Today, the Paseo del Prado runs between the historic town full of tourists and that other part of the overpopulated and dysfunctional city that is Central Havana. The lion sculptures on each corner show the nobility of old, the former dream of grandeur that caressed the nation at the beginning of the twentieth century. Although the park lived through times of outright neglect–perhaps for having been conceived and built during the Republic–some years ago the Prado underwent a process of restoration that improved the tree cover and repaired some lampposts. But not even in the most neglected times did its bronze felines cease to be an obligatory reference for those who came from the provinces and wanted to bring back a photo of their stay in the capital. Perhaps it is precisely this history of splendor and neglect that has made the Paseo del Prado the chosen site to celebrate Gay Pride Day in Cuba. A community degraded, for decades trapped between a machismo culture and the repressive politics of the State, wants to take to the streets on June 28 at three in the afternoon. The call has been launched by an alternative group that protects the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.
It’s worth noting that in recent years Cuba has advanced with respect to differences in sexual orientation, but from there to permitting the Cuban LGBT community to spontaneously join together and take to the streets to celebrate its diversity is a long stretch. Until now, the campaigns to accept plurality in the choice of whom to love have been kept within the hands of official institutions, without letting those whose interests are represented represent themselves. This, of course, characterizes the broad inability of free association suffered by our society at all levels.
In a gesture of celebration and joy, the promoters of the Gay Pride Day celebration have spread the invitation for weeks. Having chosen the Paseo del Prado as a site for the event benefits and protects them, because the tourists with their restless cameras, curious children frolicking on all sides, the unsuspecting lovebirds embracing on the benches, will be witnesses to this parade of diversity. And the lions, ah, the lions! They will have their moment of glory once again, among brightly colored flags, streamers, and handshakes. The claws and manes cast in the bronze of a past war will seem less aggressive, with a lower dose of testosterone, and with a bit more of the sparkle of life.