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Work 4 Peace,Hold All Life Sacred,Eliminate Violence! This is my often neglected blog mostly about my travels across country in my mobile billboard truck as I attempt to engage in dialogue with people in hopes to wake us up and inspire action to change our country and communities and selves. And it is froth with my opinions, insights, analyses toward that end of holding all life sacred, dismantling the empire and eliminating violence while creating the society and life we want

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Nite 8 So what in Cuba does a Lesbian look like???? to be continued

It is around 3:00 and only a few people flow around Central Square. I ask some shop owners, other people I see, even a police officer walking around with a pad of paper, maybe giving parking tickets, I don’t know – but no one knows what I’m talking about.

So I leave the square again and start walking. As I walk, I see places that I think are meeting houses or schools and stop to ask there. Or if there’s an overly friendly curious person, I’ll ask them. Everyone racks their brains – one womon even told me she saw the news on TV – but no one knows.

I cannot find the farmers either, and no one knows about them.

Finally I get to the outskirts of town – which is pretty far considering there are 350,000 people living here – and guess what is there? A train station! I’m thrilled. I haven’t crossed any tracks in Holguin yet so I doubt if it’s a local train.

I approach the little room where 5 womyn ever beautiful brown and black shade possible and age from early twenties to 60’s are lounging about – some in uniforms, so street clothes, but all friendly and happy to talk with me.
After the usual beginning questions (which continue to consistently not include my husband or children!!!) I tell them I am looking for the celebration of people against homophobia. They all are disappointed they cannot tell me more, but suggest I do to Central Park, where I left from earlier. They are curious why I want to know & I explain that I am a lesbian and what it is like for lesbians in Cuba.

No one comes out to me and I think I don’t know what a Cuban lesbian looks like because of couple of these womyn appear very dykish to me. They explain almost in unison that things used to be bad for homosexuals in Cuba but now things are much better and it is accepted.

I ask them about farmers day and this they all know is happening today. When I ask for directions, they all laugh together and tell me the festivities are taking place in la campo – the country side. I think they say there’s rodeos, horse-back riding, food, awards, parades. When I ask if I can walk there, they laugh even harder and tell me nothing is close, I can’t even take a train there, it’s very far, gesturing like they are shooing buzzing flies.

I thank them for the information and for putting up with my Spanish which leads us to another conversation about whose language skills are worse, their English or my Spanish! Then we me gusto each other, hug and cheek caress with the air kisses as I take my leave. No one discreetly hands me a card with her name and number on it so I have to assume I haven’t stumbled upon a Cuban lesbian den after all!

I walk along the railroad tracks for a little bit as I make a u-turn to take another parallel street back to Central Park. The streets, at least in this part of Holguin, appear to be on a grid, which makes traversing the city very easy.

I ask at places along the way and different people but get no more info until I reach another square. 

A young man is hanging out, leaning against the wall with one stylish foot, very tight shiny pants and loose pressed shirt haphazardly buttoned way below his neck, and an earring glimmering brightly in one ear on the side of his head that is smoothly shaved. Hmmmm he smiles and with a little wave, says hello to me as I pass & I think if I saw him in the u.s. I’d say gay boy right away. So I turn back and ask him about standing against homophobia – I’ve dropped the farmer inquiry…

Sure enough, he knows exactly what I’m talking about and directs me back to Central Park and the cine there. I vaguely remember passing it so I make a bee-line for it. When I get to the square, I can’t see it until another young man points it out to me.

I cross the street go thru the park and come to an open door in the building he has identified. I ask the young man leaving the open door about the stand against homosexuality and he directs to a few doors down.

But when I get to that door, it is locked and no one is in the ticket booth. I shout “Hola” thru the window because I see a pocketbook and personal items on the counter. Soon an annoyed womon with a rag appears to ask what I want, interrupting her. When I ask her if this is the place to stand against homophobia, she relaxes into a big smile and tells me yes, but the window doesn’t open until 7pm.

It is only 6 so I decide to walk in the opposite direction towards the mountain top that borders the city on one side. But first, I need to find water so I’m trying to remember where I bought a huge bottle (plastic unfortunately) of water for just 75 cents. 

As I am walking around the square trying to find the store that I know is the block to turn down, an interesting looking man approaches me. He must be in his 40’s, shaved head except for a 3” swath of cornrows on his crown ended in a tiny braid.

He has tattoos on both arms, a star-shaped scar on his cheek, has mocha brown skin, and wants to talk. His English is as bad as my Spanish I’m sure but we try. He has a gangster air about him although he is very clean cut and soft-spoken. He tells me he was a boxer until he was injured, showing me the large lump under his skin on his forearm. I cut him off because I don’t want to know details.

