The Russian Millionaire, the Virgin Nurse and the Hustler

By Aurelio Pedroso   (Progreso Semanal)

HAVANA TIMES — When a joke has a social-political nature, it always has a well-defined context or background of the time when it came into the public sphere, traveling from mouth to mouth across the island to everyone.

Because this is what we Cubans have, who from the most intelligent to the less intelligent (although sometimes they need to be repeated so people can understand them) we enjoy these words sprinkled with unexpected events.

The joke about the Russian millionaire and the virgin nurse, and I have no intention to attack or defame such a noble profession whatsoever, could never have come into being if everything hadn’t changed when the former USSR collapsed. This is why the joke is “funny”, like the “Buena Pipa” story, because back then there weren’t any rich Russians who had so much money and much less a virgin paramedic.

Instead, today, there are Russians who sweat dollars or euros in Varadero or the capital. At least that part of the joke is made clear.

This not-so-perfect introduction to the joke is because, reading a certain report from the 2nd International Symposium on Gender Violence, Prostitution, Sexual Tourism and Trafficking, funded by CENESEX – an institution headed by Mariela Castro -, a colleague of mine rightly pointed out that “they didn’t mention the Cuban people’s needs stemming from the current economic situation.”

In my opinion, in this profession of being a journalist which implies a greater commitment to yourself and the reader, I have to admit that quite a few Cuban people have set out to sell sexual favors, forced because of their financial situation.

It’s been a long time now since the Ache club, at the Melia Cohiba Hotel, could give the most exclusive brothel in Madrid itself a good run for its money, when prostitutes were charging over 100 USD per hour or for just a little while, at the end of the last century.

The controversial subject of prostitution in Havana began from those unforgettable moments depicted as if in 3D by historian Manuel Moreno Fraginals, from the very moment that port activity began and where prostitutes were called “freight” for want of a better name: ships were freighted, but women were too.

There are so many examples of this that it could be taken, say to an academic event. However, the most meaningful case I experienced and which I will remember for years to come, is that of a nurse, a natural blonde, who was capable of stopping the fastest train which still hadn’t reached our railways. I saw her worn-down by her circumstances as she had nowhere to live with her little girl.

I won’t give her name. Nor will I make the effort to find this girl, who with great sincerity confessed that she used to close her eyes during sex.

On more than one occasion, she confirmed that once she had fixed her situation, she would leave behind that daily grind of foreigners and Cubans who used to pay her well.

That’s the thing about prostitution; everybody has their own opinion, like in religion or politics. People normally try to classify “what’s right” and “what’s wrong” into prearranged concepts. But at the end of the day, every case is unique: If there are prostitutes because they are hungry, there are also prostitutes because that’s what they have running in their blood. And to judge those, who like this young woman, literally took to the street so that she could feed her children.

I stopped seeing her for a long time until the day of the fatal swimming pool accident at the Kohly hotel, where the son of a friend of mine cracked his head open. We immediately went to the pediatric hospital in Marianao. And there she was, wearing the obligatory uniform.

She took me to the side and told me about her new humble home and her marriage to an “almendron” (old US car collective taxi) owner who travels the Marianao-Plaza route in the capital.

– I told you. Nobody believed me. I’m a happy woman. I have everything.

Without thinking properly, maybe just to reduce the tension of the surprise of running into each other, I couldn’t do anything but look her up and down, remember those times when she was a star and say, as if asking:

– So, you don’t close your eyes anymore…

– They’re more wide open now than ever.

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