Read the original report in Spanish here.
Rafael Surí, an important Cuban LGBTQ+ activist has died from illness at the age of only 31.
According to the most recent reports from Cuba, “Rafa was facing a difficult health situation that had become complicated in the last 3 months; therefore he was admitted to the Pedro Kourí Institute of Tropical Medicine (IPK) to undergo a thorough investigation that would result in a diagnosis of his ailment. Unfortunately, time was not in his favor, and he died on the night of March 29.”
Reactions from the CENESEX network and the LGBTQ community were fast coming, with “Activists and friends paying tribute by sharing photos in his company and reaffirming the commitment to continue the work he defended in life.”
Rafa, as he was affectionately known, began his life as an activist very young in his home province of Placeteño. Along with other activists in the Cenesex network, he helped create the movement that is currently fighting for legal equality and recognition for the LGBTQ+ community in Cuba.
It is a movement that has grown substantially and is revolutionizing the place of LGBTQ people in Cuba after years of isolation and mistreatment, something Fidel Castro called a “great injustice” in his autobiography My Life. Every year, CENESEX holds the Cuban Days Against Homophobia and Transphobia, a festival of marches and events across the country, aimed at building the movement for marriage and legal equality for all LGBTQ people. While the constitutional amendment to legalize gay marriage introduced by Castro Espin was ultimately scrapped, a blow to the movement, sex reassignment surgeries are covered under Cuba’s outstanding national healthcare service, a transgender woman sits on the National Assembly of People’s Power, and Cuba has strong codes against discrimination based on sexual orientation. The new constitution also includes, due to the advocacy of Castro Espin and activists like Rafa, stronger language against discrimination based on gender identity.
Mariela Castro Espín said the following on Rafael Surí’s death:
“It was with great sadness that I learned of the death of Rafael Surí, a young activist from the Community Social Networks linked to CENESEX. We will never forget that emotional encounter with mothers and LGBTQI people during the tenth Cuban Days against Homophobia and Transphobia, in his beloved Placetas. In each one of our achievements he will be present, because the efforts of each activist enhance the collective work we are forging. The family has my sincere condolences.”
While Rafael Surí’s death is a significant blow to the CENESEX network, the robustness of the movement he helped create, that centers itself around community support, sexual education, and material aid, assures his work will continue, and gives LGBTQ activists around the world an example to follow.