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News > Latin America

Cuba: This Lesbian Hip Hop Duo is Fighting Homophobia

  • For Odaymara Cuesta and Olivia Prendes of Krudas Cubensi, music is another way of promoting gay rights.

    For Odaymara Cuesta and Olivia Prendes of Krudas Cubensi, music is another way of promoting gay rights. | Photo: YouTube/Krudas Cubensi

Published 17 March 2016

"Through music we fight for our rights," the lesbian hip-hop duo says.

According to Odaymara Cuesta from the lesbian Cuban hip-hop band Krudas Cubensi, there's a gay person in every family in Cuba.

But like every other country, a lot needs to change in Cuba before its lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) citizens live lives free from discrimination.

"It's hard to be a lesbian or queer person here," Cuesta says.

"Even though the new generation is more open and tolerant, we need to be better educated about same-sex relationships and LGBT rights."

People take part in a gay pride parade during an event ahead of International Day Against Homophobia in Havana May 10, 2014.| photo: Reuters

Gay rights in Cuba have taken great strides in recent years since the early years of the 1959 revolution. In 2010, former president Fidel Castro said he regretted the discrimination faced by gay Cubans after his revolution, saying it was a "great injustice."

His niece Mariela Castro, daughter of current President Raul Castro, has been at the forefront of promoting gay rights and last year she led activists in a mass symbolic wedding to promote acceptance of gay and transgender Cubans.

In 2014 the National Assembly approved a labor law that banned discrimination based on sexual orientation, and free gender reassignment surgery has been available since 2008.

For Cuesta and Olivia Prendes of Krudas Cubensi, music is another way of promoting gay rights.



​Mariela Castro, in hat, leading a protest against homophobia in Havana | photo: AFP

"Music is a very important tool in educating our people and letting them know who we are and what we do," Prendes said. "Through music we fight for our rights."

Prendes said that when the band released their first album in 2003 the hip-hop community in Cuba was shocked because it was the first time anyone talked about lesbians or feminism.

"The hip-hop community is mainly straight and focused on social issues," she said. "Straight people in Cuba don't understand that people like us exist."

Prendes admitted that for her and Cuesta, who now divide their time between Cuba and the United States, their fame has made it easier to be gay.

"More people know us and admire us and are curious about who we are," she said.

But in small towns and the countryside, Cubans identifying as gay are not open about their sexuality, said Prendes.

"It is not easy to be openly queer and many people are living in the closet," she said.

Being gay ceased to be a crime in Cuba in 1979, though changing attitudes to the LGBT community remains a work in progress still today | photo: AFP

Prendes said she was hoping that more music-loving Cubans would change their attitudes toward LGBT people by listening to their music.

"We're still fighting for our rights, we're still fighting for equal marriage, equal rights for LGBT people," she said.

The Cuban government has been debating legislation to legalize same-sex marriage since at least 2009, but the legislation stalled in 2014. However, Mariela Castro has publicaly declared the legislation has support from her father and she is currently building a consensus in order to have the legislation approved. 

Elsewhere in Latin America, Argentina and Uruguay have legalized same-sex marriage, as has Mexico City. 

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