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"Havana stands very little chance of not becoming another Juarez or Tijuana"
- Kirk Stephan

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Gaviota, the last cowgirl in Cuba
by Kirk Stephan, Iowa City, Iowa, USA, who travelled to Cuba
October 1999

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The crack-down on "free" enterprise is in full swing; 10 year prison sentences are handed down for the simple possession of beef, fish, or lobster, which naturally is reserved for the tourist hotels. One day near the beach, as Harry, from his neighboring balcony, proudly held up a monster 10 lb. lobster to show what we'd be having for Cuba dinner that night, I noticed all the neighbors on the block dissapearing into their houses and shadows. Fortunately no snitches or agents were around to question him about who the seller was. Raul, the hardy fisherman next door who nearly never went fishing any more since he wasn't allowed to keep his own catch (he has to turn it in to the government, who of course passed it to their tourist hotels) ducked the fastest.

This ratiocination of events in Cuba leads me to a bizarre vision of the future: Havana stands very little chance of not becoming another Juarez or Tijuana, with their controlled and horrific professional prostitution, gambling and gangsterism (a lot like present day Russia, too) . Historically this has been the payback for cultures which deny and try to suppress the natural instincts of their peoples.

"One deceit needs many others, and so the whole house is built in the air and must soon come to the ground..."-The Art of Worldly Wisdom, Baltasar Gracian y Morales (1647)

I'm sitting on my balcony overlooking the "Fe del Valle" park on Galiano. The trees are swaying and the blackbirds are tootleing some of their myriads of sounds. The tropical "grackle" slightly resembles our midwestern variety but stuns the ear regularly with bizarre and lovely trills and clicks and even oboe riffs seem to appear at times. The billygoat-cart is slowly making its way around the fringe, with the usual dozen 1 and 2 year-olds giggling and chirping their own happy-delighted music, the 2 anxious moms and and one grand-dad following at a respectful distance-so as not to embarrass their little ones with "too" much concern.

The sun is getting lower and the Cubans, always walking rapidly, and sometimes covering great distances in getting to their homes because of the lack of public transport, are thinning out a bit, and a couple of drunks make their appearance, adding slightly louder voices to the regular din. Suddenly there are shouts and 2 or 3 angry words from accross the park. I can't see well enough through the dusk to tell what may be happening, but I'm thinking it probably involves the guys drinking. Exactly 2 minutes and 30 seconds from the moment of the shouting, up screaches 3 squad cars...and the noise dissipates. So does the crowd. The park empties as people leave in all directions. My thoughts are "boy THAT was damned efficient- 'probably police informants out there, somewhere..."

The usually sad moment, when its time to leave and say the "goodbyes to amigos" arrives, but with a melancholy I've been unfamiliar with before. I feel an anxiety to get out of the country as soon as physically possible,before things escalate. Too late, though. Castro is about to give his 6 hour major anti-crime speech. He did it. Old fuzzy face has decided on death penalties for treason and 6 other crimes. He's decided that the Cowgirls are in fact prostitutes and deserve 30 years each. I couldn't watch any more. A day later, when I picked up my date, Yudeysys, at her office at the computer center of the Capitolio, she asks me to walk 10 steps ahead of she won't be considered a hooker. Fidel said in the speech that ANY woman seen with a foreigner was a probable Jinatera, and should be stopped...!

So the sun begins its setting amidst the new soap opera called Cuba- somewhere between phony pretend-images like Gaviota and the un-nerving fear tactic called "over-the-hill-Fidel", and I'm wondering as I walk on the tarmac toward the French jet about these high-spirited and brave Cuban people: just how long they will put up with this crap...

Kirk's adventure to Mexico

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