By Nick Nicholson
Born on April 2, 1895, to a French mother and Spanish father, Jean-Baptiste Fuentes worked as a street sweeper, barber and smuggler before becoming, in the 1930s, the most successful pimp in Old Havana. Jean-Baptiste’s choice of livelihood was one of pragmatism because in those days Havana was flush with American tourists looking for a good time. “A little passion to forget the shit,” he would say to them. The sentiment resonated deeply so securing business was never difficult. Over the years, more than a few of Jean-Baptiste’s girls fell in love with him but the liaisons never developed into marriage. That some of his girls shared their bodies with him from time to time was enough for Jean-Baptiste. “Better that a tigress live in the jungle than a cage,” he always said with a wistful smile whenever one of his girls pressed him for a more permanent relationship. Jean-Baptiste had been stabbed three times during his life, in street brawls, but his passing on June 12, 1958 was without violence. After playing the seventh tile in a game of dominoes with Ernest Hemingway in the lobby of the Hotel Ambos Mundos, Jean-Baptiste Fuentes simply closed his eyes and died.
© Nick Nicholson 2010, 2011. All rights reserved. Content may not be copied or used in whole or in part without written permission from the author.
This is the fourth part of Nick Nicholson's theme-adventurous, eight-part Travelogue. Subsequent segments will be published here in upcoming months.
Next Travelogue story: Rotterdam
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Throughout his life, Nick Nicholson has pursued a variety of creative vocations: music, photography, painting and, in recent years, writing. He lives in Australia.