By Yusimi Rodriguez
HAVANA TIMES — The answer to that question has changed over the years, as have the circumstances and the compatriots that look at me.
In the nineties I dressed like most teenagers or people in their early twenties did: hipster jeans, short skirts, blouses, square-heeled booties that I absolutely adored.
The decade of the nineties was the decade the dollar was legalized, one of growing tourism and a growing vocabulary with new words like jinetera for a hooker, a hustler or a part-time prostitute and other sexually charged words like pepe (for a foreigner) and pinguero (male prostitute), coming into the language … At least, they were new to me.
I never had anything against the jineteras. I knew some of them and worked with others who, although they were not soliciting officially, had a more discreet modus operandi, shared the aspirations of those, let us say, were more professionally committed.
Although I quite understood them, I was quite sure I had nothing in common with the jineteras until the third or fourth time I was stopped by a policeman who gave me the once over before asking for my ID and checking to see if I had a criminal record.
I got used to it – as you get used to lots of things in this country – but that doesn’t mean it stopped bothering me. Once I missed the bus because I got stopped by a policeman …a traffic cop, who asked for my ID. It was after ten o’clock at night. I was a model at La Maison at the time and had just finished work. I had to wait till midnight to catch another bus!
One afternoon I was strolling down Obispo and a girl asked me if there were a lot of police at the top of the street, and if they were asking to see your identity card. She looked very alarmed so I got alarmed too.
“Has there been a robbery, or an assault, has anyone been killed?” Quite ingenuously she said, “Assault for what? Aren’t in the struggle?”
And without skipping a beat, I said “What struggle?”
“The Yumas? Aren’t you a hooker?”
I guess the police officers were not that far off the mark, it seems, there must have been something about me when that girl took me to be one of the trade. What did she and I have in common; that we were under twenty-five, were slim, were… black?
In 2005, I was in a collective taxi with three girls, foreigners: Welsh, Argentine and American. The Welsh girl was in the front seat next to the driver. I was in the back between the American and the Argentine girl.
A policeman stopped the taxi just as the driver switched on the ignition. Looking at Gwenn, you couldn’t guess she was Welsh but you could see she was foreign. The Argentine girl and the American girl could have been taken for white Cubans, but just guess who my compatriot policeman asked to identify themselves?
I could give you plenty of examples. As I wrote in the first article I published on the HT site entitled “The Revolution Made Blacks Human“ I was once collecting snails on the beach with a white friend ( A Cuban girl like myself) and a policeman asked me for my identification…just me. He took my friend for a foreigner and said I was responsible for her.
Could it be that the jineteras in this country are all black? That the only people financially desperate enough to prostitute themselves are black? And if that is so why is it only the blacks?
In this country, where social equality was guaranteed by the triumph of the revolution, where all vestiges of racial discrimination were supposedly removed, how is it that only black women are forced into prostitution to provide for the basic needs of their families, to aspire to a better life abroad, or simply to enter places that were once forbidden to them?
Or could it be that the police are trained only to see black prostitutes?