Getting a Date Here in Havana

By Irina Pino

Photo: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES — It was easy for my generation to fall in love and have sex. Everything used to flow so naturally, we weren’t after money. That doesn’t mean to say that prostitution and self-interested people didn’t exist…, however, it wasn’t an odyssey to find pleasant company, far from that.

When we used to get to know each other, it didn’t have to be via invitations to expensive hotels and restaurants, but rather to a simple movie theater, theater, the Malecon seawall, a park or a small party. Money did, of course, have value, having 20 pesos in your pocket used to be a fortune. Booking a room in a luxury hotel used to cost 21 pesos. There were all kinds of lodges, cheaper places, where you could pay 2 pesos per hour for a room.

In the old days, you used to have fun camping out and about, staying to sleep on a beach. Opportunities to have fun without spending a lot of money were countless. The personality of the person you chose to spend your time with, their qualities, their spirituality were much more important.

For example, I once met a painter at a street exhibition and we went to the old Casa del Te, on 23rd and G Streets. We spent hours there talking, reciting poems to each other. In the early morning, we walked through Havana’s streets like two bohemians and we ended up making love behind the 1830 restaurant. That was the beginning of a beautiful romantic relationship, at a time when people weren’t so badly intentioned.

Now, my son is 17 years old and when I ask him if he has a girlfriend or a girl he has his eyes on, he tells me that things are super difficult. You need a significant amount of money to be able to go out and the girls at his school are mostly “mikis”, a label which implies a certain financial status, a good phone, brand clothing and certain attitudes.

You can’t talk to them about going to a movie theater or sitting in a park; they prefer to go to a bar, or a club, an elegant place where they can show off their rags. They hate teenagers with nothing in their pockets, they rule them out before they even get invited out, looking at them as if they are outcasts.

A friend of his collected over 20 CUC (23 USD) and invited one of these girls to go out. He spent all of the money and didn’t even get a kiss goodnight. She sent him to hell immediately after that, she doesn’t answer the phone whenever he calls.

Other kids, who are only looking for sex, only need to pay one of these girls 5 CUC to do it.

On the other hand, there is online dating, some people are lucky; others have a fright or are greatly disappointed.

I’m not denying the fact that there is another class of young women, who appreciate true values, but they are an endangered species, self-interest rules: “tell me what you have and I’ll tell you who you are.”

The situation depends on the social circle you move in, but the truth is that the country has changed: those with greater purchasing power live to consume. The romantic world is just another memory, where “we used to lose our time” on a good conversation, even though there wasn’t anything more than a bottle of cheap rum and a park bench.

18 thoughts on “Getting a Date Here in Havana

  • Well Joao Castro, you make a few interesting comments. But firstly your reference to “your (my) extremism clearly causes a lack of objectivity” reflects a disbelief that the comments I made were factual. Is that because you think I am lying, or because you dislike factual criticism of communism in general and the Castro regime in particular? I can only ask unbiased readers to read what I wrote and judge for themselves.
    I make no excuse for my detestation of communism and its awful dictatorial consequences for those who have the misfortune to suffer it. My opposition to the imposition of creating a “proletarian mass” rather than individuality reflects my concern for the best aspects of humanity, for me, human beings are more than cattle.
    I have no idea who suggested that the statistics produced by the World Health Organization are bogus – perhaps you know who did?
    But, speaking of statistics, perhaps you can substantiate the current claim by the Castro regime that only 9.9% of Cubans are black?
    If you are endeavoring to paint me as a supporter of US history and actions in regard to Cuba, don’t bother. my views have been published and they are not flattering for example:
    “It would be erroneous to consider that Cubans today are unaware or not resentful about these political actions, the Monroe Doctrine, the 1902 Constitution Platt Amendment and the Helms-Burton Act. All introduced unilaterally by their large powerful northern neighbour. They have made it easy for the Castro family regime to exploit the 1960 embargo as the reason for all its own sins, incompetence and omissions, Cubans have one of the highest literacy levels in the world (UN figures) their mental abilities are fully equal to those of the peoples of the free world. The US would be well advised to tread lightly in any public actions related to Cuba, not to appease the Castro regime, but to be seen as reasonable by the people of Cuba if they seek a future amicable relationship.”
    So Joao, you may regard such an expressed view as extremist, but others do not.
    There are those like yourself Joao, who seek to support the Castro regime by comparing Cuba with others who may be even worse off. So I guess that until Cuba sinks to the even lower level of say North Korea, all in Cuba is well in your eyes?

  • ´´fifty eight years of communism to achieve´´: no matter how right you may be in some things (eg I wonder if things could be different in Italy during the II WW between fascists and communists), your extremism clearly causes a lack of objectivity. Those 58 years are marked also by the violent, criminal and sometimes terrorist (Barbados mass murder attack, etc.) embargo. Cuba doesn´t show any more poverty than any other country I know in Latin America and I have never seen undernourished, even starvation bellies in children there. On the contrary, children are taken care, protected and all go to school and maybe university later on. Also, medical coverage, both in urban and rural areas, would you say was it better before the revolution?! Mortality rates ´´witnessed´´ by the WHO are fake?! Just try to keep a bit more critical, ´´open-minded´´, as the subtitle of Havana Times says…

  • Just don’t bore yourself reading the contributions of others. You obviously either are unaware of the “Castro tyranny” or approve it? Which is it?

