Che Guevara called them “sexual perverts;” José Martí identified the homosexual person as “an effeminate being incapable of building a nation.” Now, Fidel Castro’s nation, still under the yoke of his regime, has seen in the homosexual community a new gold mine.
The Gran Muthi Rainbow Hotel, located in Cayo Guillermo of Ciego de Avila province (east), was inaugurated in December 2019 but had to close due to the coronavirus pandemic. Now, it reopened its doors on November 15.
With a hotel aimed especially at the LGBT community, Cuba is “taking important steps with the new family code,” Marlis Delgado, head of sales at the lodging center, told AFP, referring to the text that is currently being analyzed by a legislative commission to approve equal marriage in the country.
“That means a step forward for our society and having this hotel right here” and another to be inaugurated soon in Havana, “gives us the possibility that this family code has a little stronger foundation to be approved,” Delgado said.
This is a 180-degree change for a nation that saw how, in the 1960s, the Cuban regime harassed homosexuals and interned them in forced labor camps.
As explained by the Latin American social science magazine Nueva Sociedad, the main driving force behind this turnaround is Mariela Castro Espín, daughter of President Raúl Castro. She first appeared in a smiling photo holding hands with two gay people at the first celebration of the World Day Against Homophobia in Cuba in 2008.
Mariela Castro is now director of the National Center for Sex Education (Cenesex) of the Ministry of Public Health, which only a couple of years ago passed a resolution to finance sex reassignment operations.
As Nueva Sociedad explains, this is an ambitious process of transformation on the island, through which “the State grants rights to politically battered but symbolically charged sectors, with the aim of surviving the regime’s current crisis of legitimacy.”
From the beginnings of the Revolution in 1959, the Cuban State demonstrated a strong animosity towards the male homosexual population. This hostility erupted in the massive raids launched in 1961 in some neighborhoods of Havana to arrest “pederasts, prostitutes, and pimps” and culminated in 1965 with the organization of the Military Units to Aid Production (UMAP), which functioned as forced labor camps.
Part of the government’s measures, in addition to having to do with communist ideals that celebrated the “heterosexual man,” had to do with the influence of Catholicism and the rejection of homosexuals as a symbol of U.S. tourism that boomed in Cuba in the years before the Revolution.
Now, the regime seems to want to embrace the LGBTQ+ community as a source of income in tourism and as a card for legitimizing its new “liberal” facet.
According to data from the World Tourism Organization (WTO), tourism by the LGBTQ+ community represents 10% of the total and 15% of the sector’s income, a figure that the Castro regime has evidently not overlooked.
Although the democratization of spaces and the apparent benevolence of the Cuban regime towards the LGBTQ+ community could be laudable, it is evident that when it comes to ideologies, not all that glitters is gold.