Patriotic American beauty dares all to prove that the composite Cuban is not so hot as he's cracked up to be
First of all, I want to make it clear that this is not the wail of a downhearted frail [thing] who was scorned and is therefore taking a cad's revenge. The following observations are not based on personal experience alone, but on the testimony of other disillusioned damsels, as well. I have listened to their plainsts in ladies' rooms, night-clubs, tearooms, boudoirs, on boats and on beaches; and I wish to acknowledge my indebtedness to those unwept, unhonored and unsung American women who have trusted and Given All in Cuba and Mexico, Central and South America, Spain and Puerto Rico — not to mention various encounters with visiting Latins on their own hearthstones in Ohio, Maine, Mississippi and both Dakotas. I, myself, have just returned from five months in Cuba, where I did a little fieldwork on my own; and I believe it is high time someone exploded the mythical superiority of Latins as lovers and relegated it to its proper place, along with other half-baked, but quaint, traditions, such as the saying that ashes in your coffee make you drunk, that if you don't save all your baby teeth, your second set will be puppies' teeth, or that if you don't move, the bee won't sting you, (Ah, so you've been caught on that one, too!)
It is a common belief all over the world that Latin men are the best lovers and Americans the worst. With an American flag of washable bunting draped prominently — but with careless grace — around my chest, and balancing an American eagle on my head, I hereby rise to state that this is a hoax. I will not only state it; hell, I will prove it. In order to facilitate matters, let us divide the subject into three parts: The Latin at Large, The Latin at Home, and the Latin in Bed. All right, Ms. America, take it away!
From now on, I will say Cubans, because I have taken a special course in Cubans, but you can substitute Venezuelans or Andalusians or Argentines, because, from what the rest of the girls say, they are practically interchangeable as far as this subject is concerned.
In the first place, they are usually short in stature. When anyone asks you if you want to meet another Cuban, it's customary to say, "All right. Is he over five feet four?" (She Stoops to Conquer Cubans can be taken physically, therefore, as well as morally and spiritually.) They are not only short; they are thin, too, with narrow shoulders and wide hips: in other words, like the Flapper Agre trousers — bell-bottomed. Their teeth — if any — are either frayed stumps or dazzling with gold. They wear straw Kellys [hats] too large or too small, badly fitting suits, and shoes that pinch their feet — and they have little feet. Of course, they do have nice eyes — that is, when they aren't cross-eyed. Their hair is oily and usually needs cutting. They spit a great deal. They are always scratching themselves.
That is the typical Cuban for you. That is, that is what they're like if they look like Cubans. Most Cubans don't look like Cubans. They look like Germans, Italians, Swedes, Polacks, and clerks from Yonkers. It makes my heart bleed to think of the boatloads of hopeful females who go down there every year on cruises, trusting to find a nation of Cesar Romeros. If they do find one, the odds are ten to one that he's another American tourist. As one more disappointed maiden put it, on her return to Manhattan, "The worst Americans are better than the best Cubans. I mean, the Americans you see here digging ditches or driving ice wagons or riding in the subways all handsomer and better built than the most highly publicized Don Juans in Havana."
In the second place, although part of their claim to superiority in amorous dalliance is based on an assumption of gallantry, they are not gallant in a practical way. They meet you at a bar for cocktails at five-thirty, make violent love to you — and then go home for dinner. They will meet you afterward and renew their spirited attack, but for the space of a couple of hours, their mad love is abated. They appreciate their home cooking, and, of course, foreign young women cannot be invited — or, at any rate, they aren't — into the sanctity of the typical Cuban home. They pay you fantastic compliments that no half-wit would believe, but they never send you flowers or give you presents. I take that back. A South American gave a girl I know an old coin, and a New York blonde once got a clock and an Eversharp pencil from a Cuban who said he was enslaved by her eyes, that he was blinded by the golden sunshine of her hair, that he would cut off his right hand for her, in short, that he would die for her. (They are fond of fancying themselves as impetuous, violent folk, ready to draw their machetes at the drop of a sombrero.) They are, however, great on photographs and practically the moment they meet you will pull out their pictures, inscribe them passionately, and present them to you, blissfully confident that forever afterward you sleep with their images under your pillow by night and plastered onto your mirror by day, where you can spend long hours in adoration.
They are convinced that all American women worship them; and they love American women because they're so free and easy. With their money, they forget to add. There are very few who object to acting as amiable escorts to American girls who foot the bills. In fact, some of them can be said really to live only during the tourist season, when they emerge like butterflies to meet all incoming ships. The rest of the year, they just languish around, recounting their exploits and saving their strength.
