The Lie that Led to My Calling

Irina Pino

Foto: Juan Suarez
Foto: Juan Suarez

HAVANA TIMES – While I was studying at the Technical Institute for Hotel and Tourism Services, a terrible accusation was leveled at me: I was accused me of being a prostitute – and not just any prostitute, but one who sold their favors to foreigners.

That was a devastating lie for a young girl of 21 to cope with, and led to my requesting to leave that school. This in turn brought on a time of depression, as I dealt with the hatred and similar negative feelings of those supposed “educators” who had contributed to my desertion.

The truth was all too simple to believe it. I had befriended a foreigner residing in Cuba, who frequented the Hotel Vedado where I was doing my training.

They wanted me to take some medical exams to determine if I had any type of sexually transmitted disease. That was the culmination of that infamy. Obviously I didn’t want to continue in that school.

During the 1980s there were so many restrictions. A woman who had a relationship with foreigners was immediately classified as a prostitute, Cubans couldn’t enter hard currency stores and possessing dollars was illegal.

There followed a chain of incomprehension on the part of my parents, who didn’t believe my story either. I became a timid and introspective person, who was at the same time easy to deceive.

But in the midst of such a difficult setback in this stage of my existence, there was someone who approached me and opened me up to a wondrous slice of this life: to enjoy literature, and to go out in search of words to shape with my own hands.

I began to write a diary; poetry flooded into my cracks; and those scabs began to heal – although never closing completely. I had written in some measure since I was 14, but now the enticement of writing intensified until it formed a part of my being, like an extension of myself. From that time on I never stopped.

I followed that “winding road” without looking back.

Now, in this reflection looking back, I can see that I never could have been a good restaurant employee: not because I wish to disparage that worthy form of work, but in the sense that I wasn’t made to carry the “empty tray”. Instead, I have this sublime curse. I now understand that words are the kingdom where I can best reign, because we are all made for something, each of us has a mission in this world.

Perhaps journalism will offer me some monetary reward and I don’t doubt that it also may offer me great joy and bridges of friendship. But what I’m most certain of is that I won’t abandon writing for other freedoms.

Real liberty lies in words: to them I am in debt, and before them I bow down and promise to be true to the act of writing as the best alchemy for expressing ideas and feelings that may be useful for others.



36 thoughts on “The Lie that Led to My Calling

  • Hahaha your comments are becoming more and more personal. If I want to read some good fiction I read the Bible, but thank you anyways.

    ? Cuba que linda es Cuba, quien la defiende la quiere más ?

  • Canada as a country is not to blame for the problem, but the individual Canadian tourist engaged in this immoral and illegal activity are to blame for their behaviour. The Cuban adults who act as pimps for the Cuban children are to blame for their role in the crimes. Cuban authorities are to blame for averting their attention to the problem for bad economic reasons. And Canadian authorities have been to blame for not being as thorough as they should be in policing Canadian sex tourists. There’s a lot of blame to go around.

    Canadians represent the single largest block of tourists to Cuba. Individual European countries are smaller, but Europeans as a whole are greater than Canadians. But guess who are quickly growing into first place ? Americans. Yup, embargo be damned, Americans are now visiting Cuba in droves.

    Frankly, if the Cuban authorities would clamp down on the sex tourists, arrest them and feed them to the sharks of the Florida Strait, I would be the first to applaud them!

  • Irina I think that you have started a firestorm… LOL

  • Fez my name was mentioned… And I guess that you should find a private forum to voice your opinions and hate… About Cuba… Though you would probably find me much different face to face… Nino… Man I used to argue with you guys all of the time on a Cuba forum till it came out (finally) that it was all a CIA operative site who I was talking to because he did not really have his facts together. Hey I have high speed internet to check facts quickly… And I said yes I will be in Habana next week and I will go visit your family. And give your grandmother her medicine… Sorry they will be in Pinar Del Rio when you will be there… Just so happens that way on the internet… No one is real. Anyways man all the best… PS And shave your nuts…

  • Como fue? Jajaja oye estás repitiendo lo mismitico que escribio Irina, no entendi ná mi ecobio.

