Phantoms vs Scotland Yard: Cuban sexuality seen from the North


The attraction to Cuban women is an ancient fact in American culture. This fact is directly linked to internal transformations: the reduction of the working day, the greater availability of free time, tourism and, of course, the changes in the mores and customs of these “roaring 20”, which produced a turnaround in ways of life —from music to fashion—, and in the relationship between the sexes. Although not reducible to Cuba, the “beautiful señorita” is now almost inevitably associated with a place where one can sin with almost no consequence and where “the conscience takes a vacation”.

From the beginning, American men perceived an exotic beauty in Cuban women; different because of what is different; protruding in its shape and aggressive in its uninhibitedness, a stereotypical image that has become fixed in the popular northern imagination in a thousand ways. First in the songs of authors such as Irving Berlin, Xavier Cugat or Marion Sunshine, whose texts strongly associated Havana with “romance” – a term which, as Louis A. Pérez pointed out in Become Cubanconstitutes a euphemism to designate sex with the other’s wife — then in the cinema.

Cubans, on the other hand, have always been very aware of their sexuality and their eroticism, a consequence of an accumulated culture: Creole was, also very early on, a fairly secularized culture and, therefore, they did not have acted on an extended social scale. the inhibiting-repressive factors with which Catholic and Protestant cultures confront sexuality and even the body itself. The African presence, decisive in this as in other things, incorporated a component of active sensuality clearly perceptible in the forms of body endorsement of popular religions of African origin and in dances such as the rumba.

A Mexican observer notes:

Cuban sexuality is different from that of other places. This is due both to the lack of roots of the Catholic religion and its anti-sexual moralism, as well as to the fact that a large part of the population comes from Africa and its rites, which generally lack the notion of sin. original. With them, sex is part of the daily life of gods and men and does not necessarily imply a transgression of morality. Add to the above that the port of Havana was from the beginning the point of concentration of the Spanish fleets which communicated Europe with colonial America. While these fleets were organizing, soldiers, sailors and passengers spent long periods in the city dedicated to recreation. Thus, since then, a hospitable tradition was born that survives until now in some segments of Havana society.

One might add that the Spanish immigration of the Republican era – predominantly male, young and drawn from the lowest and poorest strata of the issuing society – who, for obvious reasons, had black and mixed-race women as wives preferential, married or legal, has not favored either the reproduction of taboos in this sense. It is therefore logical that from this cultural humus, for contemporary Cubans, the body is the body, and that it should be praised and savored because, after all, that is what it was created for. .

The results of a survey conducted by Bohemia seem to reaffirm it: the majority of Cuban men define themselves as “ardent”, “passionate” and “hot” in bed, say they have sex at least four times a week ― and there are even some who say, perhaps Quevedo, do it “every day”. 82% of those questioned consider sensuality to be a fundamental feature of national culture. Women, on the other hand, preferentially use more spiritual categories such as “loving”, “tender” when it comes to recognizing themselves in their sexual relations.

However, one of the most popular American tourist guides states that the Cuban

is a sexually permissive society […]. A joyous eroticism invades both men and women, which transcends the prejudices of Europe and North America, essentially Puritans […] Seduction is a national pastime pursued by both genders. […] Both men and women slowly lower their eyes to strangers they find attractive. In a country where the pleasures of consumption are rare, casual sex has become a hobby among young people.

Of course, it is exaggerated in that of the national pastime, which is not seduction but in any case the problems/urgencies of daily life in times of crisis and the Task of Reorganization. However, a vision is built here which, although based on real elements, ends up reproducing visions consistent with these historical lenses mentioned at the beginning. And, by the way, at least problematic messages are sent to direct readers. One of them considers Cuban women to be “hot-blooded”, that is to say that they like to be the object of desires, that they are very aggressive and that their sexuality is open, which may, moreover, shock certain men brought up in the atmosphere of Protestantism.

But the components of this view of sexuality, focused through a clear WASP lens [white, Anglo-Saxon and Protestant]as has happened historically, suffer from the idea that women on the island sleep with anyone, which is a gross simplification and an insult that leaves Cuban women today pretty badly off.

According to the stereotypical, biased and to some extent racist view that is often offered to us in the mass media, Cuban women find themselves on the beaches wearing extremely tight flip-flops, kissing tourists who have double or triple their their age, and above all all are characterized by their great love for wallets “full of greenbacks”.

Rudolf “Rudy” Valentino (1895-1926). Photo: Massworld India.

On the other hand, messages for American women about Cuban men fall in the opposite direction, that is, to give an image that suggests something similar to an outdated Spanish gentleman in the days of the globalization. What is repeatedly offered about the men of the Isle can be summed up, fundamentally, in this:

  • With few exceptions, Cubans treat women with great respect and as equals.
  • The art of seduction is for Cubans a kind of national pastime of virility—”a sport and a test of virility”—but you have to take care of the bag. Apparently avoid all “eye contact” if you don’t want to have a carnal relationship with a Cuban.

At this point, one wonders to what extent these visions of the Cuban continue with the stereotype of the Latin lover, built on the basis of a historical gallery of figures like Rodolfo Valentino, Ricardo Montalbán and Antonio Banderas. Of Mediterranean origin according to Gustavo Pérez-Firmat, this figure can be defined as a passionate, elementary, primary and even semi-barbaric lover. It responds largely to the Puritan “marks” predominant in the mainstream at the time of its codification by Hollywood, at the classic stage of silent cinema, and is articulated around the figuration of Latin America as otherness and otherness.

Photo: Todo Cuba.

This is perhaps the reason why many of these constructions leave aside certain perceptions of other visitors who are defined by their distance and even their sarcasm towards Cuban sexual culture, such as that of an American journalist from the 1930sfor whom cuban men

spend a lot of time on the subject of sex. She devotes her whole life to him. She talks, dreams, reads, sings, dances, eats and sleeps with sex, except while doing it. I may be exaggerating, but what is certain is that they spend a lot more time talking than playing. Sitting in their offices, swinging on the sidewalks in front of their clubs or drinking coffee, they talk for hours about sex. An American, if he is intelligent, when he has an appointment with a Cuban in a cafeteria, makes him sit with his back to the street; otherwise, the Cuban will be distracted by watching all the women parading through the plaza and, with certainty, he will interrupt the business transaction to comment on the anatomy of a beauty passing by at the time.

And he concludes:

Cubans call each other on the phone during working hours to tell each other in detail about their new conquest and, according to them, they all had their first relationship when they were two years old, which perhaps explains why they are so exhausted at 21. …

Alfredo Prieto


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