I Would Have Liked to go to the Tropicana

By Xiomara Reinoso Gomez

Tropicana. Photo: juventudrebelde.cu
Tropicana. Photo: juventudrebelde.cu

HAVANA TIMES — I woke up tired today, as though I’d put on 20 years in my sleep. This happens often. I gradually regain my strength in the course of the day. I’m not complaining. It’s the kind of thing you’d expect when your life has been a disaster.

I turned 59 this month. It’s terrible how time flies! Youth lasts as long as a bottle of rum in a drunkard’s hands.

There’s so many things I did and didn’t do. It’s time to draw a balance.

As a young woman, I loved going to Havana’s nightclubs. I went to nearly all of them save for the most famous and classiest of them all, the paradise under the stars, Tropicana. I’m no longer interested in going. Going to Tropicana would be as exciting as sitting in front of the TV at home. A few decades ago, however, I was dying to. One day, I had a chance to go and passed on it.

I worked at a military unit at the time. I don’t know how things work nowadays, but, at the time, even to mop the floors at a military unit you had to be checked out by the Committee for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR) on your block and the Cuban Women’s Federation (FMC).

I later found out that the CDR chair had declared I had “ideological weaknesses.” He was actually right: I’m not at all interested in politics and I have always tried to keep my distance from it.

I was denied the position because of that snitch, but I went to the unit in person with a tight-fitting pair of jeans that really accentuated my ideology, and the captain there revoked that decision.

To cut the story short, I was given a job as a kitchen assistant, serving food to military recruits (now, they call it Comprehensive Military Service, but it is just as obligatory as it was back then). The poor fellows had to eat from aluminum trays, drink from poor-quality aluminum cups and sit at bare tables. They served themselves water from a fridge.

One day, I had to serve the officers, who ate in a separate mess hall. When I looked at the room from the door, I was shocked. It didn’t look like a military mess hall, it looked like a luxury restaurant. The tables had white tablecloths, ceramic plates, fine wine glasses, paper napkins, floral decorations…all impeccable. It was a pleasure to be there. The food was the same the recruits got, but everything else was abysmally different.

While serving one of the officiers – a real hunk of man, incidentally – I asked him, with all of the frankness I’m known for:

“Why is your mess hall so nice and the one for the recruits so seedy?”

“Because hierarchy has always existed,” he replied.

I didn’t say anything. I didn’t know anything about the matter. It wasn’t the right time to talk about it and I stood a big chance of losing my job.

A few days passed and that same officer came to the kitchen. I don’t recall what silly pretext he used, but he started flirting with me and said:

“I have an invitation for two for Tropicana and I would like it if you came with me.”

That was tempting. I was dying to go to Tropicana and that stud made you want to eat him up and lick your fingers.
“I’m sorry, I replied. But a recruit invited me to ice-cream at Coppelia and I’m going with him.”

He looked at me as though he couldn’t believe what he was hearing. I went in for the kill:

“See, I was made by the humble, for the humble.”

The truth is I couldn’t help rub his own arrogance in his face and remind him of those important words.

He started to laugh sarcastically, but his face revealed his hurt vanity and frustration. I think he’ll never forget the day he was rejected for a recruit – him and all his officer friends


12 thoughts on “I Would Have Liked to go to the Tropicana

  • September 15, 2015 at 1:44 pm
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    The “old fool” in question was not and is not a friend of mine. My recording his experience was related to the title of the article.

  • September 11, 2015 at 6:10 pm
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    That Xiomara made a fair assessment of the reasons why the officer sought to persuade her to go to the Tropicana. The lady who so willingly became the paramour of the “old fool” was a performer there.

  • September 11, 2015 at 1:12 pm
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    My point is that Xiomara was correct in her assessment of the Tropicana. Maybe you didn’t read the article.

  • September 11, 2015 at 1:11 pm
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    I too await Mr. Goodrich’s reply with interest and curiosity – especially of learning where his definition has been put into practice.

  • September 11, 2015 at 11:38 am
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    I doubt even Socrates would have tried to hold himself out as the sole arbiter of what is the true Republic, or as with John Goodrich, true socialism.

  • September 11, 2015 at 9:35 am
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    As Socrates says, towards the end of REPUBLIC, (and I paraphrase) “even if this Republic never comes to pass (but remains an idea, one of the forms–emagicmtman) we shouldn’t cease trying to create one.”

  • September 11, 2015 at 9:31 am
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    The story of your friend in Edmonton has been repeated many times, for example, on the old Cuba Green Screen “Cuba Amor” board. There’s “no fool like an old fool”–unless, of course, it is a young fool!

  • September 10, 2015 at 4:59 pm
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    …..and your point is….?

  • September 10, 2015 at 3:32 pm
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    Please share your definition of ‘socialism’. While you’re at it, if you dare, please share or cite the name of even one ‘learned’ person that agrees with your definition.

  • September 10, 2015 at 12:53 pm
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    Regain control of your life. If you feel that you are or have been drinking too much then cut back gradually. No matter where you happen to live these days someone has you on file, so what , do not let these peopleget under your skin, you are still a relatively young woman, reclaim your self worth and believ in yourself, do not let these losers get you down, remember you are not a loser you are a winner as from right now. Take a look in the mirror and say i am better than this. I am worth more than this. I am a powerful and good person, and remember you are!

  • September 10, 2015 at 12:30 pm
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    Cuba is a state capitalist economy .
    It is not and never has been socialist except in the minds of the unlearned. .

  • September 9, 2015 at 2:10 pm
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    There are those who doubt the role of the CDR in Cuba, but Xiomara’s account demonstrates its role. The CDR is frequently the source of information about so-called dissidents. The regime has a dossier on every resident of Cuba – including photograph.
    Xiomara also records for the doubters, the different life style that exists for officers in the military. Cuba does have an upper class. Their support and that of the military at large is key to retention of power by the Castro family regime. Since the mysterious death of Camilo Cienfuegos, Raul Castro Ruz has been head of the military. Hence the number of octogenarian generals that sit on the Executive Council of Cuba.
    Mention of the Tropicana reminds me of an elderly man in Edmonton, Canada, who attended the Tropicana when in Havana and was picked up by one of the female performers. She took him home and he slept with her. Being impressed by his conquest and having substantial financial resources, he found a way to get her to Canada to enable him to further brag to his friends. He enrolled his paramour for a course at the university, paying fees of in excess of $5,000.
    So the Canadian Embassy issued the woman a temporary residents visa – something they only did for my wife after denying five applications.
    The delighted woman flew to Edmonton, spent a month living with the man and being displayed to his friends and returned to Cuba. She did not attend a single class at the university. I have to confess that I have never attended the Tropicana, but it’s assets have been well promoted in Edmonton by the man I described!
    These pages for a relatively brief period, received contributions from one named Gomezz, he was an amigo of the regime and had the gall to describe how his friends in Havana (most one could guess living in Siboney with perhaps a few in Mirimar), all had the Internet and how if he moved to Cuba, he would be able to afford a nice house, a car and a servant. Whereas socialism/communism poses as seeking an equal society, that is in fact rhetoric – the reality is that those in power live a life of considerable ease.

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