Previously published in Global Development Studies, I, 3-4 (Winter 1998-Spring 1999), 57-78
JINETERISMO DURING THE SPECIAL PERIOD
This article traces the emergence of jineterismo with the growth of the tourist industry and contrasts these developments in the 1990s to the forms of prostitution that existed in Cuba during the 1950s. The historical background reveals the terrible contradictions for the revolutionary socialist state and the feminist women who organized the elimination of prostitution by providing viable economic and educational alternatives for women from the 1960s to the early 1990s. Finally, the arguments raised here imply a certain optimism for turning one of the worst of all imagined developments into a practice with some redeeming value, by stating explicitly that the new form of sex work has provided at least some children of jineteras some badly needed food, clothing and medicine that can be bought almost exclusively at Cuba's "dollar stores."
In the early 1990s, many observers spoke of the imminent collapse of the Cuban Revolution. With the breakdown of the Eastern Communist bloc, political and economic relations between Cuba and its former allies were abruptly and drastically reduced. Few foreign analysts argued that Cuba had the potential to survive. This notwithstanding, Cuba marked the 40th anniversary of its revolution in January 1999, which also marked the eighth year of the "Special Period in Time of Peace". The continuation of the "Special Period in Time of Peace" essentially signified that existing policies could no longer operate within a "business as usual' framework.
Amidst the unraveling of Cuba's relations with Eastern Europe, the overall realignment of the global economy, and the continuation by the United States of its aggressive attempts to destroy the Cuban state and economy, namely with the Torrecelli and the Helms-Burton bills. Only the visit of Pope John Paul II and some homegrown relief from the devastating food shortages of the first half of the decade seemed to offer hope and optimism. Throughout the 1990s, Cuba has sought to survive and adapt to the new international circumstances without losing sight of the revolution's past accomplishments and future goals for sustaining an adequate quality of life for its people.
One of the most controversial areas in Cuba's post-Soviet economic strategy has been the tourist industry. In urgent need of quick hard currency, the Cuban government turned to the island's greatest natural resource--its gorgeous beaches and glorious weather. Its campaign to attract Canadian, Latin American (particularly Mexicans), and European tourists (Spanish, Italians and Germans) led to a major leap in the number of foreign visitors from about 250,000 in 1988 to some 400,000 in 1991 (Dello Buono, 1992, pp. 4-5). Gross income earnings during these same three years doubled from $150 million to $300 million. The largest foreign investment in Cuban tourism was cemented during the summer of 1996. Canadian hotel mogul Walter Berukoff and Wilton Properties agreed to split the cost of a $400 million investment in eleven hotels and two golf courses with a Cuban partner, the state-run Gran Caribe. Tourist development at the white sand beaches of Varadero (80 miles east of Havana), Santiago de Cuba, and Holguin's Guardalavaca is still in demand. Cuban Vice President Carlos Lage reported that in the spring of 1996, tourist visits were up 45 percent over 1995. Cuban tourism official Eduardo Rodriquez de la Vega stated that tourism revenues In 1996 exceeded the previous year's $1 billion (Falk, 1996), and future prognoses predicted significant increases in tourism's earning for several years.
Extensive debates have taken place in Cuba over the relative social costs and benefits of developing tourism. The renewed emphasis on tourism has been accompanied by a host of problems. First, tourism has created a two-tiered society in Cuba--the privileged foreigners and the unprivileged locals. In an effort to absorb tourist dollars, the government created tourist stores, restaurants, nightclubs, hotels, even tourist taxis that are accessible only to foreigners with hard currency. Some Cubans feel that this 'tourism apartheid" subverted the whole purpose of the revolutionary state, which is to promote equality. Others counter that unlike other countries, tourist income in Cuba does not go into the hands of a few wealthy business tycoons but goes to keep up the health care system, the schools, and the food supply. But many Cubans who understand this argument are nevertheless highly bothered when they see the island's best resources going toward coddling foreigners while their own lives are plagued with serious daily difficulties. Second, with the inception of tourism there has been an increase in crime. Cuba was once known as one of the most crime-free societies in the world. While violent crime remains low, petty theft has increased dramatically.
