This week our featured blogger, Ryan C Haynes, offers his advice on staying safe and having fun in the Cuban capital's gay scene
There are certainly areas in the Vedado area where you will find a thriving gay community. Calle 23 is the centre of gay life, near the Cine Yara (cinema). This street is frequented by gay people night and day – but don’t expect it to be anything like major cosmopolitan cities.
The one gay venue on this street is more like a canteen than a party establishment, though get talking to one of the locals and they will invite you to the official gay party that evening. If you want to join in the official parties you need to put faith and trust in the local Cubans who will order a taxi and take you to the chosen event. However be aware that you will most likely be expected to pay the taxi fair, entrance fee and possibly a drink for the guide.
Unfortunately, as the gay scene is yet to enjoy the freedoms of North America and Europe, or even its South American counterparts, Havana’s gay nightlife is a closely-guarded secret.
We found entertainment pickings relatively slim and most of the bars closed at midnight. However, there is one venue you should devote your entire trip to – Club Mujunje in Santa Clara, about four hours from Havana.
This unique club is held in an open-air building, given over to sprouting greenery and offers a night of Cuban Latin Pop with drops of Gaga and Beyonce. We had been swept into the Cuban gay world with drag queens ruling the roost. The club is licensed to 1pm when everyone spills into the main central square where they entertain each other until dawn.
Things you should know about Gay Rights in Cuba
* Legal for sexual relations between same-sex consenting adults 16 and over since 1979
* Public antipathy towards LGBT people is high
* Homosexuality was seen as a result of Capitalism and following the Communist victory in 1959, Fidel went on the mission to rid the country of homosexuality
* National Centre for Sex Education, headed by Mariela Castro, daughter of Raul, runs nationwide educational campaigns on LGBT issues
* Cuba has undertaken extensive campaigns against HIV/AIDS focusing on education and treatment, and in 2003 Cuba had the lowest HIV prevalence in the Americas and one of the lowest ratios in the world
* Occasional campaigns by police in recent years (2001/2004) to crack down on homosexual behaviour often targeting meeting places and transvestites
Ryan visits a gay beach in Cuba (video)
Ryan Haynes is a multimedia producer and presenter discovering new places and people across the world. He invites you to journey to new places; explore other cultures; food; places, people through the articles, video and photos on his blog.
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