Pride Guide

Mariela Castro Continues to Fight for LGBT Rights in Cuba

By: Jerry Portwood
5.17.2014

Photography by Eric Politzer

Last weekend on May 10, the Havana Pride Conga March took place in the island capital. Luckily, photographer Eric Politzer was there to capture the festive occasion, which was the kickoff of a week of events that culminates with the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.

This was my first time at Havana Pride, even though I have been in Cuba in previous years for the celebrations for International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia," Politizer tells Out. "I was struck by the incredible diversity of those in attendance—a diversity that very much mirrored anything I have seen in the Unites States. There were tons of young people, people of many races, couples of every type of sexual orientation, and a very large number of transvestites and transgender people."

We recently featured Mariette Pathy Allen's art book, TransCuba, and Politizer is completing the design of a photo book about Las Transformistas of Havana, focusing on the gay men and male-to-female transgender performers in the gay cabarets in Havana. Much of the progress in LGBT visibility and rights has been credited to Mariela Castro Espin, the daughter of Cuban President Raul Castro and the director of the Cuban National Center for Sex Education in Havana (CENESEX).

As Politizer notes, Castro Espin was featured very prominently in the pride event, both as one of the banner bearers for CENESEX and as the main speaker during the rally. "However, she clearly was very happy to share the stage with representatives of other organizations and individual members of the community," he adds. "She was mobbed wherever she went by the media and those in attendance. There is no question she is beloved as a champion of LGBTQ rights." In her moving speech at the event last year, Castro Espin said:

"We dedicate this day to families because we want families to be conscious of their great social responsibility, so that all of our families, all of the people with the great social responsibility of being a parent, realize that their can't be any form of discrimination in the family, discrimination based in the prejudice that we've inherited from dominant societies."

"Interestingly, the biggest applause of the day (after Mariela) was for a straight transvestite comedian," Politizer says. "A number of transgender performers and speakers also were welcomed very enthusiastically the crowd. By my estimation, the percentage of transvestite and transgender people in attendance was much larger than I have seen either in the United States or in countries in Europe where I have attended Pride celebrations."