Nuria López Torres’ photo essay, “Sex and Revolution in Cuba,” captures the faces of the LGBTQ+ community in Cuba.
By Carolina Romero
We would never come to believe that a homosexual could embody the conditions and requirements of conduct that would enable us to consider him a true Revolutionary, a true Communist militant. A deviation of that nature clashes with the concept we have of what a militant Communist must be. -Fidel Castro (1965)-
The Cuban Revolution was an extremely homophobic movement. So much so, that members of the LGBTQ+ community were sentenced to forced labor at farms and fields or even forced to join the army (where they were treated violently) to “rehabilitate” them from their “condition.” The official reason: they were counter-revolutionaries.
After decades of enduring a violent treatment, the LGBTQ+ community in Cuba has finally started to get what they’ve historically lacked: dignity and respect. In 2010, Castro declared in an interview for Mexican newspaper La Jornada that the Revolution had indeed brought a series of repressive measures against the community and finally accepted his part in the matter:
“If anyone is responsible (for the persecution), it’s me.”
Fortunately, with the passing of time, things have changed. Being a gay person in Cuba isn’t a crime anymore, and though discrimination is still prevalent, as is the case in many Latin American countries, the community has worked tirelessly to claim the respect they deserve by right.
"Sex and Revolution in Cuba" is a photo essay by Nuria López Torres where she documents the everyday life of the LGBTQ+ community in the country. For three years, she captured the faces and bodies of Cubans demanding the right to be happy and properly treated.
“This photo essay is an intimate portrait of the reality and everyday life of homosexuals in Cuba, from different socioeconomic classes, through a thorough investigation on the impact that these social policies have had on the LGBTI community.”
One of the protagonists of these stories shared her experience as a gay person right in the process of transformation of the country when Castro arrived. Her voice, could be the voice of any of the subjects portrayed. They’re all human beings, with a story, with a family, with fears, but more importantly, with a huge will to live and enjoy themselves and their country.
“One of my biggest wishes as a person is to be happy, and to be happy with everything I have at my reach even if I have to fight for it.”
“In my relationships, with my family, and my activism as well, I’d love to contribute at least a bit to something bigger. I don’t like being passive and feeling I’m not helping people understand that the only thing we want is to be happy, and that diversity is a natural part of human sexuality. We have to learn how to live and make society understand that human rights are sacred no matter what.”
“The right I have to express myself freely regardless my sexual orientation or gender identity, must be respected at all cost.”
If there’s a photographer who has dealt with the subject of gender with sensitivity and depth, it's López Torres. Born in Barcelona, her photo projects have reached the world though several exhibitions. From the London Photo Festival, the Harcore Art Gallery in Miami, the Academia de San Carlos, and the Museo MAC Inirapuera in São Paulo, she’s been everywhere. Her photos have also been published in some of the most important media outlets in the world like The Guardian, Le Monde, El País, CNN, and The Caravan.
Her area of expertise is identity, violence, and sexuality. As López Torres explains on her website, she tackles these subjects from an anthropological perspective. You just need to contemplate her photos to realize they’re not only narrating a truth, but also analyzing the role each of the individuals have in a society that has historically fought against them.
What are they thinking? What were they talking right before the photo? No matter the answer, what the spectator gets is a human connection from individuals like themselves who love, who have fears, who dream, who are working to get a better life, just like everybody else.
This photographic essay shows a more intimate side of the other Cuba, the one that was silenced for decades and that today is being reborn from that oppression to demand the world respect not only for them but for everybody.
Translated by María Isabel Carrasco Cara Chards
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