Mariela Castro, the 53-year-old daughter of Cuban President Raúl Castro and niece of Fidel Castro, is married, a mother of three, and the unlikely face of Cuba’s LGBT movement. Under the leadership of her uncle, gay men were once sequestered in military camps. Decades later, gay bars and clubs are permitted, laws that criminalized gay people and same-sex displays of affection have been repealed, and since 2008 the state’s socialized medical services have covered sex-reassignment surgery.
Mariela is a member of the Cuban parliament and has served as director of the Cuban National Center for Sex Education (CENESEX) since 2000. She sees her role, she says, as a continuation of the work of her mother, Vilma Espin, a feminist who advanced women’s legal equality as head of the Federation of Cuban Women from its founding in 1960 until her death in 2007. Her father also “supports the personal rights of homosexuals,” says Mariela, but advocates slow reform. Mariela is the subject of a new documentary by Jon Alpert called Mariela Castro’s March: Cuba’s LGBT Revolution, a 47-minute film set to air in June 2016.
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