[Marxism] Husbands for sale in Cuba

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Sun Aug 7 14:40:29 MDT 2005

(Though Stephen Gibbs focuses on what's lurid to HIM, we
all know that in this modern world, relationship stability,
whether formalized through the institution of marriage or
not, has been in decline. Gibbs wants his readers to get the 
idea that there's something particularly significant about 
Cubans marrying foreigners as a way to leave the country. 
Gibbs poses as if he's sharing the inside dope with you.

Actually, people in poor countries all over the world
marry foreigners from better-off countries in hopes of a
better material life. It didn't start in 1959, either.

After all, how did Ricky Ricardo get permission to live
and work in the United States? He married Lucy, right?
Gibbs is correct when he makes this universal observation: 

"Plenty of these relationships do continue happily outside 
Cuba. But plenty do not." Gibbs is correct on this point.
Indeed, his statement covers 100% of all possibilities.

Cubans marrying to get themselves out of the country is 
so much a part of Cuban consciousness Cubans laugh about 
it and put it in their movies, literature and music, where
they can laugh at themselves, and at this phenomenon.
Examples: Daniel Chavarria's picaresque tale of jineterismo, 
(1997), or HAVANA QUARTET (1999)), both made on the island.)

Husbands for sale in Cuba
By Stephen Gibbs 
BBC News, Havana

A wedding is a big occasion in any society, but in Cuba it
can also be big business. Many Cuban women see a foreign
husband as a ticket out of the country - a passport,
possibly, to new prosperity.

The other day I bumped into a Cuban friend of mine in a
shoe shop in Havana. She was buying a pair of white

"They're for my wedding," she told me. I was surprised. I
had no idea that she had any wedding plans.

"Who are you getting married to?" I asked.

"A Mexican," she replied.

"When did you meet him?" I wondered.

"I haven't yet," she said.

It turned out my friend was taking part in what is a small,
but booming market in Cuba - the purchase of foreign
husbands. Usually arranged through intermediaries, many
Cuban women consider it by far the best way to leave this

But it is not cheap. My friend paid $5,000 for her Mexican
groom. That, I am told, is also the going rate for
American, Canadian, and European husbands.

A Costa Rican man can apparently be persuaded to tie the
knot for around $2,000. Peruvian men, for some reason, are
currently particularly good value. Just $800 will secure

New purchase

A few days after meeting my friend, I went to her wedding.
Often the line between what is real and what is not is
somewhat blurred in Cuba, but this really was an extreme

The bride's family had showed up in force. And none seemed
happier than her mother, decked out in an extravagant 1960s
flowery outfit. Some children, from a previous marriage,
were also there, along with aunts and uncles from all over
Havana. All seemed delighted with their new purchase.

Pepe, the husband, whom they had only met a few hours
before, was a jolly, retired engineer in his late fifties,
who seemed quite prepared to go along with this theatre as
far, and probably beyond, as was required.

You'll see queues of young, often beautiful, Cuban women,
waiting to convince embassy staff that their acquaintances
with tourists they recently met look set to be long term

A few bottles of Spanish cider were cracked open. A cake
was cut and, some cigars lit up.

Before long the bride, her mother, the children, and Pepe
were all dancing together. Everyone seemed to have
forgotten that this was a sham.

And if you had not known, you would never have guessed.
Maybe there were a few more giggles than there normally are
when the groom had to kiss the bride.

I also noticed that the ring was only a very temporary loan
from the bride's sister. But that aside, all was completely

Someone had brought along an old video camera. Another was
taking endless photographs of the happy couple.

And that really was what this was all about. Recording on
camera the wedding so that the evidence is there if ever
officials at the Mexican embassy ask any difficult
questions as to whether this marriage is genuine.

Many layers

Many Cubans do not have to go to these lengths, or expense,
in order to leave this island on the arm of a lonely
foreigner. Cuba, after all, was once likened by Graham
Greene to a factory producing human beauty.

Outside the grand neoclassical villas which house many of
the embassies here, you will see queues of young, often
beautiful, Cuban women, waiting to convince embassy staff
that their acquaintances with tourists they recently met
look set to be long term. The queue beside the Italian
Embassy is usually the longest.

Plenty of these relationships do continue happily outside
Cuba. But plenty do not.

In the British Consulate, there is an area where diplomats
have pinned up e-mails from distraught British spouses as a
warning to those that are about to take the plunge. There
is the story of a woman who married a Cuban man, thinking
it was for ever, only to find that forever did not last
much beyond Heathrow airport.

Another reports that her apparently adoring husband left
one night with only her credit card for company.

These tales of love and betrayal are the stuff of expat
dinner parties in Havana. One favourite is the story about
the American who had a yacht in the marina and fell in love
with a Cuban girl 40 years younger than him.

After a divorce from his first wife which cost him $10m he
discovered that his relationship with the Cuban was not,
shall we say, exclusive

The best raconteur of all these tales used to be a gay
French hotelier, who lived in Cuba for 10 years, and
claimed that he had seen it all and knew all the tricks.

But even he did not.

I once went to a dinner he hosted. Sitting next to him was
a Cuban man with whom he had lived for the last two years.
On the other side of the table was a Cuban woman. Our host
never knew that his boyfriend and the Cuban woman were in
fact husband and wife.

People often say that Cuba has many layers. They are right.

>From Our Own Correspondent was broadcast on 
Saturday, 6 August, 2005 at 1130 BST on BBC Radio 4. 
Please check the programme schedules for World Service transmission times.
Listen to the programme Download the mp3 (8 Mb)
Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2005/08/06 10:34:46 GMT


More information about the Marxism mailing list