Ivan Garcia, 25 June 2015 — Alberto works at a fresh produce market. On weekends he makes an advanced reservation for a room with a big soft bed surrounded by mirrors and a refrigerator stocked with beer.
“The deal costs me 10 ’fulas’ (convertible pesos) per night, but it’s the only way to have an intimate moment with my girlfriend. Luckily I have my own business. Otherwise, we’d have to do it (make love) in a park like the majority of young people of my generation,” he says while weighing two pounds of beans.
In Cuba, anything can be a problem. It’s common to wait an hour for a city bus that’s not too full to board. A lot of people cannot afford to eat two meals a day, and having coffee with cream is somewhat exotic.
Having sex in private can become a luxury, too. Ask Yasmani, a university student who has to improvise wherever he is in order to have intimate relations with his girlfriend.
“My parents aren’t able to give me the five CUC that it costs to rent a room for three hours in a private residence*. At home, I share a bedroom with my sister and my grandmother. To have sex with my girlfriend, we have to be creative and find a place in the park or the stair well of the building where I live, or in a schoolyard. I don’t recommend dark parks. In addition to the regular masturbators, they are teeming with gangs that assault you to steal the clothes off your back or your cell phone. Once a custodian caught us in the classroom of a school and we ended up at the police station. We’ve discovered a ’love nest’ in an abandoned neighborhood building. Let’s see how long our good luck lasts,” confesses Yasmani.
“The lack of housing on the island is the primary cause of four different generations living under the same roof. “This itself is a problem. Sharing a bedroom with other relatives also makes it complicated to have a space for intimacy,” notes Carlos, a sociologist.
“On Saturdays, when I have enough money, I give my brother 50 national pesos (two dollars) so he he’ll rent me his room for a couple of hours, and I can have some privacy with my girlfriend,” explains Jorge, a construction worker.
Even married couples have to be creative if they want to have an intimate space. “There are eight of us living in my house: my in-laws, my wife and I, and our four sons. We’ve had to share our bedroom with the kids. I sleep on the living room sofa. When my wife and I want to have sex, we have to wait until my in-laws go to bed, which they tend to do after one o’clock in the morning. It’s an odyssey,” says Erasmo.
In Havana, the hundreds of comfortable residences that rent out rooms are multiplying rapidly. Yusmila is the owner of a mansion that she’s converted into short-term, rentable rooms for couples. “The place is always full. I charge seven CUC per hour and twenty for the whole night. I offer food and drinks and the rooms have a jacuzzi.” In the lobby, there’s a bar with an assortment of alcohol and a pool table.
But not everyone can afford places like this. Twenty five years ago in Cuba, there was a network of inexpensive inns run by the state.
“It’s true that they were dilapidated with walls full of obnoxious graffiti and holes that delighted voyeurs, but anyone could afford to stay in one for three to four hours. Outside of Havana, there were high quality inns, but you had to have your own car or go in taxi,” recalls Gustavo.
Nowadays for a night of privacy you need enough money to buy food and drink in addition to the minimum ten CUC, which is half of the average monthly salary.
“A good time with your ’jevita’ (girlfriend) easily costs you thirty or forty ’chavitos’ (thirty-five or forty dollars). Nobody’s budget can endure that, but it’s fun: hot and cold water, a movie star bed, and a TV with pornographic videos. But it’s a luxury. Normally, couples make love in a corner or in the brush like animals,” stresses Osvaldo, a technician in a factory.
Amid the tentative economic reforms of General Raúl Castro, there’s no mention of opening affordable lodging for students and laborers. His master plan doesn’t even consider a solution to the urgent housing deficit across the country.
Therefore, couples of little means will keep having sex wherever they can. Hooking up isn’t what’s hard in Cuba, it’s paying for a decent bed and three hours of privacy.
Photo: Some Cubans turn their home into a business by renting a bedroom to couples seeking a private space to be intimate. This photo is one of the many rooms for Cuban couples that are found on Revolico, a website for announcements, rentals, services, and ads to buy or sell items, houses, and cars. In this case, a room with a private entrance, air conditioning, bathroom with hot and cold water, and a place to park. Located across from the Capri Hotel on 21st Street between N and O Streets in the Vedado area of Havana. Prices: 5 CUC for 3 hours (one CUC per additional hour); 10 CUC for the entire night, 8:00 pm to 8:00 am; and 15 CUC for the entire day.
Translated by: Kathy Fox