International Women’s Day in Cuba

The magazine’s reception desk was empty when we arrived, but we could hear voices not far away. My former partner and I had come to Cuba during the heady days of Obama’s second administration, when all sorts of global progress seemed possible, which in Cuba’s case could mean re-integration into the larger world order. That was clearly what most Cubans wanted, but we thought something preciously Cuban might be diluted by that contact, so we went to do some interviews before things changed too much.

She had a Master’s degree in a related sociological field, I spoke Spanish, and we were both needled by the misogynistic messaging in modern media, with its photoshopped and abusive representations of what women “should” look like. So off we went to Cuba to see if we could get a sense of what it was like to be a woman in a culture that didn’t have all those glossy toxins and Barbie doll bullies.

Mother and daughter on the street in Santa Clara, Cuba

We had interesting conversations all over town, then a friend suggested we visit a magazine that covered current events, the arts, and modern life in the country. “No, you don’t need an appointment, just come by whenever and someone will be around to talk to you” the voice on the phone had said. So there we were, but where was everybody else?

Soon the door swung open for three laughing women bearing slices of delicious looking cake. As is often the way in Cuba, we were quickly friends, given food and invited in. I sat there munching frosting, surrounded by women who deserved their positions, respect, and to be listened to. What was the cake for? “It was Beatriz’s birthday yesterday, but it’s also International Women’s Day, apparently?”

Family of women in Havana, Cuba

They hadn’t known about the holiday any more than we had (which was pretty ironic, given our subject matter), we never wrote a formal paper about our interviews, and that moment in the lobby was not particularly noteworthy. But today, on another International Women’s Day, it stands as just another piece of the patently obvious mosaic of women’s contributions to what’s beautiful in this life. That deserves remembering. And a day. And a slice of cake.

Girls in Havana, Cuba