So this past Saturday night, me and the gals (and Honorio, Danny, and Danny's new boy Jose) went to a transformismo (drag show). Before I talk about the silliness that went on, let me fill you in on the trip there.
So this drag show has been going on in Havana for about 15 years. The location changes frequently to avoid the police/government (while there is no "official" repression of homosexuals in Cuba, they still face a lot of discrimination. Known gay clubs and hangouts are raided frequently, sometimes beating and detaining patrons). To get there, you have to go to Calle 23 and go up to a cab driver and ask "¿Donde esta la fiesta?" (Where is the party?) Apparently, all these cab drivers are in the know, and will take you there.
So we go on this cab ride for about 20-30 minutes, past Parque Lenin, outside of Havana. We get there, pay our entrada, and the show is just about to start. The women who performed were beautiful and sassy, singing (lip synching?) to some Cuban songs, some Spanish, and then some American (Toni Braxton's "Unbreak My Heart" in French, anyone?) It was so silly and fun, but nothing compares to the show I saw in Thailand.
It was also nice to be in a place where we (the girls) weren't being constantly harassed. no hissing, no "ay, que linda," no nothing. I loved it.
In preparation for writing this blog post, I did a little research on gay culture in Cuba. It turns out that after the revolution, Fidel tried to rid the nation of homosexuality. Apparently, it was seen as a "product of a capitalist society." So through the 60s and 70s, lesbians and gays (particularly effeminate males) were put in prison without charge or trial, and confinement to forced labor camps.
Between 1986-89, HIV-positive Cubans were put into treatment centres called sanatorias. What I think is really interesting is that most of the people quarantines in the beginning were heterosexual aid workers, returning from Africa. Now, the sanatorias aren't mandatory, and there is an outpatient program, but they are still open for patients who prefer to live there.
Also, Cuba has a huge HIV/AIDS/STD education program in schools which has been credited for lowering the rate of HIV on the island. In 2003 Cuba had the lowest HIV prevalence in the Americas and one of the lowest ratios in the world. Since the development (and widespread availability) of anti-retroviral treatment drugs, HIV positve patients rarely have secondary infections.
Okay! Just a little info on homosexuals in Cuba.
In other news, I went to the beach today and got stung by a jellyfish. No bueno.