Prostitution in Cuba: Solutions to a Current Reality (Part 1) / Somos+, Jose Manuel Presol

“How can we get out of school to meet foreigners?”

Somos+, Jose Manuel Presol, 3 November 2015 — I’ll never forget a comment from my father: “Jose Manuel, remember we made the Revolution, among other things, so that Cuba would no longer be the whorehouse of the United States. Years later, during a rather heated discussion with a person who said he was close to the so-called “Committee to the Support the Commander,” I repeated what my father said and his response was, “the compañeros didn’t do it for vice, but for patriotism, to bring currency to the Revolution,” and I’ll never forget that either. It was one of the rare times in my life when, faced with the cynicism, I was floored.

The truth is that now Cuba is no longer the whorehouse of the United States, but it is for Canadians, Spaniards, Italians, Mexicans and anyone landing on the island who brings enough dollars or euros in their pockets to pay a pittance for something that in their own country, if they offered that amount someone would laugh in their face.

I am not trying to do a sociological or anthropological study on the current phenomenon of prostitution in Cuba, there are people much more capable than I am than those who have done and continue to do such studies. What I want to express is the problem, trying to offer some solutions.

Prostitution in Cuba, as in almost all countries, is not a new problem. It has existed for many years. The oldest antecedents in our country are perhaps, not counting the brothels erected by landowners, in non-harvest times, to “take advantage” of the surplus labor, where free slaves prostituted themselves to earn a few pesos to buy the freedom of their children and other family members. The big difference today is how widespread it is.

This generalization is not based on the huge number of women, men, girls and boys who dedicate themselves to is, but to the chain of accomplices and abettors that come with it, which means that a high percentage of society is directly or indirectly involved in it.

The first accomplice and abettor is the State itself, I mean the current Cuban government that — despite its laws, its supposed warnings, its famous three warning letters, after which the victims can be sent to prison for 1 to 3 years — tolerates the situation.

I say victim because everyone, absolutely everyone who engages in or tolerates prostitution is a victim of the situation created. All are victims and make up a long chain.

The chain is formed, at a minimum, by:

  1. The teachers who allow the girls and boys trusted to their care leave classes with impunity to prostitute themselves, and they do it, because the remuneration they receive and the methods at their disposal are not adequate to exercise their profession in proper conditions. It is hard for me to think of a teacher who on a whim is capable of letting their students prostitute themselves. Their morality is simply “asleep,” if it is that, because of the need to solve their own problems and for the lack of an honorable alternative from the system itself after more than fifty years and the same thing happens with the rest of the links in the chain.
  2. The police who, far from preventing the offense of the offenses, in the case of minors, prefer to look the other way and take a few Cuban convertible pesos (CUC), that allow them to resolve some of their needs. I am not capable, as in the former case, of imagining any component of the People’s Revolutionary Police (PNR) acting this way for the pleasure of it. They are all aware that the person who prostitutes themselves tomorrow could be their daughter, their brother, their lifelong friend.
  3. Those in charge of control in the hotels, who are the in the same case as the previously. They know perfectly well that today someone walking through the doors of their hotel could be their sister, or that this could be happening at that precise moment in any other hotel. No one wants to see a loved one on the arm of a tourist stinking of rum.
  4. The pimps. Even these, although they personally dedicate themselves to the offense, I cannot imagine they are very comfortable in the role of suppliers of “fresh meat” if they could dedicate themselves to some other activity. Evidently, in the world as it is today, everyone, absolutely everyone deserves, at least, the benefit of the doubt.
  5. The prostitutes themselves. There is no greater victim. Here we can’t help but affirm that, absolutely everyone is the owner of their own body and can to with it what seems most opportune, but they cease to be such owners from the moment when a child is hungry, a mother needs medicine, a brother has to pay a debt, or simply they need the power to have whatever is not within their reach that could make them feel equal to those yumas (foreigners) who brazenly pass in front of them. Here we must highlight the high number of people who engage in prostitution, despite an elevated cultural level and superior training, seeing themselves brought to it because of not being remunerated in their profession and on the point of being unable to solve their basic daily problems at home.

In short, the ultimate culprit is none other than the government oppressor, which has imposed an undeclared blockage that is the origin of the problems we suffer.