Yesterday Mariela Castro lead a parade of hundreds through the streets of Havana as part of the International Day Against Homophobia. Last year Mariela's father, Raul Castro, replaced Fidel Castro as president of Cuba.
Some of the marchers played drums and others walked on stilts as they made their way down a wide avenue in the capital's hip Vedado neighborhood, where they have held a series of debates and workshops ahead of the May 17 celebration of the International Day Against Homophobia, which participants say marks the day in 1990 when the World Health Organization stopped listing homosexuality as a mental illness. "We have made progress, but we need to make more progress," said Mariela Castro, a campaigner for gay rights on the island and the leader of Cuba's National Sexual Education Center. She is also the daughter of Cuban President Raul Castro.Mariela has been campaigning for marriage equality in Cuba as well, although that movement has seen little advancement.Joe
Cuba has come a long way in accepting homosexuality. In the 1960s, shortly after the revolution, homosexuals were fired from state jobs and many were imprisoned or sent to work camps. Others fled into exile. But that began to change in the 1980s, in large part to the work of Mariela Castro's center. Recently, the government has even agreed to include sex change operations for transsexuals under its free national health system, another project championed by the center.