US drag queen makes history performing in Cuba

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

Former RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant Mimi Imfurst has became the first American drag queen to perform in Cuba, as relations develop between the two countries.

A strict trade embargo of Cuba spanning more than 50 years has generally prevented US artists from performing in Havana, but President Obama relaxed the measures in 2015 for the first time.

Taking advantage of the friendlier relations, drag queen Mimi Imfurst became the first to perform a show in the country, performing on  New Years Eve with help from local LGBT groups.

The culture gap was apparent from the start – with the local dancers taking part in the show having never heard Madonna’s ‘Express Yourself’ before.

However, the performers overcame the cultural and language gap for a groundbreaking performance “in hopes that it will inspire American and Cuban relations to continue to improve”.

Mimi Imfurst, real name Braden Chapman, explained: “The moment was overwhelming, the idea that we can come together to create a piece of art- to come together- to express ourselves and encourage others to think about the possibilities that lay before us when we try to bridge the divides that stand between us.

“My trip to Cuba was life changing. I got to experience the rich history and culture of Cuba by living in their houses and spending the week disconnecting from the outside world. More importantly the Cuban people are incredible.

“They have fought through a strict embargo and have thrived with nothing more than the tenacity of the human spirit.

“That is inspiring for us all and at the end of the day, that is what will always win.”

Homosexuality has been legal in Cuba since 1979, but there was little progress on the issue under former President Fidel Castro – who oversaw the persecution of gay men early in his rule.

However, in recent years the country has seen a growing pro-LGBT movement as Cuba begins to look outwards towards the rest of the world – though there are still little anti-discrimination protections for LGBT people and no partnership rights for same-sex couples.

Mariela Castro, the daughter of current President Raúl Castro, has been a loud supporter of LGBT rights.