The Invitation that Didn’t Invite

Maria Matienzo Puerto

Havana's Malecon Seawall.

Fifteen days in advance we received the invitation. It was for a meeting of lesbians and bisexuals to be held in a public place.

Hum!  “Sounds interesting,” I thought – especially when you keep in mind that when people talk about homosexuality in Cuba, the male form is almost always the most visible.

It’s as if we’ve continued to fall into the trap of machismo; as if we have to begin struggling for woman’s rights from ground zero.

Lesbianism is an appendix of homosexuality, an uncomfortable part which people prefer not to talk about.

But it’s an issue I wanted to raise, with us talking to each other.  So my girlfriend and I were all set to go.

The invitation said that we should bring soda, rum, juice or any other drink for making a toast. It was an encounter for making friends or whatever might emerge. It was —to quote the invitation— “For meeting people who share the same tastes.”

I found that pretty bold, but not impossible.

Therefore, my girlfriend and I thought it was a fantastic idea. We started preparing for it, fifteen days ahead, so that we wouldn’t have anything else to do on that Saturday (October 2).

In the middle of the preparations, I —who has never lost the instinct of a reporter— grabbed my mini tape recorder.

We selected the ideal clothes, picked up the soda that we would contribute and we waited for the day to arrive with almost infantile enthusiasm – us two dreamers.

At the “Fountain of Youth,” between the Riviera and the Cohiba hotels, in the very heart of Havana’s Vedado district (that was the address indicated on the invitation), we found no one there.

Well, let me clarify: No, it wasn’t that nobody was there.

There were people there alright, lots of people, especially teenagers – averaging between eleven and fourteen.  It was like the plaza was under siege; those teenagers were everywhere.

But there was not a single sign of a lesbian or a bisexual or a homosexual, at least not in their more obvious forms.

Ok, it’s true; we didn’t arrive exactly at eight o’clock, but an hour and a half later. Because though we’re lesbians, we’re still Cuban, and any self-respecting Cuban knows that major events never start on time.

Notwithstanding, unless it had been a lightning-fast event, and in the rush to meet each other and find partners they had all already gone home together, an hour and a half wasn’t enough time for the event to have already ended.

The conclusion: Nothing had happened. The call hadn’t called more than two naïve lesbians.

Refusing to surrender, we continued walking the length of the Malecon seawall toward the customary meeting point for gays in Havana: Malecon Avenue and 23rd Street.

After an hour of walking we came upon a crowd teaming with male homosexuals, one or two of the usual lesbians, and an invasive heterosexual presence (people in search of fresh air who didn’t care who they were sharing the space with).

We never wondered how it was that someone had gotten our address or if this had been just some farce to see what our response would be. We had simply gone to experience an unprecedented event in this city where little ever happens if it’s not in hard currency.