Havana Sites of Amorous Adventure

Regina Cano

Zanja St. in Centro Habana. Photo: Caridad

“Auntie’s Houses” is what they used to be called to cover up the real names of brothels here in the city. These days other polite terms have been adopted to identify these places of amorous encounters, rendezvous and dalliances.

In the capital there have existed many of these places, though they vanish and reappear all the time. They are locales forgotten by urban logic and are now used mostly by homosexuals, mainly men.

These include the burned-out ruins of the Moscu Restaurant, collapsed buildings, the famous 80’s bathhouses in the Centro neighborhood, tea houses, beaches, the “dog teeth” jagged rocky coasts, bomb shelters built against American attacks, the rotunda of the “Fuente Luminosa” lighthouse and many other corners and dark spaces concealed from curious nocturnal eyes.

It’s also true that these places attract others who aren’t gay, but they move along the edges and take advantage of circumstances to abuse, stalk or frighten those who are, both at night and in the light of day.

There are those, for example, who by their presence prevent people from running along or swimming in the waters fronting the Alamar community during the early hours of the day or in the late afternoon. They’re called “tiradores” (masterbators), and are occasionally joined by robbers in those areas.

Luckily for people who are gay, at least with today’s changing situation, they’re allowed to meet up in less threatening public places, such as the porticos in front of the Capitolio Building.

That area, which was always a “showcase,” is now a runway. Converging there, particularly on Saturdays late in the evening, are the gays on parade, the transvestites, the macho “leather queens,” and those looking for a partner or for simple flirtation.

The “Red” zone extends from the famous territorio de putas (land of whores) on Monte and Cienfuegos streets, borders the India Fountain and runs a couple of blocks in front of the Capitolio Building to the Payret Cinema.

I hope that in some not-too-distant future — considering the time it will take to neutralize the fallout — we’ll be able to speak of this city as one that respects sexual diversity and advises masterbators and bullies to leave people in park areas and beaches along the coast in peace – for all of our sakes.


Regina Cano

Regina Cano: I have lived my entire life in Havana, Cuba – the island from which I’ve still never left, and which I love. I was born on September 9, and my parents chose my name out of superstition, but my mother raised me outside the religion professed by her family. I studied accounting and finance at the University of Havana, a profession that I’m not engaged in for the time being, and that I substituted for doing crafts, some ceramics, and studying a little English and about painting. Ah! – concerning my picture: I identify with Rastafarian principles, but I am not one of them. I wear this cap from time to time, but I assure you I just didn't have a better picture.

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