They are good dancers, as a rule, though the belief that every Cuban is a born hoofer is a fallacy. When they are good, they are superlatively so, but there are plenty of them who can step on your feet just as often and just as heavy as the boys back home. They are definitely not good drinkers. A couple of highballs and they are sitting on top of the world. One more, and they slip down in their chairs, practically parallel with the floor. All Latins have trouble with their livers and if they drink too much they get very sick. One Cuban says, "When I drink more than two drinks, my kidneys resent it and my liver abets them." Their sense of humor expresses itself for the most part in jokes which were thrown out of the Minsky [vaudeville] circuit ten years ago. They adore American slang but are always five to ten years behind. (Last winter I met a Cuban who had just caught up with "It's the cat's pajamas!") Anything approaching subtlety will leave them blank-faced and untouched, but the simplest reference to the bathroom and the elimination processes of the digestive tract will plunge them into uncontrollable hysterics. They also appeciate any suggestion of sex, provided it is elementary enough. Judged by their standards, the greatest wits in the world have been the little boys who scribble on fences and the comfort-station-wall decorators. The national type of joke most prevalent is a charming little game known as pega. It is couched in the form of question and answer and is the ultimate in obscene simplicity. Naturally, examples cannot be given at this time, but the question is frequently something like, "Have you got a few minutes to spare?" And when the victim answers "Yes, why? — (and they always answer; even though they've been hearing this form of joke daily all their lives, they never seem to catch on) — the answer is, "Well, then, do thus and so" — (fill in with any of the dirtier phrases you remember from childhood). This will render them incapacitated by laughter for ten minutes).
While the above may seem irrelevant, I believe it to have a bearing on the general subject, since it depicts sidelights on the qualities of the Latin at Large as a companion. And after all, a certain amount of companionship — sometimes known as the preliminaries — is customary before getting down to the brass tacks of amor.
In his own home, the Cuban man is absolute king, lord and master. He demands service and he gets it — hand and foot. Although he practically never takes his wife out — and seldom stays home with her — he is insanely jealous and keeps constant tab on her by bribing the servants, tapping the telephone wires, and a general spy system as elaborate as that of the Jesuits. He telephones his home every hour or so as part of the checkup. If his wife says she is going to the hairdresser's, the modiste's or the milliner's, he makes sure to telephone there, too. If she goes out to a movie, he runs over and sees the same picture so that he can question her on it during dinner that night. When he stays out all night, he almost never notifies his wife, but if he telephones and says he won't be home, he makes a point of going home within an hour.
The Cuban husband is practically never at home, except for meals. He goes out night after night, to political meetings, the club, poker games, jai-alai games, cockfights, cabarets, dances, parties, dinners, sidewalk cafés — or to visit his mistress — and his wife stays home. Once a month, he may spend an evening at the movies with her; a couple of times a year he takes her to large charity fiestas; and on special occasions, like the Fourth of July or the President's Saint's Day, he may invite her out and buy her a glass of sherry. One man I know married his wife when she was sixteen and has never let her go out at night since. She is now thirty-two. She has never even been permitted to go alone in the daytime to do her shopping or to a beauty parlor or to the movies. Although she is the mother of three children, the only person she can go to these places with is her older sister, and then she must travel in a closed automobile, never in a streetcar or bus, where other men might look at her. Her husband initiated her into this regime immediately after they returned from their honeymoon. Right then, he began leaving her in the house while he went out; and night after night, she used to sit at an upstairs window alone and watch him sitting in a gay party at the sidewalk café across the street. Nor is he an ignorant country yokel. He is a member of Congress; he has traveled in the United States and in Europe; he likes music, dancing and night life; and he is considered worldly and charming by the women he meets outside of his home.
This is by no means an isolated case, although not all Cubans carry the system to such extremes. However, they do not take their wives to nightclubs, cabarets or public restaurants. When they go out for a good time — which is about six nights out of the week — their helpmates stay at home. As one man said, "Certainly my wife stays home where she belongs. Furthermore, I never allow her to have girl friends. When she starts to become friendly with another woman — go the movies with her or to the hairdresser's, right away I forbid her to see her anymore. Women together talk and breed trouble. My wife must live for me alone and for what time I can find to give her."
And now we come to the point of the piece. God knows, the Cuban man spends enough time on the subject of sex. He devotes his life to it. He talks it, dreams it, reads it, sings, dances it, eats it, sleeps it — does everything but do it. That last is of course not literally true. but it is a fact that they spend far more time in words than in action. Sitting in their offices, rocking on the sidewalks in front of their clubs, drinking at cafés, they talk hour after hour about sex. When the University of Havana had a football team, they used to drive their American coach crazy by sitting in the dressing room before a game and describing their exploits — play by play — with the girls they took out the night before. A smart American who makes an appointment to discuss business with a Cuban at a café always makes the Cuban sit with his back to the street; because if he does not, the Cuban will eye every woman who passes, and, like as not, at a crucial point of the business transaction, will interrupt to make anatomical comments on some pretty who is just going by. They telephone each other at their offices during business hours to describe in minute detail a new conquest. According to them, they always had their first affair at the age of two. This may account for their being all worn out at twenty-three. Makers of aphrodisiacs do a thriving business: Spanish fly, yohimbim, marijuana cigarettes, cocaine, Baum Bengue (even the horses at Oriental Park have ginger put under their tails.) You can pick up any Cuban newspaper and see, on the second or third page, right smack in the middle of the news, a big ad — "Men! Let Science help you! Merely a matter of the hormones." Etc., etc.
