Welcome to the theater of life, where men seek women who no longer exist, and women long for men who do not as yet exist.
Mirta Rodríguez Calderón, journalist ( 1992)1
Cuban society continues to be phallocentric, and we women are very far from real power.
Erena Hernandez, historian and critic ( 1994)2
In Havana on August 23, 1994, in the shadow of the statue of Mariana Grajales, heroic mother of Cubans, the Federation of Cuban Women celebrated its thirty-fourth anniversary. Medals and certificates were presented to 244 women for distinguished service to the revolution. The FMC honored in particular those activists who had engaged in street fighting against "the enemy" eighteen days earlier when a massive street riot against the revolution had exploded in downtown Havana in plain daylight. The keynote speaker concluded that "when some wanted to kill all hope, we Cuban women feel more determined than ever in our faith in the revolution."3
In truth, however, this faith had been deeply shaken. A few blocks away from the FMC's celebration Cuban rafters were launching themselves into the sea in a second Mariel. By the time negotiations brought the flight to a halt in September, 35,000 Cubans had taken to the water, heading for Miami, and for the first time a significant number of the rafters were women and children. Time and time again mothers told reporters that they were risking their families' lives because there was no food and no hope in Cuba.
This tragic juncture raised profound questions about women and the revolution: had Cuban women benefited from three decades of socialism, or was it all a grand illusion?
As late as 1990 many women still thought well of the revolution. In that year Bohemia conducted a survey of one hundred women from different walks of life. When asked how much Cuban women had pro