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Nostalgic For Life Before Grindr? Try Havana.

by Rob Smith June 20, 2016


Gay culture in Havana, Cuba is a respite from the app-obsessed culture of the rest of the world since they’re not really up to the technology, and the gays seem to be more than OK with it.

The New York Times has a fascinating piece on the throwback gay culture of Havana, which seems like something out of NYC circa 1978 – in a good way:

Cuba has up to 4,000 active daily Grindr users, said Jennifer Foley Shields, a publicist for the app. But a recent series of Grindr check-ins here by this reporter revealed, on average, 11 online users in this city of two million (a population roughly equivalent to Houston’s).

Even in a five-star hotel along the Malecón with four-bar Wi-Fi reception, one typical check-in, after several false starts, required 14 minutes to open the app.

The experience is even more uphill for locals, who pay 2 Cuban convertible pesos per hour for internet use. (Cuban salaries, on average, 20 Cuban convertible pesos a month.) Apple users additionally, once their iPhone is unlocked, must pay middlemen to install apps, with several gay Cubans saying they were either too poor or too embarrassed to request an installation of Grindr or its ilk.

Though Grindr founder Joel Simkhai calls Cuba “a growth opportunity in a market dying for Grindr,” the locals don’t seem to be all that enthused about the possibility.

One bi guy has accounts on all the apps, but he seems pretty much over it:

“I’m bisexual, because I prefer the unlimited. Why would anyone — bisexual, gay, whatever — want to be trapped as a photo, as an internet profile in an app? That’s a different kind of closet, a box. So boring.”

His friend Juan Carlos Godoy Torres agrees. He says that he didn’t fight for progress for gay rights in Cuba to be boxed in:

“I prefer the magic of the streets, someone who can trap me with his eyes, who can dance with me, who can touch my face. I want more than sex.”

It seems like the culture in more technologically advanced places is forever changed, but Havana is keeping it old school. Perhaps Havana will become the next great gay tourist destination – as long as the gays keep their iPhones in their hotel rooms.

Rob Smith
Rob Smith


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