Pretty American Jane Visits Cuba

Tourist Tales from Cuba

Vincent Morin Aguado

Photo: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES — Tall, lanky and with a Hollywood “doll face,” only her fast walking — when she was alone — diminished any of the elegance of Jane, “the pretty American,” as my wife and I christened her in the end. This was after realizing her value as a person and feeling some of her frustration when it came time for her to leave Cuba.

When I met Jane, she was visiting our country for the first time accompanied by her mother. As a teacher in the bilingual educational system in California, it was easy to speak with her. She asked about everything with the greatest delight and amazement, without showing any complex – something very gratifying to me. A few days later she returned to the United States with the promise to hurry back, and so she did.

I was unaware of what was behind her special interest in Cuba other than her getting to know the culture, which excited her so much. To add to the confusion, when she returned she came with another person, a friend, who at first I thought was her boyfriend.

The true story behind it all was different, as was revealed over the days that followed.

Jane made good on her promise to bring me some Newsweek magazines, which were handed to me by the apparent boyfriend, though I never saw him again.

Then appeared the man of our story, a fellow who himself was as tall and lanky as Jane. He was a musician, according to him, and it immediately became clear that he was the reason for the presence of the pretty young American in Havana.

I can’t say that Ormari demonstrated himself to be rude or impertinent with me. In his presence, I too maintained a friendly distance in my role as a friend and the chosen partner for each day’s cultural excursions, as requested by the warm-hearted California teacher.

Actually she was from the Philippines, which was the reason for her well-pronounced Spanish that had been learned from her parents, though she had a mother with a German last name.

She lives in Fountain Valley, a small town surrounded by fields of strawberries, near San Diego, in the south of the state known as being the richest and most populated in the United States.

We visited almost all of the museums of Havana, including the Dance Museum sponsored by the National Ballet of Cuba, which aroused a special interest on the part of the American.

Photo: Caridad

She didn’t miss her encounter with “strawberry and chocolate” at the Coppelia outdoor ice cream parlor, with photos included. She and the Cuban also had dinner in my humble room in Centro Havana and I too shared a meal at Ormari’s house, in another simple room but in Old Havana.

The controversial part of all of this was that I never heard any singing by this musical artist who was “in love.” Nor did I see a single musical instrument among any of his things. All of this only increased my suspicions about the authenticity of this “musician.”

In the evenings we would often meet with them and other friends — Jane with her billfold in hand — drinking mojitos in Obispo Street bars.

Sometimes I was accompanying them because the American insisted on my presence, though those outings began to really annoy me. She would hold a conversation with me, distant from the jokes and laughter of Ormari and his buddies, who were all concentrated on keeping track of cocktails they had ordered, gesturing the number to the bartender on duty. Jane couldn’t understand what was happening, though I could. But, given the situation, I was compelled to silently restrain my outrage.

Each Mojito served meant another dollar secretly traveling into the pocket of the man Jane had chosen as her possible life partner.

I talked with my wife about this matter in addition to other observations, feeling the temptation to alert our friend as to what was going on. “She’s in love,” my wife advised me, “she’s not ready to understand; so in the end things would turn sour between all of us. She’s leaving and he’ll stay here. Let’s leave it at that.”

Jane spent a long time in Cuba. She later returned and promised to come back once again. Fortunately she didn’t. I think that eventually, reflecting on a beach on the Pacific California coast, she found the secret to her problem: There wasn’t any music, and much less love.

A good while later Ormari happened to walk past me on the Malecon seawall accompanied by another tall and beautiful woman – unmistakable Anglo in appearance. Neither of us made the slightest gesture of greeting or identification.

When this story that I’m telling happened, there wasn’t any public email service in Havana. I had to turn to the traditional mail to send a New Year’s message to Jane. I bought a postcard that had on it one of those masterful landscapes imagined and meticulously painted by Tomas Sanchez, who at that time still enjoyed official recognition in our country.

There was the immense sea and a small green island in the center. Jane was delighted to receive my card, but I felt one of those deep sorrows you can never forget when I read her response:

“Dear Vincente,

I very much appreciate the postcard. It was very inspiring for me. Although I remember you fondly, I hope that you find a way to come here, because as much as I would like to, I will never return there again. I think I got my answer. But tell me, why didn’t you warn me?”
To contact Vincent Morin Aguado, write: [email protected]

11 thoughts on “Pretty American Jane Visits Cuba

  • I am so impressed to realize how they came to criticize tourist, and they felt to notice the more time they spent in Cuba the more money the country makes out of them. Very funny twist on the reality of survival!

  • In a world of gross inequality, selfish, manipulative behavior can only be expected of a certain percentage of the population. Everywhere. But all the more reason to rid the Planet of all inequality, ASAP.

  • Patsi, thanks for sharing your story. I believe most who get scammed are aware of the risk, just not the degree of risk. It’s a harsh lesson to experience people who are experts at extracting what they want by using “love”. Looking back it makes sense but not when one is in the midst.

