Cuba

My colleague, Sam Sorrel’s romance with the Havana hotel maid was for real. Or so he said. He had come upon her while on a dolphin swim, one of the excursion activities provided free by the resort he was staying at : the 4-star Sol Pelicano, in Cayo Largo, a 25 x 3km island south of  the Cuban mainland, on the Caribbean Sea.

Azure blue waters, shallow enough so you can walk in half a mile, without your knees getting wet, white pristine sands and a vacation package that includes everything, unlimited – food, drinks et al – can make a 55-year old horny divorced bachelor lose sight of reality, that he is just another obese old man who has difficulty getting it up but feels lecherous all the same. A lonely existence back home accentuates the yearning for not just sex, but companionship too.

Yanet Guerrero was too good to be true. Only 29 and beautiful, Sam had been ogling her the past three days, during which time he never once saw her fully clothed, but always in a bikini. (She was the hotel guide on the dolphin swim). In spite of the fact there were hunks everywhere you looked, for some reason Yanet seemed to love being around Sam and Sam couldn’t believe his good fortune.

Cuban women are beautiful – bronzed, sensual and always appearing game for anything. And there are many seemingly unattached girls who work in the string of hotels all over the Cuban beaches. They’ll come up to you and engage you in conversations, seeming to have all the time in the world, while their male colleagues look indulgently on. To any discerning individual, it would not seem normal at all. But Sam, after five years of being divorced (his wife had run away with the handyman), his looks and physique not affording him any choices as regards girlfriends back in his native Quebec, was a shipwrecked sailor on a deserted island, yearning for intimacy.

One thing led to another. On his 9th dive with Yanet, Sam was the only customer. He can’t tell if the jellyfish was fake but she was pricked by one and had to be helped on to dry land. Huffing and puffing, Sam managed to half lift, half drag her to shore and there they flopped down on the sand, her arms round him and her breath on his lips.

What would I have done under such circumstances? Would I have dumped Yanet on the sand and gone looking for a hotel employee? Or would I have kissed her and undone her bikini top to check if those were real nipples and proceeded to rub them between my calloused fingers? All that nipples really require are thumbs and forefingers, after all. That’s what Sam ended up doing, never bothering to wonder if it was the passion that suddenly the jellyfish sting didn’t bother her anymore.

One thing led to another. A flurry of trips to Cuba followed, with him getting acquainted gradually with Yanet’s folks. Yanet was divorced. Her husband had left her, she said, preferring not to explain any further. She shared a tiny house and an even tinier courtyard with her two daughters and mother. They seemed nice, everything seemed just perfect. Poor beautiful well educated Cuban girl, cast aside by uncaring hubby, with three mouths to feed from her hotel employee’s salary.

To Sam, Yanet Guerrero was a real life Cinderella. And she made him feel like the real prince charming, somehow convincing him that their age difference didn’t matter to her. One day, after the swim, she took him home and as he looked around the house, he was struck by the starkness and the lack of even the basic amenities that Canadians take for granted. He wanted to do things for her. Things around the small house needed fixing, the old fence had to be replaced and all and before he knew it, he was wiring her money every month.

Six months later they were married. A year after, the papers came through and Yanet moved to Montreal, alone first. She wanted to settle down first, before she brought her daughters, she said. Another six months flew by and soon Sam lost track of time. The sex was phenomenal. Where, before he could barely manage one orgasm in 24 hours, he was now waking up in the middle of the night and making love and Yanet seemed never to get enough of him. She was in fact so good at it that she was actually screwing three of his friends too, when he was at work – a fact that he was oblivious to at the time.

Around the time she began to cheat on him, Yanet gradually started to disengage – she began to seem cold and aloof. Then one day, Sam found a note when he returned from work, which said that she was leaving him. Later he learned that she had taken off with one of her boyfriends and was now working for cash under the table, in a casino in the nearby native American reservation of Kanawake.

From then it didn’t take long for him to receive a notice from Immigration Quebec stating that Yanet was now drawing welfare from the state and as per the fine print in the sponsorship rules, he had to reimburse every penny of the welfare cheques of $900 a month that she was drawing, for the next ten years.

Sam hasn’t been coming in to work for the past week. Someone said he is in counselling. I would have loved to say that he had been a schmuck and he got what was coming to him, but all he had wanted was intimacy. He didn’t deserve this.

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If you live in Canada, chances are that you have bumped into a Sam Sorrel in your neighborhood or at work, who takes off for a week’s vacation in Cuba every three or four months and eventually weds a Cuban broad and suffers a meltdown soon after. Sam’s story isn’t unique in any way. Marriages between 60-something Canadians and young Cuban women have skyrocketed and there are more than a few where I work. I have not known of any of these liaisons that have worked out in the long term. They are not designed to.

There are literally hundreds of thousands of single divorced 55-70 year old men in Canada, almost all having divorced for no apparent reason other than the desire to be back in the fun and frolic. Something happens to a Canadian male when he approaches retirement – in a hurry, before he is no longer physically able to, he wants to seek out those pleasures of life that he had kept on hold while he went through marriage and fatherhood. Being still reasonably fit helps, as do the other circumstances – the kids have grown and moved away, the mortgage is paid up and he is flush with disposable income – and a horny richard that isn’t done yet.

