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    Women in Battle Dress

    Women in Battle Dress / Juan Antonio Madrazo Luna
    Posted on June 10, 2014

    HAVANA, Cuba – Lolita, Alejandra, Samantha, Paloma, and África María are
    drag queens who stamp their feet on every Havana street corner during
    the night, while the city sleeps. Some with warrior faces and others as
    shy princesses patrol the streets and avenues of a broken Havana.

    Lady Gaga is not the icon for them anymore. She has been replaced by
    Conchita Wurst, the “bearded Austrian” who won the Eurovision Festival.
    They don’t believe in political surgery or the “factory of genders” that
    the National Center of Sexual Education (CENESEX) proposes, after
    converting Adela, a transsexual from Caibarién, into the first delegate
    of Popular Power.

    In the stories of these drag queens we find dysfunctional homes, school
    drop- outs, sexual violation by a relative, and above all, humiliation
    and rejection since childhood for being different.

    As they consider themselves to be in the wrong body, they have
    transformed it with accessories, paper-mache tits, hormones, or surgery.
    The will to live has allowed some of them to work in hospitals, as
    hairdressers, or by singing in small clubs. For others, prostitution has
    been their lifesaver.

    Africa Maria is an athletic “Negro” of 27 years. Her corn-blonde wig
    contrasts with her dark skin. With her spike heels and fleshy lips
    painted red, she goes out every night, from the male chauvinist district
    of Los Sitios in Central Havana up to the slums of Vedado. Her theater
    of operation is 23rd Street. Africa tells us, “We have displaced the
    hookers from the streets. They don’t consider us true women, because the
    men who look for us know very well who we are. They come in search of a
    repressed fantasy.

    And she adds, “I came out of the closet when I was 17. I didn’t finish
    sports school since my father, an awesome solider with medals, who was
    ascending the ranks, kicked me out into the street. And since then I
    have not stopped selling my skin. And I’m proud, because in Cuba, to be
    black, gay, and a transvestite, you have to have big balls.”

    Samantha, who considers herself one of the most sought-after
    transvestites of homoerotic Havana, agrees.

    “We render a service, we relieve our clients’ tensions. And no one
    imagines the dangers we face. Cubans have forgotten the fear of AIDS,
    that we can get infected. But that’s not our greatest fear. The worst is
    the macho abusers who abuse us. We walk with a pocket knife or a
    scissors to defend ourselves. Similarly, a tourist or the police can
    hurt us. We gamble with life. Although sometimes we experience the
    tenderness of a desperate Negro, who searches in us for the fantasy of
    enjoying a white women, a pleasure, sometimes unattainable, because of
    the racial prejudice in our society.”

    Lolita, Alejandra, Samantha, Paloma and Africa Maria warm up Havana,
    with the steam of their bodies. Every day they look at the sea, at the
    hope of the arrival of a cruise ship full of sailors. They don’t give
    up. They are “women in battle dress,” who don’t fear the night.

    Friday, May 30, 2014, Juan Antonio Madrazo Luna

    Translated by: Alberto and Regina Anavy

    1 June 2014

    Source: Women in Battle Dress / Juan Antonio Madrazo Luna | Translating
    Cuba –

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