After preparing a very cold tamarind juice, she sits on the sofa. “Go play, I want to talk about things a little girl shouldn’t hear,” she tells her 11-year-old daughter.
An enormous cat, old and almost blind, by instinct, with one jump makes itself comfortable on its owner’s lap. While she strokes the feline, Yolanda, 46, begins to tell her story about being a hardened whore.
“In the mid-’80’s, after quitting school after an abortion for an unwanted pregnancy, I went with a group of friends to hang out on the malecón. We used to bring a bottle of rum, and several of us decided to get dollars from the tourists.”
It was precisely in that epoch that the term “jinetero” (“jockey”, literally) was born. The first “jineteros” of Fidel Castro’s revolution were young people in search of the dollar, then prohibited by Cuban law.
“Our business was to get fulas (dollars). Later, Africans who were studying in Cuba got us a lot of stuff. Jeans, tennis shoes and shorts, that we sold on the black market. A good business. Earnings tripled, but it was risky. If the police caught you, you could spend four years behind bars.”
At that time, she was a curvy mulatta who could stop traffic. “When I walked by, all the men would turn their heads and foreigners would proposition me. I just wanted to have fun, dance and eat in restaurants forbidden to Cubans. Having hard currency was prohibited by law, the same as staying in or hanging around tourist hotels,” remembers Yolanda.
“The first time I went to bed with a gringo (foreigner) I was 21. He asked me how much it would cost for the night and I told him to give me whatever he wanted. After making love we went to the hotel shop, and the man, a Canadian tourist, bought me clothes, cosmetics and electrical appliances.”
The Canadian put two 100-dollar bills between her breasts. After that night, Yolanda was determined to make money from her well-shaped body. “I liked to fuck (screw), and besides, at the end of the day I made good money. It was worth the trouble to take up prostitution.”
In a worn book she has listed the names of all the foreigners with whom she had sexual relations. “There are more than 100 men and some 50 women. Those were the days, parties, drugs and loads of sex,” she recalls as she strokes the old cat.
Her advantage, she explains, was in hooking for herself. Never in a group. Nor did she work for any pimp. “I invested the money in buying a house and helping my mother. I was married twice. The first time to a Mexican, the second to a Belgian. But I never got used to being away from my people. I missed them a lot. From the malecón to the flirtatious comments in the streets.”
She always returned to Havana. When the men no longer turned their heads at her passing, she knew she had to hang up her shingle. And she got together with a harmless, affectionate master baker who treats her like a queen.
Of that period only memories remain. “In those times of need, given the number of women in search of money, girls of 12 and 13 years were induced to go to bed with guys who could have been their grandfathers, for 20 or 30 dollars. Previously, a high-class hooker would not fuck for less than 100 dollars.”
The cat, bored and hungry, jumps from her lap and goes off to a corner of the patio. Yolanda follows it with her eyes and sums up her existence.
“I had a good time. I went places I never could have gone if I had been a simple worker. I traveled to different countries. I tried good cocaine and shopped in expensive stores. I have three daughters, but I don’t want them to be hookers. I want them to study and be good professionals,” she says, and she gets up to prepare the family dinner. She has no regrets. “I was a party girl. And life took away the party.”
Translated by Regina Anavy
April 30 2011