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Oye Loca

From the Mariel Boatlift to Gay Cuban Miami

Susana Peña

Publication Year: 2013

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.

Published by: University of Minnesota Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xxx

...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...

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1. From UMAPs to Save Our Children: Policing Homosexuality in Cuba and Miami before 1980

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pp. 1-24

...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...

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2. Obvious Gays and the State Gaze: Gay Visibility and Immigration Policy during the Mariel Boatlift

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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...

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3. Cultures of Gay Visibility and Renarrating Mariel

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pp. 59-76

...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...

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4. Pájaration and Transculturation: Language and Meaning in Gay Cuban Miami

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pp. 77-94

...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...

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5. Narratives of Nation and Sexual Identity: Remembering Cuba

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pp. 95-116

...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...

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6. Families, Disclosure, and Visibility

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pp. 117-132

...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...

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7. Locas, Papis, and Muscle Queens: Racialized Discourses of Masculinity and Desire

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pp. 133-156

...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...

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8. ¡Oye Loca! Gay Cuba in Drag

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pp. 157-176

...developed characters or personas explicitly marked as Cuban. In addition to lip-synching, the performers highlighted in this chapter also host theme nights, work as emcees at various events, and perform a particular brand of stand-up comedy. Some notable examples of this type...

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pp. 177-182

...My goal is to complicate our analysis of the politics of visibility as it relates to racialized and queer cultures. As I document throughout this manuscript, visibility played a key role in both the control of and empowerment of Cuban homosexual male populations. In Cuba before the Mariel boatlift, Cuban state authorities identified visible...

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pp. 183-186

...study and generously agreed to share their lives with me. This book would not have been possible without their support, their stories, and their time. Although I cannot identify these men by name because of promises of confidentiality, I hope that if they read this text they can sense my appreciation and the respect I have for them...


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pp. 187-220


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pp. 221-225

E-ISBN-13: 9780816686674
E-ISBN-10: 081668667X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816665549

Page Count: 280
Publication Year: 2013