Cuban gays dance conga to support gay rights

Activists dance during a parade marking the International Day Against Homophobia in Havana, Saturday, May 16, 2009. (AP Photo/Prensa Latina/Ismael Francisco)

HAVANA -- President Raul Castro's daughter led hundreds of Cuban gays in a street dance Saturday to draw attention to gay rights on the island.

Participants formed a carnival-style conga line around two city blocks to beat the of drums, accompanied by stilt-walkers. Events also included educational panels and presentations for books, magazines and CDs about gay rights and sexual diversity.

Attending the program's opening, Parliament speaker President Ricardo Alarcon said Cuba has advanced in recent years in the area of gay rights.

The communist government discriminated against homosexuals -- even sending some to work camps -- in the early years of the 1959 revolution led by Mariela Castro's uncle Fidel. But tolerance of homosexuality on the island has grown in recent years.

Duan Mena, 29, said it was great to celebrate his homosexuality in public without fear of censure.