Thursday, December 15, 2005

Cuba Exhibits Homoerotic Art Banned in US

One of the biggest miconceptions about Cuba is its attitude against homosexuality. I will not deny that there were lingering machismo/anti-gay attitudes and laws from the pre-Revolutionary days that carried into the Revolution - as persist in many Latin and Carribean countries today. But the movie "Before Night Falls" ingrained a particularly vile and false view of Cuba's intolerance to the world (that is a whole other post).

I know things have changed there just from my visit in 2003. I was suprised to walk down the Malecon at midnight and see it thronged with hundreds of gay Cubans openly partying into the night. Of course, that is a freedom that I wish we had here in the US - partying in the parks all night long. But it also reflected a sanctioning of homosexuality that would never be tolerated here, perhaps outside of San Francisco.

But the State TV broadcast of images yesterday from an opening of Robert Mapplethorpe's photography exhibit, called "Sacred and Profane," complete with National Assembly Presidnet Ricardo Alvarez in attandance, is just the kind of signal that the attitude shift in Cuba has permeated society. This comes on the heels of a film shown at the Havana Film Festival called "Sexuality, A Right to Live," which depicted transvestites being trained to teach other men how to practice safer sex and avoid HIV-AIDS.

Mapplethorpe is a celebrated photographer who achieved worldwide fame when in 1990, the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati and its director were charged with obscenity for exhibiting Mapplethorpe's photographs. Many frankly depit male nudity and homoerotic themes.


Blogger JCB said...

I wonder how much of this is due to the de-Catholicization of the Cuban population, and how much is merely a reflection of a less angry and hateful people.

6:58 PM  
Anonymous oso said...

It seems to me that a common problem facing both Cuba and America is that gays are herded into very specific areas where they are then granted a certain level of freedom, but never allowed to fully integrate into society at large. I never saw a single openly gay person outside of the Malecon while I was in Cuba.

6:55 PM  
Blogger GJPW said...

I recommend you read the actual book by Reinaldo Arenas and do not depend solely on the film. Arenas is one of Latin America's most brilliant writers and his autobiography is already a classic.

If you read that book you will find an eloquent indictment of the machista culture that permeates the Cuban revolution. Arenas was writing about the 1950s-1980s but the revolution remains deeply puritanical and fundamentalist today.

46 years of machista revolution and you have the quaint naivete of suggesting an exhibit of photographs reverses all the damage done against human rights and individual freedom in Cuba.

--Guillermo Juan Parra

5:49 AM  
Blogger leftside said...

All thoughtful comments. Joe, I think the de-Catholic thing is a part, though that would not explain "official" Revolutionary thinking, which was always secular and certainly was behind on this.

Oso, I have to agree. But I think the opening of any spaces is an important step to widespread acceptance.

GJPW, Arenas was talented. But I am not sure he would have fit in anywhere at that time. Not because of his orientation. He had a rough time in NYC, even among the artist community. I don't need to get into the stories aobut him... I called the exhibit a "symbol" of a changing Cuba. Nowhere did I suggest it was anything more than that. Though I would challenge your characterization of Cuban human rights when taking justice, ethics, and social/cultural rights into consideration.

9:22 AM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home