Martin Guevara

Foto: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES — Back when I was still living in Cuba, white-skinned women were generally the ones fortunate enough to be able to climb the social ladder set up by the Cuban “de-evolution” – by marrying or becoming the lovers of “bigwigs” or high government officials.

Only a Hispanic (or any other Caucasian) appearance made a woman beautiful enough to stroll near Havana’s Coppelia ice-cream parlor or down the posh neighborhoods of Miramar and Siboney, to access the Santa Maria, Jibacoa or Barlovento yacht clubs, enter the fashionable nightclubs, swimming pools or guest homes of government leaders or enjoy the yachts or luxury suites of classy hotels. I had never run across people as racist as the children of the “bearded fathers of the homeland.”

To be considered beautiful (even in their own circles), black women had to iron their hair with a hot comb and put on a dreadful and impersonal protective helmet until they resembled Nat King Cole or James Brown.

Many a time, they would join white women in calling girls who left their hair curly “nail-heads”, and had even more derisive epithets for those who had afros a la Angela Davis.

Darker skinned black girls didn’t make a habit of visiting “well-off” neighborhoods or beaches that had tacitly and unofficially been conceived for white women. They had been banished to the rocky beaches or to Bacuranao, near Alamar, or at the periphery of the coastal town of Guanabo.

The Spanish boast of having been less racist than the English, saying they mingled with the natives and slaves and brought about mixed-race communities. What those living on the island or the peninsula neglect to mention is that such “mingling” wasn’t brought about by wooing, marriage or family – they were rapes, perpetrated night after night in slave quarters by field bosses, estate owners and their heirs.

White “revolutionaries” would say that black people didn’t like to swim, that they went to the beach only to get drunk and gawk at white women. In addition, they behaved with a sense of shame, under the self-censorship called for by that categorical conception of beauty which was not too dissimilar from the one they claimed to have uprooted.

Suddenly, the island began to welcome Canadian, Italian, Spanish and French tourists, people who, in addition to sympathizing with the demands of revolutionary Cuba, made the most of their visit with a fling.

They had quite obviously come to the Caribbean in search of a little “brown sugar”. Nearly all of the more refined and cultivated white women had left the country, expelled and impelled by the new laws of the Temple of the Bearded Knights, such that, with rare exceptions, European and Canadian visitors rarely went after the semi-whites.

They had only one thing on their minds: revolution and mulatto women, seasoned with sunny beaches and rum. They were after the mulatto woman – once vilely described as the best thing left behind on the island by the Spanish.

The Spanish boast of having been less racist than the English, saying they mingled with the natives and slaves and brought about mixed-race communities. What those living on the island or the peninsula neglect to mention is that such “mingling” wasn’t brought about by wooing, marriage or family – they were rapes, perpetrated night after night in slave quarters by field bosses, estate owners and their heirs.

Overnight, an unexpected guest began to be seen on Havana’s Calle 23, at the Coppelia ice cream parlor and Habana Libre and Nacional hotels: the stunningly beautiful black woman.

Suddenly, specimens of unknown origin began to stroll down the city clung to the arms of tourists. They reminded me of my student years and my friends with statuesque bodies (like Milagros, a busty beauty who lived in my building), but none of the women I had seen back in those days had the refinement, the social know-how, the clothes, perfume, astonishing beauty or self-assurance these women had. They no longer ironed out their hair; they had wild afros, braids and even dreadlocks. If they used a hot comb to style their hair, it was to give it shapes white women could not even dream of.

To be considered beautiful (even in their own circles), black women had to iron their hair with a hot comb and put on a dreadful and impersonal protective helmet until they resembled Nat King Cole or James Brown.

Suddenly, everything started to look small next to them: the white women, the white men, the bigwigs with their enormous pot-bellies filled with pork, beer and cracklings, the Lada cars, the guest homes, the cabins up in Santa Maria, a Bellomonte cocktail at a swimming pool soiled with floating semen, a beefsteak and three bears at the posh Conejito or La Torre restaurants.

Everything started to look small to them; they were setting their sights higher and higher. Sometime before his visit to Havana, Robert de Niro had fallen in love with Alma a model of the Maison club, but he was unable to go out with her because, at the time, the Cuban government’s “spy mania” was still in full force. A few years later, de Niro would have found the lobby of his hotel teeming with pearls, emeralds, swollen livers and fleshy lips, the kind one saw in ebony statues.

