Around 2005 we initiated a nationwide AIDS poster contest organized by the Cuban National Center for Sex Education (CENESEX).

This photo shows Mariela Castro who is the daughter of Raoul and the nice of Fidel Castro. She is the head of the center.

I had found some exciting underpants by Bruno Banani with Cuban revolution graffiti and poster portraits of Che Guevara and Fidel on them. On the table are three pairs of them in XL and XXL for Mariela’s husband, father and uncle, among other welcome gifts. For the occasion of this visit I had designed a couple of Aids prevention posters myself with Mariela’s face montaged on the famous photo ‘Entrada triunfal en La Habana’ in 1959, now with a condom in the victor’s hand. Our interpreter was afraid this could be perceived as sacrilegious and he turned pale when translating my suggestion that it was time for a dynastic handover of power from the grumpy old men to charming Mariela.

All this nonsense just helped to break the little ice there was and she started relating anecdotes from inside the Castro clan, which even her assistant obviously hadn’t heard of. Apparently when Fidel wanted to groom his niece’s acting skills into a political career by first employing her in his office, it took some words of protection from her mother Vilma Espin, because young Mariela at that time enjoyed a theater role as an extra, clambering topless out of a barrel on stage.

Since 2013 however Mariela Castro is a sitting member of the National Assembly of People’s Power. When the assembly voted in 2014 to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in employment, Castro opposed the legislation because it did not also include protection on the basis of gender identity, and became possibly the first legislator in the body’s history ever to vote against a piece of legislation.

It was also only much later that I learnt there had been apparently 638 attempts to assassinate Fidel. His security would have probably laughed off our silly attempt of trying to get him by his own vanity with Bruno Banani pants, laced with contact poison.
At the time, a popular joke in Cuba went:   ‘When being given a present of a Galapagos turtle, Castro declines it after he learns that it is likely to live only 100 years. “That’s the problem with pets”, he says.”You get attached to them and then they die on you”.