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Cuba is currently facing grave problems because of the continuing U. The country is desperate for foreign exchange, and is looking to the tourist industry as a means to secure it. Cuban tourism has rapidly expanded with 1. Though successfully generating foreign exchange, the vast majority of Cubans are suffering enormous hardship.
Food rations ensure only the most basic minimum to stave off starvation, and many basic commodities such as clothing, soap, cooking oil and pain killers are often unavailable. In the midst of all this, luxurious enclaves exist where goods and services are readily available for tourists. A 'black' market in currency and in many of the goods that are officially intended for tourist has developed.
Cuban wages are generally somewhere between and pesos per month. Many basic necessities can only be obtained for hard currency from tourist shops or 'black' market entrepreneurs. It is not surprising that many women and girls, as well as some men and boys, are prepared to grant tourists the most accessible source of hard currency sexual access in exchange for cash, even for drinks or a restaurant meal.
This report on the growing sex tourism in Cuba is based on interviews conducted in March in Havana, Varedero and Santiago de Cuba by myself and Jacqueline Sanchez Taylor. Prostitution in Cuba today differs both from prostitution in Western countries and Thailand. The post Cuban state tried to outlaw prostitution, but also attempted to remedy the conditions which create a supply of sex workers i. In other countries especially those where the links between prostitution and the entertainment, leisure and tourist industries are well developed , most sex workers are forced into one of a variety of indirect employment with pimps, brothel keepers, massage parlour or bar owners - third parties who then exert a powerful influence over the prostitute-client exchange.
In Cuba there is no network of brothels, no organised system of bar prostitution, in fact, third party involvement in the organisation of prostitution is rare. Most women and girls are prostituting themselves independently. Since she is usually desperate, and he does not have to satisfy the greed of a third party, he can secure sexual access to her very cheaply. Sex tourists state that it costs them less to spend two weeks indulging themselves in Cuba than it does in other centres of sex tourism, such as the Philippines and Thailand.