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‘Proyecto Arcoiris’ Advocates for Coloring Cuba with the Rainbow of the LGBT Community

Written by On 3 December 2013 @ 17:25 pm | No Comments

In Caribbean, Citizen Media, Cuba, Digital Activism, Gay Rights (LGBT), Good News, Human Rights, Latin America, Photos, Politics, Protest, Spanish, Weblog, Women & Gender

This post is part of our series on Gender and Sexuality in Latin America [1] in collaboration with The North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA) [2]. Stay tuned for more articles. 

[All links lead to pages in Spanish.]

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The Origin

In July of 2011, Project Arcoiris (“The Rainbow Project”) was born. This was a new program [3] designed to fight for the rights of people of non-heteronormative sexual orientations and gender identities.

It all began when activist Yasmin Silvia Portales shared her dissatisfaction [4]with the absence, at the time, of spaces for meeting the social demands of sexually diverse persons and for advocating for sexual and reproductive rights.

Mientras, ¿qué hacemos las personas LGBTI a las cuales la filiación política llevó a distintos grupos de la izquierda libertaria y anticapitalista? Nos corresponde ampliar los marcos ideológicos desde los cuales se debate el asunto de la discriminación por orientación sexual e identidad de género, introducir nuestras propias exigencias, aportar nuestras fuerzas, proponer otros caminos. Esto es política, ¿a quién le da miedo decirlo?

Meanwhile, what can we do as LGBT people when political affiliation has led us to different left-wing libertarian and anticapitalist groups? It's our responsibility to broaden the ideological framework for debating the issue of sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination, present our own demands, join forces, and propose alternative solutions. This is politics. Why are we afraid to say so?

This call to arms, which Portales sent out to a group of friends and e-mail contacts, received a quick response. In my blog, Negra Cubana Tenía Que Ser, [5]I wrote the following on the project in July of 2011:

Lo cierto es que en la Cuba de hoy seguimos asidos a una moral que concibe el matrimonio entre hombres y mujeres y los hijos e hijas para los heterosexuales. Como tampoco me adscribo ninguno de los (pocos) grupos existentes en el país, ni desde el activismo, mucho menos desde la teoría, vislumbro al Proyecto Arcoiris como el ejercicio ciudadano que nos permitirá, a lo sumo, apresurar la ratificación del nuevo Código de Familia, cuya aprobación, por la Asamblea Nacional, se ha retrasado por más de 16 años.

The truth is that in Cuba today we are tied to a moral fabric that conceives of families only as married heterosexual men and women along with their sons and daughters. Since I'm not attached to any of the (few) existing groups in this country, either as an activist, and much less as a theorist, I view Project Arcoiris as a civic responsibility that will allow us, in the end, to expedite the ratification of the new Family Code, whose passage by the National Assembly has been delayed for more than 16 years.

After the group held its first meeting, activist Isbel Díaz Torres from the Critical Observatory Network (“Red del Observatorio Crítico” in Spanish) [6] expressed the following in his column in the Havana Times [7]:

Me pareció captar entre los que asistimos, el deseo de dialogar sin asimetrías con todas las partes. Sería funesto que nos posicionáramos en un estrato superior para acceder al público LGBTI cubano para conocer sus intereses. Tampoco parece factible colocarnos por debajo en nuestras demandas a las instituciones estatales con quienes necesariamente interactuaremos.

In my view, it seemed to instill a desire, in all of us in attendance, to dialog with all parties in a balanced way. It would be fatal for us to position ourselves as superior in order to access the Cuban LGBTI community and better understand their issues. Nor does it seem feasible for us to position ourselves, in our demands, as underdogs to the state institutions with whom we must necessarily interact.

In September of 2012, Project Arcoiris created its blog [3], in which it immediately published its core concerns, which include the following:

El Proyecto Arcoiris cree que es necesario luchar, porque todavía hoy, en Cuba, es difícil salir a la calle cada día y vivir como personas no heterosexuales. Defendemos el derechos de negarnos a mentir a nuestras familias, comunidades, colectivos de trabajo, amistades; defendemos también el respeto a aquellas personas heterosexuales que nos apoyan contra la homofobia cotidiana.

Project Arcoiris believes that it's necessary to fight, because in Cuba today, it's still difficult to walk around in the streets every day and live as non-heterosexual persons. We uphold our right to refuse to lie to our families, our communities, our employers, and our friends; we also demand respect for those heterosexual persons who support us in our struggle against the homophobia we experience on a day-to-day basis.

And further on, we read:

Queremos para Cuba libertad y autodeterminación, queremos toda la riqueza que podamos producir honestamente, y queremos la prohibición legal de todas las formas de discriminación por sexo, edad, origen étnico o geográfico, religión, orientación sexual o identidad de género.

We desire liberty and self-determination for Cuba; we desire as much wealth as we can produce honestly, and we seek the legal prohibition of all forms of discrimination due to sex, age, ethnicity or geographical origin, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

In the blog it is also possible to access issues of the digital newsletter Ahí Te Va [8], created by Arcoiris, which is also sent via e-mail.

