Exemplary Lives

Maria Matienzo Puerto

Anaylis y Jazmin

HAVANA TIMES, April 20 — I spent the night talking to Anaylis and Jazmin. As they recounted their lives, it made me feel like I was watching a telenovela. I was ecstatic, though I usually don’t like soap operas. I listened speechless, though their story isn’t unique.

They talked all night and I let them keep talking until they got tired.

They explained how Anaylis’ mother doesn’t accept their relationship, even though they’ve been in it for a solid ten years of sharing. They told me what life has taught them, how rents are going through the roof, and how it’s not always easy to find a place when landlords see it involves a female couple.

Yes, it would have been easier if they separated and suffered a little, but they chose to be together – whatever the cost.

My only argument is that all Cubans are equal, no matter what we are or who we like.

Both of them are young professionals. They met in junior high and have only been separated a few short times. They aren’t two naïve little girlfriends. They’re two women who enjoy having sex with each other; they also love each other.

Jazmin, though she’s strong, doesn’t believe in the stereotype that society has assigned her. When they’ve been able to live together, they both have the same household chores.

Plus, they’re both nice, and beautiful in their own way. They sometimes fuss and argue, but they also kiss – even in public. Yesterday some men stared at them, asking themselves, “Don’t those women have any shame?”

These women have chosen to lead lives of social activism and struggle together. They spend their time trying to survive, working for the government, walking together to enjoy each other, or attending  workshops on equality and sexual rights, on human rights, gender or whatever is presented by CENESEX [the Cuban Center for Sex Education] and other organizations interested in the issue.

They assume their sexual identity as a political position. Even when there are other more general issues surrounding Cuban life.

But it doesn’t matter – at least they’re starting with something or simply contributing to something.

Hell, one can even argue that they’re leading exemplary lives. What’s clear to me is that they’re one more example of how homosexuality isn’t necessarily linked to promiscuity and superficiality.

I look at them like weirdoes, though they think I’m the freak. It’s just that it’s hard for me to believe that love like that exists.

How have they managed to survive the day-to-day miseries? Is that even possible here in Cuba? My grandparents managed to do it, but they had a different upbringing, especially my grandmother.

But then I’ll have a…“moment of clarity”? They make me discover, in one sole gesture, a sentence, the understanding that love — in addition to being the corniest thing on earth — is also a constantly creative act.

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.