  • Hahaha What I wrote was for Irina, not for you. I have nothing to do with USA hahahaha. What makes you think I am a Cuban-American, or that my country of residence is the USA? You are probably over 18, please don’t be oblivious when taking about my country.

    So now child prostitution in Cuba is because of the USA? Hahahahahahahahahahahaah. (That was my laughing out loud)

  • Sorry I stand corrected. Solicitation in public… Yet NOW magazine is very public… So It is a fine and delicate line… Yes Cuba does have a problem and those who break the law should be held accountable. Though unfortunately the law is not accountable in Cuba. And the root of the matter is not immorality but economic. And this is mainly due to the USA… Canada is not to blame for this problem. And the truth is I see way more Europeans on my visits to Habana.

  • Fez I am able to translate what you wrote quite fine… No I do not need a Canadian nor a USA forum to talk of these problems. Though I see my own countries problems and please have a real good look at your own USA countries problems. And maybe you might realize that a lot of these Cuban problems are due to the policies of the USA… Nino.

  • Con etica y valores hay muchisimos cubanos y cubanas prostitutos, no necesariamente la prostitucion que se ve en el pais de Michael, sino el jineterismo para buscarse un yuma y pirar, eso lo sabes tu y todos los cubanos.

    Quien dice que las prostitutas no tienen ni valores ni etica? Informate un poco mas lo que dice Marielita Castro sobre el tema, jajaja.

    Yo hablo de la prostitucion generalizada que hay en Cuba y de la que nadie habla (ya que como todo en Cuba, está prohibida hablar), esa es una crisis muy seria. Si Michael se va a poner a hablar una pila de boberias sobre la crisis de Estados Unidos o de los problemas de su pais, que se vaya a un forum canadiense o yuma jajajaja. Aqui yo estoy hablando de la prostitucion en Cuba.

    Eso de decir que todo lo que Michael dice es totalmente cierto, que bueno que lo sea parece que tu viviste en USA o en Canada para confirmar esos datos. Jejeje.

  • Prostitution has been legal in Canada for decades. The law that was recently overturned was against keeping a common bawdy house. “Solicitation in public for the purposes of” and “procuring and living off the avails of” (ie. pimping) remain illegal.

    It may not be as visible as adult prostitution, but it’s happening. Cuba has been identified as a destination for child-sex predators. It is to our national shame that Canadians form the majority of exploiters of this social evil.

  • Yes Irina, I have made some very good friends in Cuba. And I have seen some beautiful things and I have also had some amazing experiences. And as well Cuba has also taught me an awful lot about life… How to laugh and also how to cry. Thanks.

  • Griffin have you not been reading all the news in Canada? Our own prostitution laws have been struck down. And no doubt prostitution will eventually be legal in this country. And on a nice night take a drive downtown around Church and Wellesley if you wish to see prostitutes, and many are underage as well. We have the same problems here in this country as in Cuba. And maybe I am hanging around the wrong parts of town while in Cuba for I have not seen any child prostitution. Though there are many men with young women. And as long as they are 18 it is legal. And while I do not agree with it there is nothing I can do about it. For again it is legal in Cuba. And I guess that money is money.

  • Thank you.
    Irina I am looking forward to your next article. Keep up the good work. Ciao.

  • It´s a painful
    journey, but is very essential for my life. Thanks Jenny.

  • Michael: Gracias por tu apoyo. No conozco otro país que no sea el mío. Parece que aprecias la amistad
    con los cubanos. Gracias otra vez.

  • Fez: Todo lo que dice
    Michael es totalmente cierto. No seas tan duro con la mujer cubana. Aquí hay
    una crisis, pero todavía quedan personas con ética y valores.

