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Queer Voices from Cuba

Isbel Díaz Torres & Logbona Olukonee May 19

Organizing from below and to the left of the state is not easy in present-day Cuba. However, some young people are doing it, including a couple of LGBT activists who shared their thoughts with The Indypendent.

By Isbel Díaz Torres

Developing activism on behalf of LGBT people from an anti-capitalist stance has been the biggest challenge of my work within the Arcoiris (Rainbow) project. In an extremely depoliticized society whose members are disillusioned by the failings of a top-down socialism based on the Soviet model, and now focused on their desire for irrational consumption, it is very difficult to promote alternative thinking. Proclaiming ourselves anti-capitalist sounds old-fashioned here in Cuba in 2015. Furthermore, to attempt independent work for the rights of LGBT people, where state institutions have developed a certain hegemony, is also a challenge to our creativity and desire for autonomy.

I view the rapprochement between the governments of Cuba and the United States with great suspicion. The current change in the diplomatic arena is, among other things, the United States rewarding the Cuban government for its uncritical integration into the world order, revealing the similarity of interests between the two countries and their elites. I hope that this abandonment of utopia, now explicit, will at least serve to reunify Cuban families, the true victims of this conflict between states, and that people and truly anti-capitalist groups in Cuba and the United States can build stronger links for the fight against authoritarianism of all kinds.

Isbel Díaz Torres is a member of Arcoiris, a queer anti-capitalist collective, and Observatorio Critico, a network of autonomous anti-capitalists who coordinate various projects for nonviolence, antiracism, LGBT rights, indigenous and Black heritage recovery, ecology, open source computer advocacy, mutual aid in mental health, transformative childhood education, self-managed socialism and building Cuba’s future from an anarchist perspective.

By Logbona Olukonee

The Motivito (“Get together”) project arose due to the lack of independent nonprofit LGBT public space in the Havana community. We have tried to create opportunities for enjoyment and critical reflection on the intersections between racism, heteronormativity, classism and other forms of oppression that affect our community today, in response to the strong development of a culture of gay consumption in Havana. Our first Motivito was a queer occupation conducted by a group of friends at the Pabellón Cuba on February 28, 2014. Since then, we have had several cultural actions/parties for lesbians, queer women and trans* people, and poetry readings, among other events.

I would love for relations between Cuba and the United States to take place in an atmosphere of respect primarily for the self-determination of Cubans. Also I have the hope that our people don’t see the “arrival of the Americans,” as we say here, as the solution to our internal problems and run toward the neoliberal policies proposed to poor countries by the United States. If they do, they might not understand the serious risks involved in negotiating with the United States under “Yanqui” terms. However, I feel it will be difficult anyway, since hunger and apathy can be incredible allies in attracting American investors. I very much hope that we can maintain our autonomy in these relations in the long term.

Logbona Olukonee is Cuban history professor and a queer feminist activist.


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