New Pride Events In The Caribbean Reflect Acceptance And Visibility

Will Pride overcome prejudice in the Caribbean? With more new events each year, the outlook seems bright.

The Caribbean is a perennial hotspot for vacationers who seek tropical climes, pristine beaches, and relaxed, island culture. However, LGBT travelers seeking sunny skies and a warm welcome might find themselves left out in the cold on some islands.

Of the 28 island nations that inhabit the Caribbean, nine currently criminalize same-sex sexual relations, particularly between men. In Jamaica, homophobia had become so pervasive that a 2006 Time magazine article questioned if it were “The Most Homophobic Place on Earth?”, a mantle it has not entirely been able to shed despite a follow up piece in 2015 remarking on the country’s improvements.

Of course, there are some havens friendly to LGBT travelers. In most cases, these bright spots are former commonwealths or current territories of the U.S., the U.K., France, or the Netherlands. St. Barthélemy (a.k.a. St. Barts), the U.S. Virgin Islands, and St. Martin/St. Maarten are all welcoming destinations.

That does not always translate to progressive attitudes toward the island’s own citizens, however. Catholicism has a strong foothold in the Caribbean with nearly 60% of the region’s population identifying with the Church. Same-sex marriage, adoption rights, and protections from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity are rare, only occurring in territories and commonwealths where required by law.

Despite all this, attitudes may be shifting, perhaps evidenced by a handful of Pride events starting to appear on the more populated islands.

For instance, CHIC Punta Cana, a resort located on Uvero Alto beach in the Dominican Republic, has announced its plans to host Caribbean Pride, September 16-23. They have already enlisted Toronto’s “Female Delusionist,” Miss Conception (above), and New York DJ, Johnny Dynell have already been confirmed to perform.

“We are proud to join in the annual pride celebrations that take place all around the world,” said Managing Director of Blue Diamond Resorts, Jordi Pelfort, in a statement. “It’s the perfect time for us to show the global LGBT community we’re standing alongside them, and we want to give everyone a welcoming and inclusive experience.”

Last month, Havana celebrated its fourth annual Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO). The two-week event headlined by Cuban superstar, singer Haila Mompie, included symposiums, lectures, films, art exhibits, and live theatre.

The Cuban government’s relatively progressive stance on LGBT issues are due, in large part, to activist Mariela Castro-Espin. A straight ally, Castro-Espin is daughter of President Raul Castro (and niece of Fidel Castro) and has been the director of the Cuban National Center for Sex Education (CENESEX) in Havana, which has led the charge on campaigning for LGBT rights and HIV prevention. HBO recently produced the documentary, Mariela Castro’s March: Cuba’s LGBT Revolution (above), about her.

Photo by David Gasser/LatinContent/Getty Images

PRIDE Puerto Rico, will take place in San Juan on June 25, starting at 11:00 a.m. The march originates in Parque del Indio in the Condado area and proceeds to Parque del Tercer Milenio at the entrance of Old San Juan. Vanessa Fox, Sofia Loreins, and Bam Bam Le Blanc, among others, are scheduled to perform.

Curaçao, an island nation located 30 miles off the coast of Venezuela, held its historic first Pride event last year. Its sophomore outing is scheduled to take place September 28-October 1 with events that include the Navigaytion Sea Parade and a Pride Beach Party.

Bryan van Gorder usually writes about the places he's been or the famous people forced to talk to him.