and Yoani Sánchez: “Precario equilibro” in El País, 18/7/2008, <www.elpais.com/articulo/revista/agosto/PRECARIO/EQUILIBRIO/
32 Steve Rothaus: “Cuban Security Agents Detain Gay Activists, Cancel Parade” in The Miami Herald,
26/6/2008, <www.miamiherald.com/581/story/583987.html> and Ray Sánchez: “Cuba’s Gay
Pride Parade Cancelled,” cit.
33 “Mariela Castro califica de ‘montaje infeliz’ una marcha gay convocada por grupos independientes”
in Cubaencuentro, 7/8/2008, <www.cubaencuentro.com/es/cuba/cuba-en-la-prensa/
35 “Cuba y la diversidad sexual: algunos comentarios y aclaraciones”, 3/7/2008, in <http://lapolilla
36 “Cuba mantiene en ‘secreto’ inicio cirugías de cambio sexo”, Radio La Primerísima, 16/5/2008,
37 “Diversidad por norma o normado de la diversidad,” cit.
38 Yoani Sánchez: “Salir del armario” in Generación Y, 12/12/2007, <http://desdecuba.com/
39 A. Coppola: op. cit.
40 EFE: “Mariela Castro: Cuba está preparada para transformaciones con y sin Fidel,”cit.
41 A. Coppola: ob. cit.
42 Lilian Bobea: “Mujeres en uniforme: la feminización de las Fuerzas Armadas. Un estudio del caso dominicano” in Nueva Sociedad No 213, 1-2/2008, pp. 73-74, available on www.nuso.org/upload/articulos/3494_1.pdf
44 C. Font, V. Casado y A. Tomás González: ob. cit.
45 Luis Cino: “La futura presidenta” in en Baracutey cubano, 26/6/2008, <http://baracuteycubano.
46 Hinde Pomeraniec: “Mariela Castro: ‘Claro que imagino a una mujer gobernando a Cuba” en Clarín, 4/11/2007, <www.clarin.com>.
Original posting in Spanish:
First posted in English translation