Reports from Cuba: ‘My girlfriend’s foreign lover.’ Has Cuban machismo mutated?

Lourdes Gomez writes from Santiago de Cuba via Diario de Cuba:

“My girlfriend’s foreign lover.” Has Cuban machismo mutated?

The high season for tourism again reveals a stark reality: young Cubans trying to achieve their dreams by seducing older foreigners.

In Santiago de Cuba police surveilling recreational facilities in the center of the city have really gone after young women. “The DTI arrives and takes them away without even looking at their IDs,” says a regular at the La Claqueta bar. “It doesn’t matter if they are alone. Just being there is a crime.”

Prostitution is a constant phenomenon in Cuban tourism. The authorities have not been able to eradicate it, despite repressive and unconstitutional measures like warnings against “besieging tourists” and the “proclivity towards prostitution.”

It is so inevitable that even Cuba’s macho tradition has had to adapt to it.

Celia is Luis’s girlfriend, but she has another. Luis knows it, approves, and actually encourages it. He has no problem accepting it. His girlfriend’s lover is an older Frenchman.

Adopting the pimp’s mentality has seeped into the national subconscious. Infidelity is not seen in a traditional way. In Luis’s view, his girlfriend being with the old man is justified. This relationship implies an economic benefit for all and, with some luck, an escape route off the Island. If Celia’s other boyfriend were Cuban, then it would represent a threat to Luis’s manhood, and violent consequences for her partner.

When asked why he does not see this infidelity in the traditional machista way, Luis responds tersely: “That’s not cheating. She’s struggling.” Luis and his girlfriend do not consider themselves hustlers, and she has a small hairdressing business.

“This tourist just fell out of the sky,” says Luis. “We met him at a birthday party and he simply fell head over heels for her. I told Celia to go with him.”

The decision for her to prostitute herself was not a moral dilemma for the couple. In fact, they do not even see it that way. Luis’s concept of prostitution is “a woman who is on the street offering sex for money. Celia’s is a stable relationship.”

And many Cubans on the island think the same way. To take up with a tourist is a dream for many. The deification of foreigners occurs both in cities considered tourist hotspots, and even in the most remote rural areas.

A tourist invited by a Cuban friend to meet his family in a village on the outskirts of El Salvador, Guantánamo, says that what struck him the most was how a whole town adopt pimp-like behavior.

“Wherever I went, men and women were looking for girlfriends for me. Without any sense of shame, they offered me women. And they did not consider it prostitution. I didn’t have to pay. But if I wanted to give her some small gift…”

According to this tourist, the proposals came from older men and women, people who seldom deal with foreigners. He considers himself an old man, and fails to understand how this obsession with finding someone for him is not considered a crude act of sexual commerce.

Machismo has remained one of the social and behavioral practices of Cuban men and women, despite campaigns against it, but with the increase in tourism a tendency to turn a blind eye has prevailed. Sharing a partner is not a some swinger’s whim. Rather, it is part of a mentality, a mutation adopted in the interest of survival.

Celia is waiting for her first invitation letter soon. If she gets a visa, it will be mission accomplished. Luis will continue to support her. He will be taking care of their three-year-old son, and will also benefit from her migration.