San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Castro’s Niece Promotes Gay Rights in Cuba

HAVANA – Mariela Castro, daughter of acting Cuban President Raul Castro and niece of Fidel, says that her struggle for the equality of the sexes and gay rights will “enrich the Cuban revolution.”

The 45-year-old psychologist has directed the NationalSex-EducationCenter, or CENESEX, since 2000 and has devoted herself to campaigning in defense of homosexual and transsexual rights.

It’s a task that, she admits, is not easy in a “patriarchal” society where for many the images are still vivid of labor camps where homosexuals and the ideologically suspect were interned in the late 1960s, one of the darkest chapters of the Cuban revolution.

“I’m deeply sorry about what occurred in my country, about what occurred in the revolution, when the revolution has had a very strong orientation towards humanism,” Mariela Castro said of the episode, adding that she always felt an element of contradiction in talking about the revolultion and rights.

“In the 1980s there was still a certain amount of witch hunting going on here,” she said.

But Castro insists that the Cuba of today has completely left that situation behind, although she admitted that “part of society has not accepted that transformation.”

“We have a lot of fighting to do, tough fighting” to advance homosexuals’ rights and “change the stereotypes that dominate our culture,” she said in a recent interview.

As head of CENESEX, founded in 1989 as a department of the Public Health Ministry, Mariela Castro has promoted sex-education programs and psychological attention for homosexuals, AIDS victims and abused women, among other causes.

“What I do is an important contribution to the revolution, it enriches the revolution,” she said, adding that “it is essential in a social revolution, it is fundamental in revolutionary thought, in humanist thought, to deal with these realities.”

Still, she avoids the term “sexual revolution” in reference to her work.

Castro explained, “I start from the same principles that guide the revolution itself, except that I add an element that previously our cultural prejudices did not let us deal with.”


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