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"Each individual should allow reason to guide his conduct, or like an animal, he will need to be led by a leash."
Diogenes of Sinope


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Thousand Flowers tapestry (15th Century) - Beaune, France (detail)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Gay Cubans & Castro's Legacy

I'm always astonished when I hear Canadians rhapsodize dreamily about their vacations in Cuba; many go so far as to advocate the "Cuban Model" as a system that Cubans should emulate. After all, Cubans have universal free health care, you know. Most Canadians, when presented with evidence of the abject misery in which most Cubans live, conveniently blame the American embargo for all of Cuba's problems.

I have a few gay friends who vacation regularly in Cuba, and it astounds me that gay Canadians of all people can feel comfortable propping up that dictatorial regime by spending their vacation dollars there, given the history of brutal repression of the island's gay population at the hands of Fidel Castro.

This article provides a nice summary of the mistreatment of Cuba's homosexuals since the revolution, and outlines the expectations that gay Cubans have that life will get better for them now that El Presidente has stepped down. An excerpt:

Sexual diversity was seen by Fidel Castro as a corrupt consequence of capitalism. Cuban poet Jose Mario, an important artistic figure in the country, suffered in Cuban labour camps as Castro's regime 're-educated' homosexuals.Gays were incarcerated in Military Units to Aid Production (UMAPs) between 1965 and 1968. Castro believed that hard work would rid the men of their "counter-revolutionary tendencies."At the entrance of the camp there was a sign which said "work shall make you men", similar to the motto of the Nazi concentration camps, "work shall set you free."Homosexual sex was partially decriminalised in 1979 and an equal age of consent was introduced in 1992. While social attitudes towards gay people are generally negative, the capital city Havana has a thriving gay scene but all gay rights organisations are banned.

But they have free health care, you know.

UPDATE: See this related post at Citizen Crain: Adios, Dictator

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yeah we've got an exhibit of Cuban art here in Montreal that everyone is going to see - not me.

Everyone forgets all the Cuban boat people, whole families who drowned trying to reach freedom.