By Pedro Pablo Morejon
HAVANA TIMES – About to turn 90 years old, only the memories remain of his golden years. His face gains new life when he talks about life in Havana back in the ‘50s. His name is Jose, but people used to call him Pepito back then, Pepito Marianao, a pimp who would make us think of the very Alberto Yarini, a famous pimp during the first decade of the 20th century.
A picture frame with a full-length photo of him when he was a young man, hangs in the room that’s worse for wear. It shows a man with straight, black, wavy hair, a chiseled face, a pencil moustache that was fashionable back then and a strong chin. He wears a pair of cotton drill trousers, a black shirt and two-tone shoes. He really was an elegant and handsome man.
He tells me that he was born in Guane, Pinar del Rio, but he left for Havana when he was 16 years old. He didn’t like farm work and had dreams of making it big. He had an uncle living in the capital. He was the owner of a store and Pepito worked with him for many years, he also learned many other trades: barber, saddler, electrician, baker…
When he was 20, he married a woman who had just come from Pinar del Rio, who gave him five children and was the typical wife, submissive.
Until he found a way in prostitution to make himself a wealthy man. He went on to own two brothels in Marianao, thus his nickname.
He admits that he wasn’t a good husband or the best father. He enjoyed a life of many women and a fat wallet, and barely spent time with his family. Nevertheless, his three daughters’ 15th birthday parties, in the mid-’60s, were the envy of the neighborhood, he tells me proudly. He used to live in a mansion which he tells me has now become a tenement building.
“And how did you end up here?” I ask and the light disappears from his wrinkled face.
He was locked up, because of an affair he had. One of his lovers was the wife of a “bigshot”, who shot at him twice, one bullet grazed his neck, not causing any significant injury, but the other one affected his hip for life, which explains his subtle limp when he walks.
Adding to his misfortune, his eldest son migrated to the US, illegally. He enlisted on a fishing boat and didn’t think twice when a similar Mexican ship was nearby, so he took a small rowboat and reached the Mexican ship. The Mexicans chose to take him in, despite complaints from the Cuban crew.
This happened in 1969. With a background as a pimp, former inmate and a son in the US, the family was scorned on the block. There was also a rumor that Pepito had been an informant during Batista’s time in power, thereby putting the icing on the cake. He has always denied this, but many people believed he was.
His only hope had come in the letters from his son, who had settled in the US comfortably under the shelter of his brothers, two former Batista policemen who had emigrated in 1959, and that’s when he saw that emigrating was a great opportunity. It was better for his wife, who was suffering mental health problems, to move back near her family in Pinar.
That’s when he decided to make a risky move, a property exchange with extra cash to move to a rural house, where he would spend the last few months he had left in Cuba. But they were never able to leave, and months became years.
Now, a very old man, he lives his last years in one of his daughter’s dumps, the only daughter who takes care of him as he has been forgotten by his other children, by his relatives in Miami, who have never sent him remittances so as not to fill the Castros’ pockets.
He feels responsible, alone. He is looking for a friendly soul to listen to his story amidst his solitude, and I seek his consent to publish it.