Love-fifteen: Child to woman, cuban style
TXT: CLAUDIA LIGHTFOOT PHOTO: COURTESY OF LUCY
Hang around any of Havana’s beauty spots and you’re likely to see the incongruous sight of a young girl decked out in full flounced and frilled crinoline in kid’s candy colours leaning provocatively against whatever ancient monument is to hand. She drifts dreamlike in her deep South ante-bellum paraphernalia in hot pinks or electric blue yards of nylon skirts in the colonnade of the Hotel Nacional, the balcony of a colonial mansion or a horse-drawn carriage, but always, always trailed by a photographer. What you have come across is the quince, the apex of girl-into-womanhood Cuban style. In this country, it is not ‘sweet sixteen’ but the fifteenth birthday party, los quince that is every girl’s dream. And what a dream! What a fantasy!
The Revolution liberated women to work alongside men in full comradeship; the Cuban constitution enshrines equality to the point that it states that men should share household tasks but when it comes to the quince, the boys are left behind in this magnificent kitsch-fest of supreme girliness… one last frilly fling before serious womanhood kicks in. Princess for a day. The party is all ice-cream and pink and white meringue iced cake, heart-shaped balloons and soft drinks; the sounds are merengue, salsa and boy bands; The girl is pure jail-bait as, pink-lipsticked and big-haired, she slips in and out of several costumes and pouting poses for the ubiquitous photographer.
The photograph is all. The recording of the whole shebang is more important than the living of it. It is as though this is her last chance to play out the full gamut of available look-but-don’t-touch fantasies before settling into the reality of being a woman in embargo-hit Cuba. She tries them all on from madonna to whore in the safety of her own home. Every girl’s dream and surely, incidentally, some boys’. From the Scarlett O’Hara number, she will change into sultry leopard-skin temptress, or kittenish and Lolita-like with a cuddly toy, as come-hither cowgirl, ballerina or bathing beauty, and the camera records it all...
+ information pág. 86-89 The H Book 2007 08