"The Thailand of The Caribbean"
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|IDENTIFICATION||LEGAL CLUSTERS||GEOGRAPHIC CLUSTERS|
|TRADE CLUSTERS||ENVIRONMENT CLUSTERS||OTHER FACTORS|
It is said that in each culture, new words develop over time to describe important occurrences or things. For instance, the American Indians had several words for "corn" as it was their most important crop. In Cuba the same sociological phenomenon is occurring -- except that the new words are not about corn -- the new words are about prostitution. Jinteras has become a word that describes Cuba's new fleet of prostitutes. As prostitution in Cuba is on the rise, new words continue to develop. (See table below.) This case study will present four factors of Cuban prostitution: legal developments, economic factors, health issues, and cultural impacts. All of these factors will demonstrate a pattern of the volatile relationship between economics, health, culture, and law.
It was only after Cuba suffered economically that it opened its doors to the dollar. "Strapped for hard currency after the fall of the Soviet Union, Cuba opened up to capitalism a little -- and used its women as bait" (Paternostro). Without the Soviet Union to rely upon, Cuba looked toward the United States to lift its embargo. Yet the United States refused. After the fall of the Soviet Union, it was especially evident. In fact, the U.S. government has gone so far as to put pressure on other countries, namely Canada, to stop doing business with Cuba. According to Garry Marr of the Ottawa Sun, "The crippling U.S. trade embargo, in place since 1960, has forced Cubans to look elsewhere for money. And the regime, once propped up by the Soviet Union, has been further pummeled since the collapse of the Communist Block". In the late 1980s, Cuba began to promote its tourism industry to increase money coming into the country. In order to do this, Cuba began promoting its women as sensual, educated and eagerly willing to fraternize with foreigners. Before long, Castro's government had hit a gold mine: selling its women. Marr also notes, "The flesh trade is Havana's hottest commodity." It is no surprise after the Cuban government has worked so hard to make it such. In 1991, the Cuban government invited "Playboy" to promote its attractive women, offering free posters of naked Cuban women. One report quotes the Cuban government saying its women were "promoters of tourism" (Paternostro).
Through the early 1990s, Cuba's tourism increased by a substantial margin each year. But something began to change. The women and men who worked in the prostitution industry began to want more: more power. They wanted the power to choose what to eat, where to live, and what clothes to wear. Prostitution provided the means with which they could increase their earning power. Yet still, poverty is a way of life.
Even today, Cubans still are a poor and hungry people. One startling revelation about Cuba's prostitution sector is that many women are professionals - they have regular daytime jobs. They work as jinteras to provide extra food for their families because their jobs pay below poverty-level salaries.
While the tourism industry seems to be improving Cuba's economy, the Independent Journalists' Cooperative reports, only 2 percent of Cuban workers are employed in legitimate tourism jobs. Because such a limited number of jobs is available, many compensate by working in non-legitimate "occupations" (Zuniga).
Castro has worked hard to keep the economic power of Cubans limited. After his government saw that position was providing an economic advantage to those who either pimped or prostituted, Castro passed new laws in the late 1990s that criminalized the aiding of a prostitution. However, prostitution itself is legal. It was a simple move to thwart others from having power. As Silvana Paternostro points out, "The problem ... is not what the jinteras are doing -- prostitution is still not a crime -- but what they want to do with what they are doing." Paternostro continues, " ... Castro's campaign against prostitution is not mainly about higher moral standards; it is mainly about state control. By earning lots of hard currency and embracing conspicuous consumption, the jinteras had come to embody the 'dollar mentality' that the Cuban government perceived as a threat." Control of power was not the only problem Castro witnessed -- diseases and abortions proved to be the part of the nasty fallout.
How this resurgence in tourism has effected Cuba is evident in all ages. Patterns of this behavior can be found in the youngest of girls.
As unsettling as it is, many of Cuba's prostitutes began selling their bodies as young as 12 years old. As profiled in The New Republic (Paternostro)in June 2000, Yanet, a 20-year-old Cubana, is what most Cubans call a jintera, Spanish for "jockeys." A jintera is a prostitute who caters to foreign tourists, mostly Italian, Spanish, French, Swiss, and Canadian. (For more slang terms, see below table.)
|Ya no era senorita.||I'm not a virgin.|
|Empatarse||To go with a tourist|
|Source: Primera Plana|
Another story involves a 19-year-old girl, as reported by the Ottawa Sun . Reporter Garry Marr writes about the life of Szuska Dieguez, a call girl since she was 13 years old. Dieguez says she does finds a lot of her "business" outside a local bar El Bosquecito, the Little Forest Bar in English. She and her young daughter live in a small apartment. The only way she can support her daughter, Dieguez says, is by making friends with foreigners.
