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Butterflies On The Scaffold

Fifteen years after the Revolution, la Güinera, a neighborhood
on the outskirts of Havana, was still a marginalized area. In
this setting, a clandestine drag culture developed much like the
ghetto cultures that came into being in the U.S. at about the
same time.

Yet the Revolution had promised everyone a chance to make
themselves a new home. Under this mandate local citizens started
to build themselves apartment complexes to replace the shacks
and shanties.

These two strong movements-financial self-determination and
sexual freedom-could have led to confrontation, but due to the
courage of several women who held powerful positions in the new
local government, the new drag culture wasn't suppressed.
Instead it was given space. One woman, Fifi, asked the queens to
perform in the cafeteria where many of the workers and locals
ate. That was the beginning of a shared culture: drag queens are
respected as artists and as fellow Cubans.

This phenomenon is spreading beyond la Güinera. Butterflies On
The Scaffold highlights images of working-class drag queens
performing drag intercut with interviews that reveal other
interests, other occupations. In this community many queens have
other jobs, other vocations. Drag is just one of many ways that
gays can add to strength of their society.

Butterflies On The Scaffold dir. Margaret Gilpin & Luis Felipe
Bernaza 1996 Cuba 70 min. video
in Spanish with English subtitles

A fascinating portrait of a working class community in Havana whose inhabitants include a vocal and prospering group of drag queens. In-depth interviews with community leaders, local residents, and family members reveal a transvestite movement that is expanding throughout Cuba. This engaging documentary addresses the social, human, and cultural transformations in this Latin city where drag queens have managed to create a space for themselves and gain their neighbors' respect through their creative work.