HAVANA, Cuba. – Navigating the troubled waters of social network, I came upon a showy photograph of the Mexican influences Paola Castillo, where the young woman is smiling with the diffused images of Saint Francis of Assisi Square in Old Havana as background. The image would intend to incentivize tourism, to introduce the Historic Center as a tourist destination not to be missed, and to lead people to believe, with such apparent joy reflected on her face, that Cuba is the paradise of sun and beaches so much promoted in every corner of the planet. It leads us to believe that Cuba is the paradise of young, exuberant and sexy people, ready to offer foreign clients an unforgettable experience among colonial buildings, typical Cuban restaurants, and traditional music groups.
It is almost impossible not to notice the influencer’s buttocks, intentionally highlighted against the Lonja del Comercio building, the Café del Oriente and even the tiny pigeon that landed on the ground behind her. There is no other protagonist in this photograph except Paola Castillo’s body. She is what’s important in this image, and along with her, a stereotype: that of the dazzling and desirable Cuban female, so different from the image the Women’s Federation prefers as the representation of Cuban women.
With her photograph, Paola Castillo would seem to be promoting the virtues of sexual tourism in Cuba, where, for a modest amount of money it is possible to get a “good looking” woman or man. For years, interested tourists have come to Cuba looking for the full package: entertainment, good conversation and sex for a few dollars, or for cheap consumer items or a good vacation. Ironically, Cuba owes its fame as a floating harem to Fidel Castro himself. By the time the extreme poverty of the so-called Special Period pushed hundreds of professional Cuban women to exchange sex for money or for items of first need, the maximum leader had already bragged about Cuba having the most educated and healthy prostitutes in the world. From his machista perspective, that was an accomplishment to be proud of, the logical result of having received a “free” education and medical care. Three decades later, in a similar –or worse- setting, his premise is adopted again, this time without the bragging but with determination.
The regime of Díaz-Canel and Company will do anything to raise hard currency: sun and beaches tourism, ecological and health tourism, sexual tourism. The pimps in the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party will stop at nothing, especially those in the Castro family circle who are linked to the “escorts” business for VIP clients. Now, with the increasing crisis and young people emigrating, they must hurry to exploit what’s left of the national patrimony, and enable carnal traffic in order to attract those visitors that will not be satisfied simply with promises of white sandy beaches and crystal-clear waters.
Among the most advantageous tools to position Cuba as a tourism destination in such a highly competitive market, are the influencers. They are constantly generating content, have thousands of followers, and only show what will please them. No penury or destruction. Nothing below the epidermis, below the surface.
The stink and the decrepitude that a rotten system exudes must be counteracted with the paid exaltations of spokespersons such as Paola Castillo or Ana Hurtado, both born in countries whose leaders don’t care about getting dirty with all the official Cuban crap. They lie happily about Cuba’s reality in order to attract tourists. If necessary, they will proselytize in support of the dictatorship, although they must try very hard to compete efficiently against campaigns that condemn the direct relationship between the funds generated by the tourism industry and the number of political prisoners in Cuban jails.
The scathing slogan “Cuba: your paradise, my prison,” and the image of student Leonardo Romero Negrín being assaulted by State Security agents during the July 11, 2021 protests, convey an impression difficult to overcome. It is impossible to compete with the political clarity of that message, ignore its implicit condemnation, or besmirch its meaning.
Which is why it’s time to relax the semantic density, and nothing is more relaxing than a body placed in the spotlight, pretending to promote history and culture, but bent only on reminding clients that, no matter how bad things may always be, “company” will always be found in Havana.
ARTÍCULO DE OPINIÓN
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