Academic journal article Anthropological Quarterly

When a Yuma Meets Mama: Commodified Kin and the Affective Economies of Queer Tourism in Cuba

Academic journal article Anthropological Quarterly

When a Yuma Meets Mama: Commodified Kin and the Affective Economies of Queer Tourism in Cuba

Article excerpt

In this article, I explore the kinship imaginaries that emerged between gay male tourists from North America and Europe and Cuban male sex workers and their families within the context of Havana's queer-erotic economies. Whereas male sex workers throughout Latin America and the Caribbean tend to conceal their male clients from their families, Cuban sexual laborers in this study incorporated queer foreigners into kinship imaginaries. Such bonds often conferred the rights and obligations of kin, while "blood" kinship was increasingly described in and subject to financial terms. Motivated by money rather than "blood" or "choice," kinship ties fostered between foreign gay men and younger male sex workers prompt a rethinking of non-normative kin ties as an alternative to dominant systems of kinship and suggest the political and economic roots of familial bonds more broadly. [Keywords: Kinship, tourism, gender and sexuality, sex work, Latin America and the Caribbean, Cuba]

When a Yuma Meets Mama: Commodified Kin and the Affective Economies of Queer Tourism in Cuba

[Keywords: Kinship, tourism, gender and sexuality, sex work, Latin America and the Caribbean, Cuba]

Cuando un yuma conoce a mamá: mercantilizado parientes y las economías afectivas de turismo queer en Cuba

[Palabras clave: El parentesco, turismo, género y sexualidad, trabajo sexual, América Latina y el Caribe, Cuba]

...

Quando Yuma Encontra Mama: Mercantilização do Parentesco e as Economias Afetivas do Turismo Queer em Cuba

[Palavras-chave: Parentesco, turismo, género e sexualidade, trabalho sexual, América Latina e Caraíbas, Cuba]

...

(ProQuest: ... denotes non-US-ASCII text omitted.)

In the widely circulated documentary Habana Muda (Brach 2012), viewers witness the creation of a transnational queer family through the relationship between Chino, a deaf Cuban farmer who is married with children, and José, a gay Mexican tourist who has fallen in love with him. During their year-long affair, José provides Chino with cash, toys for his young children, clothing and toiletries, household items, and manicure equipment for Chino's wife to establish a home business. As time passes, José finds a boyfriend in Mexico. Not wanting to abandon his obligation to Chino and his family, José continues to send money and arranges for Chino's emigration. The night before Chino is scheduled to leave the island, he and his family gather with José and José's new boyfriend around a candlelit table. "We are all family now," Chino's wife says, pointing at each of the Mexican visitors. Emotional at the thought of losing her husband, she continues, "We are family, so you cannot abandon us; do not forget about us."

The film meditates on the ambiguity at the heart of the men's intimacy: is Chino sincere in his affection for José or merely using him to gain access to cash and the possibility of emigration? Perhaps trying to prevent spectators from drawing reductive conclusions, French director Eric Brach excludes the fact that the men's relationship would be typical within Havana's thriving homoerotic sex trade, which parallels that of other contexts such as the Dominican Republic, Mexico, and Brazil (Cabezas 2009; Padilla 2007a, 2007b; Parker 1999; Prieur 1998). What is unique to the Cuban story is how, as the film's denouement suggests, kinship terms and practices that were familiar both to tourists and to Cubans offered a common frame through which gay foreigners and Cuban sexual laborers could solicit ongoing types of affection, obligation, and care. For some Cuban men facing a bleak post-communist economic landscape beginning in the 1990s, sexual labor, economic survival, and familial ties had become isomorphic. By offering Cubans excluded from global economies a lifeline to various forms of mobility and capital, kinship imaginaries allowed them to inspire long-term financial patronage that kept their families financially afloat.

In this article, I analyze social situations such as those found in Habana Muda that I encountered during seven years of research trips to Havana to study queer sex tourism. …

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