After the Cuban government canceled one of the Caribbean island nation’s annual LGBTQ+ celebrations, local activists organized an unauthorized march all their own.
Last week, the state-run National Center for Sex Education, or CENESEX, announced that it had suspended La Conga Contra la Homofobia y la Transfobia, (or, the Cuban Conga Against Homophobia and Transphobia). CENSEX director Mariela Castro — the generally pro-LGBTQ+ daughter of Raúl Castro, the First Secretary of the country’s Communist Party — released a statement at the time, saying that groups were planning to use the event to undermine Cuba’s government, Reuters reports, though many queer locals suspected that evangelical lobbyists had influenced the decision.
In response, Cuban LGBTQ+ activists organized an unauthorized demonstration through social media, BBC News reports. Thanks to their organizing efforts, hundreds of rainbow-clad revelers were able to take the streets of Havana on Saturday, although the participants were eventually stopped by security officers and plainclothes policemen and at least three of them were arrested.
“This moment marks a before and an after for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community but also for Cuban civil society more generally,” independent journalist and LGBTQ+ activist Maykel Gonzalez Vivero told Reuters. “Social media is playing its role and civil society demonstrated it has strength, and can go out onto the streets if necessary, and from now on the government will have to take that into account.”