Prostitution in Cuba
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    Sex Tourism: The Largest Free-market in Cuba

    Sex Tourism: The Largest Free-market in Cuba

    October 15, 2012

    Yenisel Rodriguez Perez

    HAVANA TIMES — When the Cuban government began promoting the tourism

    industry in the 1990s, it was sex tourism that jump-started that initiative.

    Twelve years into the 21st century, they have managed to transition to

    other more conventional forms of tourism. Eco tourism, family tourism

    and luxury tourism are gradually coming to occupy prominent places in

    the industry.

    Some people believe the success of these alternative approaches over sex

    tourism responds to the government's refusal to legalize prostitution in

    Cuba. But such a statement might seem pretty naïve.

    How many things are banned in this country for us to be surprised by the

    illegal status of the oldest of all trades? But with this being the

    case, the comment about other approaches makes a lot of sense.

    In informal conversations with housekeepers in hotels, I learned that

    many tourists travel to Cuba for the sole purpose of having sex with

    male or female Cubans. About a third of the guests who stay at the

    hotels where these maids work are single men traveling with groups of


    They don't come with a lot of luggage, nor are they are interested in

    nature or Cuban society. The lack of interest in these other themes

    becomes clearer when they have their first opportunity.

    The international impact generated by the boom in sex tourism in Cuba in

    the 1990s had a connotation that was more political than economic.

    Today, when the authoritarian bureaucracy that governs the country is

    challenged by issues of human rights and respect for freedom of thought,

    the interest of the international media in sex tourism in Cuba is no

    different from what takes place with any other Caribbean island.

    It is no longer raised exclusively to undermine the Cuban government.

    Nonetheless, sex tourism continues to demonstrate the relevance of

    what's foreign in the Cuban imagination. This is an issue that would

    show up on the X-rays of many social, political and economic realities

    as being as explosive as those that "shocked" the international public

    in the '90s.

    If today there still survives in anonymity what was previously debated,

    this is because sex tourism in Cuba is being instituted as a legitimate

    economic institution.

    This is why I was not surprised that the maids who I interviewed were

    calling for the legalization of prostitution in Cuba. In the near

    future, we could wind up seeing such an appeal receiving political

    momentum in the offices of the Ministry of Tourism.

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