Sweet Needles: The Tattoo Path

Blood and ink mix on the skin. The teenager sobs a little as the man sinks the needle to complete a wing of the butterfly. When she is finished, she will go home pained but happy. In a few weeks, you can wear your trousers to the hip, revealing the colorful tattoo.

In the last decade tattoos have gained space in Cuba and cause furor among the younger ones. These figures on the skin, which were previously indications of social marginality or a stay in jail, have become a sign of modernity and even economic solvency.

Eugenio Pérez, 53, is dedicated to to get tattoos in the east coast area of ​​Havana. Its main clientele are tourists and prostitutes. He never studied drawing, but since he was a child he had the skills to paint and design. "First I started with paintings that I sold in the sand, but then I realized that this business was going to give me more." At first it did not have many resources, "it boiled the needles and had an invented machine", confesses. Now he has managed to put together a small workshop with better conditions.

Dasiel Rivero, 35, says that he has been doing tattoos for more than a decade. He advises clients to be careful when choosing whom to do the job with. "The most important thing is cleaning," he says. "I never use a needle again to make people sick. I try to do my best with each person, because in the end this image will take her all her life." You are right, the techniques to remove a tattoo have not yet been developed by these homes. The most impulsive apply some burning object over the area they want to erase and endure the terrible pain.

They have become a sign of modernity and even economic solvency

Not everyone is as careful as Osmany or Rivero. Amaury Rodriguez, 23, was close to losing his arm for a staph acquired while getting a tattoo. As a sequel has an ugly scar. "If I had imagined this, I would never have gotten to do anything in my body, but I did not know." In the case of this young man the damage has not been so serious. Among the biggest dangers is contagion with Hepatitis C, a chronic disease that can lead to liver cancer.

The issue is complicated when you investigate where the raw material and instruments used by tattoo artists . In the absence of a local market where these inputs can be acquired legally, they are commissioned by those who travel abroad or produce pigments themselves, despite the risks, ranging from the poor quality of some colors on the market, until the increase of the infections.

The usual customers range from famous reggaeton singers to children of ministers. The cheapest tattoo costs about 12 CUC, about 14 USD. An average worker should save half of his monthly salary to enjoy a small flower or a tiny butterfly on his skin. The most complex designs are worth up to the salary of a whole year.

Self-employment licenses do not include tattoo artist. The closest is a "painter", but it is clear that this occupation "makes labels of all types, sizes and colors on objects or surfaces that do not include people's skin." So the lack of legal coverage hurts the business of needles and inks.

Mermaids and Sharks

The most sought after are the mythological and fantastic tattoos, including sirens, dragons, magic swords and dreamlike creatures. Also the symbols of love are quite popular. Hearts, angels with bows and arrows, maidens in erotic poses or the simple name of the beloved, are among the favorites. A very successful thematic line includes electric guitars, gothic characters and figures drawn from the world of rock and roll. Butterflies, snakes, felines, flowers, some birds such as eagles and certain fish of the family of the squalid heads the drawings of animals most in demand. "I do not know, but that still seems to me to be something dirty, something from prisons," says the director of a children's circle

"Now the so-called transparencies are very successful, "says a young man who owns his own tattoo business. To explain what it is, he shows one of his clients that he displays in his chest a huge, very realistic heart, accompanied by his arteries and blood vessels. It is a style that presents the skin as a window into the interior of the human body, and draws on the internal organs.

Although most clients still prefer the arms and torso to place the images , other areas of the body are now fashionable. The pubis, lumbar area, ankles and the nape of the neck gain ground among the youngest. "People want to have something hidden to show their partner when they remove their clothes," confirms Eugenio Perez. Abundant phrases filled with eroticism or lasciviousness, and roses and fruits take palms in the most intimate areas.

Among the biggest dangers is contagion with Hepatitis C

There are, however, competing in number of tattoos. Like Juan Carlos Marrero, who is part of a group of "Fans del Tatoo". "This is my life, I live for this," he says while showing the entire back full of fantastic figures and plots that seem to have life for their realism.

These enthusiasts have so far been unable to perform any "festival of the tattoo ", where those who revere that practice go. "Can you imagine," Juan Carlos said, "to gather all those people who carry a work of art on top of it ... that would be to remember." He smiles and his whole face moves, even the lion he has tattooed on his forehead, which seems to shake his mane and project his fangs forward.

Related news