(1) Trade Product = SEX
(2) Biogeography = TROPICAL
(3) Environment Problem = CULTURE
Lisa Campeau, November 2000
On a worldwide level, it would appear that two major parties are involved, Cuba, and the United Nations. On a more specific level, Cuba represents the prostitutes as well as the Cuban government. The United Nations represents a conglomeration of countries that supports human rights and prohibits unjust treatment of women. Any substantial research of prostitution in Cuba has yet to be touched upon, but it is important to note that similar happenings in economically-deprived countries are common. For example, trafficking of women in Russia, Thailand, China, and other Asian countries is widespread. Disputes on trafficking women in these countries have been on-going, without a resolution in sight. One example involves the trafficking of Russian women. In this case study by Carrie McVicker, Russsex, she reports the government attempted to shame women out of prostitution. As the author reports, "One possible solution which failed miserably was the idea of a 'Board of Shame' which would house pictures of known prostitutes, hoping to deter people from associating with them ... Men interested in acquiring the services of a prostitute would simply use this board of ill-repute as an information center ... " The general legal issue involves the Cuban's government's supposed support of prostitution as a means of increasing tourism and improving the economy.
Within the United Nations and other multinational bodies, there is much pressure on Cuba to decrease its prostitution economy. However, in Cuba, prostitution itself is legal. According to a report from a United Nation's Special Raporteur for Violence Against Women (Coomaraswamy), Article 302 of Cuba's Penal Code, Ley No. 62 states, "prostitution in itself is not a crime but all acts relating to prostitution such as the exploitation of prostitution of others, are punishable by law with deprivation of liberty for from four to 10 years. Trafficking in women is sanctioned with up to 30 years imprisonment." However, it appears little pressure has been put upon those who utilize prostitution in Cuba. It is important to note that no foreign tourists has ever been apprehended for soliciting a prostitute, according to the same UN report.
It is only the women themselves who are being taken by the government to "re-education" camps, farms where the girls are forced into hard labor. The arresting and sentencing of these girls is completed without due process legal proceedings. This is a basic infringement of their rights according the United Nations. Cuba has enacted a program that targets merely the prostitutes themselves. As is evident, there is so simple answer. Shame, imprisonment, and police brutality have not stopped the trafficking of women in Cuba or Russia. As one Latin American resident advised me, Cuban women will continue to sell themselves because they have nothing else to survive upon. Selling their bodies is the only way to food upon the table.
III. Geographic Clusters
b. Geographic Site: Southern North America / Caribbean
c. Geographic Impact: Cuba
IV. Trade Clusters
>From "International Tourism in Cuba: An En Economic Development Strategy?" by Maria Delores Espito, I obtained the following statistics about import data:
|1957, the year of the revolution, 347, 508 tourists visited Cuba.||1974 8,400 tourists visited Cuba.||1976 Castro created the Cuban Ministry of Tourism to increase economic benefits.||1981 132,000 tourists visited Cuba.||1990 340,000 tourists visited Cuba.||1996 900,000 tourists visited Cuba, as reported by the Knight-Ridder Newspapers.|
However, Cuba's Ministry of Tourism reported more than one million tourists in 1996, and 1.1 million in 1997. Also, tourism brought in $ 1.4 billion in 1999. As of 1957, there were about 100,000 prostitutes in Cuba. After the revolution, tourism in Cuba declined substantially as did the number of prostitutes.
As tourism in Cuba has become revitalized in recent years thanks to many efforts from Cuba's newly formed tourism office prostitution has become centered in major cities, such as Havana and Varadero. In 1990, officials estimated about 6,000 prostitutes working in Havana alone. However, this number is suspiciously low. Even though prostitution is "legal" in Cuba, many girls now operate behind closed doors to avoid being sent to rehabilitation camps, operated by the government.
a. Directly Related to Product: Yes, Tourism
b. Indirectly Related to Product: No
c. Not Related to Product: No
d. Related to Process: Yes, Health
Economics is a big part of Cuba's story. Prostitution not only helps the women themselves, but it helps local restaurants and bars, as well the men pimping the women.
