Friday, May 20

The other revolution in Cuba: photos that portray the struggle of the LGTBI movement

“I am a lesbian and religious and I also wanted to be an activist,” wrote María Caridad Jorge in her autobiography. She was a defender of the ideas of the Cuban Communist Party and also believed in the Catholic Church, which staged a persecution against the LGTBI collective that took place both in Cuba and in many other places in the world. Proof of this were the Military Production Aid Units, where between 1965 and 1968 around 30,000 young people were assigned that they were “not in a position” to do military service. “We cannot come to believe that a homosexual could meet the conditions and the requirements of conduct that would allow us to consider him a true revolutionary, a true communist militant”, said Fidel Castro himself in an interview with American reporter Lee Lockwood in 1965.

In August 2013, María Caridad was able to receive the Cuban Communist Party card, which finally declared her as what she had always wanted: an activist. Its history is the example of how, despite the fact that the homophobic and macho past still weighs, the island is experiencing another small revolution: that of the LGTBI movement.

This is precisely what the exhibition aims to show Revolution, that can be visited in the International Center of Photography and Cinema (EFTI) from Madrid until July 23. It is an intimate look by the photographer Álvaro Ybarra and Silvina Heguy, a journalist for elDiarioAR, documenting the LGTBI reality of the country shortly after Obama reestablished political relations with Cuba in an openness that, years later with the arrival of Trump, returned to back down.

“The idea was to reflect how the movement in favor of the equality of LGTBI rights in Cuba had been, especially violated with the Cuban Revolution. But we knew that there was also a whole movement in favor of those rights even within the current Cuban Communist Party, and one of those figures was Mariela Castro, in charge of the National Center for Sexual Education of Cuba, “Heguy explained to

Finally, as in 2016 all eyes were on the reopening of Cuba and the arrival of Obama, that allowed them to travel to document how they were fighting for equal LGTBI rights. “We photographed a series of communities in areas such as Santa Clara or Havana and other regions of the country to get into this new reality that was trying to consolidate,” Ybarra points out.

Those communities found a home in places like El Mejunje, a cultural center in Santa Clara founded by Ramón Silverio that served as a shelter for the entire cultural vanguard and the LGTBI movement. “They sustained the struggle, but they were also a place of refuge and love against homophobia and transphobia. Here literature and poetry arose, because from the culture they generated a space to express themselves with some protection since many of them were politically militant for the revolution “, considers the journalist.

Even today the struggle continues from the cultural field. For example, in 2020 Cuban Television censored a kiss between two young homosexuals at the end of the movie Love Simon, which caused a barrage of criticism from the LGTBI collective. Nor should it be forgotten that currently in Cuba there is no legal recognition for homoparental adoption or for same-sex marriage, nor that the only outlets for many trans or homosexual people, still considered dissidents, is prostitution.

“All the people with whom we had the opportunity to live were expelled from their homes because they were not accepted, but marginalized and repudiated. In some cases not by the family, but by the environment. And if the needs in Cuba are already many if you are socially admitted, imagine if you are also discriminated against because of your sexual orientation “, laments the photographer. That is why, as he adds, for the report they wanted to abandon “that cliché of how the LGTBI movement and Cuba are sometimes photographed.” They opted more for a close look that served as a vehicle to empathize with those realities.

They are stories like those of Deinna, a trans woman who after a very hard night on the street when dealing with an Italian client returned home, where she lived with about 15 people in just 30 square meters, to sit on Gendris’s lap, His couple. “And they stayed there, in a rocking chair. The body language spoke for itself: it was a hug that meant the tranquility of arriving home in the face of all the misunderstanding and violence on the street, where she has to sell her body because she has no other alternative. “Ybarra recalls about an image that, as he admits, marked his life as a photographer.

“They are stories of love and care in a context of great adversity. Like a transvestite person, one of the best known in Cuba, who went out to dress with the help of her mother,” says Heguy. It still remains for the Cuban government to respond to the demands of the group, but in certain places it can already be seen how great networks of protection and denunciation have been born that seek to pave the way to the recognition of these basic rights.

“Ending a system of values ​​so strong and entrenched, such as machismo or patriarchy, costs a lot. And in Cuba much more, because patriarchy works on the part of the ruling party even when some of its members fight,” says the journalist . He adds that “it is difficult”, but not impossible either. And the first signs of the LGTBI revolution in Cuba are the example.