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Mariela Castro Presides Over Cuba's Largest Gay Rights Rally


President Raul Castro's daughter Mariela, an outspoken advocate of gay rights, presided over a massive state-backed rights rally over the weekend, to mark the International Day Against Homophobia:

Castro"The meeting at a convention center in Havana's Vedado district may have been the largest gathering of openly gay activists ever on the communist-run island. President Raul Castro's daughter Mariela, who has promoted the rights of sexual minorities, presided. 'This is a very important moment for us, the men and women of Cuba, because for the first time we can gather in this way and speak profoundly and with scientific basis about these topics,' said Castro, director of Cuba's Center for Sexual Education. Mariela Castro joined government leaders and hundreds of activists at the one-day conference for the International Day Against Homophobia that featured shows, lectures, panel discussions and book presentations. A station also offered blood-tests for sexually transmitted diseases."

MSNBC also reports that Brokeback Mountain was broadcast in prime time on Cuban state television Friday night. A draft gay rights bill is expected to be considered by the Cuban parliament in June.

A brief clip from CNN's Headline News, AFTER THE JUMP...

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  1. That settles it. I'm moving to Cuba. Hot men and gay rights!

    Posted by: dezboy | May 19, 2008 5:29:37 PM

  2. That settles it. I'm moving to Cuba. Hot men and gay rights!

    Posted by: dezboy | May 19, 2008 5:30:03 PM

  3. Not that Americans, from the "land of the free", would be allowed to go there for this or anything.

    Posted by: Paul | May 19, 2008 5:38:25 PM

  4. LOLOL,

    you guys are abusing cuba, yet they are ahead of u.s.


    they are showing "brokeback mountain" on a prime time tv station. i wonder what could have happened if they showed it on say NBC, or ABC?

    Posted by: johnosaahon | May 19, 2008 5:43:56 PM

  5. This is utterly remarkable.

    Posted by: Paul R | May 19, 2008 6:11:39 PM

  6. I was actually criticizing hypocritical American laws which forbid us from traveling to Cuba. We are free in name only.

    Posted by: Paul | May 19, 2008 6:30:21 PM

  7. OMG...One more reason to LOVE Cuba and everything cuban!! Secularity has a lot to do with this, right?

    Posted by: Shabaka | May 19, 2008 6:56:32 PM

  8. Oh, for fuck's sake. This is so embarrassing. I'm glad for Cuba suddenly finding itself with such a progressive social agenda after Fidel's departure. I wish the same was true for the US. All the Democrat candidates leave me feeling lukewarm in regards to gay rights issues, but they're still worlds better than the outright hostility evinced by the Bush administration.

    Posted by: Iko | May 19, 2008 7:10:18 PM

  9. This is nothing short of a miracle. And all the respect in the world for Mariela Castro, she is some kind of hero...

    Posted by: David D. | May 19, 2008 7:27:01 PM

  10. Attention Jenna Bush (or her twin whose name I've conveniently forgotten), the ball is now in your court, girlfriend. Are you girls really going to let a commie chick upstage you on the civil rights front? You are the one after all who recently hinted at supporting Obama in November. I can only imagine how eyebrows were raised in the Bush family circle -- Granny Babs collapsing in horror -- when you told them that a black preacher would be doing your wedding.

    Posted by: Matt | May 19, 2008 7:44:20 PM

  11. Nope. I will not comment on the gaping disparity between the on-going propaganda spewed by communist state agents and actual living conditions for gays in Cuba, despite my knowledge having been gained through defending Cuban gays in asylum claims. This subject always brings out those who believe whatever they are fed by the Cuban propagandists and eventually devolves into a discussion of spicy food and spicy men.

    How can otherwise intelligent men be so gullible? Have at it, boys. Ustedes tienen la palabra.

    Posted by: rudy | May 19, 2008 7:58:14 PM

  12. And yet the Cubans in Miami hate the maricones. Hmmmm.

    Posted by: miamiguy | May 19, 2008 8:38:41 PM

  13. Mariela Castro sounds a fabulous person and she has promoted gay rights in Cuba for quite some time - However is she being dumb or diplomatic when she says
    "Defending equal rights for Cubans, of all sexual orientations, is a key principle of the Cuban revolution led by her uncle Fidel Castro, who overthrew dictator Fulgencio Batista in 1959"

    Her history ain't too great is it? - That bastard Fidel didn't exactly do ANYTHING to back gay rights during his tiresome spell in charge for HIS people in HIS revolution. Gays, Prisoners, Writers, PWA's, Non-Communists are among those he and his bullies cast out to sea, (yes literally/actually). Florida, now has a huge Cuban population ask them what they think of Fidel.

    Wouldn't it be ironic if Cuba beat USA to same sex marriage. I look forward to visiting Cuba one day, but I will wait until that ex-cigar smoking bastard Fidel has stopped wasting oxygen.

    Posted by: Glynn | May 19, 2008 9:22:47 PM

  14. This is indeed a shocking turnaround for a regime with a horrific record of homophobia. See the early '80s movie "Improper Conduct" by late Nestor Almendros (a great artist felled by AIDS) for an account of the labor camps, persecution of artists, the Mariel boatlift, etc.

    But don't expect the Miami crowd to acknowledge any change on the island. They still long to restore the Batista-Mafia rule and lord it over "los negros" again.

