I was almost to my casa particular, the Cuban home I was staying at while in Trinidad.
I went out. Listen to Cuban music and watch beautiful Cuban men flirt with white foreigners.
I even had a drink, although I nursed it for an hour and did not finish it.
But the point remained, I went out for my 30th birthday.
As I approached the street my casa particular was on. I saw Andres. Andres hair was in a long ponytail and they wore a short dress showing off their legs. I had been on an unofficial search for queer people in Cuba.
I had not seen many in Havana and when I did I was not in a place where I could approach them. But here alone at 10:30pm on an empty street in Trinidad, I ventured to speak.
Andres walked past me and I turned around and stop them. My Spanish was not helped by the nervousness that is accompanied by stopping a stranger and assuming them queer. I am from the U.S. it is not always safe for people that are perceived as masculine to express femininity in clothing and in acts.
“Hola. Yo estoy in Cuba para tres dias, no mirrar mucho gente de diferente. Pero tu. Tu es muy bonita. Como se illama?”
That was me shooting my shot. It worked. Andres then responded to me in English. They asked me where I was going and told me that it was too early to go back home. There were many parties in Trinidad, they invited me to join. As we walked back to the party era we met up with one of Andres friends. He was a young cutie who later told me that he was 19. As we walked Andres asked me was I gay? Andres seemed determined to find me a Cuban girlfriend. We return to the House of Music, the venue I had just left. Andres introduced me to all the queer folks there. The crowd had grown since I left.
I was struck by how popular Andres was as we walked through the city. Everyone greeted Andres. I did not apprehend mean looks or stares. Andres took me to 3 clubs. Reminding me to stay quiet as he paid (with my money). Cubans paid less than foreigners and I look Cuban. I just do not sound Cuban. Pero mi Buenos Dias es muy perfecto. Hence, I saved money.
At the end of the night Andres and the friend. Walked me back to my casa and we made plans to meet the next day to go to the beach.
I am Black and Queer.
Consequently I seek out other Black, Brown and Queer Folks.
I tend to travel to countries where the majority of the population is Black or Brown.
I have not cared enough to travel to Europe. I can stay in the US and see white folks in power.
Over the past 4 months, I have traveled to Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Bahamas and Cuba. Without a doubt Cuba appears to be the most hospitable place for queer folk.
I ask the 19 year old was it easy being gay in Cuba.
Si, es muy facil.
But easy is relative. His 19 years looked and felt very different from Andres 33 years. Cuba is complicated in ways my Black American self will never understand. The next day at the beach Andres told me more about their life and what it meant to be queer in Cuba. I was reminded that life for queer people of color is rarely a crystal stairs.
My time in Cuba forced me search beneath the surface and remember that things are rarely as they appear to be. In this next decade, I plan to be more intentional about taking time to listen to other’s stories.
Also Andres is also a Capricorn, the best sign out there