If there is one thing that retired Canadian male divorced guys miss, it is sexual intimacy. Being grotesquely out of shape does nothing to help them find it. In desperation, they look around and lo, there is this astonishingly cheap holiday destination that is the vacation version of a Swiss Army Knife – it offers everything.  Off season, for as low as $800, which includes return airfare, you get to spend a week at a beach-side resort where everything is on the house. Food and alcohol in a dizzying variety, all-you-can eat-and-drink, is available 24 hours non-stop.

On some packages, even local excursions, scuba diving, snorkeling and dolphin swims are thrown in, again, unlimited. Some might like to just loll around on the pristine white sands and drink and eat their way through the entire week.

The resorts around Cuba employ beautiful young women who always seem strangely very very friendly – and especially friendly if the guest is old and single. The twennie something laundry girl who picks up your dirty shorts and sandy socks, stoops a little lower than she has to, revealing the manna – a pair of jugs, the likes of which you haven’t seen in the past decade. Bras? It seems that there simply is no market for these impediments among Cuban hotel maids.

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Back in the early 1990s, when the erstwhile Soviet Union withdrew its financial aid, the Cuban socialist government was on the verge of collapse, desperately scrambling for sources of hard currency foreign exchange. It did something very smart then – it turned to tourism. Myriads of beach-side resorts opened, offering dirt-cheap packages, targeting western tourists. The Cuban government priced the holidays so even ordinary Canadians and other westerners could afford them easily.

Other wannabe holiday destinations have tried to mimic the Cuban holiday package business model, such as the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica and Mexico, but they haven’t been as successful for a number of reasons. First and foremost, Cuba has gained a reputation for being a place where tourists feel safe. It is all about discipline.

Try walking out of your Acapulco, Riviera Maya, Bavaro or Punta Cana resort because you want to visit a local restaurant and mingle with the hoi polloi and chances are you’ll be kidnapped, robbed and murdered and if you are female, raped. This won’t happen in Cuba. The price for crimes against tourists has been pegged very high by the Cuban authorities and bad guys have been made to realize that. Second, ordinary Cubans are literate and enlightened and extremely generous and hospitable. An unguided excursion is a treat that will not disappoint you.

This brings me back to the girls. A Cuban hotel maid, laundry woman or cashier girl at the resort isn’t a bimbo you can simply fool around with and discard. Most likely, she has a college degree and is extremely well informed, besides being absolutely gorgeous. Little wonder then, that guys like Sam Sorrel fall for them all the time.

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A foreign tourist cannot take a Cuban woman off the island without a letter of invitation requiring them to pay the woman’s expenses abroad. Some Cuban girls love to exploit that. They get off the plane at Montreal and vamoose, leaving their Canadian lovers with nothing more than a limp richard in their hands. Often, these men are so ashamed, they don’t want to report it.

In one case (and this happened with a Spanish tourist), a Cuban woman wrote home to her mother from Madrid, telling her she didn’t quite understand currency exchange rates in Europe, but was doing just fine with her new husband. ‘I don’t know how much the money here is worth in USD, but I know I’ve stolen a hell of a lot from him.’

The majority of the suckers who fall for Cuban women, are Spanish, Canadian, Portuguese and Germans and over the past two decades, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of Cuban-foreigner marriages. Today Spain alone records 2000 marriages per year with Cubans and so does Canada. So much so, that Cuban men frequently complain that foreigners are plundering the island of its greatest ‘natural resource’ – its women.

I can relate to that. Most single guys I have met who frequently take those Cuban holiday packages, tell me that Cuban women make the perfect companion and lover. There is something about a Cuban girl that intrigues and fascinates – probably the fact that they are always game for every kinky thing under the sun and invariably well-educated and cultured.

If there is one thing positive that the Castro government has instilled in the citizenry, it is the value of formal education. Women in Cuba grow up, encouraged by their parents to be educated and most turn out to be quite sophisticated, despite the country‘s political isolation. In spite of the challenging conditions they live under, Cuban women retain a certain grace that is exotic as well as a huge turn on, for men from where I live.

If only a guy can make one of these vacation package wham-bam-thank you-ma’ams work, a liaison with a Cuban woman can be extremely rewarding. Ask my colleague Sylvain Fournier about it and he’ll readily agree.

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Not all Cuban-foreigner liaisons end disastrously. Like Sylvain’s. He has managed to find the love of his life and he remains in bliss, full 8 years after marrying a Cuban nurse whom he had fallen for when she bandaged a bruise he had got after he touched a sea anemone by mistake.

I had the chance to have a chat with Yolanda Fournier once, at a get-together. Yolanda is mixed, Afro-Spanish and drop dead gorgeous.

“At first I simply wanted to get out of Cuba,” Yolanda told me. “Every night I hoped and prayed to the Virgin Mary that I would find a husband who would whisk me away. All I wanted to do was sign the papers and go make a baby.” On the latter account she does seem to have fulfilled her wishes – the Fourniers have triplets.

Yolanda readily admits that at first she married a Canadian for the pure and simple prospect of a better life inside an affluent society. She didn’t keep that a secret from Sylvain and perhaps that was the smartest thing she ever did. Instead of turning him off, her honesty turned him on even more.

“He knew all along that my dream was to leave Cuba, but still he saw something in our relationship that I clearly hadn’t, at the time. He wanted to have me anyway, even if it meant that I might simply vanish one day,” she said to me.

But things soon changed. “Once I was living in Montreal I gradually fell in love with him and he with me and here we are, wanting nothing more than just to be with each other.”

I guess in the end what makes a relationship work is intuition.

Ask me. I’m married to a Persian.