How Cuba's LGBT friendly stance is boosting tourism on the island

Posted: 24-Dec-15 09:56

It may come as a surprise for an island that imprisoned a gay poet on account of his sexuality as recently as 1974, but Cuba is cleaning up its act. The work of Mariela Castro in championing LGBT rights is helping to create a sea-change of opinion amongst local people.

How Cuba's LGBT friendly stance is boosting tourism on the island

Whilst many of the Caribbean islands have earned a reputation for treating members of the LGBT community with a complete lack of respect, there is good news on the horizon in the unlikely form of Cuba.

The island, which once imprisoned the gay poet Reinaldo Arenas for his open homosexuality, has undergone something of a cultural and societal makeover in recent years, and is now far more embracing of alternative lifestyles.

The president's daughter, Mariela Castro, has long been famed for championing the rights of the LGBT community, and at last it seems like her fellow countrymen and women are following suit. Castro' work has led to changing political and legislative stances too; with acceptance and tolerance high on the agenda.

The movement is a positive one. As early as 2010 the Cuban government supported gay rights within the United Nations, while in 2012 the country's first transgender politician was elected. This led to press trips from overseas LGBT centred groups to Cuba to be sanctioned.

With the thawing of relations between the US and Cuba, many more American citizens are now able to enjoy travel to the island thanks to an increased raft of direct flights from a number of airports across the country.

It is perhaps mere coincidence that San Francisco's gay neighbourhood is called Castro, and it has to be noted that Cuba has a long way to go before it can be classed as comprehensively LGBT friendly.

That said solace can be sought in Vedado, Cuba's very own "gay village". This is situated in the more contemporary part of Havana, and as such there is plenty to see and do. Guests are welcomed famously at the Hotel Nacional de Cuba, one of Cuba's most historic accommodations and a location for previous shows from a diverse range of acts including Frank Sinatra, The Beatles and the Backstreet Boys. Alternatively the "Casas Particulares" (local guesthouses that welcome LGBT tourists) are also a good bet.

Whether it's sipping on a fresh cocktail or espresso in a local cafe, enjoying the local cuisine in one of the area's much-loved eateries or soaking up the rays on "Mi Cayito", Cuba's popular gay-friendly beach, you'll find plenty to pass the time on this stunning island.


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