Desde Dentro de Cuba.

Distribuido por Cuba Free Press, Inc. - http://www.cubafreepress.org

April 12, 1999, Cuba Free Press. >

UNDER SEIGE, STREETWALKERS FIGURE OUT NEW MARKETING STRATEGIES By Iván García, Cuba Free Press.

HAVANA - Those who prostitute themselves for U.S. dollars have been obliged to take a "vacation" from their usual haunts until the turbulence subsides. Some of them are taking advantage of other methods to market their wares.

The commercial center of the hotel Commodore in the west-side Havana community known as Miramar was one of the preferred sites where the streetwalkers ("jineteras," street jockeys, as they are called by the natives) shopped for their necessities.

In the first months of this year, sales suddenly dropped at the Commodore. The reason was simple: The jineteras - the hotel's principal shoppers - had virtually disappeared.

Last October, the government suddenly tried to put a stop to the corruption and the sale of drugs and prostitutes which had taken over Havana's night life. In that month, "Operation Blemish" as it was called, began in earnest. The discotheques were closed and hundreds of prostitutes and pimps were detained. They had been busy with a lot of stupefacients (stupefying drugs) and houses of prostitution. As the saying has developed over several decades: "The Commandant arrived and ordered them to stop."

"But we did not stop," says Lucy, 17, a olive-skinned lass with green eyes who had been kept busy by those who travel to the island in search of cheap sex. "We moved out; we moved to other zones. We stopped circulating in the hotels and discotheques. Now it's not so easy to identify us through our dress code. We stopped wearing the tight-fitting clothing and the shoes with spike heels. We changed our makeup and our hairdos. Many of us now dress as if we were executives, in suits like that used by Carolina Olivares in the Columbian soap opera, 'Coffee with the smell of a woman.' In other words, we took up the costumes of skirts with tunics, big handbags or even briefcases and business shoes. We rearranged our hair, used conservative makeup and subtle perfumes."

Despite the "disguises" used to confound the police, the authorities caught on that the jineteras still are working 'seriously' and already a battalion of agents has begun scouring the older sections of the city where the tourists hang out. They have found many of the call girls. The police offensive spread even to the beaches - such as Guanabo - to the east of Havana. The persistent work of the police has obliged the jineteras to take shelter in other locations. Against their will, many have even adopted new stratagems.

"We know that those who work or study won't be awake after midnight," said one police agent who belongs to an elite battalion of the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR) that has been recruited by the police for an 18-month period.

At first sight, the ladies of the night have retreated. But many have not renounced their work of marketing their bodies in exchange for dollars.

For example, Olga, 22, a black woman, with a sculptured profile, is one of the few who still makes purchases at the Commodore hotel. "Even if I have to indulge in the luxury of buying some Levi pants and Nike tennis shoes, I keep busy," she said. To Olga it doesn't matter that she has to spend US$200 - which the average Cuban would need two years to earn - for jeans and fancy shoes.

"For me, it's easy come, easy go," boasted Olga, who, despite the police crusade says she has not lost a single client.

To keep herself out of danger, Olga has created her own antidote against discovery. "It's something original," she said. "I confided in a stranger who said he could put my data on the Internet, including the address where anybody who wants to find an oasis of pleasure in Cuba can find me. I gave him photos in color of my face and my body in a provocative pose and in a skimpy outfit."

The effect was immediate: "Within a month somebody knocked on the door of my house. It was my first Internet client. I don't go out with just anyone. I can even select the most interesting from among my clients."

Olga comes from "a humble family of workers and revolutionaries." She always was a good student and went through the first two years of a university career with excellent grades. "But I left it all to hunt for dollars for me and my family. It pays more to be a jinetera than a university graduate."

Niurka, age 35, blonde and fair-skinned is not doing so well - for various reasons. "My boyfriend, who lived in the yuma" (United States) "promised to marry me, but when he visited Havana the next time, he met a younger girl and left me in an instant."

Niurka also has a problem with her age. Despite the fact that when Niurka dresses up she loses 10 years, the bad nights have left their prints on her face.

"The police don't scare me," she said. A big sob kept her from talking for a moment. The tears washed at the makeup around her eyes and brought out her true identity: Thin, suffering, sick. But it is neither her age nor the loss of her foreign boyfriend that has endangered her livelihood.

"It's AIDs, the invisible enemy," she finally said. "It has attacked me and I don't know when it will take me away."

Iván García, Cuba Free Press.


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