Cuban officials play down the phenomenon, saying that when the Soviet Union was the country’s chief sponsor, scores of islanders married Russians and other foreigners.
Now most visitors are from Europe and Latin America, said one official, who requested anonymity, “so it’s no surprise that there are marriages. I don’t agree that most Cubans marry foreigners because they disagree with the political system or want to leave the country. They dream of a Cinderella ending to their story, but it doesn’t always work out that way.
“I see men in their 60s with teenagers and it sickens me,” said Oswick, an information technology worker from England. But while many relationships succeed, many others fall apart, leaving a trail of heartache, shattered hopes and betrayal.
Foreign diplomats who grant travel visas to couples say differences in customs, language and age can lead to trouble. When am I ever going to have a woman who’s 20 again?
Some Cubans traveling to Portugal get off the plane in Madrid, leaving their foreign lovers out to dry.
But the men are often so ashamed they don’t report it.
“Meanwhile, she slept with at least three of his friends, got a job at a casino and dumped him,” the diplomat said.
“He called me asking how he could have her expelled from the country.
Only 15 Spaniards married Cubans in 1990, Spain’s El País newspaper reported in 1997.
That number shot to 670 by 1993 and to 1,190 by 1996, a year when 117,000 Spaniards of both sexes visited the island.
“They keep it quiet in the hope that no one will find out,” a European diplomat said.
In one case, a foreigner spent ,000 on a Cuban woman in just two weeks, he said.
Older men venture into Cuba and marry young, beautiful women, only to be dumped once they get back home.