by Kathy Matheson
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The niece of Fidel Castro said Friday on a trip to Philadelphia that she believes Cuba and the U.S. will have normal relations one day, but she doesn’t know when.
“I wish … I was a magician or (one of those) people who knows everything. That’s not the case,” Mariela Castro said through a Spanish interpreter. But, she said, “that dream (is) going to be a reality someday.”
Castro spoke during a tour of the city’s historic sites one day before she plans to attend a gay rights conference. The U.S. State Department had initially denied Castro permission to attend the event, but relented earlier this week.
Castro visited the Liberty Bell — an icon of democracy — even as critics say her family has run a repressive Communist dictatorship for decades. Her father, Raul Castro, is Cuba’s president and the brother of retired strongman.
Mariela Castro spoke briefly to reporters during her sightseeing tour. Asked about the health of her uncle and father, Castro replied: “They’re wonderful, and I learn a lot from their example.”
Commenting on the gay rights movement in the U.S., she said, “In this election especially, they showed that they form a very important vote in American society.”
A married mother of three, Castro leads Cuba’s National Center for Sex Education, which is part of the island nation’s public health ministry. She is the country’s most prominent gay rights activist, having trained police on relations with the LGBT community and lobbied lawmakers to legalize same-sex unions. She was elected as a deputy in Cuba’s parliament in February.
On Saturday she’ll speak on a panel at the gay rights summit sponsored by the nonprofit Equality Forum and receive an award from the advocacy group.
She also planned to hold a news conference Saturday evening.
Castro took in the sights on Friday with Equality Forum executive director Malcolm Lazin and a few others.
At the Liberty Bell, a ranger from the National Park Service explained its history and significance to her in Spanish. The group then stopped at a historic marker across the street commemorating some of the country’s first demonstrations for gay rights before heading to tour Independence Hall.
PHOTO—-Mariela Castro, daughter of Cuban President Raul Castro visits the Liberty Bell, May 3, in Philadelphia. Mariela Castro is in Philadelphia to receive an honor from the Equality Forum, a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization, for her work as director of the Cuban National Center for Sex Education in Havana. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)