Prostitution in Cuba
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    Self-Portrait of a Hooker

    Self-Portrait of a Hooker* / Iván García

    Ivan Garcia, Laritza Diversent, Translator: Unstated

    It is Mayra's first day on the street. The entire family is glad she is

    back. The atmosphere is very different from before, when she went to

    prison. Now her parents do not get upset when her eleven year old son

    tries to make them laugh with a stories about the comandante.

    Her mother, with her back turned, laughs at the boy's joke. Myra is

    astonished. Before, her parents were constantly monitoring her speech.

    Under no circumstances would they have allowed her to say anything bad

    about the comandante or the Revolution. They would become incensed and

    explained why she should be eternally grateful: "Thanks to the

    revolution you have a house, an education, you don't pay anything when

    you get sick."

    Sitting in the patio, breathing the fresh air, she thinks back again to

    her cell, the bricked-up windows, the humid air, and a stench of urine

    and excrement. She blinks. She feels a sense of relief. Yes, things have

    changed at home. Her parents now complain about "how bad things are."

    One by one they count their "chavitos"—their small change in convertible

    pesos—to see if they have enough to buy a liter of cooking oil.

    Mami is now 65 years old. She is fatter, spilling over the chair in

    front of the sewing machine. She works mending clothes for the

    neighbors. Papi is bony and ten centimeters shorter than five years ago.

    In two more days he will turn 70. He is retired from the Revolutionary

    Armed Forces and gets a "chequera," a pension of 320 pesos, some

    thirteen dollars. He also works as a nightwatchman at a business near

    his house. He cleans patios and makes some extra money.

    It is difficult for Mayra to imagine that once they went to the Plaza to

    joyously scream their support for the Revolution and Fidel Castro. They

    dreamt of a paradise where there would be no social inequalities and the

    exploitation of man by man would not exist. They believed in the

    Constitution, which compelled them to memorize the passage in the

    Preamble by José Martí: "I want to see that the first law of our

    Republic requires devotion by Cubans to the full dignity of man."

    But when the "special period" arrived in the 1990s, fanatics like her

    parents lost their enthusiasm. They began to tell her to talk in a low

    voice when she complained about those scheduledpower blackouts that

    lasted twelve hours a day, or when she occasionally even complained

    about the supreme leader. Now they become deaf and dumb when her son

    tells them that his dream is to become a ball player, to be able to

    travel, to live far away and to make a lot of money.

    Dreams like that take her back to Doña Delicia, a women's correctional

    facility. Images come to mind of when she went to work as a "jinetera"—

    a prostitute —on Fifth Avenue in Miramar. Images of police, acts of

    solicitation, a danger to society and five years in prison. It all

    happened so quickly. So stupid!

    "I don't have a 'machango,'" she told the police. "If I had given them

    what they wanted, taken the easy route, I would not have gone to jail.

    But I would not let myself be blackmailed and so off I went. Who would

    have thought this would all get so complicated? It's because of that

    son-of-a-bitch policeman, who tried to force me to kiss him. He was so

    disgusting. No, I am not sorry. If it happened again, I would do exactly

    the same. Ultimately, life is a game of Russian roulette."

    It seemed to Mayra that she was seeing the face of her father at the

    trial, the same one he had when her mother begged him to make piece with

    their other child, her brother, a "marielito," one of the more than one

    hundred thousand people who left Cuba in 1980 through the port of

    Mariel. "We were dying of hunger," she says, "but my father always had

    his pride. Even when Mami was sick with optical neuritis and almost died."

    "He now receives remittances from Miami, 'the nest of worms.' How funny.

    When I went to prison, he was the president of the local Committee for

    the Defense of the Revolution. A few days later he resigned. He got a

    letter inviting him to visit his family 'in the bowels of the beast.' At

    any rate he learned that it does not matter what path you take if you

    are following improbable dreams. I only want to get out of all this

    shit. That's why I understand my parents, their silence, their sadness."

    After so many sacrifices, the harvest of ten million, voluntary labor,

    the workers' guard, acts of repudiation, meetings, militant marches,

    slogans and informing on the private lives of others, it has not been

    easy for them to acknowledge that Cubans today are worse off than in

    1959, when it all began. It is hard to accept that, after 53 years of

    "socialism," the promise that we would have a perfect country has turned

    out to be a lie.

    Mayra is still in the patio, her eyes closed. Her hair dances in the

    wind. She gently passes her hand over the sun that is tattooed on her

    neck. She sighs, looking around her. With a handkerchief she dries her

    tears. She gets up and goes back inside. She is the hostess. She must be

    with her family on her first day of freedom.

    *Unpublished account by Iván García y Laritza Diversent, based on an

    actual case.

    September 11 2012

    http://translatingcuba.com/self-portrait-of-a-hooker-ivn-garca/

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