By Maria Matienzo Puerto

Havana faces, photo: Caridad
Havana faces, photo: Caridad

I look at myself in the mirror and I am beautiful.  This is what almost all women must think of themselves, especially those who have as high a self-esteem as I do.

My narcissism is such that I am going to describe myself to you all.  I am of medium height, covered in meat, with delicate hands and an intelligent look.  I have firm thighs and walk harmoniously; but what most defines me is that I am a black women, not mulata, a word used to denote a certain mixture or to hide one’s African heritage, but black.

I have curly hair, and skin that is darker than most, which, in addition to making me more beautiful, helps me tolerate the tropical sun.  All this is thanks to my black grandfather.

This may seem like a promotional internet add for an exotic product or my credentials for a marriage agency, but no, I only want to say that I am proud of being what I am.

Some who come to the beautifully restored neighbourhood of Old Havana might find that the only Cubans they see -other then the security guards, park wardens and street cleaners- are blonde or brunette with skin that is, apparently, white.

It is a white Havana.  White like the coconut meat, and rancid as the aristocracy that created it centuries ago.  A Havana that is capable of casting a judging look at any “thing” that seems different: young people with extravagant dress, lesbians, gays, and blacks.  Not to mention when all of the aforementioned is embodied in one person.

At the counter, this person is ignored: maybe the employees are having lunch or just can’t see them because they have all of a sudden become invisible.

A Havana materialized in offices and streets that divides society into the traditional divisions of good and bad; workers and non-workers; white and black.

I have no way to justify such an order, just like a religious person can’t explain the existence of God; with the difference that I do not resign to silence.  This is a country full of people of mixed races and cultures; those who don’t have the Congo or the carbalí in their blood, dance to the conga, rumba or guaguancó.

So how could I let an opportunity pass by to color a piece of my city that is not for sale, but that sells everything at the first opportunity.

Note: In case you are interested, I forgot to include in my description that I am a sensitive and clean person that speaks other languages, as do maybe a million other black men and women in Cuba.


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.

One thought on “I’m Not for Sale

  • Maria, if you ever feel that your voice is not heard and has no effect, think again. You expressions reach out through HT and touch many honorable people, perhaps in ways not immediately apparent or knowable. History begins anew every day, and honest voices embody more truth and have more impact than the pronouncements of a million bureaucrats.

    The “whites only” mentality you’ve described is depressing, and doubly depressing b/c we thought that socialism would cure the disease of racism. Maybe the cure we all envisioned did not have to do with “socialism,” but the “kind” of socialism.

    Our tiny movement in the U.S. believes that the way to sever the roots of racism is to get rid of classes and arrogant, selfish classism. This can’t be done by the state owning everything, but by productive citizens owning their workplaces cooperatively. Only the pride and self-esteem of direct ownership and control can ennoble a people by–abolishing classes and their off-shoot racism.

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