Kiss-In for Diversity

Of all the activities carried out by Project Arcoiris, the “Kiss-In for Diversity” has, without a doubt, had the greatest impact on both a national and an international level. Its objective was to commemorate Gay Pride on the island on June 26th; this is a celebration which up to that time had never taken place in Cuba.

The Kiss-In was convened using information and communication technologies, something unprecedented in Cuba, which Portales referred to in a recent interview:

Creo que […] hicimos un punto de inflexión con el uso coordinado de diversos recursos comunicativos electrónicos –teléfonos fijos o móviles y redes sociales con base en Internet.

Varias entidades comerciales habían estado haciendo publicidad a través de los celulares en Cuba, pero Arcoiris ha inaugurado el uso de los móviles para convocatorias de perfil político y emancipatorio explícito, ¡y sin el apoyo del Estado!

I believe that [...] we created a turning point with our coordinated use of several electronic communications resources – telephones and mobile phones and Internet social media.

Although several business entities had been doing cellular advertising in Cuba, Arcoiris has inaugurated the use of mobile phones for explicit emancipatory political profile calling, and without State support!

The impact of the preparations for the Kiss-In, and of the event itself, was immeasurable: Martinoticias [9], Cubanet [10], IPS [11], EFE [12], and Global Voices [13], along with other media, published articles about this event.

Kiss-In for Diversity and Equality in Havana, Cuba. (Photo courtesy of Jorge Luis Baños.)

Kiss-In for Diversity and Equality in Havana, Cuba. (Photo courtesy of Jorge Luis Baños.)

The declaration read by Portales just before the Kiss-In began, which takes articles 42, 53, and 54 of the Constitution of the Republic of Cuba as its preamble, notes in one of its paragraphs that:

Por eso estamos aquí, ocupando el espacio público que la Revolución de 1959 conquistó para todas las personas de la nación sin distinciones, porque la Revolución será feminista, o no será, será antirracista, o no será, será abierta a las críticas de toda la ciudadanía, o no será, será antihomofóbica, o no será. Será, en fin, una lucha absoluta contra todas las discriminaciones, o no será verdaderamente socialista y las vidas de quienes murieron por implantar la dignidad plena del hombre y la mujer en esta tierra carecerán de sentido.

That is why we're here, occupying the public space that the Revolution of 1959 conquered fo all citizens of our nation without distinction, because this Revolution will either be feminist or it won't, it will either be anti-racist or it won't, it will either be open to the scrutiny of all citizens or it won't, it will either be anti-homophobic or it won't. At the end of the day, this will either be an absolute struggle against all discrimination, or it will not be truly socialist, and the lives of those who died to establish full dignity for all men and women in this land will be rendered meaningless.

The Present Moment

Because we were interested in knowing what Project Arcoiris is currently focusing on, we interviewed its founder, blogger Yasmin Silvia Portales, and blogger Luis Rondón Paz, who works specifically with updating the project's blog.

Regarding the activities the project is involved with now, Yasmin Silvia commented:

Ahora concentramos esfuerzos en la organización de una delegación cubana a los Gay Games, que serán en agosto de 2014 en Cleveland, Ohio, USA. Cuba nunca ha estado en los Gay Games, y consideramos que es una idea excelente para el proceso de construcción de la comunidad LGBTQ de acá. Por supuesto, que es un proyecto enorme, en cuanto a gente involucrada y recursos. El CENESEX nos ha reconocido como interlocutores y nos prestaron asesoría en los primeros pasos organizativos.

Right now we're concentrating our efforts on organizing a Cuban delegation to the Gay Games, which will take place in August of 2014 in Cleveland, Ohio, USA. Cuba has never been involved in the Gay Games, so we consider this to be an excellent idea for the process of building up the LGBTQ community here. This is, of course, an enormous undertaking when you consider the number of people and resources involved. CENESEX [the Cuban National Center for Sex Education] has recognized us as partners and has advised us on the first steps to take in organization.

The Project has recently created a blog [14] with the same name and content on the CubaVa [15] platform. The blogger commented on the new opportunities that this space is creating:

Clonar el blog en Cubava.cu es un paso muy importante para acercarnos a Cuba, para socializar las acciones del grupo y generar un espacio de memoria del activismo LGBT. Es pertinente aclarar que el acceso a internet en Cuba tiene carácter limitado (31% de la población) y segregado, pues la mayor parte de estas personas en realidad solo pueden navegar la “intranet”: sitios web dentro del dominio “.cu”. Ahora Proyecto Arcoíris tiene un espacio de activismo LGBT y diálogo potencial dentro de la red nacional, accesible desde cualquier lugar de Cuba. Esperamos entonces que más gente se entere de lo que hacemos y opine, critique –de modo respetuoso– y hasta inicie sus propias acciones en otras zonas de la isla.

Cloning our blog on CubaVa.cu was a very important step in moving closer to Cuba, to socialize the group's actions and creating memory space for LGBT activism. It's relevant to clarify that Internet access in Cuba is limited (31% of the population) and segregated, because most of these people can only surf the “intranet:” websites within the “.cu” domain. Project Arcoiris now has a space for LGBT activism and the potential for dialog within the national network, accessible from anywhere in Cuba. So we hope that more people will find out about what we're doing and offer their comments and criticisms – in a respectful way – and even initiate their own actions in other regions of the island.

