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Recap: Cuba Pride 2016

Cuba celebrated LGBT Pride last month as it does every year, in conjunction with the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia on May 17th. Cuba’s national celebration was held in Matanzas, a province near Havana – one of my favorite places in Cuba! So I was excited to take my group there for a few days.

This year’s festivities included a big parade/conga, a photo exhibit, a festival, an evening gala of performances, and a dance party. The theme for 2016 was “Workplaces free of homophobia and transphobia,” and the slogan of the year was “I’m in!” (¡Me incluyo!)

Nadine is all geared up for Pride day! I supplied rainbow socks to our whole group. Fun!

Nadine is all geared up for Pride day! I supplied rainbow socks to our whole group, and everyone wore them a little differently. Fun!

We started the day with the photo exhibit and then headed to the Pride parade. Or, more accurately, we headed to the staging area for the parade. It never starts on time, so you always spend a lot of time just people-watching at the staging area and trying to stay cool.

Stephen and Ian show off some swag at the Pride parade staging area! Ian's little rainbow sign says, "I'm in! No to the embargo." Stephen's poster reads, "Homosexuality isn't dangerous. Homophobia is."

Stephen and Ian show off some swag at the Pride parade. Ian’s little rainbow sign says, “I’m in! No to the embargo.” Stephen’s poster reads, “Homosexuality isn’t dangerous. Homophobia is.”

We saw a lot of those silver pencil balloons. These are a throwback to Cuba’s national literacy campaign in the early 60’s, when the country dedicated itself to ending illiteracy nationwide. By integrating this visual icon into the Pride events, they’re presenting Pride as another public education campaign, this time educating the Cuban people about homophobia and transphobia.

The parade/march/conga began with a giant Cuban flag, closely followed by this giant rainbow flag

The parade/march/conga began with a giant Cuban flag, closely followed by this giant rainbow flag

The parade/conga started with a huge Cuban flag and rainbow flag. In this video, the chant among the Cuban flag group is “Unity in diversity!”

Next were some community groups with banners, like an LGBT Christian group. And the bulk of the parade was the conga, where musicians drum and trumpet while the crowd dances through the streets. The whole thing terminated in the main square of Matanzas with a Pride festival. There were booths hosted by different government agencies and projects, an interfaith service celebrating diversity and love, a DJ pumping music, and lots of sun! Here’s the crowd spilling into that main square:

That night was the Pride Gala. I loved the stage, which was decorated as a Cuban flag flanked by rainbows. There was a bunch of drag (like the photo at the top of the page), plus other performances, including this dance routine:

Partner dance at the Pride Gala:

Some of us went home after the Gala, and others continued on to the dance party, where we drank beer and hung out with queers from Cuba, Ecuador, Canada, and probably some other countries I can’t remember. Good times.

In 2017, I’m doing a trip for Cuba’s Pride in May and one for Guadalajara’s in June! (That’s Guadalajara, Mexico, not Spain.) If you’re interested in coming along, please get in touch. Sooner is better… as both trips already have a few people signed up, and I don’t know how long I’ll have spots available.

(To see more photos from this trip, check out my Facebook album Cuba Pride 2016.)

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