Love happens in the street, standing in the dust.
—José Martí, Love in the City
Ruso took long strides down the smooth cement slope of 23rd Street
toward the sea. Inhaling on his Hollywood cigarette, which he preferred
over the cheaper Cuban brand, he belted out the lyrics to La Charanga’s
latest hit. “Soy Cubano, soy natural. Y eso nadie me lo quita. Porque yo
traigo la razón y te regalo la verdad, lo que tengo ni se compra ni se vende.
(I’m Cuban, I’m real. No one can take that away from me. I bring you the
reason and give you truth: What I have can’t be bought or sold.)”
At the ocean, Ruso jumped on the Malecón, the thick cement wall that
snaked around Havana. He shouted to a group of boys waiting to dive
oﬀ the rocky shore, shivering despite the merciless August sun. Getting
no response, Ruso focused on me. I had been tagging along with him for
almost a month but had never asked him about his sexuality. I asked if
he identiﬁ ed as gay.
“Look, we in Cuba have something that is called bisexual,” said Ruso.
“A bisexual is someone who sleeps with both men and women. I like to
have sex with women, but I like men more. Because I like both, I am
bisexual.” He paused again and instructed me to write down the term in
“It’s the same word in the United States,” I told him.
He looked skeptical.
“What is a jinetero?” I asked. The question hung in the air between us.
“It’s a Cuban who goes with gays. They take them to a place and have sex
with them for money or clothes, and rip them oﬀ by charging too much.”
Can’t Be Bought or Sold?
LOVE AND INTIMACY IN THE AFTERMATH OF CRISIS