Pornographics

By Zulema de la Rúa Fernández
Translated by George Bert Henson

Ever since I was a little girl I always wanted to be a porn star. Of course, I didn’t know that was what they were called. I used to look at my brother’s magazines and videos when no one was looking, and I’d imagine myself in a close-up of an aesthetically designed orgy.

Later, with the excesses of puberty, I came to the conclusion that I was as good as Cicciolina or Tabatha Cash, even if others insisted that I was nothing more than a little two-bit whore who had a promising future as a nymphomaniac.

I didn’t pay attention to them; I’d explain that what I did was performance art, training in order to face the magazines and video commitments that were to come.

A lot of people tried to discourage me. They said that with my attitude, at least here in Havana, I wouldn’t go anywhere, that pornography and vice were incompatible with socialist ideology.

Here, such brazenness would never be tolerated, idyllic young girls separating their labia minora on camera, forget it.

I argued: But is to be a socialist to be a person ignorant of human sexuality? Is it to deny the harmony that the naked body generates, free from taboos and prejudices? Is it …?

Yeah, yeah, that’s good, they’d say in the middle of a death-rattling ejaculation, then walk away, shaking their head no.

I, then, had no other choice but to reclose my legs and continue in search of my big break.

I can’t remember how many magazines I visited, how many movie directors or video producers listened to me incredulous, without entirely understanding my porno-artistic interest.

I can be with two, four, as many as eight guys at once, I explained to the movie directors, magazine editors, video producers, I’d try it with a pig, I’m okay with a horse or a bull, I have two or three highly provocative fetish ideas, but I only do it with girls if they read a sonnet by Shakespeare in my ear.

The directors would invite me into a room to talk privately. Then, when they got tired of experimenting with sexual positions, they’d tell me they were really busy and that next month maybe they’d be able to work me in.

One day I got tired and wrote an email to the editors of Playboy, in which I told them about my sexual proclivities and included several photos; I even offered to do the first few videos for free.

Within two weeks a well-dressed man, wearing an Armani suit and carrying a briefcase, showed up at my house. He said his boss had forced him to come, since as far as he was concerned Cuban women were discriminated against and couldn’t find jobs alongside the big-name porn stars—media-savvy girls who knew how to get inside the heads of their admirers.

Apparently, the myth of Caribbean sexual prowess hadn’t reached the editors of Playboy, not to mention that of the hot-blooded Cuban. So I went to my room, put on my babydoll and hopped into the well-dressed man’s car.

It was Saturday at almost nine at night. So we stopped at the park at 23 and G, at a time when it was full of half-stoned punks.

Gentlemen, this is my audition, so do what is expected of you, I said taking off my babydoll.

The punks stared at me for a few seconds and went on talking about Nirvana, Linkin Park, and Paisaje con Río, moving around their mops of hair, just being punks, without giving me a second look, as if seeing a half-naked girl in the middle of the park were the most natural thing in the world.

The well-dressed man had already taken a seat on a bench and removed a notebook from his briefcase to take notes as he shook his head.

So I threw myself at the punk closest to me who, to add insult to injury, was more than likely gay and just wanted to compare the length of his fingernails to mine. Only by clawing and hair pulling was I able to get him to penetrate me and his friends to surround us to cheer us on and applaud.

Of course, this first act didn’t last for long: as soon as the other punks with chains, piercings, and tattoos noticed my deranged expression and panting, they abandoned the Rolling Stones and descended on me.

The man from Playboy waited calmly and even with disinterest as the punks had their way with me. He then handed me a handkerchief with an image of Pamela Anderson on it, we got back into his car, and he shook his head.

I then took him to an underground rap concert in Alamar, where he began to rock out to the music of Los Aldeanos, as if he had nothing more important to do, as if the eight six-foot five-hundred-pound black dudes dancing at the entrance hadn’t begun to do things to me when they saw me come in with my shaved pubes and firm breasts exposed for all to see.

I don’t know how I managed to leave the concert alive, yet once again the man took out his little notebook and shook his head.

I was furious: it pissed me off to think I wasn’t on the same level of the porn stars. To make matters worse, the man from Playboy began to give a little speech in English about my supposed ideological blockade, the inherent limitation that comes from living in a place removed from globalized porn.

I told him to shut up. I got out of the car naked and entered a tenement submerged in a toque de santo (think: santería drum circle). The reception at first was questionable, then disorderly, then chaotic.

It goes without saying that it was a miracle I came out in one piece, that I didn’t lose my vulva by pure luck. Still the man from Playboy continued shaking his head, making huge X’s in his little notebook.

To show him how far I was willing to go, I headed to the carnaval, where I forced him to watch as the Guaracheros de Regla lost their beat and their drums on my ass that was bright pink from all the groping, how the floats, the police, the public in the stands fused into one sexual throng, obscene and disorderly, while I smiled bigger than Silvia Saint.

Finally, to make my audition really stand out and to remove any lingering doubt, I decided to take a tour of the city. I went in every open house I found, I visited shelters, buildings, garages, circuses, theaters, beaches, while the man from Playboy watched with little interest.

When daylight arrived I had toured three or four municipalities, but the man still persisted in his questioning and doubtful attitude, crossing out mercilessly in his little notebook. So I decided to stop insisting on passing the audition. I climbed into the car and told him to take me home.

During the trip he didn’t say a word about my chances of becoming a porn star. Nor did I ask. I had lost interest.


Zulema de la Rúa Fernández (Havana, 1979) first came to critical attention in 2003 as winner of the Premio Abdala for short story. Numerous awards have followed, including the Premio Farraluque for erotic poetry, the Premio del Centro Provincial de Casas de Cultura (2004); the Premio del Mar (2006); the Premio Juventud Rebelde (2007); the Premio Luis Rogelio Nogueras (2008); the Premio Ernest Hemingway (2009); the Premio Calendario de Narrativa (2010); the Premio Glosar a Martí (2013); and the Premio Décimas para el amor Hermeides Pompa XV Concurso Nacional Ala Decima (2015). Her work has appeared in numerous anthologies, including El equilibrio del mundo y otros minicuentos (Editorial Cajachina, 2006); Todo un cortejo caprichoso (Ediciones La Luz, 2011); Escenarios (AEN, 2012); Los cuerpos del deseo (NeoClub ediciones & Alexandria Library, 2012); Como raíles de punta (Ediciones Sed de Belleza, 2013); La vida en papel (Sika S.L.U.2014); El Árbol en la Cumbre (Letras Cubanas, 2014). In addition, she has published La Gata con Botas (plaquette, Ediciones Hipocampo, 2004), La Sobrevenida (plaquette, Ediciones Hipocampo, 2005), Habana Underground (Ediciones Extramuros, 2009) and Cuentos para huir de La Habana (Casa Editora Abril, 2011). In addition to writing, de la Rúa holds a bachelor’s degree in nursing and a master’s degree in childcare.

George Bert Henson is a translator of contemporary Spanish prose. His translations include works by some of Latin America’s and Spain’s most notable writers, including Sergio Pitol, Elena Poniatowska, Andrés Neuman, Claudia Salazar, Miguel Barnet, and Leonardo Padura, and have appeared variously in Words Without Borders, Buenos Aires Review, Bomb, Asymptote, The Kenyon Review, and World Literature Today, where he is a contributing editor. His translations of Sergio Pitol’s The Art of Flight and The Journey were published this year by Deep Vellum Publishing. George teaches in the Department of Spanish & Portuguese at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, where he is also affiliated with the Center for Translation Studies. He holds a PhD from the University of Texas at Dallas.