Santa Clara: Che Guevara’s city but also Cuba’s gay haven

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A report from the Agence France Presse.

Jose Augustin Hernandez is a 53-year-old local government official in Cuba— who is transgender, sports a flamboyant pink wig and goes by the name Adela. Hernandez works in Caibarien, a town close to Santa Clara—a city synonymous with revolutionary icon Che Guevara but also Cuba’s most LGBT-friendly town.

“I’m more revolutionary than gay,” says Hernandez, who has photos of both her boyfriend and the famous Argentine guerrilla on the wall behind her. “And look, no one is more gay than me,because I was born gay.”

Sixty years ago, Santa Clara is where Guevara derailed one of US-backed Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista’s military trains during the guerrilla resistance, and the city adopted him as one of its own. His remains and those of some of his Bolivian comrades in arms are buried there.

Santa Clara is located just 30km from Placetas, the birthplace of current Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel, who took over from Raul Castro in April.

Over the last few decades, the surrounding Villa Clara province has developed into a haven for the LGBT community.

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Santa Clara is home to a gayfriendly hotel and the El Menjuje cultural centre, which has put on drag queen shows since 1984, when homophobia was rampant in the Caribbean island nation.

The city of 200,000 people has been at the forefront of the push to legalise gay marriage in Cuba, something that will be put to a referendum in February as part of a new constitution.

“Santa Clara is something else—nothing is strange or surprising here because anything can happen,” said Ramon Silverio, the 69-year-old founder of El Mejunje.

Built on the ruins of a hotel, El Mejunje offers young artists a theatre, concert hall and dance space where they can show off their talents. The entrance fee is five pesos ($0.20).

“My idea was to have a space for everyon ..

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