Diana, 25, has seen the same video hundreds of times on her Chinese television. And she still gets excited about the time when, dressed in white at the side of her future husband, she drove through the streets of Havana in a 1957 Cadillac convertible.
“It was the happiest moment of my life. Entering the matrimonial palace, the notary declaring us married, and those present asking us to kiss,” remembers Diana.
The modest hotel where they spent their honeymoon did not prevent them from having sex at all hours. Some months later, the marriage became a nightmare. Money was tight, and her husband suggested that she prostitute herself, discretely. “Darling,” he told me, “we cannot live in a virtual reality.”
Diana was very much in love. And she went to war. Her battle was to sleep with her husband’s friends, who lusted after her and were ready to pay 50 convertible pesos for one night. Later came foreigners who paid better.
As for material things, they went forward like the wind, but her love went out the window. “I had enough when a Russian offered me 120 dollars to screw me in front of my husband. The worst is that he accepted,” she said, indignant. Diana continued to prostitute herself, now on her own account.
Carlos, a sociologist, considers that one of the greatest harms caused by five decades of revolution has been the loss of traditional concepts about family and marriage, and the absence of ethical and moral codes.
“In the first years, the revolutionary discourse was very anti-Catholic. And the effort to give women more space in society brought promiscuity, with dorms in the country and the boarding schools, far from their families from a very young age. That created a frivolous feeling toward the institution of marriage,” pointed out the sociologist.
Ricardo, a notary, agrees with the sociologist. “In the Special Period, the number of marriages in Havana was spectacular. The reasons were simple. People got married because they had the right to buy three cases of beer and spend three days in a hotel where the lights didn’t go off and they could have breakfast, lunch and dinner. Most of the unions lasted two years on average. Others separated and didn’t even go to court,” affirmed the notary.
Then there are the cases of girls who get married for the extravagance. “I got married in church. To dress in white, with a tiara and veil, to take photos and make a video has become the fashion,” says Delia, a sculptor.
Others do it to imitate their parents. “I don’t understand how the old people have been able to last 45 years together. I tried it. But it was a fiasco,” confesses Rolando, a university student.
A female writer who asked to remain anonymous admits that “among my friends it’s normal that we sleep with the other’s spouse, with his consent. We even make love among ourselves. At times I tell my husband to go away, that tonight I need someone different in my bedroom.”
Carlos the sociologist wonders, So why get married? The answer can be what Ana, a primary school teacher, says. “To escape from your family and be independent.”
Couples have their reasons when they decide to go to the altar. The reality is that there’s an alarming tendency in Havana to get married. And later come the horrors, like the young writer who asks her husband to take a walk while she enjoys an orgy with friends.
Photo: Google images
Translated by Regina Anavy
January 13 2011
It all started at age 14 when his father gave him an old Russian camera with a fixed 35 mm lens. Before he got passionate about photography, Roldán, 42, was the guy in the neighborhood who played baseball in the mornings and went up to the roof in the evenings, to quietly watch some naked neighbor.
He took photography seriously. He dreamed that he would be like Robert Capa, Richard Avedon, the Catalan Joan Fontcuberta, or at least surpass the Cuban Alberto Korda. Roldán always carried his camera and loads of lenses.
He worked part-time for a travel agency. He took photos for unofficial foreign journalists passing through the island. He refused to work on a boring and uncreative local newspaper.
His pictures didn’t please the censors and bosses of the official press. They were good and even artistic, but they starkly showed the dirty, ugly face of Havana.
Beggars and prostitutes. Drunk and gays. Sad, fat old types who spend time sitting on wooden stools at the entrance to dilapidated housing.
He could never exhibit in galleries and museums. He was never praised or rewarded. He was not a complacent photographer. But upon the death of his parents, who always supported him, he was forced to make a living. He stopped doing underground art and devoted himself to commercial photography. A friend with enough money and a gift for business set him up in a studio with a showy, brightly-colored decor.
Roldán began to take photos of girls who turned 15. He was successful. Now he earns a lot of money. A photo album can cost more than 100 Cuban convertible pesos (120 dollars). Today he is one of the photographers who is most requested by the parents of quinceañeras.
Roldán did not achieve his dream of being like Capa, Avedon, Fontcuberta or Korda. But he lives well. He was able to furnish his apartment, and he has an old Dodge that looks like a jewel. Although he continues making quality photos, he feels that he has prostituted his profession with these staged images.
Translated by Regina Anavy
January 13 2011