HAVANA TIMES — “All Cuban women are whores,” a regular at a bar in Barcelona blurted out with a very sour look on his face when he heard that I lived in Cuba. The generalization struck me as awful, but I have to admit that it is a rather widespread opinion.
That is what Cuba looks like from a hotel: a country of tourist complexes surrounded by prostitutes on the hunt for “successful” males, those who have to travel 5 thousand kilometers in order to have sex (and pay for it).
Many may be surprised to learn that, in Cuba, sex is one of the few free and non-rationed things. It can’t be too comforting for one’s male ego to discover that one has been paying for something that others do for mere pleasure.
It is not my intention to criticize jineteras. I have a couple of good friends in the trade and they are as respectable to me as any other women. Even they, however, would have to agree that they represent a small part of Cuba’s female population.
There are hundreds of young women in my neighborhood. Some of them were my son’s friends and even girlfriends, and I only know of 3 or 4 prostitutes in the neighborhood. The rest work or study, fall in love with a plain old Cuban and slip away to parties on the back of a bicycle.
I could share hundreds of anecdotes about Cuban women who would leave more than one of these bar sociologists with their mouths agape, as many are the ones who prioritize love and sex over money in their personal relationships.
I know one woman who was married to a Spanish businessman. They lived in Madrid until, in one of her trips back home, she met a common Cuban, a manual laborer. She now has children with him and they both seem happy, despite the ration booklet.
I imagine her ex-husband finds it hard to understand that she should had given up all of the comforts she had in Spain to return to Cuba to live like the rest, trading such coveted luxuries for the simple pleasures of the soul and flesh.
At any rate, it’s hard for such difficulties to unnerve Cuban women – they were the main financial pillar of their homes during the economic crisis of the 90s, when people had to do the impossible in order to cook without food and wash without soap.
In those days, a Cuban woman was a kind of “household Christ” who worked the miracle of multiplying the bread and fish, so that her family could have the food needed to survive on the table every day.
These women had to do this while going work, as 65 % of Cuba’s professionals and technicians are women, some of whom have made important contributions to the sciences, the humanities, the arts and sports.
More than half of Cuba’s health professionals – doctors, nurses and technicians – working abroad are also women, women who have gone and continue to go as far as the mountains of Pakistan, the jungles of Guatemala and the poor neighborhoods of Caracas.
It’s true they are a little different from other women in the continent. Cuba has a very high divorce rate, and women there consider abortion a right and do not feel sex is a sin, such that they make love without feelings of guilt.
Fashion does not dictate the decisions they make and they do not let their age get in the way of these: they wear what they please and no one criticizes them for it, when many of their contemporaries around the world believe that the only right thing for them to do is to raise grandchildren.
They are very loving mothers, independent as partners and creative and very passionate as professionals. Generally speaking, they are not women who can be bought. Even among prostitutes, those who rent their bodies, it is difficult to find one that sells herself.
The fact is that a Cuban woman is never wholly ours – she chooses who she wants to be with every single day and, if her partner wishes to be re-elected, he will have to show her the love and passion she demands. For them, changing partners does not entail the slightest trauma.
No few foreigners have been dearly disappointed on trying to buy a woman in Cuba. Now, in the loneliness of a bar, they do not quite manage to understand why they failed, so they mumble for anyone who wants to hear that “all Cuban women are whores.”
(*) Visit Fernando Ravsberg’s blog.