This Saturday the team made up by Arlenis Sierra, Marlies Mejias, Yudelmis Domínguez and Yoanka González finished on a high note its participation in the San Luis Tour, Argentina.
The first time a woman was seen riding a bicycle through the streets of Havana the commotion was colossal. The unusual event took place on November 12, 1894. Almost a year before Figaro magazine had published a review on the pioneers of this practice on the island: a group of young women from M atanzas province including Julia Bosch, who was the first Cuban photographed while riding her bike. Apparently that news did not cause such a stir on HAvana’s elites, but that day those who witnessed live Antonia Martínez cycling through the city felt concerned indeed.
Those were times in which modernity winds coming from United States were felt in all aspects of Cuban society. Sports practices were no exception and were easily imposed over the Spanish ones, considered unmistakable symbols of backwardness and barbarism. Baseball had spread throughout the island and so were sailing, tennis, skating, equestrian polo, swimming and other disciplines. Even though they were premiered as exclusive spaces of male hegemony, it was not long before a squad of girls to decide to break gender barriers and began playing ball or competing in a rowing regatta.
The idea of seeing invaded their favorite strongholds of male legitimization did not like to most men. Assuming modernity was great, but in this case it was better women to continue with their domestic chores, their walks on foot or by carriage, and the ballroom dances.
Antonia Martinez did not escape these conceptions. Titina, as it was nicknamed this Galician daughter of a Cuban father, had to endure all kinds of insults and jeers for her audacity. Even some pejorative verses that transcended Cuban collective imagination were dedicated to this audacious woman.
The inevitable emergence of new daring girls continued to cause unease among males. A newspaper of the time published the following comment: “Illustrious lady, you can not believe that women emancipation requires handling the foil, riding a bicycle, because while being exposed to intemperance and profanity, you could risk your tranquility and decency in a cafe table or you could yell in a club. That would not be a woman, it would be a phenomenon. “
The memory of Titina´s story came to my mind while enjoying the excellent results achieved by Cuban cyclists this weekend. For several years, they have been the stars of the main achievements of this sport in Cuba, including universal and Olympic medals. Nice paradox of the story, no doubt.
The team made up by the four Cuban women cyclists had an amazing performance in the event that consisted of five stages, including a time trial, and the girls finished third by teams, only surpassed by American squad United Healthcare and Brazilian club Funvic.
In the individual classification Marlies finished fifth and Arlenis eighth among 85 riders who completed the demanding circuit. The title went to the American Alison Powers with 7 hours, 26 minutes and 35 seconds. Marlies was the absolute leader in the under 23 category and Arlenis, whom we all remember her spectacular victory in the road event of Guadalajara 2011 Pan American Games where Cuba took all the three medals, ended third among the youngest. The classification by points was dominated by Yudelmis with 15 units, escorted by Arlenis 7 and Marlies ranked fourth (5). For Yoanka, Cuba’s only medalist in Olympic cycling, the competition represented her return to the international arena after two years away from bike due to maternity.
There were more cheers this weekend. Two other star cyclists of the national team, the world multi-medalists Lisandra Guerra and Yumari González, ensured their presence in the next world tournament which will be hosted by the Colombian city of Cali from February 26 to March 2. Although on this occasion there were no medals in the last phase of the Road Cycling World Cup, held in Guadalajara , they both achieved their tickets for the universal event. Lisandra finished fourth in the 200 meters and fifth in 500, while Yumari also ended fifth in the scratch.
I imagine Titina´s eternal smile while retracing the unknown “beyond,” and those who one day wished her a flat tire shocked and incredulous at such female self-confidence. Good for you girls.
Cover photo taken from the site www.biciclub.com