Sunday, February 23, 2014

No One Treats Me Like a Prostitute

"No One Treats Me Like a Prostitute" / Lilianne Ruiz
Posted on February 23, 2014

HAVANA, Cuba – Yazmín doesn't do the street. Nor does she acknowledge
exercising the oldest profession in the world. She navigates the
Internet for 10 CUC an hour, in some Havana hotel with this service. She
visits websites to find a partner:,,
and,among others, the Cuban website, in the Jobs section.

The first step was to fill out her profile in those sites and describe
it for the gentlemen who seek, on those sites, their desires. Nothing
profound. She has added photos, which I am not showing here for reasons
of safety; in one she is portrayed semi-crouched, from the back, leaning
forward and turning her face to the camera the expression of a naive
girl. She says she's had good luck with this. In the year she received
several "friends," from different countries of residence or origin. They
stay together some fifteen days, to get to know each other and be
intimate. All of them send her remittances. She has learned to say "I
love you" in several languages.

A friend gave her the idea. Before this she wandered El Vedado, Old
Havana, and the Playas del Este, indanger of ending up in jail for
"besieging tourism" (a crime created to punish behavior like hers).

This new modality feels more agreeable. There's no mention of money, but
everyone knows their role.

Before, for 50 CUC a night, she rented herself out to have safe sex in
some variant of the island Kama Sutra. She admits that she was tired and
didn't see the profits. Now, she has a kind of monthly salary and,
especially, no one treats her like a hooker. Except when she plays at
surprising her companions in the role of streetwalker. Then she feels
like an artist.

After the searches on each site offer candidates with the
characteristics she's asked for, they start conversations through chat.
When the man travels to Cuba she prefers to take him to a hotel: because
there is no "commission" there.

Yazmín explains that the rental houses cost 25 or 35 CUC (daily), and
anyone who brings a foreigner pays 5 CUC, also for each day. If they go
to a restaurant the same thing happens. The watchword is to ask the
waiter if there's a commission. (Discretely, so the foreigner is not
tipped off.) Then, the waiter offers another menu, a different menu. For
every dish they order she gets between 2 and 8 CUC. The seafood is the
most expensive. Sometimes she can get 32 CUC just for accepting an
invitation to dinner. It's sure to make everyone happy.

She still recalls the fate of one of her old colleagues, who she left at
a site called "Don Pepe"; a restaurant located in a shack on the beach
of Santa Maria del Mar, where she spent the nights. The presence of the
girls served to attract clients. All of them are very young. If they
manage to catch the attention of a foreigner at a neighboring table,
they go to a hotel.

Although Cubans are now allowed to stay in hotels, most of them have to
bribe the doormen. They have a criminal record, having been picked up
making the rounds of tourist places. If the police repeatedly arrest
them without their managing to "clear it up" — paying in cash or
"merchandise" — they can end up on a Rehabilitation Farm, or in prison.
Yazmín feels sorry for them and seems to have climbed to another level
of life.

I ask her if she is saving money to invest in some business for herself,
something like a snack bar or beauty salon. She laughs and asks, "Girl,
what country are you living in? I don't get more than enough to live on:
buying oil, soap, and eating a little better."

She wants to know other countries, for sure. And if she could made a
good marriage it would be like having a song in her heart. She longer
likes Cuban men, because they would want to live with her or there would
be "little jealous scenes." Also, they can't resolve her problems, she says.

When she brings boyfriends home, they focus on their needs. Also, this
tactic gives them confidence. Her parents serve as an alibi, for not
seeing her go out at night like she did before. The neighbors don't
reproach her. On the contrary, everyone understands that times are hard.

"What do the yumas [foreigners] look for in Cuban woman? I don't know.
They say we're hotter. Some have haven't tried a black girl before," she
says, with a sly grin.

Yasmín didn't give up her work as a receptionist at a polyclinic. This
way she gets rid of the "bad letter" and maintains the coherence of the
preconceived script that she has been converted. Also she gets free
condoms; this is a custom she's never given up since having been given a
sexually transmitted disease, curable but very embarrassing she says.

After telling me her story, she asks me to change her name. I want to
call her Yazmín not to ruin things for her. Also because, at age 32, she
hasn't given up the idea of being a mother some day. But she doesn't
want her children born in Cuban. That reluctance to have kids in her
native country isn't, she says, because she's not content with her life.
Nor is she interested in politics. It's something, she says, she doesn't
know how to explain.

Cubanet, 11 February 2014, Lilianne Ruiz

Source: "No One Treats Me Like a Prostitute" / Lilianne Ruiz |
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