Cuba is gradually, if slowly, changing and one way in which this is noticeable is the way in which gay people are accepted or not in Cuban society and government. One of the most significant changes has been the involvement of Fidel Castro’s niece, aka Mariela Castro. Mariela has continually pushed in recent years for better understanding and legislation in support of gay, lesbian and for all sexual orientations to be better protected. Mariela went so far as to give a ‘No’ vote in the Cuban assembly for a law which was connected to workers’ rights; a no vote being something which until that time was something unheard of. Your father being the existing president at the time of the country (her father being Raul) certainly does of course give her the liberty to voice her opinion, but the move is one which should still be commended though, for her forward thinking attitude.
There is an increasing number of gay or gay friendly bars and nightclubs, which are popping up across Cuba, although of course most in the capital, Havana. Some of the best gay friendly locations are as follows.
(809, Calle 17) – Although not an exclusively gay hang-out, it is nevertheless a very popular destination for the gay and lesbian community and attracts a wide range of ages, although many in their twenties and thirties. In the true spirit of Cuba, the classic mojitos and lively vibrant music are a part of this bar. It is not easy to find, because you have to go upstairs in this place which you might not at first recognise as being a bar. Pursue, find this bar and you can have a great time in this excellent bar.
( San Juan de Dios) – A very popular bar and perhaps one of the most famous in Cuba for the gay community. Gay or not, this is an excellent fun place to spend an evening and highly recommended. Very well made cocktails at a good price and with decent lashings of alcohol in them, the chance to smoke hand-made Cuban cigars and some excellent shows including drag. Expect a very relaxed atmosphere and equally friendly staff.
(Calle 25 y27) – Close to Hotel Nacional, this club has become a popular location for gay night-life and, although a fairly small place inside, it offers an intimate atmosphere and can be a very good place for meeting other gay drinkers. The location makes it very handy and it is a very friendly and fun place to drink and to hang out in, whether you are gay or straight.
The most famous gay beach in Cuba is close to Havana (15 miles away) and goes by the name of “Mi Cayito”. This beach continues to develop and has built a reputation within the gay community, to the point that it is now marketed as one of the key locations for gay holidays and vacations to Cuba. The easiest way to get there is to jump in a taxi and it costs around GBP£7 (about USD$10) one way. Another alternative is to jump on the tourist hop on hop off bus and ask the driver if he can drop you off as close as possible to this beach. They are not obliged to, but generally are happy to help. There are two different tourist buses, so make sure that you are on the right one.
The sea-front area of Havana is known as the Malecon and, in the early evenings, this becomes a very popular location for the local gay community to meet up to chat, drink rum and just to socialise in a relaxed and beautiful open air location. The Malecon is close to many of the major hotels and a very good location, if you want to meet other gay travellers and locals.