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Tinder Turns La Rampa Into A Catwalk For Love / 14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez

14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez, Havana, 30 December 2016 — “You have to
show yourself like a peacock, with all your colors,” Tito, 22, explains
to a friend who just downloaded the Tinder application onto his
phone. The social dating network is sweeping the island and among young
people it is one of the most used apps in the wifi zones, where it
competes in popularity with IMO, Facebook Messenger and Whatsapp.

“I signed up two months ago and I have already met several girls,” a
young man with a degree in accounting and a job as a waiter in a private
tells 14ymedio, as he looks for a connection under the screen
name Victor Manuel. Every night Tito goes to La Rampa to “hunt for
chicks with my cellphone,” he says. In his profile photo he wears a
tight T-shirt and a thick gold chain around his neck.

The success of Tinder, created in 2012 in the United States by Sean Rad,
Justin Mateen, Jonathan Badeen and Ramón Denia, is largely due to the
fact that it has simplified the act of making contact. Unlike other
dating tools such as OkCupid, Match, Meetic and eDarling, this tool
avoids long questionnaires and algorithms that seek affinity between one
user and another.

In its interface, translated into 24 languages ??and available in 196
countries, you only need to take a quick look to select or remove a
candidate. Tinder was chosen as 2014 App of the Year at the Enter.Co
Awards. At that time it was estimated it already had more than 50
million users.

Tito’s routine includes reviewing photos and small biographies of
network users around him. When he sees a profile he likes, he touches
the image with a finger and swipes right to ‘like’ it. If the woman does
the same with his photo, then they can begin to interact. With a swipe
to the left, profiles that are not of interest are discarded.

Mobile dating apps and erotic chat rooms are gaining ground among
Cubans. At first people connected through Facebook Messenger, sent hot
photos through Zapya, or chatted in matchmaking forums, but increasingly
they use services created specifically “for these purposes,” says José
Ramón, an engineer who graduated from the of Information
Sciences (UCI).

Ramón says that “there have been several attempts to make a national
application to connect couples, but in the end those that have an
international reach haven’t taken hold, because many Cubans want contact
with foreigners and with people who have emigrated.”

On several national classified ad sites there are ads for “boy seeks
girl” with all the possible variations of gender and number, but José
Ramón believes that the Tinder experience is totally different, since it
gets the adrenaline flowing because you can the users who are connected
nearby and who are looking for a partner.

“That means that from the beginning of the exchange of messages to the
first kiss, it can be less than half an hour,” he says. “No need to go
slowly because everyone who has set up an account on this service is
looking to find someone as quickly as possible. Even the timid ‘start
off running’.” he jokes.

With the diplomatic thaw between Cuba and the United States, many
services have included the island in their services. Now
tourists can book accommodation through the popular website Airbnb, and
Cubans on the island can download utilities from Google Play while local
applications have also flourished.

Country maps, private restaurant recommendations, guides for rental
houses and tools for buying and selling products abound among the
creations of national developers. But Tinder offers something different:
an intuitive and fun platform to flirt, date and get into bed with
someone who an hour before was a perfect stranger.

Prior to having Tinder, Tito used to hookup the old fashioned way. “I
would stand outside the clubs or on the wall of the Malecon until I
would see some woman alone.” But he confesses that getting out the first
word embarrassed him and it was difficult to break the ice. Now he seems
decided while he right swipes the profile of a nurse, age 23. “This is
like choosing a flavor of ice cream: sometimes you are surprised by a
good chocolate and other times you have to make do with vanilla.”

Alberto and Andrea Orlandini, authors of the Dictionary of Love,
published by Editorial Oriente, believe that when relationships are
sought through the network or other digital tools “deception is common”
but “it is not unusual to find cases of genuine love which can end in a
good marriage.”

“I can only count to 15,” a recently arrived confessed in his
Tinder account. It was an ingenious way of saying that he was missing a
hand. His sincerity, on a network where exaggerations about physical
attributes abound and photos are commonly retouched, earned him several
right swipes among a group of young people connected near the Cuba Pavilion.

“Sometimes, when you meet the person, they don’t look like the profile
picture,” complains Ana Laura, 19. “It has happened to me several
times that the guy was older, fatter or uglier in person.” In her
account, the girl shows herself with wet hair, her lips painted a deep
red and with the gesture of giving a kiss. She says she is looking for
someone to “have a good time with without worries.”