  • Todo lo que dice
    Michael es totalmente cierto. No seas tan duro con la mujer cubana. Aquí hay
    una crisis, pero todavía quedan personas con ética y valores.

  • Yeah yeah… Stay to your country’s business. Thank you the people of Cuba thank you. Haha.

  • Can you provide a relable source that the Mafia owned half the country? The mafia owned a few hotels and casinos in Havana. They never owned anything near “half the country”

    Prostitution is back and big in Cuba, including child prostitution. The Toronto Star wrote a series of articles on the problem, including the case of a Canadian tourist arrested in Canada for sexual exploitation of minors, possession of child pornography and “sex-tourism”.

    Getting into debates about whether the situation is worse, or not as bad as before the revolution misses the point. The problem is that prostitution is a large and growing problem in Cuba. The problem is caused by economic necessity of the Cuban people, and is exacerbated by immoral tourists. The Cuban authorities have been less than thorough in policing the issue as they don’t want to scare off tourists and their needed cash.

    Here’s one article at the Toronto Star, search their website for several more.

  • My wife is Cuban, I have family and friends in Cuba, I know a little of the Cuban opinion and sorry to say this, you need some education on where you live and where your from… Cuba is not 100% perfect, tell what country is??? Good all america.

  • Haha You just compared jineteros to female prostitues saying that they were worst than female prostitutes? I am sorry if you were out of context then. Heh.

    I am against tourism from sexual offenders, pedophiles and criminals going to my country. How can you even question that?

    Hahaha, I have been to Miami twice, very nice city but too much traffic. About the STDs in the USA that’s definitely a problem americans have to deal with, please don’t bring STDs to the cubans I beg you.

    If you have a problem with USA that’s just fine. I can’t really care for a country that has nothing to do with me, but I wish they can overcome their issues the same way I want my country to overcome ours.

    Have a nice week asere, Ohh and I am sorry if you took my comments personally. Hehehe.

  • Moderator would you please just ban this American Fez idiot who spouts of all of this anti Cuba nonsense from Miami…

  • Well Mafia used to own half of the country you say… Now it’s the Government not half but 100%. That’s not what cubans fought for.

    Just google child prostitution in Cuba, be careful many of the news regarding to this are from Canada (Land of the pervs). If you are not an ignorant, you would know very well the Cuban government doesn’t publish any internal negative situations. Why would you be asking for something the government doesn’t allow to be known? Hahaha. Typical foreigner.

    Prostitution in Cuba is worst now than before all the cubans fought against Batista, because it is secretive no one is allowed to inform about it. That’s it… don’t ya like it that way? Awww…

  • I never said that Jinetero was a male sex worker… Re-read my post… From what I understand the word means a person that wants something… and not always money for sex… And I also never said that there was no prostitution in Cuba. It is the oldest profession in the world. It’s there.
    True that while I was not born in Cuba I do have a fairly good comprehension of your country after 11 visits. And I am not your normal tourist. Although Fez if it was not for tourism in Cuba (which you seem to have a problem with) the country would be in even worse shape… Though I am sure that you are just another angry Miami Cubano who would like to bring your American corruption back to Cuba again… I really hope not.
    And yes Fidel said that “Even the Cuban prostitutes are University educated.” Or at least educated… Not like the crack whores in the USA… And the STD comment I will not even reply to. It is not worth my time to show you how much of a problem the USA has with STD infections…
    Anyways FEZ I do not want to play any more for you are burning off way too may brain cells… The end of the topic.

  • And Fez, what was the prostitution situation like before the revolution ? Is it better or worse than when the Mafia owned half the country ?
    And.. how much of the poverty that drives men and women into prostitution is caused by the U.S embargo ?
    I challenge your assertion that child prostitution is a common thing in Cuba and am asking for your source for such information.
    The only sources for such I know of are rabid and unreliable anti-revolutionary groups and websites .
    Prove to me that I’m wrong. Cite your sources.

