Monday, February 27, 2012

Hustling in Cuba Takes a Legal Turn

Hustling in Cuba Takes a Legal Turn
February 27, 2012
Dariela Aquique

HAVANA TIMES, Feb 27 — Double standards are almost an inherent condition
of Cuban life. The visceral fear of the truth, as well as our getting
used to things seeming what they aren't, have become practices used by
many people to avoid the classic social stigmas of "standing out" or
"asking for trouble."

A countless number of people will accept an opinion with which they're
actually in total disagreement. They'll attend events like CDR or union
meetings, and go to marches and rallies, even though they couldn't care
less about any of these and where their presence is nothing but a sham.

There are those who hide behind their official position of activist or
leader, even behind the undying Communist Party membership card.

To date, the voluntary manifestation of double standards is what some
have decided to adopt to cooperate with the inertia in the middle of the
social quagmire on this island.

The "Official" Double-Standard

However, it turns out that now there's a new variant: the official
double standard. Yes, it's an alternative that's favored by those same
institutions as an invitation to commit publically condoned farce, or
authorized deception.

As we all know, for years the state waged a merciless war against
jineteros. This fairly large social group was, of course, dedicated to
laying siege to foreign tourists (serving as guides, offering private
lodgings and restaurants, which by the way have better quality services,
and where these self-employed "hosts" earn commissions).

It's common to see those friendly Cubans, always helpful and willing to
come up with whatever a foreign friend needs: a rental car, cigars, rum,
a beach house and even a woman…

They were a thorn in the side of the police, who had to constantly chase
behind this band of go-getters.

Of course this also incredibly affected the country's image, because not
all jineteros were content with only a few dollars a day. There were
those who went beyond certain limits to sell drugs or engage in pimping.

Despite its many beaches, Santiago has also developed a fair amount of
urban tourism. Related to this, I discovered a few days ago how hustlers
can now do their work in the centrally located Cespedes Park without
being bothered by the police. They make their pitch to foreigners
passing themselves off as workers in the tourism industry.

Someone with some brains came up with the idea to "legalizing" the
status quo of these people. The result is that now they walk the
streets, squares and areas with concentrations of foreigners wearing a
badge accrediting them as "tourism attendants."
But there's always something about their look and how they approach
visitors, certain telltale signs. Therefore I couldn't help but be
tempted to call to one of them and ask him what he was doing – to which
he replied:

"I don't know. Now I'm working here with drivers, offering tourists
taxis and taking the Pepes and yumas (foreigners) to places they want to
go…making a buck. These days the police don't bother you when they see
your badge, so you can hustle more calmly.

Pretty smart, isn't it? Like the old saying goes, "If you can't beat'em,
join'em! So now the double standard doesn't even have to be one of
personal initiative, it's officially promoted. It takes the form of
authorized deception.

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