Machismo vs. Humanity

Osmel Almaguer

A slice of Cuban society. Photo: Caridad

Though over the last several years there have been major changes in terms of how homosexuals are treated in Cuba, still present are elements of the backward ancestral machismo that we have cultivated along the course of our history.

This is visible in homes as well as in the street, as much among everyday people as in the offices of State institutions.

With the revolution many opportunities opened up for women, but in principle a policy of repression against homosexuals remained intact under supposedly socialist morals.  This type of sexual behavior was associated with the most depraved vices and the most lamentable illnesses.

After 50 years, the relationships between men and women in Cuba have been marked by a growing tendency toward equal rights, though that doesn’t mean in daily practice this occurs with such precision.

In any Cuban home we can still find that women, in addition to their responsibilities at the workplace, continue to be burdened with the full weight of running the home: attending to the children, cooking, cleaning the house, etc.  This means that behind the apparent elevation in the woman’s role, which in a certain sense is true, there hides a double work load.  The blame behind this lies in the macho mentality that is maintained by men and women.

But if it’s natural that this occurs among everyday people —since the consciousness of people develops more slowly than socioeconomic changes— the macho positions in institutions and the State are unforgivable, as are the policies taken.

The most talked about example of this was when Fidel, in the speech he made to explain how to operate new kitchen accessories that would be sold on credit to the public.  He explicitly directed 100 percent of his discourse at women, in this way endorsing the subordinate position of females in the home.  There are many ways to impose ideology.

Machismo in the streets is even more ferocious.  There are environments in which the general rules of society are substituted by other norms, those of marginalization.

I’m referring specifically to the world of prostitution.  It exists, but it’s hidden by the State. Jineteras (as prostitutes in Cuba are called) have achieved a certain level of economic power, at least at the family level.  Nevertheless, the man continues being the “dominant macho.”  It’s quite common to see men exploiting the sexual labor force of their partners, keeping most of the money these women make.

But if the situation of women is difficult, and that of homosexuals is even more so, we should not turn a blind eye to a rather uncomfortable phenomenon: the ghost of homosexuality among men.  What I mean is that men are expected to respond to certain masculine stereotypes of behavior to be accepted as such and not be branded as “gay.”  I consider this a limitation to the authenticity of the human being.


Osmel Almaguer:Until recently I would to identify myself as a poet, a cultural promoter and a university student. Now that my notions on poetry have changed slightly, that I got a new job, and that I have finished my studies, I’m forced to ask myself: Am I a different person? In our introductions, we usually mention our social status instead of looking within ourselves for those characteristics that define us as unique and special. The fact that I’m scared of spiders, that I’ve never learned to dance, that I get upset over the simplest things, that culminating moments excite me, that I’m a perfectionist, composed but impulsive, childish but antiquated: these are clues that lead to who I truly am.

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