By Adalberto Roque | AFP – Tue, Jun 28, 2011
There were just a handful, but the dozen Cubans who took part in the
country's first Gay Pride rally Tuesday celebrated one more step on the
country's road to gay rights recognition.
"We are not asking for anything, we're only celebrating the fact that
Cuba voted at the United Nations in favor of recognizing the rights of
the gay community," said Ignacio Estrada, one of the leaders of the
Cuban Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered People's Rights Watch Group.
The short march -- along the 500 meters (1,600 feet) of Prado Avenue
towards the seaside boulevard, the Malecon -- took place without
incident and broke up amid music and dancing under the amused eye of
passers-by and tourists.
Cuba's Center for Sexual Education, directed by Mariela Castro, the
daughter of President Raul Castro, celebrates a "day against homophobia"
every year, but this was the first time a Gay Pride march was held in
It is not an insignificant whiff of tolerance in a country in which the
Communist Party singlehandedly controls the government, the media and
almost all of the cash-strapped economy.
For decades under the Americas' only one-party communist government,
gays faced both traditional social and government ostracism, and often
tried to hide. Some wound up in prison, and many went into exile.
That began to change mainly in the past decade, with more modern
official media education about gays and lesbians.
Yet, said Leannes Imbert, another director of the rights watch group,
"discrimination unfortunately still exists in Cuba, we are turned down
for certain jobs, and there are hassles of all other kinds as well.
"We're trying to do the real work of a revolution, to 'change what must
be changed,'" said Imbert, quoting an expression made famous by Cuban
revolutionary Fidel Castro.