Maria Matienzo Puerto

Mujeres Publicas en el Bienal de La Habana

HAVANA TIMES — When “Amelia” had her first fit of anger, I was scared. She screamed at me, banged on the wall and stomped out of the house to vent her rage at the first person unfortunate enough to wind up in her path. After a while she came back, but without realizing that she had lost more than an illusion.

Me — an expert at recognizing and dumping violent men — I had thought that among lesbians there would be no violence, that everything would be more harmonious.

She didn’t have any more tantrums, but I couldn’t get over the one she had. My friends had more flaws than I was able to see. Their wishes were my commands, but mine apparently weren’t as important, though sometimes this pleased me. The story is much longer, but this is my summary.

I guess I was in love, which would explain why the relationship lasted three years. Plans to have children, a house with a yard and a dog all fell apart when I started demanding certain rights.

One day she told me that she was in love with another woman, and I — painfully — had to accept it. It ended as violent as it had begun.

Over time I felt a great relief.

As curious as it might seem, I didn’t really become aware of that stage in my life until I saw an art exhibit. It was at the recently concluded 11th Biennial of Contemporary Art in Havana, an Argentinian work titled “Mujeres publicas” (Public Women).

What they articulated went beyond my life story and by chance justified my ex, “Amelia.” I realized that her constant state of violence was the result of, according to “Public Women,” “offensive words, disparaging eyes, and the faces of disgust and shame,” in addition to her commitment to pattern herself on the sexist male model.

Now I know I can’t wander around naively thinking about some “princess charming” or gorgeous [female] soccer players, and that life is beautiful and diverse; and that the great love of your life is the one that doesn’t propose to drown all of your dreams in the bathtub.
Contrary to what some might have people expected, the fact that Amelia was violent and sexist didn’t deter me from being a lesbian.

I see the same advantages (maybe even more) that were seen by the Argentine women who wrote: “[It’s about] developing your creativity; explaining to your grandmother how your ‘boyfriend’ is named Laura; being an independent woman after your parents kick you out of their house; not having to invest part of your salary in sculptured nails; seeing your gynecologist spare you from the torture of contact for fear of ‘getting you hot’; and not having to worry about birth control pills every night.”

But above all, it means not having to explain to your partner that your clitoris isn’t in your ear.


Maria Matienzo

Maria Matienzo Puerto: I dreamed once that I was a butterfly who had come from Africa and discovered that I had been alive for thirty years. From that time on, I constructed my world while I was sleeping: I was born in a magic city like Havana; I dedicated myself to journalism; I wrote and edited books for children; I met to discuss art with wonderful people; I fell in love with a woman. Of course, there are certain points of coincidence with the reality of my waking life and it’s that I prefer the silence of reading and the pleasure of a good movie.

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