A Brief History of Havana's "Gay" Parties
June 11, 2014
HAVANA TIMES — A friend was telling me that more gay* parties being held
in Havana today than before.
Are people more tolerant now? Is there more money to be made organizing
these parties? Or are people who attend these parties making more money
and able to go more often?
My friend is right about the change that the lives of gay people have
experienced in Cuba. Today, "everything is ok" at the institutional level.
The fact of the matter is that, before we arrived at this "official
pardon", before gays could freely move about the city without being
harassed, we heard stories that were pretty much "horror films" (as they
There were violent and even physical reactions to the sight of a
homosexual walking down the street. Not all homosexuals were simply
minding their own business, but the beatings were not, and are not, any
kind of acceptable response. Many homosexual men and women also suffered
In the Cuban capital, there have always existed "public" homosexual
meeting places, generally for men (we haven't heard of any such spot
where women meet, and it is said the spots for men are rather dangerous
These few spots varied across the city. They were often the sites of
collapsed or burnt-down buildings, abandoned, dimly-lit and dirty
spaces, distant from the prying eyes of the unsuspecting at night.
Though private, these places where also dangerous, to say nothing of the
risk of sexually transmitted diseases people exposed themselves to.
Among the more popular meeting spots were the ruins of the Moscu
restaurant, the Chivo beach, the public bathroom at Quixote park, the
Jose Miguel Gomez mausoleum, Fraternidad park in Old Havana, the Fuente
Luminosa, the areas surrounding the Capitolio building and the malecón
ocean drive, as well as other open and remote urban spaces, under the
cloak of night.
People would switch meeting spots – while some were active, others saw
less regular meetings – because of police repression. At the time, there
were no places where members of the LGBTI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual,
Transsexual and Intersexual) community could meet in person safely.
The number of such spots increased notoriously, particularly after the
onslaught of the Special Period crisis in the 90s. So-called "10-peso
parties" (parties with a 10-peso admission) became common. These were
"illegal" parties that gave gay people a place to flirt and hook up.
They were held in private residences, many of them small and without the
needed conditions for such parties (and exposed to the idiosyncrasies of
the different neighborhoods).
The gay community particularly recall the parties thrown by Piriquiton,
in Cerro, Lila's parties (which moved around the city), the parties
thrown in Cojimar and others that continued to be held into the 2000s.
Now some parties even set up catwalks where transvestites and others
with stage experience showed off their skills, lip singing famous
singers and songs that were in vogue. People who underwent the first
sex-change operations in Cuba were also first seen at these parties.
Today, transvestites are hired as entertainment for glamorous parties
and nightclubs that hold weekend shows, places that are gradually
incorporating strippers to their shows (strippers are few and far
between in Cuba, it seems).
Today, as well as in the times before the permissiveness that Cuba's
National Sexual Education Center is said to have promoted, there are
homosexuals still "in the closet", people who try to hide their sexual
orientation but are clearly "members of the club."
Some openly display their sexual preferences (moderately or
flamboyantly) and find a way to feel good about themselves.
Some people are still shocked to see gay people kissing, having a good
time or wearing revealing clothes in public, practices that put Cuba's
recently acquired tolerance to the test (a tolerance that clearly cannot
be imposed on people). As for the first two, these are tolerated in
heterosexuals, so I believe we should either tolerate it in homosexuals
or frown upon it when anyone does it.
To be continued…
Gays: In using the word "gay", I have not made a distinction between
homosexual men and women. As in other parts of the world, the term "gay"
applies to everyone in the LGBTI community. What's more, that's how
parties where members of this community gather are referred to in Cuba.
Source: A Brief History of Havana's "Gay" Parties - Havana Times.org -