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Oye Loca

Oye Loca: From the Mariel Boatlift to Gay Cuban Miami

Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 280
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  • Book Info
    Oye Loca
    Book Description:

    During only a few months in 1980, 125,000 Cubans entered the United States as part of a massive migration known as the Mariel boatlift. The images of boats of all sizes, in various conditions, filled with Cubans of all colors and ages, triggered a media storm. Fleeing Cuba's repressive government, many homosexual men and women arrived in the United States only to face further obstacles. Deemed "undesirables" by the U.S. media, the Cuban state, and Cuban Americans already living in Miami, these new entrants marked a turning point in Miami's Cuban American and gay histories. In Oye Loca, Susana Peña investigates a moment of cultural collision. Drawing from first-person stories of Cuban Americans as well as government documents and cultural texts from both the United States and Cuba, Peña reveals how these discussions both sensationalized and silenced the gay presence, giving way to a Cuban American gay culture. Through an examination of the diverse lives of Cuban and Cuban American gay men, we learn that Miami's gay culture was far from homogeneous. By way of in-depth interviews, participant observation, and archival analysis, Peña shows that the men who crowded into small apartments together, bleached their hair with peroxide, wore housedresses in the street, and endured ruthless insults challenged what it meant to be Cuban in Miami. Making a critical incision through the study of heteronormativity, homosexualities, and racialization, ultimately Oye Loca illustrates how a single historical event helped shape the formation of an entire ethnic and sexual landscape.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8667-4
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xxx)

    The 1980 Mariel boatlift was a turning point in Miami’s Cuban American and gay histories. During just a few months, approximately 125,000 Cubans entered the United States in a massive and highly publicized migration that garnered national and international media attention. Among them were many homosexual men and women who migrated partly as a response to a particularly repressive era in Cuba in relation to homosexuality.

    During a period of tense U.S.—Cuban relations and at the beginning of a U.S. presidential election year, a Cuban bus driver drove his bus full of passengers into the Peruvian embassy in Havana....

  4. 1 FROM UMAPs TO SAVE OUR CHILDREN: Policing Homosexuality in Cuba and Miami before 1980
    (pp. 1-24)

    By the time the Mariel boatlift began in 1980, male homosexuality was already political center stage in both Cuba and Miami. In Cuba during the late 1960s and early 1970s, male homosexuality and the gender–transgressive practices associated with it became the target of a state seeking to define itself and its citizenry. Male homosexuality was seen as a threat to the new communist nation, a vestige of American capitalism, and an entity truly foreign to the Cuban national project. An oppressive set of state policies, enforcement practices, and political discourses about masculinity, homosexuality, and the nation elevated male homosexuality...

  5. 2 OBVIOUS GAYS AND THE STATE GAZE: Gay Visibility and Immigration Policy during the Mariel Boatlift
    (pp. 25-58)

    On the day Armando went to the police station to ask for permission to leave Cuba, he wore the gayest outfit he could find. Having been dissuaded from being a teacher because he was so “obvious,” Armando had experienced firsthand how a visible gay man’s life might be limited in Cuba. Although spared the more intense forms of repression faced by others of his generation, Armando was determined to see if the tumultuous events in Cuba during the summer of 1980—events that would come to be known as the Mariel boatlift—would really culminate in the promise of exile....

    (pp. 59-76)

    In many ways, 1980 was a year of urban anxiety that marked a transformation in Miami’s urban, racial, and sexual landscapes. Cuban Americans who had immigrated prior to 1980 were fearful that the Mariel immigrants, often referred to derogatorily as Marielitos, would tarnish their reputations as “golden exiles.” African Americans and other non-Latino black Miamians worried that their opportunities in a declining economic situation were diminished by more Latino immigrants. Anglo Americans feared that the city’s culture would never be the same, that Miami would be forever Latinized. Anita Bryant and her followers must have been equally horrified by the...

  7. 4 PÁJARATION AND TRANSCULTURATION: Language and Meaning in Gay Cuban Miami
    (pp. 77-94)

    The gay Mariel migration is one of many migrations that contributed to (gay) Miami in the 1990s. Other migrations from Cuba prior to Mariel (“Golden Exiles”) and post-Mariel (“los balseros”), as well as migrations from other parts of Latin America and the Caribbean, contributed to a transcultural and diverse gay culture in this U.S. city. In this chapter and those that follow, I analyze the Cuban American gay cultures that emerged in transcultural Miami since the 1990s. As a hub of globalized labor, cultural projects, information, and capital, Miami is a site of multilingual gay cultures historically linked to U.S....

    (pp. 95-116)

    In chapters 1 and 2, I trace how the emerging Cuban state created a narrative of a masculine nation by contrasting it with the assumed weakness, unproductiveness, and effeminacy of male homosexuals. In much the way revolutionary Cuban narratives discredited bourgeois capitalism by associating it with gay male subcultures, mainstream exile narratives discredited communism by asserting its relationship to male homosexuality and gender transgressions. Flavio Risech describes the first time he encountered a representation of a homosexual. The Cuban American exile publication, Zig Zag, featured a

    limp–wristed Raúl Castro dressed in fatigues, high heels and a ponytail. . ....

    (pp. 117-132)

    When Rubén was twelve years old, he told his family he liked boys and not girls. He had heard his parents talk about their love of freedom, a freedom they lost in Cuba and had found again in the land of opportunity. They talked about freedom of speech and the freedom to make one’s own choices. Thus twelve-year-old Rubén did not censor himself when proclaiming his attraction for the same sex. He explained: “When I was twelve, I just told everybody I was gay. I don’t even know if I knew ‘gay’ or ‘homosexual,’ I just knew what I was.”...

  10. 7 LOCAS, PAPIS, AND MUSCLE QUEENS: Racialized Discourses of Masculinity and Desire
    (pp. 133-156)

    Luis was a masculine-identified, twenty-seven-year-old Cuban American gay man who grew up in South Beach in the 1970s and 1980s. Even though from early childhood he was aware of his own sexuality and engaged in sexual play with other boys, Luis did not begin to understand himself as gay until he was a high school student. However, even during childhood, he felt that the expectations of masculine performance were being imposed on him. Raised by a single mother, Luis indicated that even before he was born, his mother’s friends worried about the absence of a father figure and warned her...

  11. 8 ¡OYE LOCA! Gay Cuba in Drag
    (pp. 157-176)

    I began this book by discussing the early decades of the Cuban Revolution. During the 1960s and 1970s, the Cuban state identified gender transgressions as a threat to the new virile subject imagined to be the protagonist of a new socialist society, namely el Hombre Nuevo (the New Man). In this chapter, I focus on alternative protagonists. If el Hombre Nuevo wore military fatigues and smoked a cigar, my protagonists preferred sequins and fierce pairs of high heels. If the soundtrack to the New Man’s story might be one of Fidel Castro’s famous speeches, my protagonists preferred another form of...

    (pp. 177-182)

    This book begins and ends with highly visible forms of gender transgression associated with Cuban male homosexuality. As stated earlier, the locas who came to the United States as part of the Mariel boatlift were the original inspiration for this project. Likewise, the locas whom I discuss in chapter 8 were important cultural interlocutors that complicated my research questions and shaped my understanding of Cuban American gay culture. Whereas I hope to center these highly visible Cuban American gay social actors, my project also highlights the erasure and reinvention of gender transgressions.

    My goal is to complicate our analysis of...

    (pp. 183-186)
  14. NOTES
    (pp. 187-220)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 221-224)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 225-225)