Vicente Morin Aguado
HAVANA TIMES — The most recent video to shock the world, revealing the hidden face of a society in a state of decomposition, is not exceptional. What’s different today is the fact cell phones have proliferated to all corners of the globe combined with Internet access.
There are plenty more stories to tell:
Two years ago, next to the entrance of the picturesque gothic church located on Reina Street, when the church was closed but the sun was still shining, a couple was making love. The parish priest asked them to stop after the neighbors drew his attention to it. As in the recent incident on the San Rafael promenade – which is an extremely busy place frequented by tourists – the police were conspicuously absent.
Days before President Obama’s visit, they carried out one of the customary raids to put away all vagrants who, in the government’s eyes, tarnish the city in the eyes of illustrious visitors. One of them escaped from a detention center. Speaking of his adventure, he recalls a number of details about his stay at the facility:
“A doctor was asking us questions. I told her I had a family, a wife, siblings and that my parents were alive, even though I’m already pushing 55. That place was a den of vice. Women would crouch in front of you and poop on the floor. There was even a couple having sex in front of everyone.”
Some facts should be reviewed before assessing these public sex incidents in the Cuban capital.
At night, out on the street, girls offer carnal pleasures in the vicinity of where they live. A phrase one often hears is: “Friend, let’s go at it under the stairs.” The rest consists in agreeing to a price, which is always lower than those set by “quality” working girls or men, who only sell their bodies in specific and well-known places, such as Aguila Street, between Reina and Monte.
We won’t speak of the much-maligned jineteras, who target tourism and endure persecution by the authorities.
Under the stairs means the space under the first steps in any building. Though somewhat hidden, the lovers are still having sex in public when they do it in such places.
Today, many of such spaces under stairwells are locked off, as residents seek protection from the lewd behavior.
Those who engage in public intercourse also go to parks, where one is no longer surprised to run into a heterosexual or homosexual couple not making much of an effort to conceal their actions, barely covered by the veil of night and their clothes.
Cases of deadly aggression between rival lovers have been reported – and those that have even involved law and order officials, who have become the victims of the uncontrollable violence that results from such encounters.
The issue is particularly serious because most of those implicated in these incidents are young people. Youth, as we know, is a time of impulsiveness and the release of energy, but, decades ago, such things didn’t happen. When two people wanted to have sex outside their homes, they would go to hostels, where they could rent a discrete, clean and cheap room.
There were over 200 such hostels in Havana, and they have all but disappeared. Today, they are making a comeback as tiny motels that are privately operated. After asking around, one of the owners of these motels told me: “We charge 50 pesos the hour. We accept couples of every sort, provided they respect the rules. There’s no homophobia here. We’re here to serve, this is a business.”
Today’s youth was raised without any such options. Such prices seem high to them and the service unnecessary. Proof of this is that those who practice these forms of amorous exhibitionism have total disregard for the moral norms of the city.
The incident at the San Rafael Boulevard is not exceptional. It is the most visible end of a social upheaval, sparked off by the growing crisis of values that scourges the county.