By Mayté Solano Gómez
Cuban women bring together the natural beauty of the island, the warmth of the scorching sun that warms this land and in their sensual gait they give off the musicality coming from Spanish and African ancestors.
Cubans are generally proud… and women are not far behind. Let’s look at some of the examples that confirm this.
Cuban women in history
Mariana Grajales (1815-1893) is considered the mother of all Cubans, the ‘Mother of the Nation’, for her courage and dedication to the cause of the liberation of Cuba from Spanish colonialism and of black slaves.
The mother of 14 children, including Antonio Maceo, one of the main figures in the independence struggles in the island, she is known for the anecdote in which, at the sight of her son wounded in combat, she demanded that the women present stop crying and exhorted her youngest son to grow up to actively join the fight.
Alicia Alonso (Alicia Ernestina de la Caridad del Cobre Martínez del Hoyo, 1920-2019) is the Prima Ballerina Assoluta of Cuba and was Director of the National Ballet of Cuba for more than 70 years. Thanks to her this institution is among the most prestigious companies in the world.
She performed on stages as varied and famous as Broadway, Monte Carlo, Moscow, Paris, and Naples and received plenty of awards. These include the Anna Pavlova Prize and the Grand Prize of the City of Paris on repeated occasions; the Doctor Honoris Causa title from the universities of Valencia, Costa Rica, El Salvador and Mexico; the Picasso Medal and the UNESCO title of Goodwill Ambassador and World Dance Ambassador. In 2001 she was selected as one of the 2000 Outstanding Intellectuals of the 21st century by the International Biographical Center in Cambridge, Great Britain.
Some of the most important works in the repertoire of the company directed by Alicia Alonso are Gisell, Coppelia, Las Sélfides, El Lago de los Cisnes, Romeo y Julieta and el Grand Pas de Quatre.
Alicia Alonso inspired the development of the current flagship fragrance of Cuban perfumery: Gisselle.
Ana Fidelia Quirot (1963-), the Caribbean Storm, is one of the most important figures in Cuban and international athletics. Among her many achievements she was 5 times champion of the Grand Prix, between 1987 and 1991. In these 4 years, she won more than 30 races consecutively. She also obtained 2 titles in the 1989 World Cup, in 400 and 800 meters, and was acknowledge as the best athlete in the world. She also won the World Championships in Athletics in 1995.
In 1988, she received the Ibero-American Community Trophy conferred by the Kings of Spain, as the Best Athlete in the World in her discipline. On 4 occasions she won the annual award from the specialized press for the best athlete in Latin America and the Caribbean (1989, 1991, 1995 and 1997). Since 2003 she has been a member of the Central American and Caribbean Athletics Hall of Fame.
It is equally remarkable that she obtained an important number of her achievements after recovering from an accident that endangered her life, suffering second and third-degree burns over much of her body.
Cuban women who were “first”
There are many examples of Cuban women who fought against prevailing norms and prejudices in society, thanks to which they obtained results that placed them on the “first” lists in Cuba, the Caribbean and the world.
Domitila García y Coronado (1847-1937): First woman journalist in Cuba. She contributed to the founding of the magazine ‘El Céfiro’ and created the Academy of Typographers and Bookbinders, the only one of its kind on the island at the time.
Laura Martínez de Carvajal (1869-1941): Against the entire society of the time, she studied Physical-Mathematical Sciences and Medicine, becoming the first Cuban woman to graduate as a doctor and ophthalmologist.
Aida de Acosta de Alba (1884-1962): She was the first woman in the world to handle an airship alone, in 1903.
María Calvo Nodarse (1892-1977): Famous for her beauty, she was the first woman in Cuba to drive a car and obtain a driver’s license.
Berta Moraleda (1912-?): At just 18 years old, she was the first woman in Cuba to pilot an airplane professionally, in 1930.
Zoila Casas Rodríguez (?): She was the first female radio broadcaster in Latin America, in 1922.
Nerva Cot Aguilera (1939-2010): She was the first woman in Latin America and the Caribbean ordained bishop of the Anglican Episcopal Church, in 2007.
Cuban women in present days
Cuban women have been winning battles, along with the men of this island. They actively participated in the independence struggles; they won the right to vote and to be educated; they contributed to the construction of current Cuban society in areas as diverse as education, medicine and government.
The vital role of Cuban women during the Cuba’s Special Period, in the 1990s, after the collapse of the Socialist Camp in Europe, is widely recognized. It was women who, despite all the shortcomings and vicissitudes, ‘invented’ to bring food to the table and keep the family together, the basis of all society.
Today the value and potential of Cuban women are not questioned. They are present not only in the home and in the education of children, but any activity, in any sphere of society in Cuba.
Tourism and Cuban women
Tourism is one of the spheres in which Cuban women are involved, both in State institutions and in the private sector. Although activities associated with customer service are the most commonly performed by women, they are also present in general management, the management of economic processes, as well as in specialties such as cocktails. There are also numerous Cuban sommelier females.
In the private sector much, if not most, of the tourist accommodation is owned by women. They are also among those that offer tour guide services, run travel agencies, work as photographers and write for specialized blogs.