The CENESEX itself received us at first with a lot of hesitation. I was nervous upon arrival because I knew that the secretary would tell me that there was no one to receive us. This is what originally happened, but quickly after the editor of the magazine they publish called Sexología y Sociedad came out and gave us half an hour of his time. He gave us copies of several pamphlets that they had published and talked to us about what they do there. Overall, it was a very informative session and cleared up some misconceptions I had about what the CENESEX is. For example, I thought they were a center that gave consultations to individuals that come in with questions or looking for guidance about their sexuality or their gender. However, the center is much more focused on education and on creating social campaigns. In general, I noticed that sexuality and gender at times can be conflated and potentially are not viewed as separate as they are in the U.S.
The man we talked to works at the CENESEX publishing house. He told me that he was not a researcher or expert on sexuality issues but that he could give me his opinion and personal perspective as a citizen. I asked about gender violence, specifically towards women. Ingrid had already warned us about it and during these days I noticed that many times women receive compliments and lascivious glances when they walk down the street. This is common in Mexico and fosters a violent environment in which serious crimes, such as rapes and femicides, are normalized. He told us “The revolution has not solved everything, it is a process.” He mentioned that Cuban girls are bothered by these verbal aggressions and of course they exist in cases of domestic violence. But unlike other Latin American countries, no physical violence continues. He told me that CENESEX is working to eradicate that problem.
In addition we discussed human trafficking. He told us, sadly, that there are still cases in which Cuban girls end up as victims of trafficking by being deceived by foreigners who promise them a better life outside the island.
In the afternoon, we talk to Javier, a journalist from CENESEX (National Center for Sexuality Studies). The conversation taught me many interesting facts, including about the issues of homosexuality and prostitution in Cuba that we continuously studied in class through films such as Tres Tristes Tigres and Soy Cuba. He explained that both actions are not illegal in the country, but there is still a stigma among Cubans, such as discrimination or the neglect of families or friends. I still had hope because these themes are still produced in art like we saw during the week in Cuba.
After a bit of conversation, and clarifying that above all we only wanted information about the function and perhaps a few pamphlets, a very kind man gave us about 5 booklets each and spoke to us for an hour or more. He was a journalist, and worked on the publication of materials for CENESEX. He said that CENESEX focuses on sex education, sexology, and human health. It is mostly an educational center, so they don’t give guidance or advice, but occasionally they will help people find the right resources. In addition, I think he said that sometimes professors from the Center act as witnesses in tribunals when, for example, someone is kicked out of their home for being gay. In addition to offering education to the people, where they educate about 15,000 – 20,000 people a year, CENESEX offers a master’s degree to train educators. The master’s degree is part of the Faculty of Medical Sciences, but students don’t need to have medical training. The center has about 55 employees and about 33 master’s students. We also asked about specific issues, such as gender violence and prostitution, and he talked about how the state doesn’t see sex work as “work” and although it is not prohibited, it is not protected like other types of work. This idea seems similar to how they interpret censorship – that in a socialist state where many things are able to exist because the government supports them, a work of art or a job does not have to be illegal to be censored by default.
I initially thought that they gave advice to individuals, but this organization is to give information about sexuality. We had an interesting conversation with a journalist, who mentioned that many of the transsexual people felt insecure due to the lack of acceptance of society. So although the revolution made many changes, even the journalist said that the revolution could not change everything.