    Posted by: Eric | May 19, 2008 10:29:44 PM

  15. despite what people say about fidel, the literacy rate is much higher in cuba than in the u.s., and the neo-natal death rate is much lower there than in the united states. yet, the better-than-thou cubans keep voting repug. fuck 'em. they're not latino in my book.

    i am glad that mariela castro is taking this bull(shit) by the horns. perhaps she has enough influence on her father to affect real change toward the glbt community in cuba. if so, the u.s. will be running behind the other countries on the north american continent.

    Posted by: nic | May 20, 2008 12:01:10 AM

  16. q. what's the difference between illegal immigrants and cuban-americans?

    a. the florida sand on their toes and the "i vote republican" pledge on their souls.

    Posted by: nic | May 20, 2008 12:15:54 AM

  17. This is good news. And I see no point in being smug about our supposed superiority. Given the fact that Illinois was the only state where homosexuality wasn't a felony in the 1960s, we're not really in any position to criticize Castro's Cuba during that era.

    Sadly, we're not really in any position to criticize 1990s Cuba either.

    Until 1993, "known homosexuals" were officially forbidden from even entering the United States. Although this law wasn't enforced, it was indicative of just how reactionary this country was before Clinton.

    And in order to repeal the ban on gay tourists, Clinton had to agree to an amendment that banned HIV positive persons from entering the country. This provision remains on the books today. That's why foreigners can't take AIDS medication through customs without raising eyebrows. Another fine moment for the congressional jackasses in Washington.

    Posted by: John | May 20, 2008 12:28:41 AM

  18. Cuba deserves to be criticized. The island is ruled by a repressive military dictatorship that refuses to submit itself to free elections, commits human rights abuses and pads its own pockets at the people's expense. Just because the US maintains stupid anti-gay policies does not make it in any way similar to the horrible Castro regime.

    Of course, the US should end the standoff and immediately drop all embargoes. And one day, we can only hope that Cuba will be free. Can you imagine how fabulous a place it would be with free markets and democracy. Oh, to dream.

    Posted by: Dan | May 20, 2008 3:12:47 AM

  19. No DAN, it is not similar to the Castro regime. The Castro regime is now MORE PROGRESSIVE than the U.S. I cannot think of another first world country that has been actively passing laws to discriminate against homosexuals (26 states since 2002!) Cuba's trading partner Canada might have had a positive influence. Your country is moving BACKWARDS.
    - signed, Canadian, legally Married for 5 years, and annual visitor to Cuba.

    Posted by: Strepsi | May 20, 2008 8:26:01 AM

  20. As the son of Cuban immigrants, I have very mixed feelings about the Castro regime.

    I think it's amazing Mariela Castro is doing this, but Cuba's record on gay rights has been absolutely terrifying (I keep thinking of Reinaldo Arenas's accounts of living in Cuba). I'm also pretty cynical about Cuban politics, which are often made (at least it's the way I see it) to just piss the US off.

    That said, I do think we should end the embargo. I'd like to be able to legally travel there and see where my family comes from.

    Posted by: Alex | May 20, 2008 10:11:27 AM

  21. Mariela's efforts, and the efforts of other activists in Cuba, should certainly be applauded. It seems clear that their intentions are honorable and that they're making a difference. The intentions of the government in this remain unclear, at least to me. Time will tell, and I certainly hope the government becomes as progressive on gay rights as some people think it will. When Raul and Fidel are done, change will be coming, hopefully for the best.

    Inevitably, whenever a Cuba story hits Towleroad (or anywhere else) propaganda gets tossed around from all sides. Comparing the state of gay rights in Cuba to that in the U.S. isn't terribly useful, is it? As deplorable as the gay rights laws (or lack thereof) in some U.S. states are, even within the gay-unfriendliest of states it is still possible to lead a happy, open gay life. (I'm lucky to live in one of the gay-friendly states.) Decades of activism, economic circumstances, cultural inroads etc. provide a foundation for many U.S. gay people to stand on, even when the laws are against us. Cuba has such little gay infrastructure it will take more than newfound gay progressiveness to necessarily make it a good place to be gay. Which isn't to say the U.S. is great and Cuba sucks (I'm the last one to toot the U.S. horn) but that comparing rights notches on the bedposts doesn't speak about the reality of gay lives.

    Lastly, in reference to Strepsi's comment, I'd like to think that Canada is a good influence on everyone.

    Posted by: Ernie | May 20, 2008 10:48:00 AM

  22. Oh fuck me. Would you prefer gay equality under a dictatorship, or separate-but-equal under a democracy? You have LOST your minds. How many homos are hopping on inner tubes in Miami and paddling to Cuban freedom?

    Do you realize there is a secret police in Cuba? That locks you up if you say anything against the regime? There are people in prison right now in Havana whose only crime was speaking their minds!! The USA isn't perfect but there is no comparison.

    Fucking morons.

    Posted by: Dan | May 20, 2008 11:23:23 AM

  23. Well said, Dan. I believe the term is "useful idiots."

    Posted by: 207guy | May 20, 2008 4:14:12 PM

  24. Thanks Dan and 207guy. I fought the imbeciles on the last two similar threads to no avail. They would rather believe propaganda than acknowledge facts and credit experience. Those of us who have actually worked on behalf of Cuban gays know differently.

    Posted by: rudy | May 20, 2008 5:16:34 PM

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