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Isbel Diaz Torres: Pinar del Rio and Havana are my cities. I was born in one on March 1, 1976, and I’ve always lived in the other. I am a biologist and poet, though at times I’ve also been a musician, translator, teacher, computer geek, designer, photographer and editor. I’m very non-conformist and a defender of differences – perhaps due to always having been an ever-repressed “model child.” Nothing enthralls me more than the unknown, nature and art; these serve as my sources of mystery and development. A surprising activism has been born in me over the recent period. Though I’m not very sure how to channel it, I feel that it’s a worthy and legitimate energy. Let’s hope I have the discernment to manage it.

Echoes of Cuba’s Homophobic 2012 Census

November 26, 2013 | Print Print |

Isbel Diaz Torres

“In Cuba we all count.”

HAVANA TIMES – Last year, I published a post condemning how the Population and Household Census then conducted in Cuba had crudely manipulated information in order to conceal the existence of homosexual couples living together in the country.

As you may recall, it was revealed at the time that any reference to same-sex couples had been crossed out during the processing of forms submitted by census takers and that, next to the information, they had written an explanatory note reading something along the lines of “couples must be of opposite sexes.”

A year later, the final results of the census have begun to be published. As it turns out, marital status indices (calculated on the basis of questions put to anyone over the age of 12) reveal that “56.8 % of the country’s population is married; 21.7 % declared that they are living together.”

Though many homosexual couples declared that they were living together (and this information was written down on the questionnaire), the census takers were instructed to erase this information upon leaving the home in question.

As such, we members of the gay community who publicly assume our sexual orientation and declare to be living together under the same roof aren’t included in that 21.7 %

I’ve been in a stable relationship for eleven years and have been living with my partner for two, but that doesn’t count as “living together” for Cuba’s bureaucracy.

It doesn’t look as though these deliberate distortions of information will be rectified any time soon. According to reliable sources (which I am unable to reveal), as a result of complaints registered following last year’s census, the census director, Juan Carlos Alfonso Fraga, promised that he would conduct a survey in 2013 to collect information exclusively on these and other aspects of the LGBT community.

November is coming to an end and we’ve seen no surveys for Cuba’s gay community. We continue to be invisible on paper, even though we are portrayed in TV soaps. We’re going to be hard pressed to see any inclusive and non-discriminatory policies if the State isn’t even interested in collecting information about us.


What's your opinion?

  • Griffin

    Isbel,

    This is a slightly off topic question, but are you able to read the books of the great Cuban writers, many of who were gay? Specifically, the works of Virgilio Piñera, José Lezama Lima, or Reinaldo Arenas? Are their books available in libraries or for sale? Or does one have to find them through underground channels?

    Or are these writers even known to the average Cuban or even gay Cuban?

    I hope you will be able to answer these questions. I appreciate the essays you publish here and hope you can continue to do so.

    Illegitimi non carborundum.

    • Isbel Diaz

      Griffin

      It is possible and easy to find all the literature you
      referred. Of course, it wasn’t that way maybe 15 or 20 years ago. But Cuban
      Printing Houses have recently published the complete work of Lezama and Piñera.
      By the way, those are two of my favorite Cuban authors, together with
      Carpentier, Eliseo Diego, Fina García Marruz, Angel Escobar, Novás, and some
      others.

      Films and documentaries about Lezama are also possible to
      find. Also the theater pieces of Piñera are usually played in the island.

      Nevertheless, important authors who made part their work
      in the exile, after the triumph of the revolution, remain unknown for most of
      the young Cuban writers (me included). There is the paradigmatic example of
      Reinaldo Arenas. I haven’t have the good luck to read any of his work.

      Thanks for your comments.

      • Griffin

        Thank you for your gracious answer to my questions. It’s good to hear that at least some of the great Cuban writers are now available on the island again.

        I have been reading as many Cuban writers as I can find, in English as my Spanish is very limited.

        I have read “Cecilia Valdés” by Villaverde, as well as the works of Marti, Carpentier, Padura, Lezama, Piñera, Norberto Fuentes, Heberto Padilla, Guillermo Cabrera Infante & Pedro Juan Gutierrez. I have a couple of volumes of short stories by an assortment of Cuban writers, including the haunting “South: Latitude 13″ by Angel Santestieban.

        Among exiled Cuban authors, I have read Zoé Valdés, Carlos Eire’s memoirs, and Achy Obejas’s beautiful and moving novel novel “Ruins”. I recently had the pleasure of meeting the Cuban writer, Jose Latour. Some of his early novels were published in Cuba, but he eventually fell out of favour and found it necessary to leave. We are proud to have him in our city, Toronto. He writes character based crime novels dealing with the issues faced by Cuban exiles.

        But if I were to pick a favourite Cuban author, I would have to say Reinaldo Arenas. He is capable of a broad range of styles from absurd comedy, to stream-of-consciousness poetry, to biting satire, to heartfelt pathos. His best novel, in my humble opinion, is “Farewell to the Sea”. His autobiography is magnificent, as well.

        If there was a way I could send you a bundle of Arenas’s books I would, but I don’t suppose a parcel sent through the mail would arrive at the right destination, would it?

        So instead, I pass on to you a few quotations from Arenas, which could serve as mottos for any writer:

        “Siempre he considerado un acto miserable mendigar la vida como un favor. O se vive como uno desea, o es mejor no seguir viviendo”

        “Los dictadores y los regímenes autoritarios pueden destruir a los escritores de dos modos: persiguiéndolos o colmándolos de prebendas oficiales.”

        “La diferencia entre el sistema comunista y el capitalista es que, aunque los dos nos den una patada en el culo, en el comunista te la dan y tienes que aplaudir, y en el capitalista te la dan y uno puede gritar.”

        Again, thank you for sharing your essays here at HT.

        • Isbel Díaz

          Griffin:

          Quotations
          from Arenas are great. He is so right!!!

          It would be
          great to receive those books. Maybe I have a way pass them. Please, ask Circles
          for my email, or let him send me yours, so we can arrange that.

        • Elizabeth Faraone

          Griffin – there is a way – you’ll just have to visit the island and carry them to Isbel. Or, you can find someone who is going to the island and send them that way.

  • CubaFriend

    As a Canadian I very much enjoy reading about Cuban life. It is good to see that Cuba is making strides to correct injustices inflicted in the past upon the LGBT community and hopefully more progress will occur in the future.

  • Elizabeth Faraone

    How stupid. We have a similar problem in the US with unemployment statistics. Those who have been unemployed for a long period of time stop receiving unemployment pay and are not counted as unemployed.