No one here has asked me where my husband is, as was quite
common when I traveled through Mexico and even more recently in Ghana, although
a few womyn have asked me if I am here alone. Most of them simply nod wisely
and I have yet to hear about their husbands so I’m thinking maybe they are
single or maybe their husbands are not so important.
As I approach the beach this evening, it feels like I have the
whole ocean almost entirely to myself. There are only two people – that I can
see without my glasses –swimming together, but they stop and kind of bob
together when I enter the water. One of the womyn calls me over, introduces
herself and tells me this is her daughter next to her. As I struggle to speak
with her in Spanish, she asks me where I am from, Canada? She guesses and
almost falls under the surface when I tell her United States.
I am the first person she has met from the U.S. and she is
enthralled. She is so happy the U.S. has relaxed its travel restrictions and is
looking forward to meeting many more people from the U.S. She really likes me
and now believes that the people from the U.S. are kind but the government is
I let her know that I
am not typical U.S. but I am an activista and there are many, many people in
the U.S. that are not kind, but are very, very, very greedy and don’t really
care about other human beings outside themselves and sometimes even their
She tells me she works at another hotel and has two teenage
children to feed, her daughter who is 19 and studying to be a masseuse and a
son who is a year younger. She tells me how hard it is, how there is not enough
food or clothes. She only works 6 months out of the year, as the tourist season
dries up in the heat.
She asks me if I brought any clothes from the U.S. to give
away and I tell her only the ones on my back but I do intend to leave as much
as I can when I go. I ask her why she wants more clothes and more food. She
looks on the plump side and her daughter looks well-fed. They are both wearing
fancy bathing suits, she has a fishnet kind of covering over it, and has finely
arched eyebrows and is wearing a gold necklace and small earrings.
She says she wants what we have in the U.S. I said, what,
violence? She knowingly nods and tells me she watches TV and sees the violence
in the U.S. but she still wants the things. I talk about where those things
come from and then I begin to list the things she has that we do not have.
It is quite interesting and challenging to combat the myths
of the “Amerikkkan Nitemare” even here in Cuba for the things that Cubans have
are intangible or at least not things money can buy. When I say she has peace,
she all but snorts, as if she’d quickly trade peace for a beautiful evening
gown. When I ask her how many times she has worried for her daughter’s safety
while she was growing up, when her daughter was out of her eyesight, did she
think that someone would be attacking her or maybe stealing her? She shifts
uncomfortably in the water as she translates more thoroughly my broken words to
I will try to quantify the things that the Cuban people here
have now, the things that are at risk with the impending intrusion of
capitalism. I think about how difficult it is, even for those of us born &
raised in the U.S. who have the desire to eliminate capitalism in our lives, to
actually embark on that path of living a conscious life.
Even as she talks about how difficult life is here in Cuba, her
skin glows and her eyes sparkle. The obvious closeness between daughter and
mother, a closeness I also see between womyn hotel workers and even the
Spanish-speaking tourists, does not exist on a wide-scale in the U.S.,
especially with teenagers. I ask her if she is willing to trade that closeness
for food – and food 95% of which is bad for the Mother Earth, bad for the
consumer, and bad for the farm worker.
I ask her, as I’m asking almost everyone, if she knows of
any womyn organic farmers living in community, which she does not.
They are getting chilled, just hanging out in the water –
not me though, I am very comfortable but I do want to start swimming. Before
they leave, they ask me if I party because tomorrow night there will be a party
on the beach, they motion down from the hotel. I say I don’t party, I don’t
drink, and besides I am a lesbian. She explains more thoroughly to her daughter
and then tells me her cousin is gay and has even married a man and lets me know
that they are both so good to her and her children.
Then I remember to ask her about Pride week – and this she
does know about, but not as Pride but when I say homosexuals, gays and
lesbians! She tells me on the 17th in Holguin there will be
something happening, but not here in Guardalavaca where the people are very
Maybe I will go to the party! I feel content, having come
out after being on Cuba soil for less than 24 hours!