5-Star Rainbow Hotel Opens its Doors in Cuba

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Tuesday February 15, 2022

The five-star Gran Muthu Rainbow Hotel — the first gay hotel in Cuba — has opened its doors to tourists, but activists want visitors to the island nation to look deeper into the country's human rights issues, the BBC reported.

"The Rainbow Hotel, described as Cuba's first LGBTQ hotel, reopened in December" after being shuttered for two years due to COVID-19, the article said.

The resort offers "exotic style and comfort in equal measure," its website promises. Its 248 rooms boast "a colorful decoration with stunning views of the pool and the sea, and are furnished with amenities to provide guests a memorable and comfortable stay and relaxation."

With a second hotel catering to LGBTQ+ guests slated to open, Cuba is pursuing the pink dollar, the BBC said. Tourism has slumped across the board and the Cuban economy is hurting.

Efforts to make gay guests feel comfortable and welcome have not gone unnoticed. Canadian tourist Kevin McGarth called Cuba "an oasis in the Caribbean'' thanks to its newfound LGBTQ+ friendliness, and said, "It's nice to be able to be in a place where you feel welcome and encouraged to be yourself."

The message of inclusivity has a slightly aggressive edge to it. McGarth said that guests are required to sign a waiver that states, "tolerance is the only way here," and makes no bones about that tolerance being a condition of lodging at the hotel: "If you're not tolerant of people you'll be asked to leave."

Reuters noted in an article last fall that Cuba has made strides toward LGBTQ+ acceptance and equality, with "the right to free sex reassignment surgery, banned workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and...annual marches against homophobia."

There's even a scheduled referendum on an updated legal code that would be considerably warmer toward same-sex families — possibly even leading to marriage equality not too far down the road.

The specter of Cuba's anti-gay past still lingers, however. Following the revolution that swept Castro to power and saw the nation's embrace of communism, "homosexual men and women were sent to work camps for supposed 're-education,'" the BBC recalled.

Even now, non-governmental Pride events are quelled, dissent quashed, and human rights activists persecuted — to the point that there's been an exodus of human rights advocates from Cuba.

The Muthu Rainbow Hotel itself has direct ties to the authoritarian government, being a "joint venture between Muthu Hotels and Gaviota, Cuba's military-run tourism company," the BBC said. The resort "was placed on a US government list of sanctioned entities in Cuba even before it was inaugurated in 2019."

Activists continue to speak out, and have suggested that the government's courtship of LGBTQ+ visitors pinkwashes the ongoing oppression.

One LGBTQ+ activist, Jancel Moreno, told the BBC that tourists of every sort are "very welcome," but went on to add that he would "invite the hotel guests to investigate a little into the repression we receive as independent activists."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.