Sex and Cupid in Cuba

QC Radical Collective cuito61 at
Fri Feb 15 08:39:59 MST 2002

<CubaNews at>
From: "Walter Lippmann" <walterlx at>
Subject: Open sexuality in Havana

This is Valentine's day, a major popular holiday
here in Cuba, where it's known as "Dia de los
enamorados" (Lovers' Day). People give one
another flowers. They travel long distances and
take off work to be with those for whom their
hearts palpitate. Supervisors and bosses are
very understanding on occasions like these.

Though Cuba is building a socialist society,
the laws of supply and demand continue to
apply here as the price of flowers has gone
sharply up in the last couple of days.

Last evening workers at Radio Havana Cuba
had a party with drinks, cake and music to
mark the occasion. Today workers here at
the station Radio Havana Cuba greeted one
another with "Felicidades", kisses and hugs
all around.

For years the station has posted a "Buzon de
Amor" (love mailbox) in which they place funny
notes (anonymously) addressed to people
which are later on read out loud for fun. If this
sounds different from what you might expect,
well, trust me, you haven't yet been to Cuba.

Here in Cuba  what we have today are hardly
the stodgy, uptight Communists which you
might expect, petty bureaucrats issuing rules
and regulations for everything under the sun.

This would be the image you'd obtain if all
you knew about this island was its reflection
in the distorted prism of the Miami Herald.

This is also a topic which the mainstream US
media rarely if ever reports on. (But for fun
here is a sweet report from just last year
by NBC's Mary Murray, which will give you
a bit of the flavor of these moments.)

A few days ago I dropped in on the offices of
the Municipal Committee of the Communist
Party of Cuba in the city of Cienfuegos, in
the province of. A large photo of Fidel and
various awards and photographs depicting
the work of the Party in the city were posted
on the wall. But right there at the reception
desk was a brightly wrapped pink "buzon"...

On a more serious note, Cuba will be hosting
the World Sexuality Congress next year and
the organization and publicity are already
well underway. Here are a few documents on
the upcoming event, including a GRANMA
story, a report from CUBAN REVIEW, and
letters from conference organizers.

Given Cuba's previous controversial and
negative experiences with gays in the 60s
and 70s, the wide-ranging topics which are
up for discussion are all the more remarkable
for an event here in the Cuban capital. Cuba
clearly has come a long way...

January 7, 2002
Open sexuality in Havana

(Granma International staff writer)

THE World Sexology Congress, to be held in Havana, will mix
science, tradition and daily life in what is hoped will be a
"no-holds-barred" meeting, according to World Association of
Sexology (WAS) President Marc Ganem from France.

Some 71 themes dealing with sexuality will be discussed in
symposiums, roundtables, workshops and courses- from the
usual topics to the most current and serious ones such as
AIDS, violence and child abuse.

In a press conference, Mariela Castro, president of this
16th Congress, explained that current research by
outstanding Cuban experts on sexually transmitted diseases
and the refusal of adolescents and young people to use
condoms will be debated.

In the 2001 meeting that took place in Paris, WAS dedicated
two symposiums to AIDS. "We must continue giving space to
everybody who can offer something on the theme, as the only
two weapons we can rely on are information and condoms,"
highlighted Dr. Ganem, who considers that it is necessary to
transmit a message of hope - not one of death - to young

The 1997 Congress in Valencia signified a change of
direction for WAS, with the theme of sexual rights.
Sexuality went beyond the scientific and began to be part of
discussions related to social and political life. One year
later, at the Hong Kong event, a list of sexual rights was
drafted; thoughts on the future continued at the Paris
meeting. The March 2003 event in Cuba, whose slogan will be
"Sexuality and human development: discourse and action,"
could also set guidelines.

"People should not be detached from their daily reality and
socioeconomic milieu. This is why there will not only be
scientists at the Havana Congress but also decision-makers
and politicians, plus representatives from non-governmental
and international organizations. Our idea is to consider
that people need a dignified existence in order to enjoy
sexual health, and this discourse should reach the political
sphere," averred Mariela Castro, who is also director of the
National Center for Sexual Education.

In Dr. Ganem's opinion, the 2003 meeting will have a high
level of scientific discussion due to WAS links with
different very prestigious associations in this field.

One of the most awaited moments in Havana will be the
international cuisine aphrodisiac dinner on the event's
second day. Well-known chef Gilberto Smith, currently
launching his book on Cuban aphrodisiac foods, will be
responsible for the dinner.

Cuba's Sexual Education Program surfaced after women in the
1960s demanded a support program for children's education
and family guidance in that sphere. The island has followed
broad-based course, taking the best from different schools
of thought - for example, the Germans, whose ideas have
influenced Cuba for some time now. A review of past methods
is currently being carried out, in search of new theoretical
bases with a critical vision and in line with national


Dear Colleagues:

I want to invite you to the 19th World Congress of
Sexology in La Habana, Cuba! We are extremely
excited ab out this world congress - the first to be
held in the Caribbean region.

