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3.0 out of 5 stars Disingenuous apology for Castro's persecution of homosexuals, June 19, 2001
This review is from: Machos Maricones & Gays: Cuba and Homosexuality (Paperback)
Lumsden, a gay Canadian political scientist who grew up in Argentina and finds North American homosexuality alienatingly "regulated and commodified" visited Cuba regularly from1965 until the book's 1995 publication. He does not seem to have systematically gathered data on sexual behavior (or, indeed, anything else), but provides his impressions and value judgments based on conversations he has had with some Cubans and reading about Cuba. From the perspective of a long-time apologist for the regime who is troubled by its continued suppression of any civil society or culture outside direct supervision by the state, he writes about changes over time in official attempts to eliminate or control homosexuality and about popular attitudes about male homosexuality and gender.

As Cuba became a dependent neo-colony within the Soviet Empire, focus on growing more of a single crop (sugar cane) for export intensified. Rounding up "anti-social deviants" provided cheap labor for state-run sugar plantations, isolated rebels (sexual and other kinds), and was rationalized as therapeutic, in the same way as sending Chinese urban intellectuals to till fields was supposed to redeem them during the Cultural Revolution. After the involuntary Military Units to Aid Production (UMAP) camps were closed, homosexuals continued to be banned from many occupations.

Lumsden does not mention the practice of a variant of aversion therapy used on effeminate boys . He also fails to note the continuity in assumptions, rationales, and administration of the UMAP concentration camps and the "sidatoria" to which persons testing positive for HIV antibodies were involuntarily removed, starting in 1986. Both kinds of concentration camps were initially run by the army. Both were premised on removing potential contagion. Despite the difficulties of life outside, since confiable (trustworthy) inmates were allowed to move out in 1994, none have chosen to return even to the showplace-sidatorium. This shows that freedom from paternalistic control is important to Cubans, not only to those in more individualistic societies.

With the collapse of its patron, the USSR, and the concomitant loss of market and loss of subsidies, the Cuban economy all but collapsed. Foreign tourism, has been actively sought, and concessions have been made to sex tourism. Prostitution has revived. Hard-currency gay discos have been tolerated. And the interest in the immensely popular film "Fresa y chocolate" has demonstrated that the Cuban people's intolerance of homosexuals (even effeminate ones) has been exaggerated in claims by Castro and his subordinates that the people would not accept representations of homosexuality as tolerable.

This book is much better written than Lumsden's (1991) book on Mexico, but similarly deficient in recognition of empirical work on Latin American homosexualities.

Although Lumsden recurrently produces special pleading (writing that the object of this or that repression was "not homosexuality per se"), he is certainly right to note that the records of the other states in the Western hemisphere for permitting positive representations of homosexuality, providing realistic HIV-prevention education, and caring for persons with AIDS have been inadequate, and also that there have been changes in Cuban policies. Indeed, something of a sexual revolution seems to have occurred, despite the puritanism of a typically Stalinist state apparatus.
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