A Cuban Girl’s Difficult Decisions

Rosa Martinez

The Universidad de Oriente in Santiago de Cuba. Photo: radiohc.cu

HAVANA TIMES – Dori is 23 years old. She has just graduated from university and it would seem that a bright future awaits her in a country, where being a professional was a safeguard for having a decent life many years ago.

She is a very dear cousin of mine, who my parents practically raised, meaning that in the house where she was born, we changed her nappies, fed her, pampered her, helped to educate her and buy her whatever she needed to get by, and we have always been up to speed with her life.

While she was in primary school, high school and pre-university, it was easy to know what was going on.  As we are a large and close family, everyone kept an eye more or less on the little ones. Our children might go without many things, but care, attention and vigilance is something they aren’t short of.

In terms of nature, she was a pretty normal kid, with the bad manners every kid has when they are young, crying sometimes, but always very affectionate.

At school, it was a different story, she was always super bright; she got excellent grades without even trying. So much so, that when the moment came, she managed to get onto a degree that only admits few students here in the province: Telecommunications Engineer.

For university, she had to go and study in Santiago de Cuba, and while her parents have always been up to speed with her academic grades and other things, it was impossible to know what she was doing out there.

Sometimes, two whole months would pass by before she came home, as she fell in love with that city from the very beginning as it’s a lot more developed than ours (there’s a reason it’s the second most important city in the country) and it has more culture.

In mid-June, Dori presented her thesis and got her diploma with Honors.

Everyone was overcome with joy, not because she is the first professional in our family, but a university graduate is always something to be proud of, and if she got an excellent grade, then even better.

My cousin’s current holidays are the last ones she will have as a student, as she will soon work for some Cuban Government body. We hoped that she would be able to have two months rest and a lot of fun, more than anything else.

Everything was going fine until a photo began to go around the neighborhood, from home to home, until it reached our own. It was the apple of my eye, completely naked, posing in a provocative manner for someone else or for herself, in front of a mobile phone.

That image (our neighborhood’s gossip for a few days) really kicked up a storm between our closest relatives, so we had no other option but to hold a family meeting to put an end to that unpleasant business, and calm people’s nerves once and for all.

I’m sure its photoshop, I said (not believing what I myself was saying) trying to calm her parents down, who were crying inconsolably. It’s more common that what you might think. They take your photo and put it on another body and that’s it, I added.

It’s not photoshop, Dori said dryly, to everyone’s surprise.

It is me. I took a selfie and sent it to several people in exchange for phone top-ups and cash. I didn’t find another way of making money while I was studying, and you, dad, couldn’t give me any more…

Nearly everyone in that room was left stunned. They slowly left, without saying all too much. In the end, it was just Dori, her mother and I.

I hugged her as tightly as I could and said: this practise is more common in Cuba than what people might think. Ever since my time (over 25 years ago), university students have had to work magic to be able to carry on with their studies in the most dignified way possible. Now, with cellphones and the latest devices, the Internet, everything has become a lot more expensive, and it’s made things harder for many low-income families.

It pains me, it pains me a lot, Dori, that you have had to resort to this in order to carry on your studies, in order to have a cellphone or have trendy clothes. All I can say is that you are going to start working very soon and the luck you had as a student won’t change your wages, on the contrary.

So, you will have to decide what’s more important to you, to have some integrity and go without many things, or lose all of the values we have instilled in you once and for all, and continue to sell your body.

Nobody gets by on a public-sector salary. There are many ways to make a little extra, you can do what most people do to get by (invent) or you can continue down the road of one of the oldest professions in the world… it’s up to you.


Rosa Martínez

Rosa Martinez: I am another Havana Times contributing writer, university professor and mother of two beautiful and spoiled girls, who are my greatest joy. My favorite passions are reading and to write and thanks to HT I’ve been able to satisfy the second. I hope my posts contribute towards a more inclusive and more just Cuba. I hope that someday I can show my face along with each of my posts, without the fear that they will call me a traitor, because I’m not one.

11 thoughts on “A Cuban Girl’s Difficult Decisions

  • August 3, 2019 at 1:03 am

    Of course, in the US, it isn’t uncommon for university students to work as “exotic dancers” to supplement their income!

  • August 1, 2019 at 8:33 pm

    Why that happened in Dominica Republic also?? Who have to live close by Dominican republic young girls and you will see that behavior.. hunting men just for money…I live in Antigua and Cuban women don’t do that here, but from Dominican republic is a hell…most of them are always hunting, they don’t have a concept of loyalty and decent.

  • July 25, 2019 at 1:17 pm

    A womans body is her own property and no one should be ashamed of their beauty. As for showing their body for money – should models in magazines also be ashamed and shunned ? I remember drinking rum all day outside a busy main street of a Cuban city with a university professor from Argentina. He took pictures of every woman who walked by for a book he was making about Latino Women. A grey haired old lady walking with a stroller put it aside and posed with one hand on her hip and one by her face and smiled for his camera. She was more beautiful in so many ways. Every woman who walked by posed for his camera and none refused . They all said without words that I am a woman and you should appreciate my beauty. A beautiful flower in the sunshine. I remember thinking in my country I would be probably be arrested for taking the same pictures probably from a complaint from the first woman that I asked – because I would be some kind of pervert ?
    In Cuba, women are more feminine and confident in their sexuality than in most countries and they should not be shunned or ashamed for making money from their beauty.

  • July 25, 2019 at 11:19 am

    She would probably make the same choices as a Cubana in Florida, only without a university degree. Maybe with additional layer of coccaine use… and even worse prospects

  • July 24, 2019 at 9:51 pm

    Have you been in Dominican Republic, central america and other island around ? Cuba is no exception to that …

  • July 24, 2019 at 9:01 pm

    You are University professor and you should be openly mind person. It’s not the news that in Cuba girls selling themselves for small reward. You need to blame Castro regime for that. I like Cubans, they are highly educated and the most friendly people that I ever met. But what you can do with your diplomas in a prison? Just trying to survive. No blame for the girl, blame the government.

  • July 24, 2019 at 7:26 pm

    You have the choice, one way or the other and it takes a strong will to take the hardest way when you see what your family can give you and what a stranger can offer you. Your family does it for free expecting the best from you but the stranger doesn’t. Part of the blame we can put it in the system the have in Cuba but Cuba is not even a 3rd world country and it’s a mistake we Cubans make when we live abroad and think they can be like U.S. there are few countries in the world that can try to be like U.S. but what hurts is to see whatever they are trying over there is not working and they are not willing to change. She took the second option and she will have to live with it

  • July 24, 2019 at 7:17 pm

    Thats right Maria. You got the essence. Thanks.

  • July 24, 2019 at 3:32 pm

    This isn’t just comme there, it’s also commonplace around the world. And its not the end of the world, it does make her a prostitute.

  • July 24, 2019 at 2:48 pm

    The answer to your question Margaret Lue is relatively simple.
    Only when the rotten system of communist dictatorship rots from within and Cubans are freed from bondage.
    There are a great number of us who live in the capitalist world, who top up cell-phones in Cuba through Cubacel. There is good reason for doing so, for cell-phones are increasing the volume of information which in itself is a problem recognized by the Castro administration – Diaz-Canel has expressed his concerns!

  • July 24, 2019 at 10:54 am

    So sad that she had to resort to posting pics through social media just to afford phone top ups but I can understand why as salaries are meagre there. I often send top ups to friends there and they both work but every little bit helps.
    Wonder if life in Cuba will ever improve.

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