This lack of masculine energy does not prevent them from talking a great game. They boast of their prowess, their anatomical proportions, and their methods. (To hear them talk of what is known to Drs. Van der Velde, Stopes, et al. as the love-play, you'd think they invented it. Certain they are, at least, that it has been revealed to them alone out of all mankind in a sort of divine and mystic annunciation kept secret from the rest of the world.) But if you believe the testimony of their womenfolk, when it actually comes to the test, they apparently suffer from tropical amnesia. In other words, they're talkers, not doers.
According to Cuban technique, love is a game of chess. Now it's your move; now it's mine — whoops, I caught you! If I do this, she will do that. If she says that, it means that I should do this. They will spend hours figuring out unnecessary progressive steps in an amorous campaign, and when their objective is finally obtained, they are apparently too exhausted by strategy to do much about it. Through the years, they have managed to work out an extraordinary and elaborately complicated system of sexual attack, which only they know the meaning of; and they are perfectly happy to putter around with this for months at a time, making telephone calls, writing notes, conferring with their friends (they are inveterate gossips and cannot make an amorous move without running off beforehand and afterward to consult with all their male friends), and making a great to-do about symbols and signals and point counter point.
They believe in quantity, not quality, also. Every man has his wife and his mistress of the moment. In addition, he has to find time to attend to the demi-mondaines (dancers, singers, nightclub hostesses or just women about town), the concubines (maids, dance-hall girls, little achinadas and mulaticas), and to the regular professional prostitutes. (They are great frequenters of houses of ill fame, making their rounds as a matter of course, and Mr. Dewey would have a difficult time in Habana. He certainly would lack the taxpayers' wholehearted support.) Besides this, in each one of these classes of women, he has someone he's working up to the proper pitch of surrender — dropping in to see occasionally, buying a glass of beer for, calling on the telephone — and, also in each class, he has someone he's got marked out to start paying attention to when he gets around to it, or when a vacancy occurs in the regular lists or on the scrub team. You can easily see how all of this keeps him extremely busy — he even has to devote afternoons, and frequently mornings, to it — so that he doesn't find quite so much time for actual practice.
Nevertheless, living in this constant aura of sex, the Cuban grows serenely sure that he is more adept amorously than other men — particularly Americans. In this impenetrable vanity of theirs, they are unlike any other nation. The elderly American, at least, occasionally lets a bit of cynicism slip into his attitude. He admits that the gift of a diamond bracelet, a mink coat or a car may possibly have influenced the young lady of his choice, but the Cuban, be he ever so ancient, fat, bald, wrinkled, is perpetually convinced that his personal charms alone are what render him irresistible. To see him is to love him, he reasons.
They are a curious mixture of Spanish tradition, American imitation and insular limitation. This explains why they never catch on to themselves. I think the reason for their initial vanity is that, early in life, they start frequenting what, for want of a better word, are known as fancy women. (I know a better word but I won't use it here). These women, for obvious business reasons, fratter them extravagantly, make them think they are superlative lovers — and the men never find out otherwise. I suppose no one ever has the heart to tell them. And everything with which they come in contact the rest of their lives serves to perpetuate the myth: the books the read, the songs they sing, the testimony of their fellow countrymen — who are, as I have said, anything but reticent — and the continued plaudits of their womenfolk. One case I heard of — submitted by a fellow fieldworker — had to do with a noted Casanova, famed not only in Habana but as far as Pinar del Rio for his amatory skill. When subjected to an impartial test, it turned out that his routine could be classified as Amateur College Boy, Class G-6, but that immediately upon completion of said simply routine, he sat up in bed and exclaimed, "Am I not wonderful? Am I not wonderful?"
In short, as the result of an extensive female survey, my conclusions are that offhand I would swap you five Cubans, three South Americans and two slightly used Spaniards for one good Irish-American any night in the week. I feel sorry for the women of Cuba. Theirs not to reason why, theirs but to try and try.
I am hereby offering a plea for Latin womenhood. Too long have they suffered under adversity's rod. Any upstanding American man who wants to do a humane deed knows where to go now. My advice to the American male is, Go South, young man, Go South. It's open season for putting the horns on Cuban manhood. They'll look like a race of moose when you get through with them, and you will have served to remove national stigma and explode a worldwide myth.
If this sounds like an embittered and chauvenistic diatribe against Cubans, I can only say that I did not mean it as such. It is merely that I happen to like American men, and I have been aroused to a high pitch of indignation by hearing them constantly maligned. You cannot spend an hour in the society of any Latin male without hearing what bad lovers Americans are. "Of course American men know nothing of sex!" is the theme song of the tropics. I thought that our own home boys might like to know they've been severely underrated and they no longer need tremble before foreign competition in the most popular of indoor sports.