Speaking on the same topic, Luis Rondón Paz, founder of the Project, points out:

Pienso que su promoción [del Proyecto Arcoiris] en la naciente plataforma blog al interior de la isla cubana aportaría un granito de arena para la construcción de esa cultura de debate que tanto necesita la futura sociedad socialista diversa, inclusiva, democrática y justa que entre todas y todos deseamos tener.

I think [Project Arcoiris's] promotional efforts to the emerging blog platform inside Cuba could add another grain of sand to the construction of a culture of debate which the coming diverse and equitable socialist, even democratic, society needs, and that we all wish to have.

One very current issue on the Cuban docket is the preliminary draft law of the new Labor Code. Regarding rights protection for sexually diverse persons within the Labor Code, Yasmin Silvia specifies:

Creo que el nuevo Código del Trabajo es un proyecto neoliberal, muy enfocado en facilitar la explotación de la clase obrera cubana en el proceso de reconstrucción del capitalismo. Como tal, esta Ley no tiene una base emancipadora, menos aún de reconocimiento de los problemas específicos de los diversos grupos identitarios que integran la nación.

Fíjate que todo el lenguaje es sexista, y las mujeres solo son mencionadas como madres, y se hace una vaga referencia a la discriminación por color de la piel, pero con el término “raza”. Respecto al Código actual, los mecanismos para la reclamación de justicia laboral han sido limitados, y no se incorporan fenómenos ampliamente reconocidos como problemáticos en el ámbito laboral, como el acoso sexual o moral.

I believe the new Labor Code is a neoliberal project, very focused on facilitating the exploitation of the Cuban working class in the process of reconstructing capitalism. As such, this Law does not have an emancipatory base, and much less a recognition of the specific problems faced by diverse identity groups that make up the nation.

If you think about it, all of the language is sexist, and women are only mentioned as mothers, and a vague reference is made to discrimination by skin color, but utilizing the term “race.” With respect to the Code as it currently stands, the mechanisms for claiming worker justice have been restricted, and issues that are widely recognized as problematic in the work environment, such as sexual and psychological harassment, have not been addressed.

For his part, Rondón states:

Lo triste del Código de Trabajo es que hoy si a un jefe le da el deseo de decir que no trabajas porque eres “flojito” o muy “macho” no tienes a donde acudir, porque en la ley no existe respaldo alguno ante discriminaciones de este tipo [...]

The sad thing about the Labor Code is that right now, if a boss feels like telling you that you can't work because you're “lazy” or “too manly,” you have nowhere to turn, because in the law there's no protection at all against that kind of discrimination [...] [...]

Project Arcoiris also has a page on Facebook [16] which, like the blog, is monitored by several members of the group, with the intention of minimizing the adverse effects that go hand-in-hand with blogging from an island with poor connectivity and extremely slow connections.


Article printed from Global Voices: http://globalvoicesonline.org

URL to article: http://globalvoicesonline.org/2013/12/03/proyecto-arcoiris-advocates-for-coloring-cuba-with-the-rainbow-of-the-lgbt-community/

URLs in this post:

[1] Gender and Sexuality in Latin America: http://globalvoicesonline.org/2013/11/18/nacla-global-voices-partnership-tackles-gender-sexuality-in-latin-america/

[2] The North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA): https://nacla.org/

[3] a new program: http://proyectoarcoiris.wordpress.com/

[4] shared her dissatisfaction : http://proyectoarcoiris.wordpress.com/2011/09/08/el-proyecto-arcoiris/

[5] Negra Cubana Tenía Que Ser, : http://negracubanateniaqueser.wordpress.com/2011/07/19/yo-signo-el-proyecto-arcoiris/

[6] Critical Observatory Network (“Red del Observatorio Crítico” in Spanish): http://observatoriocriticodesdecuba.wordpress.com/

[7] Havana Times: http://www.havanatimes.org/sp/?p=19304

[8] Ahí Te Va: http://proyectoarcoiris.wordpress.com/documentos-para-descargar/

[9] Martinoticias: http://www.martinoticias.com/content/besada-diversidad-cuba-lgbt-/12401.html

[10] Cubanet: http://www.cubanet.org/noticias/homosexuales-cubanos-se-besan-por-la-diversidad/

[11] IPS: http://www.ipscuba.net/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=4658:activistas-de-cuba-se-besan-por-la-igualdad&Itemid=5

[12] EFE: http://www.que.es/ultimas-noticias/espana/201206290153-activistas-independientes-cubanos-celebran-besada-efe.html

[13] Global Voices: http://es.globalvoicesonline.org/2012/07/01/cuba-besada-por-la-diversidad-y-la-igualdad/

[14] a blog: http://proyectoarcoiris.cubava.cu/

[15] CubaVa: http://www.cubava.cu/

[16] Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Proyecto-Arcoiris/228700967168166?ref=ts&fref=ts

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