The Gay Vanguard of Regla, Havana

Xiomara Reinoso Gomez

Street in Regla across Havana Bay.
Street in Regla across Havana Bay.  Photo: Elio Delgado Valdés

HAVANA TIMES — They say there’s no bigger hell than a small town. This isn’t always the case.

There’s a town so small you can barely see it on the map. Despite this, it has the status of a municipality. I am speaking of the greater Havana coastal town of Regla.

Its residents are marvelous people: happy, authentic and, most importantly, very brave.

I spent my teenage years along with my sister in this town. We moved there when I was nine and she was twelve. I lived there till the age of 18.

That was fifty years ago, back when homophobia seemed like an incurable disease in Cuba.

In this town, however, there were plenty of gays and lesbians. And many of them lived with their partners without any problems.

On my block, there was a gay couple who shared the house with the family of one of the partners, another gay man who lived alone and, next door, a lesbian couple.

We treated one another with mutual respect. We got along so well that, more than neighbors, we looked like family. When someone had a problem or had to get to the hospital in a rush, there was always a neighbor ready to lend a hand.

I never heard anyone belittle anyone else. Everyone did with their own bodies what they pleased.

The lesbian who lived next door was already a mature woman. She had six children from a previous marriage, and I never once heard anyone reproach her for anything.

We would sit on the curb at night to talk – heterosexuals, gays, lesbians, prostitutes, crazy people…yes, we had a few of those. One of the crazies had three university degrees and was very eloquent. When she got treatment, she sounded sane.

The town had humane values, which is what counts.

I don’t criticize others for their sexual orientation, nor am I interested in that. The time I spent in Regla taught me to be this way.

I do however criticize parents who disown gay or lesbian children. I criticize those who are homosexual and pretend to be heterosexual to deceive their partners.

I criticize the lack of education, the loss of values and many other deplorable developments we are seeing these days.

  • chrisvogel

    Regla is known as a centre for the syncretic religion Regla de Ocha (commonly known as Santeria), which dilutes the power of the Roman church.

  • dann

    Xiomara Reinoso Gomez: “I criticize those who are homosexual and pretend to be heterosexual to deceive their partners.”

    But without homophobia, why would any homosexual want to do so?

    I recently criticized a young homophobe by turning his own homophobia against him: I first asked him if he would like to see his sister married to a gay guy, which he obviously wouldn’t. However, he hadn’t considered that the best way to increase the chances of a homosexual man marrying his sister would be to give him reason to pretend to be straight, i.e. by continuing his gay bashing!

    You are right, of course, that pretending to be heterosexual deceives the unfortunate partner, but in order to do so homosexuals struggle to deceive themselves into believing that they are straight. Whenever you come across cases of gays marrying or courting straights in order to ‘prove’ to the world that they aren’t gay, it only goes to show that homophobia does not victimize only homosexuals, even though they are the intended and primary targets.