PHOTO ESSAY BY DONNA ACETO | Last week represented an historic milestone in the Obama administration’s drive to end more than 50 years of US policy toward Cuba by normalizing relations. On August 14, Secretary of State John Kerry and Jeffrey DeLaurentis, the State Department’s chargé d'affaires in Cuba, raised the American flag over the new US Embassy in Havana.
Even though the president’s actions in Cuba marked a sharp break from the past, in recent years more and more Americans have been able to legally travel there despite the overall embargo. Earlier in 2015, Gay City News photographer Donna Aceto traveled with Santa Fe Photographic Workshops, a New Mexico-based educational center, on what is officially known as a “person to person cultural exchange.”
Under the Fidel Castro regime, Cuba had, over many years, a deplorable record on gay rights and on the treatment of people living with HIV and AIDS. The new regime of Fidel’s brother, Raúl, claims things have changed, and in fact the new president’s daughter, Mariela Castro Espín, as head of the Cuban National Center for Sex Education, has claimed to be the island nation’s leading LGBT activist. Many others, however, have grumbled that her work is window-dressing for a still hostile regime.
It’s likely that as Cuba opens up to American travel, we’ll learn more about facts on the ground. What was abundantly clear to Aceto as she spent several days around Easter exploring the streets of Havana, however, was that visible LGBT life is part of the world that can be discovered in today’s Cuba.