  • Ok, we were not talking about the reasons, the conversation was about the existence . Better educated, yes they are but more than anywhere else I don’t agree. Sorry, you are putting every cuban in the same bag, I know many of them living in really bad conditions but honest enought to not go to the street to scam a turist. The ones I know they may be struggel to survive in that hard/difficult situation, with the low salary and all shortage of resourses they have but they don’t allow themself to hustle anyone, not even their friends. So I’m pretty sure you found lots of them too during those 3 years you lived there.

  • Ah, Moses! You simply cannot let go of the Class Warfare routine for a moment! Do you really think that only lower class people engage in these scams – except in Cuba of course.

    Prey are prey, and predators know no class boundaries. The son of the Judge in the Netherlands who [probably] murdered the girl celebrating her HS graduation in the Bahamas, and who later was convicted of murdering another young woman in Columbia, was not ‘low class’. Nor was Ted Bundy with his youthful. college boy, good looks, in the US.

    Another point that can be made is that the Jinteros of Cuba are after money. In many other countries, they are serial killers whose very ‘Class’ allows them to get away with murder for years.

    I am an older woman, altho I was a bit younger when I visited Cuba. And yes, I was taken in by a Jintero – briefly – and I got my monies worth. An afternoon of fun and games flirting with a good looking older gentleman. Actually, I am not certain who took advantage of whom. I am a budget traveler. When I maxed out my day’s budget for entertainment plus meals, I got up and left.

    Didn’t PT Barnum say something fitting about a fool and their money? And, there has never been a shortage of fools!

    IMO, the ‘Good Friend’ should have at least said something to the American idiot about Cuban’s being allowed to buy their partner dinner once in a while – even in Havana. Sometimes it doesn’t take much to set off the alarm bell.

    By going along, didn’t he imply the guy was on the up and up? Did he ever ask where the ‘Musician’ played, or what instruments? Or even what kind of music? Most of the Musicians I came across had a CD or 2 they’d happily sell – for CUC currency, of course.

  • Raul104, I have traveled to every country you named above. While it is true that “jineterismo” takes place in each of these places and many others as well, Cuba is far and away among the worst. Here’s why: In each of these other places the characters most likely to engage in this behavior are more clearly identifiable as lower class (economic and social). Working people, professionals, doctors, engineers, lawyers etc. in Columbia, for example, typically are not out looking to scam tourists. For the most part, a tourist must go out of their way to interact with people who are not involved in the tourism industry in these other countries. In Cuba, you are just as likely to get approached by a doctor with less than honorable intentions as you are anyone else. Worse still, because this Cuban is a doctor, you drop your guard and become even more vulnerable to the scam. In fairness, the Cuban doctor is just trying to hustle to make a living because his state salary is not enough. Something a Dominican Republic doctor does not have to do. I agree that there are hustlers everywhere. In Cuba, there are just more of them and they are better educated.

  • Ok, I’m agree with all the stuff said here but that happen everywhere, Mexico, Jamaica, Colombia in the coastal areas and Dominican Rep, the nationals behave the same way. What I’m trying to say that “jineterismo” with different name you are able to find everywhere you go.

  • Of course, this story is similar to thousands of others, familiar to everyone who knows the cuban scene. But I enjoyed reading it from the perspective of a decent Cuban who’s an unwilling witness to it. It explains a bit why those honest Cubans generally don’t blow the whistle on the jineteros. I can understand they have more to lose than to win, but they still feel uncomfortable.

  • so true Moses, unfortunately I walked into the boca de lione and thought I was invincible and couldnt be scammed or hurt and now 6 years later and a fake marriage I am left penniless and trying to divorce a jinetero who has everything he wanted and has left me devastated, I was the yuma stupida and he had me FOOLED but I was the willing victim at the time………

  • During the three years that I lived in Cuba, this exact story replayed before me countless times. It was worse for me since I am American.But I always “ratted out” the Cuban jinetero/a. Not surprisingly, most of the time, my warnings were ignored and even worse, the tourist after having received my warning turned on me as if I was the bad guy. I was given some advice by an Italiian who has lived in Cuba 30 years. He said Cubans can only make fools out of those tourist who let them. No one is forced to do anything. Truer words never spoken.

  • Even if you are someone’s BEST friend, when they’re in love (err, or at least lust) you can warn them–but they won’t listen! Such “love,” as Socrates correctly surmised in Symposium, is truly a (form of) madness. I’ve heard many such tales of woe over at Lonely Planet’s Thorntree, Cuba Branch, or on the “Cuba Amor” theads at GreenScreen, etc. Most folks never seem to do their research, but walk blithely into the den of the wolves–or at least the jinateros! In any event, this was part of her education, like Lynn Barber memoir (later made into a film) “An Education” (which I recommend). Thanks for sharing this story with us!

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