[Marxism] Not Your Usual Suspects: Leonardo Padura Talks to PA

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Sat Apr 1 09:13:06 MST 2006

(Magnificent interview with Cuban novelist Leonardo Padura and
after this, it should be a little bit difficult for those who
cling to the image of Cuba as an anti-gay hell to maintain any
credibility, though of course they will continue to do so since
mere facts aren't very influential with such individuals...)

Not Your Usual Suspects: Leonardo Padura Talks to PA
By Political Affairs

Editor's Note: Leonardo Padura Fuentes is the internationally
acclaimed author of several novels including the "Havana Quartet", a
series of detective novels featuring Havana police Inspector Mario
Conde. The latest installment, available in English, in that series
is Havana Red. Havana Red was awarded the Dashiell Hammett prize for
detective fiction in Spain in 2004. Adios Hemingway, the next Mario
Conde mystery, is due out this month. Padura lives in Havana, Cuba.

PA: Havana Red addresses the very sensitive issue of gay and lesbian
and transgendered rights in Cuba. How would you describe attitudes on
this subject in Cuba today? Based on your travels and knowledge of
other countries, how do attitudes in Cuba compare to international
sentiments on this matter?

LP: Fortunately, in today's Cuba the problem of homosexuality has
stopped being a social "illness" and has remained only as a problem
of a family nature, being that the Cuban family, by tradition, is
very machista and homosexuality has always been badly regarded. But
even so, many families accept it as something normal, even though
it's not exactly celebrated. Gays and lesbians always had full civil
rights in Cuba, but the pre- and post-revolutionary morality
condemned them as sick, as perverts, and even as political enemies.
The harshest time was in the 70's, which Havana Red talks about, when
being gay was something close to a crime, and it could get you
expelled from the university or from a work center. What was applied
to them was a Stalinist policy, and many notable artists were
marginalized for many years just for being homosexuals (and this
tragedy of the marginalized artist, is, in the novel, more important
than the marginalization of gays, since for me the frustration of
artistic freedom is something more essential, deeper, and more
dramatic than the simple sexual problem).

In the 80's things began to go a different, more permissible way, and
in the 90's when the crisis hit, priorities were elsewhere, and the
government had to admit that circumstances were different, and for
this reason homosexuals were given greater freedom (and - what a
surprise! - artists gained greater freedom as well). This has allowed
us to see a greater number of people who exhibit their homosexuality,
a greater number of gay and lesbian couples who live together without
anyone questioning them, a presence visible in the reflection of this
world in cinema, literature, sculpture, and dance. To sum up, I think
that today in Cuba the homosexual lives more or less with the same
freedom and the same prejudices as in the rest of the Western world,
including Spain, where gay marriage has been legalized but not the
prejudices that many people still have toward homosexuality.
Meanwhile, the intellectuals have gained much more space for
reflection and criticism, and nobody makes you write politically
correct socialist-realism novels, like happened in the 70's. And, as
is my case, you can even create a literature that is critical of
reality and of some aspects (not all, for sure) of the system and
live on the island, get published and recognized in Cuba.


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