Macorina, the first woman driving in Cuba

Thursday, January 25th 2024. | Popular Traditions

Her scarf blowing with the salty breeze coming from the Malecón while she was driving her spectacular red car through the Prado Promenade and the inhabitants of Havana stared at her; it was the early 20th century. She was the first woman driving a vehicle in Cuba.

She was originally from Guanajay a town in the southern part of Havana and assumed prostitution as a way of living. Her wide brown eyes, her face scattered with moles and a daring short hair, remained in peoples minds. Her name was María Calvo Nodarse.

When she walked across the streets and the furtive glance of men followed her, provoking the scandalizing whisper of the ladies at that time. A night, when she was walking by the Louvre Street she got the nicknamed that made her famous: a young drunk man trying to compared her with the well known actress the Fornarina cried out: “there goes the duplicate of the Macorina!”.

The pedestrians assumed the mistake of the drunken man with joy and since then María lost her name. Many years afterwards the bis of a danzon made her immortal: “Ponme la mano aquí/ Macorina pon,/ Pon Macorina, pon.(Put your hand here Macorina. But the chance continued influencing Macorinas story. An accident made her well-known as an ultramodern and audacious woman. It is said that a worthy politician at that time hit her with his car provoking a minor permanent lameness.

In retribution to the damage the men gave her an expensive car as a gift. She was 25 years old when she assumed the challenge to obtain a drivers licence, something restricted to mens world in that moment. She not only obtained the license, but also became a passionate driver.

Many of her lovers were important politicians and businessmen, so she got other new and more expensive cars, four houses, jewels, furs and travels to Paris. But, the economic crisis of the 30s ended all the opulence and extinguished the Macorina.

She had to sell al her properties, including the nine cars. Some people say they saw her giving jars to the church of Guanajay; some others remember her as the host of a dating house in Principe Street. She installed in a modest pension in Centro Habana at the end. She changed her daring garments by serious black skirt and white blouses.

That purified woman, in appearance was not Macorina anymore. Nowadays, only the lyrics of that spicy song remains, and not everybody dares to sing it out loud.

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