From Che to gay – Cuba’s awakening

From Che to gay – Cuba’s awakening

THE announcement in December by US President Barack Obama that the country would start normalising relations with Cuba was a long time coming but nonetheless surprising.

Like two squabbling cousins who can’t quite remember what originally set them at odds, Cuba and the US seemed unable to let bygones be bygones.

But now, it seems that whole messy business with the missiles is to be left to the history books.

The end of an era is coming and change is inevitable. No more will Canadians have a tropical getaway free of their southern cousins, while the aging 1950s American automobiles (there are said to be some 60,000 still gracing Cuba’s roads) will surely be replaced by efficient and economical hatchbacks.

Perhaps now is the time to visit a country if not on the cusp of a political revolution then maybe an economic evolution.

One thing that has certainly evolved is Cuba’s attitude towards gay people. Homosexuality was legalised in 1979 – some 25 years before nearby Florida – and now the seaside capital of Havana boasts a small but energetic gay scene.

Drag is the daily bread at Fashion Bar while Humboldt 52 serves up a heady cocktail of white rum, Latin and western pop and same-sex salsa.

In fact, this Caribbean country is increasingly becoming an LGBTI destination with Sydney travel agency Orange Journeys offering a nine-day tour that promises white sandy beaches, dinner under the stars in tobacco fields and even dancing lessons.

gay cuba orange journeys
Visiting Cuba as a part of a gay tour

First stop is the capital, and if you ever wondered what Madrid would look like under communist rule look no further.

Narrow busy streets, sunshine flickering on the cobbles and washing swaying from a multitude of balconies, give way to grand imposing open squares ready to swallow any passing revolutionary crowd.

Che Guevara’s iconic face peers over Plaza de la Revolución but his comrades seem content just to promenade along the Malecón, overlooking the harbour and the capital’s premier spot for a saunter.

If the Havana hustle is a bit too much bustle, a trip to Trinidad will revive you.

Not the island but the sleepy UNESCO heritage listed town where palm-lined streets shelter rows of candy-coloured colonial cottages, their roofs sprinkled with never-the-same-shade-twice red tiles.

From Spain to France and the southern city of Cienfuegos. Built by settlers from Louisiana the city’s wide boulevards and formal buildings are more Bordeaux than Barcelona.

Here, like in all of Cuba, the old enemy’s sport of baseball is the real passion and little can compare to the stadium atmosphere as a rising rhythm of drums whips the locals into a euphoric state willing home team the Elefantes to victory.

And if your side should win then sit back and indulge yourself – with a Cuban cigar and a mojito maybe?

Having a mojito at famous La Bodeguita del Medio in Havana
Having a mojito at famous La Bodeguita del Medio in Havana

Orange Journeys offer a 9 day/8 night all-gay trip to Cuba visiting Havana, Trinidad, Soroa, Santa Clara and Cienfuegos starting from $ 3,750 twin share excluding flights. Visit for a Star Observer reader offer of a 5 per cent discount on all travel experiences listed on the website.

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One response to “From Che to gay – Cuba’s awakening”

  1. Che and gay are not two ends of a spectrum. Vive la revolucion. Most of those arrested at the first Mardi gras were communist and leftist comrades. Never forget it.