In the Central Havana of guapos* and brawls where I was born, I learned that there are certain lines that a woman should never cross. I have spent my life breaking the laughable rules of machismo, but today – and only today – I am going to take refuge in one of them, and precisely in one of the ones I dislike the most. It warns that, “A woman needs a man to represent her and go to bat for her when another man insults or slanders her.”
Feeling attacked by someone with power infinitely superior to mine, who is more than twice my age and in addition – as the neighbors of my childhood would have said – someone who is “macho-man-male,” I have decided that it will be my husband, the journalist Reinaldo Escobar, who will respond.
I refer to the damaging remarks that Fidel Castro made about me in the prologue of the book, “Fidel, Bolivia and something more.” Not even such a “great” attack convinces me to abandon the premise of not entering into a cycle of rejoinder and self defense. I am sorry to say I remain focused on the theme called “Cuba.”
Let’s leave it up to Reinaldo and Fidel to do the fighting. I will continue in my “womanly” labor of weaving together, despite the chatter, the frayed tapestry of our civil society. The guapos from my neighborhood will know that I learned “something” from them!
*[This footnote appears in the original] Do not confuse a Cuban guapo with a handsome man [“un hombre apuesto”] or beau. That could cost us a slap or, in the worst case, an explanatory stabbing.
The first sentence is hard to translate because there is a double meaning. Guapo/guapa is both an adjective and a noun and in common use it means handsome/gorgeous. In Cuban slang “guapo” also means a tough guy, someone who likes to fight. It can be used as an insult or to dare someone, that is as the aggressive form of “Hey, pal…” The original footnote explains this meaning for non-Cuban Spanish readers who may not be familiar with it.
Photo caption: A couple old appliances from the Soviet era that refuse to die.