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social sciences

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The Republic of Cuba is an archipelago situated at the mouth of the Gulf of Mexico and is made up of the island of Cuba, the Isle of Youth (formerly known as the Isle of Pines), and approximately 4,195 islands, islets, and cays (shoals). The long narrow land mass is 42,827 square miles and has a population of eleven million. Politically and administratively, Cuba is divided into fourteen provinces and the Isle of Youth, which is a special municipality.

Cuba is ethnically extremely diverse, the result of the historical and cultural mixture of Africans, Spaniards, and Asians, among others. The original indigenous inhabitants are virtually non-existent.

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The most important sectors of the economy are sugar and its derivatives, tobacco, nickel, and tourism, the latter now producing more income that the other three combined.

Cuba does not have a glbtq movement. Although homosexuals in many different parts of the world have organized politically and the echoes of Stonewall can be noticed far and wide, the socio-political and cultural impact of these developments is virtually nil in Cuba. Activism has not developed on the island; however, there have been some attempts to consolidate a "community."

Unlike other countries in Latin America, such as Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico, that have many activist groups, Cuban political activism is only in the process of developing. Among the many causes that have limited the creation of a movement in Cuba have been the lack of a convincing, unifying project and political leadership.

The Colonial Period

The influence of the Inquisition was not as pervasive in Cuba as it was in other regions of the Americas, although there were denunciations of people considered to be . In the seventeenth century, the Captain General of the island wrote to the Spanish king to report that he had sentenced twenty effeminate men to death by burning and to ask his Majesty for advice about what to do with this type of person. According to one historian, this is the only known execution of this kind.

Historical sources indicate that a small island in Havana Bay that is currently named Cayo Cruz (Shoal of the Cross) was known as Cayo Puto (Shoal of the Faggot) or Isla de las Mujeres (Isle of Women). During colonial times, prostitutes and homosexuals were sent there, and many documents allude to the existence of this islet. It is possible that after the government built Havana's Royal Prison and Asylum it was no longer necessary to use the small island for this purpose.

On April 10, 1791, an article appeared in the newspaper Papel Periódico de La Havana entitled "A critical letter about the man-woman." This essay was one of the first documents expressing incipient nationalist sentiment, albeit through the desire to regulate the social customs and sexual practices of Cuban society. The letter was also possibly the first document to refer to effeminate men as the counterpoint to masculine men, who were exalted as appropriate representations of the nation. The author viewed Cuba within the framework of the Hispanicized Havana elite, with women and homosexuals excluded from this notion of the nation.

Nineteenth-century Cuba

During the nineteenth century, men who engaged in same-sex sexual relations were generically termed sodomites and . These people probably did not share a homosexual identity or engage exclusively in sexual activities with members of the same sex. Court cases record the punishment of men who engaged in carnal "acts against nature." Observers were interested in documenting the "pathological" person whose "indiscreet" behavior was impossible to hide.

The concept of homosexuality as a scientific category developed in association with the classification of sexual behavior at the end of the nineteenth century. In Cuba, however, sodomy was not thought of as a sexual variant; rather, it was considered an ambiguous and strange possibility. In general, Cubans did not use the descriptive categories of homosexual and lesbian.

In the late nineteenth century, and after independence from Spain and the establishment of a republic in the early twentieth century, an incipient community developed in Havana. Sources indicate that social networks based on desire emerged in the capital, but not in other parts of the island. Homosexual interactions also overlapped with prostitution, and the center of this community's social life was concentrated in the area of the city known as Old Havana.

Homosexuality in the Context of the Cuban Revolution

In the process of building a new society in the aftermath of the 1959 Cuban Revolution, one of the model figures presented, promoted, and theorized by Ché Guevara was the idea of the "New Man." Homosexuals were excluded from this idealized masculine revolutionary being.

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Cuba and neighboring countries in 2004.
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