Cuba #5 / Ropa Vieja

Most nights were spent at La Trova. A picturesque club that screamed '“film a Cuban dance scene here.” I tried to enjoy it but crowds of tourists are the company I usually try to avoid. La Trova was my introduction to the pushy machismo version of the Cuban man. Dancing turned into a game of don't touch me there and that better stop touching me. At one point I just stopped dancing. I'm in no way a prude but I appreciate the choice of who touches me where and when. Seems the manlier you are equals to the amount of baby fit you will throw after being rejected. One man even yelled "Bitch" directly in my face when I turned him down. That was my last moment at La Trova. Harassment and dancing are not a fun pairing.

There was a benefit to this dancing debacle. Every time I danced with a Cuban gentleman he would grab my hips and say the same words. They fail me now but before my brain erased the phrase we looked it up on the translation app. Seems I am the proud owner of birthing hips. Makes a girl feel really special. 

There was one musician that took a fancy to me, to be fair I think he took a fancy to whatever was nearby. Frank was at first very polite but as the night went on he got increasingly pushier. I give him the credit, he was relentless. The more I politely declined his advances the more forceful he became. I had enough by the time we all walked home from a night out. As he went to say goodnight by shoving his face into mine saying, "Come on just a little, just something." Without a thought, I leaned over and he leaned toward lips all moist and coming right at me. As soon as he got within a quarter-inch of my face I reached out and bopped him on the nose. "There's a little something." He looked at me in awe. He couldn't seem to process what had happened. Not sure whether he should be insulted or not. I, on the other hand, was very amused with myself. I headed home agreeing to meet him the next day knowing full well that was never going to happen.

The next day was spent at the beach. You must visit the beaches in Cuba. I had always dreamed of those resort beaches with the little huts and waiters delivering me rum drinks while relaxing rhythmic beats filled the air. I finally got it and at a fraction of the price. All of this and I still couldn't lay down for more than 10 minutes. I accept my fate I can't relax unless I am doing something. Hiking, swimming, cooking, knitting, reading all of these are more relaxing than laying like a corpse slowly getting skin cancer. Napping is for home, outside is for doing things.

After a long day at the beach, we went home to change. I hear the musicians gathering in our patio area and head out to say hi. There he was, Frank. Seems he was friends with our musicians. He was not too happy to see me. How is it the one dude I stand up in this Country happens to also be part of the group? He gave me a few mean side-eyes then proceeded to lavish his attention on another lady. Poor thing didn't know that is the least effective way to get my attention. I'm less the jealous type and more the fuck me fuck you type.

Practice over, plans were made for the night out. Finally, it wasn't La Trova. We were headed to a dance club in a cave. Sign me up. I'm not really a giant fan of crowded dance clubs but put it in a cave in Cuba and I'm all in. We slowly walked up the hill chatting and laughing, thoroughly enjoying our pre-cave drinks. After paying the not so smiley doorman we head down steps carved out of the earth. I immediately get distracted and lose the group. After one bathroom break and numerous selfies against rock walls( I do take more selfies than I share, I'm not sure why? To prove to myself I was there?) I headed to the dance floor.

You need to see this. A giant cavern with a big screen playing videos on one side and a bar on the other. In the middle 100's of people dancing and sweating. It was truly amazing and I finally had a dance partner that wasn't a machismo harasser. Alberto was always the gentleman, he was also 20 years younger than me. I'm not complaining, dancing with a younger Cuban hottie in a cave should immediately go on your bucket list. Frank was still with us or at least he was for the first 30 minutes.

Out of the corner of my eye, I see a couple Cuban police officers come bouncing up the stairs. All of sudden they have Frank by each arm and are forcibly dragging him out the club. It happened so fast it didn't seem real. Not too soon after I see Diego following after, then Colin. I wait a bit but they don't come back so I start to get worried. I can't shut off Mom's brain and I'm not known for not getting involved when I feel someone could be at risk. I head outside and there they are. Diego is arguing with a visibly intoxicated Police officer. Frank and another gentleman have already been arrested and taken away. As Diego argues over the unfairness of it all, more officers show up. Colin goes to assist and now he is told to stay where he is at. It's becoming apparent that they aren't being let go anytime soon. The rest were still in the cave so I go to stand up and get them. I was quickly told in hand gestures that we can all understand that I was not to be going anywhere. Is this it? Have a finally managed to get arrested in a foreign country? I've seen what Cuban houses look like what the hell is their prison going to be like? A very large taxi driver who seems to think we all need to appreciate his very ample fault line was sitting nearby. I scooched a little closer thinking 

" Hey, prison or becoming a Cubano taxi wife? "The choice is easy. He very quickly gave me a look and made a wide space between us. Not a very good sign for our futures.

Slowly the rest of the group comes up. Luckily Alberto had come with us and educated us on the proper behavior from there. No talking, No arguing, whoever isn't detained must go get the others passports and head to the Embassy to get them released. As the police walk the guys down the mountain making sure the rest of us were obediently following, it started to get way too real. I watched as they randomly checked ids of locals we passed on the way down. It was like they were having fun with all the harassment. If I had to venture a guess they had gotten sloshed at the office and decided it was time to have a little fun by fucking with innocent people. 

As we walked down we passed a bar we had gone a couple nights before that, fortunately, Franks son in law owned. Kelli had come up a later so was out of the police periphery. She hopped over and told Franks Son in law what had happened. After what seemed hours. At least enough time for me to come up with a whole season of Orange Is The New Black - Cuban Edition. We are almost in the city center. 

The officers showed no signs of letting up and we had accepted that the boys were probably spending a least a night in jail. After the longest downhill walk in history and much berating, they start laughing. It was extremely confusing, "What the hell is so funny?" They point to down the street and say, "There's your friend" There stood Frank. They had released him. It was all a sick game. These asshats had got bored and drunk at work and decided to have a little fun.

What had they arrested Frank and the others for? Dancing with a tourist. Seems sort of law had been passed that locals were not to spend time with tourists. From what I was told later especially Afro Cubans. Mind you this was second hand with a language handicap but the behavior of our Cuban friends after that made it very apparent it was true. As soon as they saw an officer the would walk away from us and walk feet away. 

After the trauma of night, we went back to my Casa and had some pre-bed cocktails. As we talked about what had happened and how common it was, the sadness in their eyes was heart-wrenching. I could see how painful it was to live this way. Always fearful of just getting picked up or harassed. I don't think any of us truly appreciated the price they pay to live in their home country.

Yet, with all of this, they were a joy to be around. Every breakfast with a smile and a laugh at my attempt to be funny. It must have worked a little because I got a special tour of their tiny inside garden and got to help with the grapevine growing on the roof. The rest of the trip was uneventful compared to that night. There were nights on the roof with very drunk Cuban crooners and Cajun fiddle players, hikes, Cuban coffees, shopping, bad haircuts, and on and on.

So when I say you should go to Cuba, I mean it. They need you and your dollars. Just see them when you are there, look past all the scenery and see the people. Bring a bag of extras. Something to spread a little joy. Who doesn't like a little treat? Tip them and try to get to know your Casa owner, Cuba is wonderful but the people are even better.

P.S.- the next post will be how I do Cuba on $8.00 a day and my own shotty travel guide.

Rope Vieja
Print Friendly and PDF