HAVANA — For years, Barbara Betancourt has left her two teenage daughters at home and put on black pants and a white shirt to go to the bar.
Elegant and charismatic, she is the face of an increasingly visible phenomenon in Cuba: the rise in female bartenders who break convention to benefit from the growing tourism industry, grabbing job opportunities that have come in the last five years with the opening of new private businesses.
"You have to be a strong woman. With a strong character. You can't be weak or have a husband who says, 'You can't do it,'" she says as she whips a silver shaker.
Known to friends and family as Barbarita, the 46-year-old's career spans two decades. She has been tending bar at the club El Gato Tuerto since 2011. Its location, opposite the emblematic seafront Malecon in Havana, has attracted Cuban music legends and stars throughout its history.
For Cuban women, it has not been easy to enter a trade previously dominated by men, and although Cuba has female mechanics, masons and boxers, female bartenders are still struggling to gain more ground on the island.
The Pan-American Bartenders competition, held at the end of August in Havana, brought dozens of contenders from 18 countries, though fewer than six were women and none of them were Cuban.
"I wouldn't have been able to continue in this line of work if it wasn't for my own mother, who supported me by staying with the girls," said Betancourt as she prepared a "presidente" cocktail of white rum and vermouth.