Prostitution in Cuba

Topics: Prostitution, Cuba, Human sexuality Pages: 9 (2801 words) Published: February 17, 2014
“Sex. In America an obsession; in other parts of the world a fact.” (Dietrich, 1962) Sex is a basic need for humans because the urge to reproduce is very strong. As the quote states, in America, sex is this object that everyone craves and desires while in other parts of the world, it’s just a fact. Sex, is a part of everyday life and can be seen as a commodity. Sex tourism is a facet of many countries’ tourist industries. Sex tourism is defined by the World Tourism Organization as “trips organized from within the tourism sector, or from outside this sector but not using its structures and networks, with the primary purpose of effecting a commercial sexual relationship by the tourist with residents at the destination.” (1995) In other words, sex tourism is travel to engage in sexual activity, particularly with prostitutes.

Sex tourism includes domestic sex tourism, which is travel within the same country in order to engage in sexual activity. It also includes international sex tourism, which involves travelling across national borders. Surprisingly, sex tourism is a multibillion-dollar industry that supports an international workforce estimated to number in the millions. (Hannum, 2002) It’s a multi-faceted organization as well. Sex tourism benefits the sex industry as well as airlines, taxi services, restaurants and the hotel industry. (UNICEF, 2007) Multiple countries have become preferred destinations for sex tourists including Brazil, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Kenya and Cuba.

In Cuba, there is a specific type of sex tourism known as jineterismo, which is a category of illegal or semi-illegal economic activities, related to tourism in Cuba. Cuba is a country that contains one of the largest areas of prostitution with almost six of every ten women in Cuba having practiced prostitution. To Cubans, prostitution was a way for them to get out of Cuba, by having sex with a tourist for help to get off of the island. This paper will go into detail on the impacts of Cuban jineterismo on society within the country. It will also discuss the influence he has over women in the country.

Prostitution is hardly new to Cuba. The roots of it date back to the Spanish conquest and colonization process carried out essentially “by single men who brought harlots, fundamentally from the Canary Islands, in their ships.” (Dixie, 2002) As early as the eighteenth century, a Spanish captain was dispatched to the island to suppress a scandal by closing down a string of brothels run by the local clergy. In a society that once adhered to a strong Latin Catholic tradition of separating men and women in the public sphere, brothels were among the few spaces available for casual exchanges, and particularly for encounters between white me and women of color. (Fusco, 1998) This accounts for the island’s extensive mythology enshrouding the sexuality of mulatas. On the island, it was at first indigenous women and then later black women were forced to practice prostitution. By the 1920s, an extended network of brothels managed by Cuban pimps was operative primarily in Havana and Santiago, as well as around the U.S. military base in Guantanamo. Those pimps employed poor Cuban women as well as many dancers and actresses. With tourism emerging as the islands second largest industry in the 1940s, and the Mafia’s takeover of major hotels and casinos in the capitol by the mid-1950s, prostitution connected with Havana’s infamous nightlife was firmly entrenched. Cuba was then known as “The Brothel of the Caribbean” and had an international reputation as such for visiting Americans and former Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista’s cronies. (Fusco, 1998) Back then, prostitution was allowed but discriminated against and public scandal was penalized. “You can exercise prostitution, but behind closed doors. And with that they did not want to protect the prostitute; but the client.” (Dixie, 2002)

In 1959, there were around 100,000 prostitutes in Cuba within...

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