There are, to date, several million Cubans living all around the world. Not a huge number, sure, but we’ve seemed to make quite an impact on people’s collective imagination, often in the form of stereotypes. Let’s discuss some now and set a few things straight:
1. We’re constantly smoking cigars.
Credit: Universal Pictures
I mean, are Cuban cigars the finest in the world? Yes. Would we, hypothetically, look more powerful and sexier smoking a cigar than anyone else? Of course. But that doesn’t mean we’re constantly puffing away!
2. We all came to the U.S. on a boat/raft.
Credit: Warner Bros.
Balseros exist, of course, and a desperate situation means desperate attempts to leave the island, but the VAST MAJORITY of us left on airplanes. Sorry.
3. We constantly wear guayaberas.
Not always. But when we do, we tend to look fly as hell.
4. We all live in Miami.
We’re everywhere, man. Tampa, Los Angeles and Elizabeth, New Jersey, in particular, happen to have thriving Cuban communities.
5. We’re all the same race.
We’re black, we’re white, we’re Taíno, we’re of Chinese descent, and we’re a perfect melding of all the above.
Longevity is both the question and the answer to experts seeking to understand communities that live longer than average. In the U.S., wealth is often more correlated to health, with greater access to both healthcare and self-care. Cuba, however, is not a wealthy country. With the average monthly income being publicly listed as $30 per month, experts are puzzled as to why there are 2,070 Cubans living over 100 years old on the island.
Like many other communities of centenarians, experts suspect a strong family system is a key to a long life. Other experts suspect Cuba is lying.
The data on thousands of people living to 100 is released by Cuba’s Ministry of Public Health.
The data itself is based on the first quarter of 2017, which showed that more than 1,200 of the centenarians were women. According to the communist nation, 19.8 percent of its people are 60 years and older.
“Centennials now represent one of the fastest-growing segments of the population, with very special socioeconomic and health implications,” Dr. Alberto Fernández Seco, director of the Ministry’s Department of the Older Adult, Social Assistance and Mental Health told Juventud Rebelde.
Dr. Fernández Seco credits Cuba’s free healthcare for the success of its citizens.
What’s more is that Dr. Fernández Seco says the population isn’t demented, disabled or heavily dependent. The majority of those 100 years and older live with their family.
Rigoberta Santovenia, 102, credits her family for her ripe age.
She lives with her 68-year-old daughter, Regla, who takes care of her. “I’m very family oriented — I love my children, my grandchildren, my six great-grandchildren. I’ve never been alone,” she said.
Regla is convinced her mom will make it to the “120 Club.”
In 2003, Fidel Castro’s personal doctor, Eugenio Selman-Housein, created the “120 Club,” which is promoted to this day. Dr. Raul Rodriguez, President of the “120 Club” maintains that “biologically, it has been proven that humans can live for 120 to 125 years.”
Regla thinks her mother was born to live to 120 years old. “Her great-grandmother was a slave. Slave blood seems to be stronger — that’s why she’s kept going so long,” Regla said. Rigoberta continues to read the newspaper every day without reading glasses.
Delia Barrios, 102, also says that it’s her family that keeps her going.
“I don’t feel like I’m this old. I have a family … that loves me a lot. That helps me to feel good,” she said. Barrios uses a motorized wheelchair–one that her great-granddaughter Patricia likes to join for the ride.
When Barrios was 60 years old, she was diagnosed with colon cancer and moved to the U.S.
Twenty years later, she moved back to Cuba so she could be cared for by family. She lives with her granddaughter, Yumi, 59. Barrios says she spent her youth dancing, drinking, and smoking.
Plus, like most of our abuelas, she’s still dressed for success.
For Cubans, reaching 100 isn’t the goal. They want to join the “120 Club,” and to live as you’ve still got two decades ahead of you, once you’ve reached 100 years old, certainly offers motivation.
Some experts, however, think Cuba is smudging the numbers for propaganda’s sake.
Robert Young, an expert with the U.S. Gerontology Research Group, does acknowledge the family support system as a significant factor. “We see that in Japan, too,” he says. On the other hand, he thinks the numbers are meant to propel “a myth that’s used for ideologic propaganda purposes.”
The methods of manipulation are shocking.
An expert on the matter for Cuba, specifically, Vincent Geloso, says that Cuban doctors “have targets to reach or they’re punished.” Geloso references a similar government’s strategy–the Soviet Union used to record infant deaths as miscarriages to keep down mortality rates.
Regardless, Cuba’s life expectancy relative to revenue is truly remarkable.
It doesn’t add up to other countries. Experts have a range of theories ranging from the low rate of car ownership and resultant accident deaths to even the 1990’s food rationing that kept diabetes rates down while other countries’ skyrocketed.
Whatever the case may be, many feliz cumple’s a Cuba.
Cuba has come a long way since the communist rule of Fidel Castro. A lot of restrictions have been lifted including travel from the U.S. to the island (despite some Trump-era issues). Yet, there’s still a lot that the government there forbids including some luxuries that we can easily buy anytime we please.
Cuba forbids the sale of any obscene items, which means there are no sex shops until now.
In New York, there are sex shops in every neighborhood. Even in the Bible belt, you can score sex toys at Adam & Eve, but in Cuba, it’s a whole different story. The island does not give out licenses or permits to vendors who sell anything sexual related. If you want a dildo, you have to sneak it into the country in your suitcase — that’s what the New York Post is reporting.
A group of artists successfully opened a sex pop-up store called “Consolez Vous” because technically it is “art” and not a typical business.
Yanahara Mauri, Javier Alejandro Bobadilla, and Joan Díaz sought out to open a pop-up sex shop at this year’s Havana Biennial and to their surprise were approved.
“We want to break the taboos,” Mauri told the Post. “In the rest of the world, this is normal now.”
The group creates the sex toys in Cuba and use resources such as “entwined fish line for whips and resin for dildos.”
While demand continues to increase, according to the publication, some customers have complained that their sex toys aren’t as smooth as the silicone products that are sold everywhere else.
“At the end of the day, we are not harming anyone,” Ernesto said. “On the contrary, we are giving people benefits.”
The sex shop might be a pop-up but a lot of people are hoping they could become a regular occurrence on the island.
What do you think about this pop up shop? Let us know your thoughts by commenting on the Facebook post.