Gay Men's Chorus of Washington tours Cuba

Havana (AFP) - An American gay men's chorus has toured Cuba for a week, another ground-breaking step in relations between Havana and the United States thanks to an ongoing rapprochement between the nations.

Chase Maggiano, the director of the Gay Men's Chorus of Washington, said the group "wanted to make something meaningful" out of the historic opportunity.

"Doing a musical tour to promote LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) rights to Cuba was the right thing to do at the right time," Maggiano said.

"Because the US has its own struggles with LGBT rights, we wanted to share some of our struggles and some of our successes with some other countries that have the similar histories."

The group is composed of 300 singers and has been in existence since 1981. It sent 21 volunteers to the island who performed Monday in the Arroyo Naranjo municipality, a suburb of Havana, alongside a local youth dance group.

An audience of some 60 people was receptive to the choir's performance, responding with a song of Cuba pride to the enjoyment of the US group.

"We can send a message out better through music instead of just talking to somebody because music is something universal," said 33-year-old singer Jerry Bennett.

Maggiano said the Cuban people were welcoming and the tour was a chance to reflect on America and rights there.

"We have also experienced a lot of reflections on our own country. We have many legal rights in our country, especially thanks to the Supreme Court ruling in favor of gay marriage, but we realize... there is still work to do," Maggiano said.

In Cuba, the homosexual community was persecuted and marginalized socially after the revolution of 1959. Since then authorities have gradually relaxed their position on the issue.

Leaders from Cuba and the United States announced they would reopen embassies in their respective capitals earlier this month after a half-century of enmity.