Cuba’s political and economic swings have had an effect on the sex life of the population, but lovers and entrepreneurs have learned to adjust – and appear to be enjoying something of a golden age. Countless private pousadas have sprung up in recent years to offer rooms – often charged by the hour – for couples seeking a place for a tryst. Many started illicitly, but have been licensed as part of official economic reforms. Eduardo Pérez, a veteran of the war in Angola, has been a taxi driver for 38 years. His wife was a Russian teacher but found it easier to make a living as a barber.Desperate for extra income during the “special period” – the era of hardship after the collapse of the Soviet Union – the couple started renting out spare rooms in their home. Unlicensed at first, this was a surreptitious operation for the business and their customers, many of whom were having extramarital affairs. One client, who asked to remain nameless, said he first started going to the private rooms when state motels went out of business.
“Twenty-five years ago, I used to take my mistress from Havana to Mariel for the weekend. That stopped after the fall of the eastern bloc when there was hardly any fuel, fewer cars and the motels closed. Instead, we found little pousadas in Havana, like this one, that offered rooms for just a couple of hours.”
However, Pérez said the reforms had removed the need for secrecy – at least on the part of the business. “In the past two years, it has become much easier because what we do is legal. I can rent out rooms at any time now, whereas in the past I sometimes had to tell people to come back at midnight because I was worried we were being watched. We don’t have to hide now so I’m making more money.” He is expanding the business and upgrading the rooms with concrete beds. “It’s my wife’s idea,” he grinned. “In this business, the springs wear out too quickly on a normal bed.”
(The Guardian Jonathan Watts Photo Jean Francois Campos)