Now that my “Cuba & Costa Rica” blog is no longer being published, here’s a blog post from last year that my editors at Moon.com wouldn’t publish…

Angelina CastroMany a traveler to Cuba discovers that Cubans are, well, promiscuous. A joyous eroticism pervades Cuban culture, transcending the hang-ups of puritanical North America. As Uruguayan journalist Jacobo Timerman wrote: ”Eros is amply gratified in Cuba and needs no stimulation.”

In fact, many a visitor to Cuba has remarked on how seduction is a national pastime, pursued by both sexes—the free expression of a high-spirited people confined in an authoritarian world.

In their book Sex and Revolution: Women in Socialist Cuba, Cuban sociologists Lois Smith and Alfredo Padula describe how the Cuban Revolution set an early tone, with a “bacchanal in which the triumphant revolutionaries and euphoric nation celebrated [the victory over dictator Fulgencio Batista] between the sheets.”

Promiscuity is rampant. So are extramarital affairs. As my acquaintance and fellow Cuba expert Ann Louise Bardach once wrote: “Infidelity is the national sport.”

The government seems to have no issue with this cultural license, if not licentiousness. Up to a point!

However, it draws a strict line when it comes to pornography and “selling” of sex. One of the first acts of the revolutionary government was to close down the strip clubs and brothels that were a staple of pre-revolutionary tourism (novelist Graham Greene—of Our Man in Havana fame—delighted in Havana “for the brothel life… “). Prostitutes were re-educated to become “productive” members of society.

Gradually an increasingly heavy-handed government cracked down on promiscuity that it considered counter-revolutionary, or against good moral values: For many years, even private sex parties (known in Cuba as fiesta de perchas, or “coat-hanger parties” because you leave your clothes on a rack at the door) were banned.

I write in depth about Cuba’s overt sexuality in my literary travelog, Mi Moto Fidel Motorcycling Through Castro’s Cuba.

So how do Cubans feel about pornography?

Apparently there is a thriving black market: I’m told that it’s easy to get hold of bootleg DVDs smuggled in from Miami, although in twenty years of travel there I’ve never actually seen any porn videos for sale. Most Cuban youth seem to have a liberal, “so what” attitude to porn: I’ve even talked to several Cuban women, professionals included, who say they wouldn’t mind giving the skin trade a try.

However, don’t expect such liberalization on the part of the Cuban government any time soon!

Woe betide any foreigner (and Cuban, for that matter) caught filming pornography, which in Cuba is illegal and has a broad definition that includes (at least as far as foreigners are concerned) merely photographing women naked (artistic nudes excepted, but be warned that the fine line here is a tightrope).

On that note, while exactly one year ago the BBC reported that the Cuban government has loosened the tight censorship of what Cubans are permitted to see and hear (for example, it lifted a blacklist on singers and other musicians that the nation’s radio stations could play, including formerly banned anti-Castro exiles such as Gloria Estefan and Celia Cruz), across the Florida Straits a parallel universe was at work at Radio Martí.

On August 1, 2012, the U.S.-government-funded anti-Castroite station stirred up a hornet’s nest of controversy among Cuban-Americans when its 1800-Online show aired an interview with Cuban adult film star and producer Angelina Castro (no relation to Fidel and Raúl).

Radio Martí (part of the Miami-based Office of Cuba Broadcasting, which was funded to the tune of $29.3 million in tax-payers money this year) typically dedicates itself to anti-Castroite (read: Fidel and Raúl) diatribes and promoting the virtues “of democratic values, human rights, market economies, free media, and freedom of expression” beamed into Cuba.

Thus, 1800-Online exists to “uncover the world of the internet for Cubans who have hardly or never seen it.”

So, in some sense, by interviewing Angelina Castro, Radio Martí was introducing Cubans on the island to the skin trade industry including, courtesy of Ms. Castro, advice for Cubans who might be interested in getting into porn.

“I’m doing what I like… I’m normal. I’m not an extraterrestrial,” said the buxom porn star, who was born in Havana in 1982, left Cuba when she was ten, and settled in the United States when she was twelve. “I graduated from high school with honors… and decided to go to college to become a chiropodist,” she adds on her website bio.

Angelina, who is married and has a child, told Radio Martí listeners that she first entered the porn business because she was curious and because she needed money to pay her student loans after college. “I fell in love with the industry,” continued the adult industry mega-star, adding that she hopes that pornography will one day be legalized in Cuba and that she hopes one day to return home to make adult films in Havana.

Co-host Juan Juan Almeida then asked Angelina to give Cubans still living in Cuba tips on how to break into the porn biz.

While Cuban-Americans in Miami were aghast, jaws on the island must have also dropped, not least because the Cuban-born Almeida, who left the island in 2010, is son of the late Juan Almeida Bosque, one of the original commanders of the Cuban revolution and later a Vice President of the Cuban Council of State.

Although many listeners called or texted their support, Radio Martí was bombarded with irate emails from both sides of the Florida Straits, including loyal Cuban revolutionaries who somehow managed to tune in to the station. Radio Martí later gave in to demands from indignant listeners to have the interview with Angelina Castro pulled.

“It’s my goal to change opinions of porn, girls in porn and the stereotypes that we see in the news,” commented Angelina about the controversy. “It’s a fuss just because of my occupation. Nothing more, nothing less. Hopefully someday, a pornstar appearing in mainstream won’t be so shocking. Cubans have more to worry about than me.”

I’m sure that many a liberal-minded Cuban in Cuba would agree with Miss Castro.

Now that you’re ready to travel to Cuba, buy a Moon Handbook Cuba

Disclosure: I occasionally accept free or discounted travel when it coincides with my editorial goals. However, my opinion is never for sale. The opinions you see on my blog are my unbiased reflection of the good, the bad, and the ugly

Copyright © Christopher P. Baker

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Christopher P Baker

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Christopher P. Baker, one of the world's most multi-talented and success travel writers and photographers is considered the foremost authority on Cuba travel and culture. Winner of the Lowell Thomas Award 2008 as 'Travel Journalist of the Year,' he has authored more than 30 books, leads tours for National Geographic Expeditions and other companies, and is a Getty Images and National Geographic contributing photographer.