The mission of the W.A.S. is to promote sexual health
through sexual rights, sexology and sexuality education
throughout the world. Sexual rights and human
development are basic human rights that we must
demand and fight for. Surely this congress will be
fertile ground for this discussion.

In addition, each year brings amazing scientific develop-
ments in our understanding of human sexuality and
treatment of sexual problems. We live in exciting and
amazing times. We are inviting the world's foremost
authorities in sexual science to inform us as of these
ground-breaking developments during this congress.

At the same time, we will discuss effective approaches
and methodologies of comprehensive sexuality education.
This is, of course, a basic and fundamental strategy to
attain sexual health around the world.

Having visited Cuba several times in the past several
years, I can tell you that this is an amazing place to
visit. The old citgy of La Habana is incredibly charming
and fascinating. You will be impressed with the state of
the art convention facilities and the fabulous hotels.
You will be dazzled by the history, culture, beauty,
warmth, music, food and intensity of this country.

Please join us for a most memorable occasion.

Eli Coleman, Ph.D
World Association for Sexology

In her invitation to the 16th World Sexology Congress,
Cuban psychologist Mariela Castro Espin writes:

Dear Colleagues,

We are honored to host the 16th International
Sexology Congress, to be held in Havana, Cuba,
on March 10-14, 2003.

We are pleased to have an opportunity to share
our work, knowledge, experiences and perspectives
with experts from all over the world. Furthermore,
we intende to stimulate exchanges on the challenges
that humankind faces today. "

"Sexuality and Human Development: From Speech
to Action" justifies the urge for such an encounter.
Amidst scientific debates and discussions, we will
be able to experience the intensity, passion,
rhythm, determination and love that characterizes
our lives. What is more, this is a unique opprurunity
to enjoy the beauty and magic realism of our
Caribbean island, always topped with our people's
hospitable nature.

See you all in Cuba,
Mariela Castro MSc
Chairwoman of the 16th
International Sexology Congress

(Mariela Castro Espin, is eldest daughter of
Vilma Espin, a revolutionary leader here going
back to the Moncada period, who is also the
president of the Federacion de Mujeres Cubana
(FMC), the Cuban Women's Federation.)

World Congress of Sexology
In Havana, an open window on world sexuality
By Rolando Luis

Dr. Marc Ganem is a cordial and enthusiastic Frenchman, in
love with what he calls "the search for human sexual
health". "The coming 16th World Congress in Cuba, to be held
for the first time in the Caribbean, is very important for
the Island and for the rest of the world, regarding topics
ranging from the prevention of AIDS to the enjoyment of a
full sexual life, and it is an honor to work with my Cuban
colleagues of the Centro Nacional de Educación Sexual", he
told Cuban Review.

>From ethics to clinics

Dr. Mariela Castro Espín, director of the Centro Nacional de
Educación Sexual (CENESEX) and president of the organizing
committee for the Congress, announced that more than 3,000
experts and personalities from several countries are
expected to participate in plenums, round tables, posters,
videos and symposia to be conducted by experts from Europe,
North America and Latin America.

Research papers on sexually transmitted diseases and the
resistance of adolescents and young people to the use of the
condom will be presented by outstanding Cuban specialists.

The congress will work in four sessions. The first two will
deal with themes related to ethical, social and legal
problems, such as sexuality and human development, politics,
culture and education, ethics and bioethics, national
policies, ideology, religion, psychology, philosophy,
semantics, family, maternity, anthropology, history and
other fields covering practically all human activity,
including mass media in audiovisual techniques and Internet.

The third session will debate subjects considered
"sensitive" by the general public, such as eroticism and
sexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, transvestism and
transsexuals, aphrodisiacs and fantasies, including the
serious problems of sexual abuse and violence.

The final session will be devoted to clinical and medical
problems, such as the physiology of sex, masculine and
feminine disfunctions, fertility and sterility, abortion,
neurological disorders, contraceptives and AIDS.

"As we can see," Marc Ganem said, "it will be forthright
discussion on all subjects related to sex as well as a very
serious political effort, for we must pay attention to an
impending world in which our children may enjoy healthy and
safe sexual and love life"

A challenge to humanity

"It is a challenge for survival," he emphasized, "since sex
is very necessary for a really healthy life. If we should
enjoy full sexuality, there would be fewer such aberrations
as violence, rape, drug addiction or incest, and we would be
better prepared to respect each other."

On themes such as sexual abuse and violence, child
prostitution and pornography, particularly via Internet, he
said that the more we determine the origin of these
problems -- which imply the utilization of sex not as a
healthy pleasure but as a form of aggression against
others -- we would have more power to reduce them.

With respect to bisexuality, transvestism, homosexuality,
lesbianism and transsexuals, Ganem affirms that, although
they were considered perversions in the past, they are
admitted as different facets of sexuality, although
obstacles still exist in countries where these tendencies
are tolerated but not fully accepted.

