HAVANA TIMES – Alfredo Nunez Elias was born with a congenital malformation which resulted in him losing a leg when he was 33 years old. This hasn’t prevented him from becoming a hairdresser and stylist, the creator of a hair-straightening product, a fashion designer and pastry chef.
When I met him in 2011, he was living in an apartment high up in a building that was in danger of collapsing in Central Havana. He used to go up and down those stairs several times a day, with the bike that he used to travel through Havana on. He was convinced that he would leave that place soon; the success of his product would allow him to make a lot of money and buy an apartment.
In 2014, he left… but he moved into a homeless shelter. His cubicle was on the ground floor, but he needed to walk 15 meters to get to the bathroom, crossing over puddles of dirty water. As he was now in the Santos Suarez barrio instead of the center of town, he had lost a large number of his regular clients. He used to need to carry water in a bucket to wash their hair. Four years later and he’s still there.
Instead of complaining, he has improvised a bathroom so that he can shower and attend to his most pressing needs, in his room. He made a system from the doorway to carry water to the sink where he washes his customer’s hair. He keeps an eye on the Constitutional Reform process, confident that the economy will open up to the private sector and will allow him to manufacture and sell his product without needing to belong to a cooperative.
His ironclad determination remains a mystery to many people. According to him, it’s obvious: he owes all of his talents and ability to overcome obstacles to Jehovah, his creator. However, as well as being a Jehovah’s Witness, Alfredo is also a homosexual.
HT: Isn’t it contradictory to be a Jehovah’s Witness and a homosexual at the same time?
Alfredo: I don’t believe there is a contradiction. A human being is who they are and that’s all there is to it. God gives you your human condition and free will. You choose, responsibly. There are three fundamental principles, in my opinion: Thanks to God for my life, respect for God and regard for God. Everyone has their own preference.
HT: Do you not feel like a sinner for being homosexual?
Alfredo: I am a sinner, like everyone else in this world, but not because I am a homosexual. That is one of my sins; there are so many sins in this world for you to call yourself a sinner. However, when I went to church, I didn’t go as a homosexual, to fix a problem, I went out of love for God. Those who are aware of their spiritual needs are happy people. Shopping malls, movie theaters and theaters can’t satisfy these. I feel fulfilled when I listen to the things they say at my congregation. Of course, there are superstitious people and extremists, like in every congregation, which distort this God of love.
Even as a sinner, I prefer to be on level one, which would be to love Jehovah our God and to be saved by Jesus Christ, his son. Just imagine what levels injustice, greed, envy, murder, trickery etc., would be on!
HT: I’m guessing that people in your congregation know or suspect your homosexuality.
Alfredo: I don’t go talking about my sexual orientation there. There are other places where I can do that. I go to meet up with sinners just like myself and to listen to God’s word. I feel good about myself and I leave in a jolly mood.
HT: You know that one of the most controversial issues in the new draft Constitution that is being reviewed by the public is the redefinition of marriage as the union between two people, which would allow same-sex marriage in the future. Several Christian Churches are campaigning against this. What do you think about the chance of same-sex marriage being allowed and the Church’s campaign against it.
Alfredo: It’s a possibility for anyone who wants to go ahead with it. Let’s go back to free will. If the law allows it, who can oppose it? The Bible talks about union between man and a woman, but this decision is everyone’s own. The Bible says that you will carry penance in sins. However, I believe that if I’m not tricking any woman about my sexual condition, even if I am a sinner, I am being less cruel. Churches are governed by the Bible, which sets out that marriage is the union between a man and a woman, for their entire lives, not for them to separate like people freely choose to do so. They are trying to guide people’s lives in keeping with the Bible. The State, as the State, can approve this union. These unions would allow people to adjust their assets and legal rights.
HT: I can understand that churches try to guide Christian people’s lives, for example your Church prohibits you from marrying another man, as a Jehovah’s Witness. However, I don’t understand how they can try to guide the lives of those of us who aren’t Christian and don’t follow the Bible’s every word.
Alfredo: Churches can’t interfere in anyone’s free will. You will do what you feel like doing, in keeping with what life has planned for you. God and Jesus Christ’s journeys serve as an example for us to lose the chains that human things hold us with, which don’t compare with religion’s wonders. When you are filled with spirituality, you don’t see homosexuals, Black people, rich people, poor people or handicapped people, you just see God’s magnanimity and the step Jesus Christ took in order to save our souls. I believe that it is important to strike a balance between the spiritual and material side of things in our lives. I think that many people will get married for financial reasons.
I am not interested in marrying any man. However, someone could come along one day and convince me to take this step. I will ask Jehovah our God for his permission.
HT: Jehovah God or your congregation?
Alfredo: I am one with Jehovah God. I respect my congregation when I go and I stick to the parameters people follow there so they can share their things with God. My congregation doesn’t get mixed up in my personal business.