Growing up in Santa Clara, a city in the center of Cuba known for its bohemian lifestyle and for being one of the more progressive communities in the country, Susana Hernández Martín spent a lot of time at El Mejunje, a LGBT cultural center. There she enjoyed drag shows and interacted often with people with different sexual orientations and gender identities.
I grew up convinced that diversity was just an expression of humanity and that every person is precious and a unique work of nature. I realized the infinite possibilities of a free spirit.
Susana Hernández Martín, Airbnb Experience Host
She felt lucky to had grown up in such an accepting and safe place and three years ago, decided to move to Havana, Cuba, to work as a journalist and community manager for the National Center for Sex Education (CENESEX), a government-funded institution that advocates for the LGBTQ community and has organized the Cuban Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, Cuba’s version of Pride, for over 11 years.
After CENESEX, she began hosting Into Queer Havana to share a different dimension of Cuba with travelers, one they may not expect or have heard about. Guests begin the night at a LGBTQ-friendly club, learn about the relatively new LGBTQ movement in Cuba, and go backstage to meet the drag queens performing at the show that night.
Here she hopes her guests will take the opportunity to share their life experiences, learn from others, and discuss their struggles and their dreams.
“Some people come looking for a fun night, to meet drag queens backstage, or to try something different from what they normally do. But almost everyone takes something from their experience: the deep satisfaction of connecting with others and being open to sharing their stories of resilience.”
The advocacy for the LGBTQ community in Cuba is growing; you can now see positive stories about the community in press and the wellbeing and safety of the community in general has improved drastically in the last decade.
In fact, this past May 17, the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, hundreds of Cubans gathered to dance a conga.
“That day, we enjoyed the wonderful sight of Cuba and the rainbow flag flying together and people dancing proudly through the streets of Havana.”
And if you’re visiting, don’t worry if you haven’t danced the conga before.
“It’s a simple and popular rhythm that even the worst dancer can perform, and frankly, I don’t know many people who can’t or don’t like to dance conga.”
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