Gays and Cuba

Walter Lippmann walterlx at
Tue Nov 19 13:32:22 MST 2002

This is taking off from Philip Ferguson's
comments, whose tone and approach I like.

The last thing I would describe myself as
is an "expert" on Cuba, though I have
studied it closely and am visiting the
island again. I've written in at least a
bit of depth in TWO MONTHS IN CUBA, the
essay I published last year and which is
linked at my personal website:

The Cuban Communist Party published a
book on the subject in 1995, which was
completed in 1995. I'm working now on
a translation of some of the chapters
of that book, including the decisive
final chapter, "What we must do". My
plan is to share it when it's done.

I also hope to contact the author to
see what he has to say since there
have been a lot of developments on
this front since 1995. In my opinion,
these Cuban developments have been all

Two other books on gay topics related
to Cuba are out in Cuban presses here,
one about gays and Cuban literature,
a slender academic volume, and another,
MEN WITHOUT WOMEN, is a reprint of t
pre-revolution story about homosexuality
in prisons here.

I know nothing about lesbians in Cuban
literature beyond Achy Obejas's stuff.
I may have access to one other item
which I'll submit if I can locate it.

Cuban cinema has had several films and
stories with gay themes, including one
which is a coming out movie and which
was shown here theatrically last spring,
and internationally this year. I saw it
in Los Angeles.

LA JIRIBILLA, which is a kind of cultural
supplement to Juventud Rebelde and which
is published online by JR staffers on
their own time, devoted an entire issue
to gays in Cuban literature earlier this
years. This segment included favorable
reference and (if memory serves) also a
reprinting of an essay by Reinaldo Arenas.

The perennial imperialist campaign against
Cuba for alleged human rights campaign got
a small boost from the movie BEFORE NIGHT
FALLS, a sanitized movie based on the
memoir by the author. Jon Hilson's essay
on that answers that movie in an effective
way, I felt.

Like others, I was dismayed at first when
I read of the quarantine policy which was
imposed here when HIV-AIDS first came to
the island in the late 1980s. Yet ten or
more years later, when Cuba has the lowest
HIV-AIDS rate on the planet, I've become
less willing to jump to condemn Cuba and,
indeed, I don't to that.

(None of this should be interpreted as an
acceptance or covering up for the UMAP
camps in the late 1960s and early 1970s,
of course, or for the foolish remarks by
Fidel quoted in Lee Lockwood's 1965 book.)

On my previous visit earlier in the year
while on a beach in the Havana suburb of
Guanabacoa, I suddenly found myself on a
section of the beach which reminded me
of Fire Island, New York in the 1950s:
a completely gay section of the beach.

There were cops in the area and there
was no repression being aimed at these
people. Of course these are only a few
anecdotal observations I have made from
my vantage point here. (Yet I'm also a
foreigner whose Spanish is less than
fluent, so I don't pretend to be any
kind of expert on the topic.)

These are not hallmarks of a homophobic
culture. There's much more to be said on
these topics, of course. I've made one
comment on this topic, and now made one

May I add that I very much share Phil
Ferguson's comment about not believing
in models. I used to think that what I
used to believe (the Bolshevik revolution
of 1917) was a universal model and that
Bolshevism as I was trained to understand
it in the specific example of the
Socialist Workers Party of the United
States, was a model. Of course I don't
accept that any longer, particularly not
since my 1983 expulsion...<g>.

It's humorous, to me, that even those
Trotskyists who are sympathetic to Cuba
(and genuinely so) nevertheless continue
to refer to the Cuban leadership as mere
"revolutionists of action". These are
contrasted, unfavorably, to revolutionists
of theory, program AND action, which these
folks characterize themselves as. The mere
fact that the Cubans have made and kept in
power one revolution never gets such folks
to modify critics' posture of superiority.

Those who think Cuba is a capitalist or
state capitalist society will, of course,
approach it in the same way as they see
any other capitalist society. That's an
approach I don't share. (And, on another
topic, I don't see how one could build
a common organization with people who
don't agree on something so basic.)

Cuba IS a model of tenacity in the face
of adversity. It's not a frozen society.
It's main leader, Fidel Castro really
DOES have more influence than anyone else
here in Cuba. He's earned it by leading
this society through a long, difficult
time. Naturally he's not a perfect leader
(as the rest of us on this list are) but
he does have a few successes under his

This is a topic which won't be exhausted,
but I hope this is helpful.

Walter Lippmann
Havana, Cuba

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