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Walking around with bodyguards in Havana

It is the latest fashion amongst 'nouveau riche' Havanans, not limited to 'El Cangrejo', Raúl Castro' grandson and bodyguard.


Walking around with bodyguards. Having your own security. This is the latest trend among Havanan show business celebrities.

For the nouveau riche in the Cuban capital, it is not enough to wear the most expensive clothes, or pay up to $1,000 per bottle at one of the many bars and nightclubs that have popped up across the city. If you want to ascend to the Olympus of these winners, you have to go around with four or five brawny bodyguards, all in uniform, donning white guayaberas, or jackets, and always wearing the de rigueur earpiece.

"One of those that you see in the movies, with a hanging, curled, transparent cable," a real estate entrepreneur tells me, who now watches the circus from the coast of Miami Beach. "But often it's just for show," he says, "just to pretend, because the things are not even connected to anything."

The Havana market of bodyguards is booming, and one can find a bit of everything.

There are well-trained and organized groups, with emergency and contingency plans, which already have international clients and have worked in cooperation with the police for some events.

One in particular, led by a former bodyguard of the Minister of the Interior, is distinguished as the most professional.

"If it were not for them, Beyoncé would not have been able to walk the streets, or visit anything," the tropical realtor explains to me, bringing me up to date. "At the beginning of her visit, a crisis broke out with the mulatto, and these black guys had to show with metal cap boots to control the fans. They were great!"

Others are a pure facade, violent and aggressive, but disorganized and slapdash teams.

The ex-girlfriend of a plastic artist tells me that the "bodyguards" with whom they travelled throughout Cuba were former athletes, friends of his, who for 350 CUC a month were willing to play the part and dress up the artist told them to, but "when push came to shove, they were all bark and no bite."

She realized that her relationship with the artist was serious when one of his bodyguard's suddenly appeared at her door, willing to accompany her everywhere.

"I felt like the most important woman in the world," she says, without concealing her pride. "When we went out we used two cars: in front, just the two of us, in the back, the five bodyguards."

The girl gestures to illustrate the two cars riding through the streets of Havana at night.

"We went places and they got out first, making way. Then it was stars' turn." The young woman smiles, adopting a glamorous pose that jars with her clinic worker's uniform. "I lost all that, due to my desperation to come to Miami. Here, if I don't look out for myself ..."

For young Cubans the sight of bodyguards is nothing strange.

"It's normal," says a bon vivant who splits his time between the island and the US, thanks to a five-year visa. "Those who have money or business must pay for it, because the safe city that the government boasted about disappeared years ago. Poverty changed people."

He believes that the Havana nightlife attracts the country's worst, most dangerous elements. "But others do it to show off, they are pure Netflix, imitating the narco movies that are so hot right now."

He has laughable anecdotes to share, like that of a nouveau riche man who uses his bodyguards to open up a space for him on the dance floor, and another who sits down to work on his computer in the middle of a concert, while his agents, "like columns of a temple," guarantee a "clear zone" around him.

"The first was El Cangrejo," he says, referring to Raúl Guillermo Rodríguez Castro, the grandson and also the bodyguard of Raúl Castro, who has become an emulator of the infamous Ramfis Trujillo.

"At his favorite bar, El Cangrejo ordered that a private entrance be made," he says. "The owner took advantage of it, exhibiting him like a scarecrow on an exclusive balcony. There the 'supergrandson' wards off fights, problems and even inspectors, who he has told to get out of the place."

The phenomenon of Cuban bodyguards is local because no group leader has managed to assert his experience here in the US. "Nobody wants to hire me as a specialist. They only offer me a security post, as a simple night guard", he explains from the motor home where he lives in Hialeah.

"I am seriously thinking about moving, because there they are willing to pay me what I am worth," he concludes.

I dare not contradict him, and tell him that it is just the other way around: his real value is manifested in Hialeah, because the situation in Havana is temporary, as all those tensed muscles in Havana have their days numbered.

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