"[A] short walk down the streets in Havana will suffice to be struck by the frequent sight of men with shaven arms and legs, polished nails, plucked eyebrows, earrings and other until very recently female attributes (later extended in the article to include "tight pants, long dyed hair, lipstick, facials, pierced navels," etc.). They are regular customers at beauty parlors, highly selective about their clothes, and fond of jewellery — deemed until a few decades ago by social norms as being exclusively female attributes." — Juventud Rebelde, November 11, 2007
One would think that in a country where women use sugar syrup (almíbar) for hair dressing and lightning fluid for deodorant (both excellent for their purposes if these are to catch bees or fire), the likelihood of men co-opting their "beauty products" for their own personal toilet would be slim. But, if Juventud Rebelde is to be believed, metrosexuality has taken Cuba by storm. Metrosexuality can best be defined as homosexuality without the sex. That is, it copies the habits and fashions of homosexuals as well as a certain female sensitivity. It is even said that certain women are attracted to these denatured men.
Juventud Rebelde sees metrosexuality as conducing to "men's liberation." But from what? Masculinity? If this were indeed its object, then it would certainly resonate with the capos of the regime, for that is one kind of "liberation" which they could support. Anything which emasculates the Cuban male, which deprives him of his standing within the family or society, will be received with gratitude by the Communists. The day is long past when the Revolution tried to turn effeminate males into "real men." That experiment failed for many reasons, not least of which because sexuality is destiny. You can turn a homosexual into a sadist or masochist, and the UMAP concentration camps produced many of those; you cannot, however, reorient him towards heterosexuality.
Metrosexuality is a lot easier to implement because its transformation is not essential or permanent, though its superficialities create a mindset and general attitude which fosters narcissism and a preocuppation with external appearances that masks internal conflicts. By promoting metrosexuality as a means of "social recognition" the regime is shifting the focus from the rights of man to the rites of manhood. And, of course, it is not a means of "social recognition," as Juventud Rebelde contends, but of social control.
The "new man" — Juventud Rebelde uses the term in parentheses — is no longer like "Che," brutish, homophobic and a coward. The "new man" as newly defined is "oblivious to any boundaries set up by a phallocentric culture." Since man is essentially phallocentric himself, biologically and psychologically, a culture that would encourage him to deny that fact or obscure it is depriving him of his bearings.
Juventud Rebelde claims that this trend, which has already played itself out in the West, is a phenomenon that could not have occurred during the Special Period in Cuba. By implication it is saying that this period of involuntary self-denial has been transcended and that Cubans are now living in headonistic times, where excess is, if not the norm, then at least no aberration. It compares the present time to ancient Rome at its most self-indulgent and claims that this is not a new trend but a revival of a very old one.
Now this is very strange indeed. In Cuba, a monthly bar of soap of the cheapest and coarsest type and a razor dull enough to cut but not to shave are the foundation (no pun intended) of Cuban metrosexuality. How far an obsession with one's appearance can be carried within those narrow confines is anybody's guess. Cubans do have a genius for improvisation but this supplies basic needs not extravagances. It is easy enough to look like a male on one bar of soap and one razor per month but quite another to ape a dandy (the 19th century term for metrosexual).
Juventud Rebelde claims that metrosexuality was introduced to Cuba through globalization. Funny how Cuba appears to be immured from its effects in so many areas, indeed, in almost all areas; yet this frivolous trend managed to penetrate its cordon sanitaire. Unless the government sanctioned and promoted it, it would seem highly unlikely that it could make any headway in Cuban society.
As further evidence that this trend did not casually come to moor in the Caribbean backwater there is now an Office of Ibero-America Masculinities, in Cuba, headed by a Dr. Julio César González Pajés, a professor at the University of Havana. Juventud Rebelde does not say if Dr. González Pajés is himself a metrosexual but his cosmology does seem to point in that direction: "Today’s man is much more androgynous and 'feminine' – not effeminate, but feminine from the female standpoint of socialization." And likely to become more so now that Juventud Rebelde has published a 2500-word guide to becoming a metrosexual.
While admitting that "Cubans have a variety of views about their metrosexual countrymen" Juventud Rebelde highlights only the positive ones. The most critical Cubans it surveyed contend that metrosexuality is just an imported fashion trend or manifestation of adolescent rebellion and protest (much preferable, say, to youths wearing wristbands emblazoned "CAMBIO"). The most laudatory applaud it as "a male recipe for self-esteem that men can use to undergo an aesthetic alteration [which] displays the subject’s open-mindedness like a neon sign." Expert González Pajés agrees: "What is beyond question is that Cuba is under the influence of that global movement and our youth are ever more eager to look like their peers overseas." Yes, look like their peers; the government will now gladly accept this compromise if its youth do not demand greater rights than to resemble foreigners in externals while still yoked to a superannuated ideology and denied the civil and human rights that their peers in Western countries take for granted but would not trade for the right to wear navel rings. Cuban males, on the other hand, are advised by designer Guillermo González Lezcano to embrace "aesthetic freedom" and to "preserve the country's beauty values."
So the Revolution which began by stressing, and, indeed, demanding an almost camp machismo of Cuban males ends its days by admonishing them to "tend to their feminine side" and to "preserve the country's beauty values."