Official statistics show that Cubans are increasingly thinking less of
alliances in the style of “until death do us part.” In recent years
there has been a decline in legal unions. Between 2014 and 2015,
marriages dropped from 63,954 to 61,902 nationwide, while divorces
increased from 32,934 to 33,174, according to figures published in the
2015 Statistical Yearbook.

Tinder has helped solve the problems of shyness. The application makes
the first encounter easier and gives the dates a certain ease. “Everyone
who opens an account does it because they want to get something, because
they are looking to have a good time, so you don’t have to try too many
times,” says Tito, who has introduced several friends to the application
which, until a few months ago, was practically unknown in Cuba.

“The more people open a better account, the more the rumor gets out and
the more cuties sign up on the network,” he speculates in a macho
tone. Having solved the problems of his shyness thanks to the app, Tito
already looks like a conqueror and expresses his desire that by the
middle of next year, “Tinder will be the talk of Havana.”

Mary, a fictitious name, is Peruvian and this December she came to Cuba
for the second time in less than a year. A few months ago she had an
intense relationship with a young woman from Matanzas living in Havana
and has since made many friendships in the city’s LGBTI community. “The
days I spend here I go to many parties and I drink a lot of rum,” she
says. But her great goal is “to find sex, all I can, in the shortest
possible time.”

This Tuesday, Mary had breakfast in the cafeteria of the Habana
Libre while connecting with her tablet to the La Rampa wifi. “I go into
my Tinder account and look for women who are closest, it’s a question of
waiting.” Her preference is “thin mulattos,” but a few days ago she met
“an impressive blonde,” she says.

Swipe right to accept. Swipe left to discard. “Then I read more details
about their biography and see if there is something I especially like.”
So far no one has asked her for money directly, but the Peruvian has
given them all “nice gifts, and paid for dinner.”

Mary has just discovered the profile of a 20-year-old girl who is
studying medicine and presents herself as “very affectionate and ready
for everything.” The Cuban has also swiped right on the visitor’s
profile and they begin to exchange messages through the
application. They make an appointment to meet at the corner of 23 and M
half an hour later.

“It’s very good news that this is taking hold here, because it helps a
lot to people who come for the first time and want to meet others who
have the same interests,” said Mary. Tuesday is her sixth date in less
than a week since she arrived on the island. “I have to get the most out
of it every day, because I’m leaving on Sunday,” she explains.

Jessica, 28, had to spend more than six months freeing herself from a
pimp, who had taken control. The woman has been engaged in prostitution
for more than five years and had always done it on her own, but a
boyfriend offered her protection and ended up extorting her. Fortunately
for her, the man was picked up in a drug raid and is now in .

Jessica, has signed up on Tinder so that she can find “another kind of
client, a higher level.” Her profile on the social network does not
explicity state that she is a “sex worker,” but in the photo she is
wearing very sexy clothes, and her description promises “fun without
commitment” and adds that she likes “mathematics” as a way of suggesting
a monetary transaction. She has already gotten two dates through the
application.

“I do not have to worry so much about the , I just sit around and
connect to the wifi,” she explains. “I then go with the person to some
place, not on the street, and the operation is much safer,” she
says. She has several friends who are also in the business and
recommended the tool. “This is a gain for us because it allows us to
sell the merchandise faster and better.”

Authorities have not reacted to Tinder’s progress among young Cubans.
While digital sites critical of the Government are censored, dating
services operate without restrictions in wireless connection areas,
within the Youth Clubs, and one the public terminals installed by the
Cuban Telecommunications Company ().

At the moment, the application is mostly used by young people between 16
and 30, with a more relaxed attitude towards love relationships. “Not
for anything in the world would I put myself on one of those services,”
says Monica, age 42 and divorced. Her biggest fear is that they would
find out at her work that she is “looking for a husband on the internet.”

A fear that doesn’t even enter Tito’s head, as he has already selected
six possible candidates for his next date. “This is incredible, before I
had to spend a tremendous amount of saliva and wear out the soles of my
shoes to sleep with someone, and now I just need to be here at La Rampa,
looking at the screen of my mobile.”

Source: Tinder Turns La Rampa Into A Catwalk For Love / 14ymedio,
Marcelo Hernandez – Translating Cuba –
translatingcuba.com/tinder-turns-la-rampa-into-a-catwalk-for-love-14ymedio-marcelo-hernandez/

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