  • I am extremely sorry, but that very wrong definition that jineteros are only referer to male prostitutes is just how little you people know about my country. What you have just described was a guy swindling tourists (also known as jineteros not necessarily sex-worker). Prostitution is a major issue in Cuba because it’s secretive like every single internal problem, there are so many prostitutes from all ages that you just happen to see it as a normal tendency (That’s sick).

    If you think that there are only jineteros (sellers, swindler, scammers to tourists) in Cuba, you have definitely not been to any other third world country, and that tells a lot about your extremely limited knowledge of my country social crisis.

    Uncontroled and Illegal prostitution is a major issue that has been affecting all cubans since the 80s. Even our former president Fidel Castro said “hasta las prostitutas son universitarias” (I hope you can understand spanish at least) Prostitution is visible in every province of Cuba, in every gender, from old to very young ages. The fact that you are justifying such a serious problem proves of how unimportant are foreigners opinions to the future of Cuba. I hope my country can have future tourists checked for STD and background-check before going to Cuba, that way we keep dirty, corrupted and sick people from affecting us even more.

  • The Jinteros (guys) In Cuba are a major problem, Friend what’s your name? Where are you from? Buy me a beer. Give me a peso, you need a guide. Do you need this? Do you want that? etc…. And then there is anger if you just tell them to go away… At least if a women asks for something then you pretty much know what they are selling… And they will take a no thanks and politely move on. Big difference.

  • Was there any difference between a male and a female prostitute? Hahahaha, both represent a major issue in any society, but to you it seems that if there are male prostitutes it’s okay. Ain’t that sick? Hehe.

  • I have Cuban women friends, and I mean friends. That would not walk down the street with me at night. And while they are just my friends the police would harass us and demand money from me as a tourist. I do feel for you Irina. That must have been a terrible experience. Though this is a form of discrimination where you are not allowed to just be a friend with a tourist. Nor choose what you wish to do with that relationship.

  • Fez… Maybe you are talking about male prostitutes, but hey, whatever works for you…

  • Then you seriously have no clue of what’s the opinion of many cubans… Typical foreigner.

  • Fez, your comment is strange for a Cuban. Even I would not say Cuba is full of prostitutes.

  • Fez I just seen another one of your posts… So you say that you are Cuban. Miami Cubano? Before you start spouting off about Cuba and how bad that it is just look at Miami. One of the most violent and dangerous cities it the USA. Check the stats… Out of 100 being the safest in 2013 it ranks at 4… And prostitution is pretty much ignored by the police in Miami. If ever the Americans are freely allowed to visit Cuba (as tourists) then you will see real prostitution, drugs and violence, just like the old days… While Cuba is not perfect in many ways it is nowhere near as bad as the USA in many more ways…

  • Fez I am not sure where you live (an nor do I care) Though what have you really seen in Cuba? Cuba is not full of prostitutes… Let alone child prostitution… This is a very bad assumption that you have that every Cuban woman that you might see is a potential prostitute… And honestly from what I have seen the Cuban men are just as bad as any foreign men for going after the women, especially foreign women. And probably even worse. Though yes some Cuban girls (and the guys too) just want to make a little extra money and have some fun at a foreigners expense. I have been used many times in Cuba . And I have also helped many people. And it is a mutual economic exchange, though not prostitution in that sense. And do you think that in my country (or any country) it is any better? You just go downtown Toronto and have a look at the real scum and crack whores… and yes children too… That is real hard core prostitution… And not Cuba… Though Irina I like your honest writing and I do wish you all the best…

  • Good luck with your writing journey! It is not always an easy path to travel but it is a worthy calling.

  • What a bad experience you had.
    Now the whole country is full of prostitution, and not to mention child prostitution which in any case of social corruption it’s the most disgusting.

    I hope you can make it out of Cuba and take your son with you.

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