I tell him I’m there for the stand against homophobia & he tells me he’ll take me to the teatre. I laugh and say it’s not necessary, I’ve already been there. He is surprised and asks me if he can walk with me and have a conversation.

I’m thinking he’s probably the closest thing I’ll meet – or want to meet – from the Cuban underbelly, and although normally I’d cut men like him off, but I’m curious. He doesn’t strike me as on drugs or violent, but more of the hustler type, but smooth, not too blatant.

So I tell him I’m going to buy water if he wants to come along. He tries to direct me one way but I walk another way because I know where I’m going. He turns around and follows.

When we get to the store, he attempts to push forward and ask for the water but I already have contacted with the womon vender and she is getting me the bottle.

I tell this man as we leave that I will let him know if I need him to speak for me. He asks me what else I’m looking for and I say tamales. I don’t know if we have a language breakdown but he asks me if I want a man or a womon. I laugh and make up a novia on the spot, AnnMarie who I’ve been in love with for 24 years.

He nods and tells me he wants to show me something so we start walking – well he really struts, I walk. I really don’t know how much of what I say he understands but I know it is very difficult for me to understand him. On our way, he seems to know everyone, and folks jump up to exchange warm greetings with him.

I ask him if he’s famous and he promptly agrees. He’s a former boxer, so of course, everyone knows him. I don’t know if it’s my imagination but I do wonder if people aren’t a little too thrilled to see him, the way a child that’s been abused jumps to please his father. 

We get to a café with outdoor seating and he motions to a table of young people sitting in the corner and leans into my ear to tell me in a voice that diminishes with every word, all the womyn at the table are lesbians.
By the time he utters the last word, he is pantomiming. 

I step away, take a second look & ask loudly: ‘oh, is that what Cuban lesbians look like?’ I think he asks me if I like any of them. 

We sit at the next table and he calls to one of the young womon who has her back towards us. She turns around and I realize they know each other when they do the cheek caress air kiss greeting and then speak rapidly in Spanish. She turns her chair around and joins our table.

I ask her if she really knows this man. She speaks very, very, very little English and my Spanish has to be translated, but she eventually says something like ‘beer’ to me without identifying her relationship with this man. I ask them both, you want me to buy beer?

I tell her I’m not buying anything, I explain I only drink water as I pull out my water bottle, offer them both some, and reiterate, I don’t drink alcohol myself but they should feel free to buy for themselves whatever they want. 

I say again, I’m not buying anything.

They engage in another rapid conversation and she turns to me and I think she asks me if I like her. I tell her I don’t understand and he, in his diminishing voice again, I think he’s asking me if I want her. I tell him I don’t understand him and she, thinking I’m sure, she’s cutting to the chase, turns and asks me in heavily accented English if I think she’s beautiful.

I tell her of course I think she’s beautiful and I ask her if he is trying to sell me her body. He jumps in and says no, no, no, she just wants to know if she’s beautiful. I ask him again, the same question: are you trying to sell me this young womon’s body?

He denies it and I decide to move on. He wants to walk with me and continue talking. I ask him again if he knows of where I can get tamales as I’ve heard there are good tamales in Holguin. He doesn’t know but he tells me he’ll find out.

We walk back thru the square and I notice that taxi driver kind of following us and looking unsure. I wave to him and introduce him as the man that is driving me back to Guardalavaca after the stand against homophobia event.

Then I wave good bye and we continue in the direction I’ve been wanting to go towards the hill. I’ve asked the guy accompanying me what his name is twice so far & I’m still not getting it. I think it starts with an ‘o’ and has a few sounds that are hard for me to pronounce, so I give up trying to call him by name.

He tries to nonchalantly direct me back to the square, which seems to be his hangout, but I tell him I have almost an hour & I’m going to try to make it to the top of the hill. He is horrified telling me what I think is that it is 30 kilometers away – I know that is not the truth.

But I tell him I will try to get as far as I can before the theater opens. He tells me he will wait in the square for me. I tell him it is not necessary but he really wants to. My reputation flashes thru my brain, although I have no idea if it's tarnished or elevated.

I continue my trek without him and soon I am discreetly taking pictures and taking in the sights, smells, sounds of Holguin. Most people are hanging outside their homes, in the parks or doorways; I hear people singing, playing live music, calling to one another.

I pass an agricultural institute growing many things out front and alongside the closed building. I wonder if they are in the campasino celebrating the famers.


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