  • Boring, if Cuba changed completely tomorrow,you would be very frustrated,disappointed&as bored as I am when reading your comments.

  • It is always the appropriate time to criticize Castro tyranny and Havana Times is the place I choose to do it.

  • Yes Bob in my view one either has freedom or not to openly express ones personal views without fear.
    To me repression and dictatorship are evil and if that is using a black and white brush, so be it!
    My “broad brush” is the consequence of experience.

  • Moses, there is a time and a place for everything. But nothing is so universal that it fits in every time and every place.

  • Carlyle: my original comment was based solely on your propensity to paint everything with a very broad brush using only black and white paint.

  • Folks make the mistake Bob of thinking that because I am virulently opposed to communism and to dictatorship (of left or right) that I am in consequence of the far right. ‘Taint so!
    But I have almost a lifetimes experience of watching communism in action and have not perceived any redeeming features.
    My knowledge commences with my late father working with the Maquis in France during the Second World War, then as Military Governor in Northern Italy where their was bitter strife between communists and fascists (I saw photographs of 14 fascists who had been shot by the communists following castration and then thrown down a well). He then became Head of Station in Vienna for MI6 moving there in May 1945. Vienna at that time was quadro-partite and in the Russian zone. I met many who had fled their native lands and risked their lives to cross the ‘Iron Curtain’ which stretched across Europe from the Baltic to the Black Sea. It was not there to keep people from the West out, but to keep the people of thirteen countries in.
    Folks forget that Stalin and Hitler (from Linz in Austria) were allies and fulfilled a joint pact to invade Poland and divide it – which they did!
    I recall when serving in the military in Germany as late as 1955/6, the displaced persons camps filled with people who could not return to their native countries which were occupied by the communist USSR. This over ten years after the end of the war.
    As recently as this week I was in conversation with a fairly well travelled Cuban and we were discussing the use of Indian temporarily imported workers for re-construction of the hotel in Havana and which brought criticism in these pages from many.
    What was interesting was that my Cuban friend defended the GAESA action by explaining that it made sense not to employ Cubans as they would have constantly stolen building materials. That I have to admit is probably true. My defence of the Cubans is that they have been virtually compelled to become thiefs – rather like the abject poor in 19th century London described by Charles Dickens in ‘Oliver Twist’. (and when Karl Marx was writing Das Capital)
    How do a young Cuban couple find a home to raise their kids, with earnings of some $20 each per month? If the wife works for a State restaurant she purloins cooking oil, if the husband works for the municipality patching up side-walks, he purloins cement – both the cooking oil and the cement are then sold on the mercado negra – a key part of the Cuban communist economy.
    Does my virulent opposition to the conditions which the Castro dictatorship imposed upon the citizens of Cuba make me a right wing extremist – or one with a social conscience based upon humanity?
    The name ‘Havana Times’ is interesting, because as indicated by Eden Wong as a resident of Havana, life there and in the tourist hot spots is apparently changing. But not so in the Cuba that I know. In ten years, members of my Cuban family have seen no increase in income which, with inflation means an actual decrease in real income. That has taken fifty eight years of communism to achieve. Oh, I can hear the faithful protesting that it is all a consequence of the US embargo, but even Cubans are beginning to understand that that has been predominantly used by the Castro regime as a let out for their own incompetence and economic ignorance.
    Hope that at least provides some reasoning for my viewpoint.

  • Carlyle, thanks. It appears that I shortchanged you.

  • If my being consistently critical of the Castro Dictatorship at a blog about Cuba seems odd to you, then your comment makes sense I guess. For me, it would be odd to feel any other way.

  • No Bob, I do not suggest that you are sufficiently confused and immersed in 19th century thinking, to be a communist. I have friends who are ‘of the left’ and some through their innocence used to think that Fidel Castro was some sort of folk hero. But each of them has become aware of the difference between their democratic belief in multi-party elections and that inevitable dictatorship of communism.
    I don’t for a moment think that you are sufficienty deranged to support everything that Fidel and Raul stand for.

  • .. Eden, how can the regime put the cork back in the bottle?…”

    There’s no cork to be put back into any bottle. Cuba is simply catching up with the rest of world.

    In this specific example Cuba is finally no different than almost anywhere else on the planet.

  • Moses, “Castro dictatorship” is the subject of the first sentence of your response to a post about dating in Cuba.

    When someone mentions a phrase like “Cuban sandwich” in a group of people, do the rest glance at you and back away before you respond?

    Will your tombstone read “He hated Fidel y Raul Castro”?

    All we need now is Carlyle to chime in “therefore Bob is a Communist and supports everything Fidel and Raul stand for”

  • Nothing is different from all the other places in the world, social media, or whatever, these simple things don’t exist anymore.. Every women wants money, even more so for Cuban Women.

  • Eden, how can the regime put the cork back in the bottle?

  • As long as the Castro dictatorship was able to keep everyone poor and uninformed, people saw themselves as relatively equal to fellow Cubans. Now with access to the Internet and the influx of remittances, Cubans are as economically diverse as they have ever been. The diversity breeds contempt for what is perceived as poor and uninformed, especially among Cuban youth. It will only get worse before it gets better.

  • This is heartbreakingly true in the larger cities and anywhere on the island where tourists are present. The out-of-control consumerism is rampant, but especially among the youth.

    The recent burgeoning middle class that has absolutely exploded in Havana is rife with this attitude. It’s ALL about appearances now.

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