Over a thousand LGBT Cubans marched through Havana for 8th Annual March Against Homophobia and Transphobia last week.
Though same-sex marriage is still illegal in the country, Cuban president Raul Castro’s daughter, Mariela, held a ceremony for 20 couples to exchange vows in a “Celebration of Love.”
Mariela, who heads Cuba’s Center for Sex Education, has been pushing the country to legalize gay rights.
Though the “Celebration of Love” was not a wedding, it was inspired by a mass wedding with over 100 couples at the World Pride event in Toronto last year.
“Our family accepts us but society doesn’t,” Raul Orta, who took the vows with his partner of 13 years, said. “If one of us is no longer here tomorrow, the other one loses everything. That’s not right.”
Raiza Marmol, who exchanged vows with her partner of two years, said a celebration like this is unimaginable in the interior of the country.
“It’s a unique event and surprising for gays who can show their faces without having to hide from anyone,” she said.
After Fidel Castro came into power in the 1959 Cuban Revolution, homosexuals were persecuted and sent to labor camps. Many neighboring Latin America countries have realized same-sex marriage, but Cuba isn’t quite there.
“It’s not important for us to be first,” Mariela said. “It’s important to get there.”