Irina Echarry

Nena's bijirita tatoo.
Nena's bijirita tatoo.

I like tattoos; but not all of them, of course.  In my adolescence I found an amusing minimalist drawing in a catalog.  The picture showed a figure with a reaper who was “cutting the grass” of a girl’s pubic area.  I thought that if one day I were to get a tattoo, it would be with that image.

I haven’t decided though.  I think I might get bored with the design, and then I’d be sorry for having it done.  That’s what happened to Carlos Miguel, who wears a portrait of Che on his left shoulder.  He liked the figure; he saw Che as a savior, a fighter for noble causes.

However, he was never happy with the quality of the design they did for him.  He believes it lacks the depth of Che’s eyes in the old photos, that which makes many people admire him and others brand him as a good actor in front of the cameras.

But the worst thing about Carlos Miguel’s tattoo came with his conversion, when he stopped believing in the hero and began to see him as a human being…with virtues and defects.  He no longer shares Che’s principles or understands many of his positions.  Nonetheless, he continues wearing Che’s image, like a heavy load imprinted in his skin.

I think that tattoos, beyond being fashionable, are marks that rekindle memories and accentuate features of one’s personality.

So I doubt that Alberto has stopped having that aggressive fire that still characterizes him, even in the most delicate moments, though this prevents him from thinking calmly about problems to find working solutions.  Maybe the dragon that stands out on his arm, with its mouth open wide and its defiant attitude, has something to do with it.

Or that dragonfly Janet had pricked into her hip to use as a hook to catch her biologist boyfriend.  Who doubts that the musical staff on Amanda’s leg allows her to triumph on her violin on big stages?

That’s why I was not surprised when I found out that 35-year-old Nena was getting a tattoo, breaking the myth of these coming from adolescent impulses or the marginalization of jail (our parents see tattoos as representing delinquency because prisoners wear tattoos, though the quality and content of their designs leave a great deal to be desired).  Nena told me that she has physical and emotional marks that she didn’t choose; so at least this will be decided by her.

Nena is a bird lover. She travels along roads guessing the sounds of the birds, and she knows many of their songs.  One day a bijirita flew into her room.  When seeing that the little bird had decided to spend the night in her house, she put it in a box with lots of air holes.

The following morning the little bird woke up and flew around as if to thank her. If finally left through the window after letting her take a picture of it.  From one of those photos came the design for Nena’s tattoo.  A bijirita, with its wings open, suspended in the air, as if to recall that freedom exists.


Irina Echarry

Irina Echarry: I enjoy reading, going to the movies and spending time with my friends. Many of the people I love are dead, or are no longer in Cuba. I will do my best to transmit my thoughts, ideas or worries via these pages so you can get to know me. I will give an idea of my age, since it helps explain certain things. I’m over thirty-five, and I think that’s enough information. I don’t have any children yet, or nieces or nephews. There are days when I transform myself into a child with no age at all in order to see life from another angle. It helps me break the monotony and survive in this strange world.

3 thoughts on “Marks…in the Skin?

  • I got my only tattoo at 65. Waited 3 years, after being told Rarotongans are the best tattoo artists in the world. I got an opportunity to see the Cook Islands, and arranged the tattoo when I first arrived. The other advice I got was to have the tattoo on the top of my foot – It’s the one body part that does not stretch and sag with age [I’m a vain woman].

    No graphic photo of any reality, rather a symbolic design to celebrate a major life change. It is art work, not pictorial: I am ‘rooted, a gardener, not a lineal person, and enjoy new things’. One color, simple, and I love it. The Polynesians add to theirs when they experience major events, I may too. They also tend to use geometric designs, mine is not. It’s more like a vine [plants], and has the symbols for mountains [growth and Hawaii], birds [change & travel], and the vine is rooted. Chose something that is uniquely Cuban: Music, dance, color, art… Who needs a Mickey Mouse re-do?

  • si, como dices, recibimos tantas marcas que no pedimos…ni merecemos…que hay momentos en que viene bien ese tipo de decisiones, escoger nuestras propias marcas, sobre todo si es para bien.

  • Like dogs or cats, tatoos also reflect something essential about their owners, as was demonstrated by your observations. Better Che, than the tatoo I once saw on the chest of an elderly Russian in a foto on the pages of an old National Geographic magazine. It was of Comrade Stalin! Whether Jesus or Che, its is best to view our heros as the human beings they are, and not as some gods (though Prometheus is one of my favorites). On further reflection, the gods I admire, those who lived upon Mt. Olympus, where just big, overgrown, brawling humans, with all their foibles and faults. Incidentally, the tatoo I had inscribed on my left arm when I was an 18-year-old sailor in the U.S. Navy in 1961, was inspired by a mural by Diego Rivera, “The Dream of the Almeida Central on a Sunday Afternoon.”

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