On the subject of AIDS, Dr. Marc Ganem affirms that
education and information are the principal weapons against
it. "We must neutralize the idea that it is a problem of
homosexuals," he pointed out, "since statistics show that,
in the majority of cases, the victims are heterosexual."

"We must insist on the use of the condom, because people
must be brought to assume their social responsibilities," he

In the Paris meeting last year, and in Valencia before that,
the World Sexology Association devoted two symposiums to the
subject "Sexual rights", in which sexuality overflowed the
boundaries of science and became a subject in the discussion
of social and political environment.

Sexual rights were spelled out a year later in Hong Kong.
They were taken up again in the Paris meeting and will
continue to be debated in Havana.

"The human being cannot be isolated from his quotidian
reality and his socio-economic environment. That is why not
only scientists but decision makers, politicians,
representatives of non-government organizations and of
international institutions will attend the Havana meeting.
Our purpose is to make people understand that the human
being needs a dignified existence to be able to enjoy sexual
health, and this discourse must enter into the political
sphere," Mariela Castro affirmed.

It should be pointed out that one of the aspects that has
aroused most expectation has been the announcement of an
aphrodisiac dinner with products from the international
cuisine, to be prepared by the world-famous Cuban chef,
Gilberto Smith, whose book on Cuban aphrodisiac foods is
about to be launched.

The Cuban program of Sexual Education appeared in the 60's
in the wake of a request by women for a project to assist
them in the education of their children and a general
orientation on this subject for the family.

Cuba has adopted an eclectic approach, taking the best from
the different schools, particularly the German, which was
quite influential for some years on the Island.

Nowadays, the territory already covered is being reviewed
and new theories are being very critically analyzed, always
keeping national idiosyncrasy in mind.

Cubans pierced by Cupid's arrow
On Valentine's Day, Castro's capitalist foes would approve

HAVANA, Feb. 14 - Four decades of May Day parades, the
hammer and sickle and anti-American demonstrations can't
hold a torch to Cupid and Valentine's Day in Cuba.

Regarded almost as an unofficial holiday, Feb. 14 ranks
right up there with anniversary celebrations of the 1959
Cuban revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power.
And since romance is a national pastime, there's a bit of
madness in the air as Cubans celebrate Valentine 's Day,
known here as "Lovers' Day."

Not even Castro's archenemies would find anything stodgy or
socialist about the way the island treats hearts and

For weeks, the island has been gripped in a Valentine's Day
frenzy as Cubans shopped for that perfect gift. Traditional
chocolate and roses also sell well in Cuba, along with
novelty items bought at outdoor markets. For $2, customers
can buy a bottle of perfume containing the fragrance of Cuba's
famous cigars; $5 buys a bootleg copy of the Backstreet
Boys latest CD, "Black and Blue"; and $3 buys a flashy car
ornament to dangle from a rear-view mirror.

February sales were up in all the boutiques in Havana's
fancier hotels. An invasion by upscale female consumers
depleted the limited stock of male fashions imported from
Spain and Italy.


Who needs Hallmark when you have the Cuban state media?
Romantic boleros have virtually knocked salsa, Cuba's
dominant dance beat, off the air. TV show hosts have been
serenading their audiences with love poems written in the
most baroque Spanish imaginable. And forget any advances
made by Cuban women over the last 40 years. They became easy
targets for comediennes whose Valentine's Day repertoires
feature hen-pecked husbands and unfaithful wives.

Still, if it were not for the U.S. trade ban on Cuba,
Hallmark would be enjoying bonanza sales. Today, everyone
exchanges cards, store bought or homemade, for the buzon.
Secretaries and schoolteachers invested hours in decorating
these cardboard mailboxes. The missives they contain, funny
or serious, signed or anonymous, are delivered and read
aloud at afternoon school and office parties.


Even normally drab industrial lunchrooms have been spruced
up with fresh flowers, paper streamers and a special
Valentine's Day meal. Last Saturday, Cuba's top scientists
at the Biotechnology Institute, better known for developing
vaccines than for romantic cavorting, celebrated early at an
invitation-only Valentine's Day luncheon.

While Cubans usually jump at any excuse to spend a night on
the town, it's almost obligatory for any couple to do so on
Feb. 14. Theaters, movie houses, cabarets and restaurants
all have special Valentine's Day offers.

People can easily run through a month's salary on this one
night. However, many will make do with just a moonlight walk
along the sea and a bottle of rum to fuel Cuba's most
romantic day of the year.

Tell no lies, claim no easy victories -Amilcar Cabral

Washing one's hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless 
means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral
-Paulo Friere

Yesterday we bowed for kings and bent our necks before emperors. But today, 
we kneel only to truth, follow only beauty, and obey only love.
-Kahlil Gibran

The truth is always revolutionary -Antonio Gramsci

My silences have not protected me. Your silence will not protect you.
-Audre Lorde

If you're not ready to die for it, put the word "freedom" out of your 
vocabulary. -Malcolm X

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