A veritable revolution, a silent vendetta against the scantily-clad white women and greasy higher-ups who wore guayaberas and kept three pens in their breast pocket, women who didn’t get to handle hard currency or travel abroad like queens  – while these black women, with their ivory smiles, their majestic height and their guitar-shaped bodies traveled to the best cities around the world.

The treasures of humble neighborhoods like Pogolotti, “Palo Cagao”, Coco Solo, La Jata or Jesus Maria had been hidden for years – not even these women themselves had known their worth. Even the Cuban State joined the party of new colors and, bold as brass, began to profit from renting out its precious mulatto and black women. This had the upside of guaranteeing that their suitors were, at least, not those penniless scoundrels who came to the island spinning yarns about distant dream palaces and the like.


6 thoughts on “Cuba Evolves in White and Black

  • I’m sorry I can try to write it in my poor English or put it in the original way in Spanish. I try to answer to each one , Thank you Moses and every body, I think that in only one polemic teaches more than hundred of agreements. Any way, to noes that likes or that dislikes mi point of view, I wanna say thank you very much for read it.

    Quiero decir que lo que he intentado en el post de la “Vendetta de Coco Solo” es comunicar de manera resumida la plástica y musicalidad de aquellos días, lo íntimo de lo que quiero transmitir, por suerte me han escrito algunos amigas y amigos de aquellos años felicitándome y eso no sólo apuntala mi maltrecha vanidad, sino que me dice que no estoy en el camino errado, gran parte de ellas del sector no agraciado en aquellos tiempos, conocidos como “negros” en su ausencia y “gente de color” en su presencia ( decirlo delante de ellos podría granjear un buen ramillete de gaznatones nunca bienvenidos del todo).
    Claro que no comenzó la discriminación con la Revolución, lo sé desde siempre, faltaba más, el tema es que precisamente para erradicarla del todo se hizo la Revolución, he escrito varios artículos sobre la bestialidad de la esclavitud su reminiscencia en la época actual, desde que se dice “un oscuro porvenir” hasta “hablare con claridad”, pero ello no obsta para hacer unas instantáneas de aquellos días de La Habana en que las negritas coco timbas como las llamaban muchos blancos y algunos mulatos, tuvieron su momento de fulgor, de belleza escultural paseando y siendo deseadas por patrones de poder, mucho más atractivos que los de los “pinchos” de las casitas de Santa María y una caja de laguer, a ver si alguien me entiende. Esto no es un tratado ni un análisis sociológico, ni siquiera somero; es una exposición de unas fotos intantáneas de la Rampa, de Varadero,de los clubs de música, como de repente las negritas coco timba ya no estaban solo en la escena bailando llena de plumas para el pública bebido, sino en las mesas mirando a sus primas, bien vestidas, altaneras, diez veces más bellas y bellos también debería añadir, que nosotros los “semi-blancos” . Siento mucho si hay gente que opina y nunca tuvo amigas o amigos hermanos de estas mujeres, yo sí, y sé de lo que hablo, de todas maneras como en todo puede haber una opinión y la contraria.
    Sólo quiero terminar diciendo que me molesta tanto que se las llamea jineteras de manera despectiva a todas las chicas que hicieron la calle, y no a las que se casaron con pinchos, a las queridas de los pinchos, a la propia Cuba cuando la URSS le ordenaba que decir a cambio de petróleo y armas, además de otros países. Me parece una falta e conocimiento de toda la realidad cubana. He escrito, pero ya e forma seria que ese flagelo que dejó la Revolución , de hacer sentir a cada cubano como inferior a cualquier extranjero, cualquier extranjero basurero de visita en Cuba que no tuviese carnet azul era como mínimo, un peldaño superior a los cubanos no hijos de pinchos, y ello llevó a que se tardará generaciones en volver a inculcar amor propio al gentilicio “cubano”, se tardará en reconocer que que robar, aunque sea al Estado, es robar y está mal, y que prostituirse aunque esté justificado, es dañar la autoestima y está mal, pero ello no impide hablar del tema como cuando tuvimos la oportunidad de vivirlo, con la misma cercanía y desprejuicio.
    Lo de Portocarrero es porque en la Rampa ya cerca del malecón hay baldosas con figuras originales del inmenso artista cubano, y lo de don Alejo Carpentier es por su apreciación de que gran parte de La Habana está flanqueada por hileras de columnas, piernas de ébano que otorgan sombra al viandante.

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