HAVANA TIMES, March 25 – “I can’t believe it. I asked my daughter what she wanted me to bring her back as a gift, and she asked for a pair of breasts,” commented a Cuban émigré – horrified. I explained to him that it was normal…that silicone implants are the latest fashion among Cuban women.
The demand is huge and it’s not so strange. Cuba must be the sole country in the world where aesthetic surgery is free. They can trim your eyelids, take off some of the belly, improve your profile with a beautiful nose or remodel women’s breasts.
It’s not necessary to be very observant to see the changes on the street. It began as something exclusive to people in entertainment, but the fashion has now extended across the board. Those who have had the operation include several of my friends: an engineer, the owner of a cafeteria, a lawyer and a housewife.
Doctors tell me the waiting list is so long that the Ministry of Public Health has decided to “establish official records” for mammary implants, which until now were done in the free time of hospital operating rooms.
Such operations have been carried here in Cuba for a long time. A plastic surgeon in my neighborhood even lost his license 10 years ago for giving implants to a transvestite without the proper authorization from the hospital where he worked.
Doctors used to introduce implants through an incision beneath the breast, though currently many surgeons do it through the nipple itself, which does a better job at hiding scaring, and therefore improves the aesthetics.
In Cuba there is nowhere to buy these prostheses, so they have to be imported. They’re brought by émigrés from the US, Cuban aid workers from Venezuela, travelers who go to and from Ecuador, while the wealthiest people look for them in France or Spain.
The demand is so great that an industry has emerged whereby more than a few people make a living bringing in breasts from abroad. The customs office at the airport allows these to go through without opening the containers because they need to arrive in the operating room in their original aseptic package.
The cost is relatively high. A couple of implants on the black market cost around $700 USD if they’re Chinese made and $900 USD if they’re European. To that it’s necessary to add some kind of gift so that the surgeon is able to promptly find an open slot in the operating room schedule.
I went to one of the postoperative consultations and I sat down to listen to the conversations there. Almost all the young women spoke of awful pains experienced during the first couple of days, but none said they regretted it – quite the contrary, I even found some who had returned for additional work.
One woman came in who years ago had had 300cc mammary implants inserted, like most of the Cuban women there. However, this attractive 40-something woman was looking to have another operation to put in 500cc’s of silicon.
The physiognomy of Cuban women is changing. Those “creole” images drawn by cartoonist Luis Felipe Wilson —with caramel-colored skin, big behinds, thick thighs and small breasts— are passing into history thanks to new bodies modeled with the help of silicon and the scalpel.
Communism officially proclaims that what is important is a woman’s ideology, while religious believers affirm that implants are a sin against the work of God. Nonetheless, the eyes of Marxists and Christians alike pop out over the beauty of those synthetic polymers.
But not everyone approves of the operation. A surgeon friend of mine radically opposes them. He asserts, “You have to be crazy to go into an operating room for the hell of it. People don’t know the risks they’re running.”
He says that to all the women, but up until now he hasn’t been very successful in his campaign.
An authorized translation by Havana Times (from the Spanish original) published by BBC Mundo.