Saturday, March 19, 2016

Traveling for Culture or “Sex?”

I met Luisa, a voluptuous, chocolate skinned sistah who lived across the street from where I was staying in the El Vedado District of Havana, Cuba. She was all smiles and full of excitement when I approached her and her two children. My motive? Certainly not for sex like so many Canadians, Europeans, and more and more Americans are doing these days. 

And why was Luisa so friendly? In hopes I would relieve her of her economic hardships, and most importantly, bring her back to the U.S. She made several attempts to get me to do so.

Today with the aid of the Internet, many men are taking advantage of the poverty women suffer in third-world countries. These are women who could care less about a man's looks or gut size. They only want what's in his pants (wallet)!

Upon my return from Cuba, I met Cuban-Americans who resented me for taking the trip because they assumed I was only there to “get some.” A local Afro-Cuban percussionist and friend, Jesus Diaz, whom I knew for many years on the Oakland/San Francisco salsa music circuit, asked me sarcastically, “did you have a 'good time?” 

He was relieved to learn that I was attending the University of Havana to work on my Spanish, getting acclimated to Afro-Cuban culture by mixing with community members, and reading up on the famed Afro-Cuban writer/poet Nicolás Guillén, a friend of the African-American writer/poet Langston Hughes.

In my younger years, as a sailor in the U.S. Navy, I was just as guilty with impoverished women when my ship docked in third-world Asian countries. Truly, I was one ugly-ass American—and horny!

Today, with my level of maturity, understanding, and compassion, I behave differently with the knowledge that these women are doing what they have to do to avoid going hungry, and would make reasonable efforts to help relieve them of economic hardships without expecting anything in return.

This is exactly what I do in my Latin American travels, especially in Black Latin America where my primary purpose is to immerse myself in the Spanish language and the Blacktino (Black Latino) lifestyle and culture. 

In exchange for such a tremendous personal growth experience, I was generous in buying dinners and staple items for families, and buying ice cream and other goodies and gifts for children. I still came out ahead financially because I avoided the fancy hotels and tourist traps by staying in the barrio (the hood), and only hanging out with local people.

In Cartagena, Colombia, for example, I saw an elderly black women selling homemade cookies in the public square; I walked by, gave her a cheerful smile, and dropped a few dollars in Colombian currency on her table, and kept stepping. She followed me trying to give me some cookies, but I was not at all interested. All I wanted was to help a struggling sister out, which is what I explained to Jesus Diaz when I told him about Luisa in Cuba.

Down in El Carmen, Perú, three hours south of the nations capital Lima, I had the perfect opportunity to score sexually. A young, hot, sexy Afro-Peruvian dancer appeared seriously interested in me as she had trouble taking her eyes off me in her grandmother's home where I had happened to be staying. 

I passed up the opportunity for three reasons: 1) she was young enough to be my daughter, 2) I'm leery of woman who want me for no other reason than my being a gringo with a perceived pocket full of money when she can find local man for real love, and 3) I am a culture vulture, not a booty bandit.

If sex is all I need, I can save myself the airfare and head to a local brothel in my own community. And if I should hook up with a woman for a long-term relationship, I would prefer it to be for real love right here in the USA. I am not against being with a woman from a foreign country, I just prefer to meet her legally on American soil.

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