It is difficult to know how many prostitutes operate in Cuba for many reasons. Up until the early 1990s, Cuba did not discourage prostitution because it encouraged tourism thus increasing Cuba's economic condition. In s speech to the National Assembly in 1992, Castro said, "There are no women forced to sell themselves to a man, to a foreigner, to a tourist. Those who do so do it on their own, voluntarily and without any need for it."
In 1998, Cuba's GDP was a mere $1,560. Because of Cuba's low GDP, Cuban prostitution "is characterized by women in professional and vocational careers who are unable to meet basic living costs from their local current salary," according to the United Nations.
Miami Herald printed an article by George Walden. He says, "The truth in Cuba is that sex is the only economy left. Prostitution has reached the point where it appears that one half of society is selling itself to the other. Women line the streets of Havana, especially the road to the once-swanky Miramar district, cheek by jowl with the police."
According to interviews with a representative from the Cuban American National Foundation, Castro is angling to pump up Cuba's economy with tourism. Cuba's Ministry of Tourism set a goal of improving Cuba's tourism sector to a whopping 10 million people by 2010. This could be possible, but independent tourist analysts quoted by the Interpress Service concede it is unlikely, stating that Cuban tourism would have to maintain an annual growth rate of not fewer than 23 per cent.
Tourists from a small number of countries are known to support Cuba's prostitution. According to Silvana Paternostro's article in The New Republic, the prostitutes cater to Italian, Spanish, French, Swiss and Canadian men. This is not surprising considering the majority of tourists hail from these regions.
According to Espito's research:
| 1990: Western European, North American and Latin
American tourists |
comprised 90 per cent of all visitors to Cuba.
|Canadians were most likely to be tourists, with 74,000 people traveling to Cuba.|
|Germans were second to Canadians, with 59,000 tourists.|
|Mexicans were third, with 34,500 tourists.|
|Spaniards were fourth, with about 34,000 tourists.|
|Other notable counts of tourists came from Venezuela and Italy.|
Many reports stated that thousands of Americans (mostly men) enter Cuba through a third country, either Canada or Mexico.
As a note, I found many website dedicated to promoting "tours" to Cuba. Most of the men who posted messages on these websites were indeed from Canada and the United States. And while the American government did not allow travel to Cuba in 1990, it is possible that a large number of men entering Cuba from Canada were indeed Americans.
However, in 1999 Cuba began to crack down on obvious prostitution sites, Havana's Malecon and Fifth Avenue, according to CNN. Single men traveling to Cuba dropped sharply, the article states, reducing the occupancy at many of Havana's big hotels.
One website, "A Cuban Encounter: The Cuban Personals Website" promotes meeting women through displaying photographs, forwarding e-mail, translating messages, and other services.
V. Environmental Clusters
The spread of sexually transmitted diseases and the increase in instances of abortion are main health concerns for women. The Pan American Health Organization reports that in 1998 there were 140 cases of AIDS, up from 128 in 1997. Since the 1980s, there have been almost 800 cases reported. As mentioned, reliable condoms are difficult to buy in Cuba, reportedly because of the U.S. embargo. According to Marr, "Abortions are readily available at hospitals, paid for by the State, and condoms -- albeit cheap Chinese brands that look dangerously thin -- can be had for less than US $.10 in the local pharmacies."
The Cuban government could pass regulation making prostitution itself illegal, not just all acts related to it.
Medium and 60 years.
Without an increase in other markets, there is little hope of curtailing Cuban prostitution. But, if more well-paying jobs are attracted to Cuba from foreign investments, it is possible that the need for prostitution would subside.
VI. Other Factors
Obviously the part of culture compromised in this case is Cuba's Catholicism and family values. After the Pope visited Cuba in 1998 much ado was raised about Cuba's prostitution issues. The Miami Herald reported that there were 6,700 arrests and 277 jinteras were "re-educated" after the Catholic leader's visit that year.
As widely known, the Catholic Church does embraces neither the use of contraceptives nor the practice of abortions. It is evident that the Cuban government has disregarded Catholic doctrine by not only allowing abortions but by paying for them. Comparably, Costa Rica, a Catholic Latin American country does not pay for or even allow abortions.
While prostitution remains a problem mainly for Cuba, some countries such as the United States do not allow its citizens to enter Cuba.
As noted by the United Nations, Cuban women's rights are being violated by the government for several reasons. The most important of these is the government's failure to use due process when apprehending prostitutes and sentencing them to hard labor at re-education camps.
Pan-American Health Organization. "AIDS Statistics By Country.".