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I first met Pedro Manuel González Reinoso (La Roxy), at UNEAC about twenty years ago. He was then a shy young man from the provinces, terribly contemplative and possessing great repressed intensity. Over time he has become a great friend to several important Cuban writers and for the rest of us he has become the mythical and everyday being named Pedrito.
In the midst of the Special Period in the 1990s, Pedrito left his job as an economist to take up hairdressing. He set up an underground beauty salon in his home in the city of Caibarien, known as the White City (Villa Clara province), where in providing his clients with a new look, his own fantasies of expression and change were nurtured.
Transvestism became a way to deal with reality and to deal with his background, his memories. It was also a way to reveal his playful nature and it gave him a way of connecting with an audience. And so the character that gave him fame inside and outside of Cuba was born: Roxana Rojo, a Russian woman who remained in Cuba, totally “Cubanized.” Her experience is a powerful one.
Roxana Rojo first appears as a character in 1994 during the Special Period, put together with scraps, a little from here, a little from there. Wigs pieced together from vegetal fibers similar to henequen, combed out endlessly and dyed. Fake nails made out of plastic bags. It was a complicated process preparing this new person for her stage debut.
She performed for many years at the Mejunje Cultural Center in Santa Clara, on Marta Abreu Street where audiences were both entertained and invited to reflect on cultural and social issues through the nature of his performance. These lives of Roxy Rojo are permeated with a sort of nostalgia, a complete love/hate relationship that Cubans have with the former USSR. We have to remember that this Russian woman makes her appearance just a few years after the fall of Eastern Europe when Cubans as a nation were suffering the ravages of that downfall.
Roxana Rojo someone manages to avoid the stereotype: she is a mass of contradictions and dreams that could touch on the most surprising fantasies. At the Havana Book Fair of 2010, Vidas de Roxy (Roxy’s Lives) was presented, stripping bare the nature of this Russian woman to give us a biography of a totally fictitious person simmering with memories. She was here to stay among a group of Cubans who by now have no intention of saying goodbye to her.
The work of this Pop artist has often managed to poke around in open wounds. In a macho society like the Cuban, his has clearly been an important battle to tear away old prejudices and to move forward to the acceptance of diversity among human beings. His values are a significant contribution in Cuba and his creations have affected our cultural processes.
In 2009, La Roxy went on a successful and controversial tour of several Cuban provinces, collecting new admirers in the squares where the shows were put on. Her character is well-known in New York and right now she is preparing to travel to Spain where a new edition of the book Vidas de Roxy will be published.si
May 2014 This article formed part of the may 2014 issue of What’s On Havana The definitive monthly travel & culture guide to Havana Download our current issue of What’s On Havana, your definitive travel, culture and entertainment guide for all things happening in Havana, Cuba’s bustling and enigmatic capital city. We include features from around Cuba written by the best international travel writers covering Cuba. Our monthly online digital magazine is also available in Spanish and French.
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