On the eve of 1 December 2007, World AIDS Day, singer Joel Guilian, aka Joe, first released a video for the HSH-Cuba (Hombres que Tienen Sexo con Hombres, Men Who Have Sex with Men) Project of the National Center for Prevention of STIs and HIV/AIDS and the Ministry of Public Health in Cuba.
Joe, “Junto a Ti”
Having directed and written scripts for favorite TV shows of young Cubans for 16 years, Joel “Joe” Guilian decided to start a career as a singer. His first success in Cuba came last year with “Libertad desde Mi Tierra,” on which he worked with Omara Portuondo, the diva of the Buena Vista Social Club, and Ricardo Leyva, the director of the Sur Caribe orchestra.
Joe feat Omara Portuondo, “Libertad desde Mi Tierra”
Joe also directs music videos, including ones for his own songs.
In the middle of the year, after HSH-Cuba spoke with several artists whose prejudices held them back from becoming its campaign image for sexual diversity, Joe accepted its proposal because he, being gay, especially felt the importance of the topic. First he presented the song “Junto a Ti,” which he composed with two of his straight friends: Jessee Suárez y Germán Nogueria. “Junto a Ti” is a song inspired by his relationship of over eleven years, six years of which were spent in a long-distance one, as his partner moved to Miami. The song was accepted, and from then on he worked on the script of a music video for it, which he would also direct. Upon the approval of the script, he began to look for individuals who could play his gay characters in the real streets of Havana’s gay quarters. Most heterosexuals in his video are members of the Yoldance Company, who had participated as dancers in the earlier video for “Libertad desde Mi Tierra.”
The concept of the video is that a group of friends decide to have a good time and get together on the beach. To show many of the popular gay hangouts in Cuba, they wove together several stories within the video. These gay hangouts are internationally well known: Calle 23, Cine Yara, El Malecón Boulevard, Habana Libre Hotel, Old Havana, El Prado, the Havana Bay Tunnel, La Monumental (gateway to the beaches in the east of Havana), and East Havana Beaches with its white sands, coconut palms, blue sky, and crystal-clear water. The characters are of all races and sexual orientations, enjoying one another’s company wholesomely and respectfully. Health educators who do social work for the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, especially HIV/AIDS, also make appearances.
With this video, a group of young Cubans wish to appeal to the world, especially Hispanics: “Respecting, Understanding, and Accepting Sexual Diversity Helps Prevent AIDS.”
They expect Cuban Television to echo this noble cause when it is handed copies for public broadcast.
The video has also been distributed to many international television networks, Web sites, and night clubs around the world.
Joe, “Junto a Ti” (shot on Mi Cayito Beach)
The original article in Spanish was published in Pressenta on 8 June 2008. Translation by Yoshie Furuhashi (@yoshiefuruhashi | yoshie.furuhashi [at] gmail.com).