Desde Dentro de Cuba.

Distribuido por Cuba Free Press, Inc. -

Havana, October 16, 1998, Cuba Free Press.


HAVANA - They started by giving themselves the fancy name of "jineteras" (which at the U.S. horse racing tracks means jockeys), and accepting only U.S. dollars. But now they're just whores, prostitutes much like their counterparts all over the world. Although the dollar is their goal, many are settling for the national currency, pesos.

From Cape San Antonio to the Punta de Maisi there are these women who make a living off of selling their bodies. They come in any age group but more and more they "break in" on the "career" from the age of adolescence.

There are also men, young guys who have no problem "laying" with people of the same sex or women. They say that the lesbian groups are in fashion and are well paid by the foreigners because what it costs them in Cuba is mere peanuts compared to what they pay for the same service in Europe or North America.

Zoila, a good looking black woman, has just arrived from Italy where she lives with a tourist who married her. She considers herself successful. After one year abroad, she has returned dressed very elegantly and decked in jewelry. She used to live in Guantanamo and went there to visit her parents who live in nearby Maise, where hurricane Georges caused much damage.

"My family and friends are very proud of me, because I was able to leave such rural backwardness and poverty. Had I stayed here I would have had to settle for living with one of the black men who work in Caimanera and putting up with his beatings, the same as most Cubans do to their women when they're drunk."

Zoila knows nothing about the government's new attack on prostitution and pimping. When we tell her about it she says it is all for naught.

"What they would have to do is guarantee the people, particularly women and young people, and give them some level of decent living and not the discrimination that now exists. Those who have dollars live well and the rest live miserably."

In her words, the need to own dollars and the low salaries paid in pesos by the principal employer, the government, are the main cause why so many young women find their future in prostitution.

Since 1986, when tourists started arriving from abroad in force, it was predictable that this would happen. The authorities took some measures, including prison and repression. But the widespread practice of prostitution has its roots in the economy and society, and in these larger areas little is being done to get at the roots of the problem.

During the present school year, with the teachings of moral values and the classes on inner thought being given, the authorities pretend to turn a new leaf on the situation. But it is too late.

When, starting in 1959, the government nationalized all the schools and eliminated all the religious schools, it made one of its first great mistakes. One of the subjects which should never have been eliminated was "Morals and Civics." The "Kiss to the Motherland" and other patriotic initiatives which used to be held in our public and private schools, were taken over by the far-from-expert authorities who managed the Ministry of Education. Those programs soon were linked to bad examples inherited from our past and the directors made the very grave mistake of not re-directing them. Among so many blunders, this was just one and now we're paying for it.

If a good portion of the guilt falls on the educational/propaganda system, the rest falls squarely on the shoulders of the family, divided and subdivided, for reasosns of politics or living standards. The Cuban home which today does not reflect the tension of arguments of all types is a rarity. A significant percentage of the adolescents and youth who leave home and decide to beg, prostitute themselves or commit crimes, come from families where the common denominator is parents either divorced, dead, in prison or living abroad.

The same "freedom" or free-for-all proclaimed by the revolution for women, was taken up by their daughters. Hence a good many of today's jineteras or prostitutes rely on the express approval of their mothers. Even Zoila says it: "My mother always told me to go out into the world and try to make a different life for myself, far from the life that she led, full of frustrations.

"I'm very happy every time I return to my town and see that the best house is that of my parents."

The problem of prostitution, like that of other crimes, of illegality and of the anti-social attitudes, has a direct link to the economic, political and social situation faced by Cuban society today. To ignore this is to keep plowing in the ocean.

By Tania Quintero, Cuba Free Press.

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Copyright © 1998 - Cuba Free Press, Inc.