Monika, the Queen of Condoms - The story of the first sexual educator of the Cuban Revolution
"What is left of my punctual and ephemeral contribution to the cause of women's rights in Cuba, of my fight against machismo?
If I was able to contribute to breaking a taboo, if I managed to get the subject of sexuality discussed and accepted by society, if I influenced the biography of at least one person, if the positive consequences of my work outweighed the negative ones, if a few seeds sown by me have germinated and survived the cyclone of traditions, then it was worth all the sacrifice." Monika Krause-Fuchs
It is November 1990. Monika is at Havana's airport, waiting to board a flight to Germany, a flight with no return. She is surrounded by people who recognize her and bombard her with questions. For the last time in her life she is "Monika, of Sex education". Back in reunified Germany, she suddenly finds herself in a modern and free society, with laws and regulations that are alien to her. Monika starts writing her memories to practice catharsis and review her 30 years in Cuba.
Rostock 1961. Monika pursues Latin American studies at the University. She is introduced to Spanish-Cuban Jesus Jimenez, the "youngest captain in the world". They marry and return to Cuba, where Monika is delighted with her first sight of Havana and looks forward to participating in the Revolution. She is shocked by the reality of life there, and the Spanish they speak is very different from what she learned in Rostock. Monika experiences the terrifying Cuban missile crisis and gives birth to Dictys, her first Cuban son, in 1963. Another son, Dani, is born three and a half years later.
After the victory of the Frente Popular in 1970, Monika's captain is sent to the Cuban embassy in Allende's Chile. They are full of expectation and optimism, eager to learn about a revolutionary process that began with democratic elections. After the military coup, hope becomes fear and chaos.
Back in Cuba in 1973, Monika works as an official on the national board of the Federation of Cuban Women, involving herself with women's rights and international relations. After a serious car accident forces her to stay home, she starts to study all available international materials on family planning and sex education and prepares a proposal for a national program on these issues. Monika's captain "disappears" in 1975 for one year on a secret military mission to Angola. He returns changed by the experience, which puts a strain on the relationship.
In 1977, the National Group for Sexual Education (GNTES) is established, and Monika becomes the Director. She develops a comprehensive national program of sex education, counselling, therapy and family planning, making use of the press, radio, television and teaching. She involves medical practitioners, educators, psychologists, sociologists, jurists and journalists in this program.
During the Mariel Exodus in1980, hundreds of thousands of Cubans flee to the United States, facing psychological and physical abuse by supporters of the Government. The contempt shown for anyone who dares to think and act differently further dilutes Monika's faith and trust in the Revolution.
In 1983 Monika receives her doctorate at the University of Rostock. She publishes books by German and American authors on sex education for both professionals and the general public, overcoming resistance and prudery at all levels. One of the books intended for adolescents has a print run of a quarter of a million copies--an unprecedented success. She is now "Monika, of sex education".
In Cuba there is irrational resistance to using condoms. "Condom" is considered a bad word and talking about it is taboo. Also, the ones available are of very poor quality. Despite enormous internal resistance, Monika coordinates with the International Planned Parenthood Fund (IPPF) for the mass delivery of high-quality condoms to Cuba. The Ministry of Public Health initially refuses to take delivery of the pallets; Monika stores them in air-conditioned rooms at GNTES and, together with her staff, distributes them throughout the island, using venereal disease clinics, pharmacies and doctors. Demand exceeds deliveries, and Monika is now "the Queen of Condoms".
Sex education is in vogue across the island, and Monika produces a TV series about contraception, broadcast at prime time. By popular demand, she develops a weekly radio program. At the end of the 1980s, Monika is at the height of her career. GNTES becomes the National Center for Sexual Education (CENESEX), and she is its first director. A prominent public figure, she is now a member of the National Committee of the Federation of Cuban Women, a member of the Cuban Communist Party and a professor at the Faculty of Medical Sciences, while continuing the grassroots work in boarding schools, nursing schools and faculties all over the island.
In 1990, Cuba enters the Special Period in Time of Peace, a crisis caused by the end of Soviet subsidies. There are now more urgent problems than sex education, and the funds for CENESEX and the National Program are reduced to a minimum. The macho culture and prejudice against homosexuals have put Monika's educational programs at risk. In July, Monika gives an interview to the University magazine "Alma Mater", in which, contrary to explicit orders from the top, she openly criticizes the institutionalized homophobia. Her boldness costs her the loss of all access to the media. Plagued by health problems, her marriage irretrievably ended, and with both boys unwilling to follow the Government orthodoxy, Monika returns to a unified Germany.
-Thus Began My Cuban History
-The Clash of Cultures
-Getting a New Life Started in Havana
-The Cuban Missile Crisis
-Dictys, the First Cuban Son
-Dani, the Second Cuban Son
-New York, Germany and Havana
-Finally Graduated and Seeking A Permanent Job
-The "Harvest of the 10 Million"
-In Allende's Chile
-An early bitter experience with Cuban Homophobia
-An Official of The Federation of Cuban Women (FMC)
-The Kids Are Growing
-Sex Education in Cuba: The Early Years
-Leading an Ambitious National Program for Sex Education
-Teenage Pregnancy and Machismo
-The Kids' Hard Times in Boarding Schools
-"Monika, Queen of Condoms"
-Member of The National Committee of FMC
-PhD and Professor Certification
-Director of CENESEX
-The Kids Are Grown Up
-The Last Interview
-Closing the Circle