Finally, and of particular interest to this discussion, tourism has led to a form of sex work called jineterismo. There is a new language to describe the range of behaviors ascribed to ""jineterismo" (literally translated as horseback riding or breaking in a horse, or *gold digging" in its colloquial form), and the attitudes by and toward the jineteras who engage in It. Jineterismo is a range of behaviors, not only a direct exchange of sexual relations for dollars (Diaz, 1996, p. 4). Additionally, Cuban sex workers or jineteras can include pubescent girls to professional women. Unlike prostitution in the U.S., Cuban sex workers are not organized or integrated into networks controlled by "pimps." Cuban jineterismo has been described has having "advantages" over other places such as Thailand or the Philippines. The country is relatively free of AIDS, it is inexpensive, and the women themselves have an "innocent quality* (Lane, 1994, pp. 15-18). When jineterismo initially surfaced in the latter part of 1991, a very financially hard-pressed Cuban government, facing an anticipated $4 billion trade deficit by the end of 1992, appeared to turn a blind eye in hopes the dollars jineteras earned would help overcome the Revolution's worst economic crisis.
The government's initial acquiescence was at odds with one of the principal alms of the revolution: ridding the country of the vice that had turned Havana into the sin capital of the Western hemisphere at a time when casinos, cheap rum, and sex attracted thousands of North Americans to the Caribbean island. The revolutionaries aimed to free women from sexual exploitation in all sectors of society. Several older women recalled that during the early years of the revolution, the government did not use laws and punitive measures to sanction women in order to eliminate prostitution; rather, job training and a non-judgmental approach prevailed in contrast to the strong social taboos at that time from families, religious leaders, and the men who purchased sexual services. The new revolutionary leaders offered the compassionate combination of real economic opportunities and moral rehabilitation with the active mobilization of large numbers of female revolutionaries to assist less fortunate women in the transition from prostitution to gainful employment and social Integration. The Cuban government today--in what is known as "legalizing reality"--appears to be using dollars earned by jineteras and other illicit business to help overcome the economic catastrophe caused by its own mismanagement, the demise of the its Soviet ally, and the U.S. blockade. Given the existence of jineterismo, and the cultural images of Cuban women produced by the tourist industry, Cuba faces tremendous contradictions and complexities regarding women's lives.
Many social scientists argue that jineteras engage in sex work because of materialistic desire as opposed to any realistic economic necessity (Stout, 1995, pp. 13-18; Miranda, 1993, pp. 1-24). They propose that in a society where education and health care are free, and where people are supposedly secure with adequate foodstuffs and clothing through the libreta (ration book), women do not need to engage in sex work. However, since 1990 no Cuban household has been able to survive on the goods available through the libreta. The debatable question remains whether jineterismo is either a result of dire economic need or the desires for materialistic consumption, or both.
Generally, government officials voice the notion that the phenomenon is clearly related to the material shortages as well as the increasing presence of foreign consumerist values. Furthermore, social scientists argue that while traditional prostitution was eradicated in Cuba in the 1960s, sex work appears to be practiced as a personal decision by young people otherwise capable of engaging in more dignified and less risky activities. Thus, the Cuban government can conveniently label jineteras as social deviants while also maintaining a more lenient stance toward non-professional jineterismo.
The following discussion explores the phenomena jineterismo in the context of Cuba's current economic crisis. The first section of this paper focuses on some of the social realities for women in Cuba's declared wartime economy during peacetime. Second, Cuban tourism is highlighted, particularly how women's lives have been affected by both the inception of the tourist industry and the emergence of jineterismo. Finally, the article concludes on a speculative note suggesting that an analysis of jineterismo be placed in a context of patriarchy and international tourism.
2. Cuban Women During the Special Period
The shortfall in oil and other key inputs during this period began to have dramatic effects in Cuba's industrial sector, (these effects have been documented and discussed by Campbell's and Carranza's and other articles - editor's note). Comprehending the economic realities of daily life is important in order to discuss the conditions from which women, in particular, became vulnerable to various forms of sex work or jinetersmo. The curtailment of consumption and the implementation of a food self-sufficiency program provide a panoramic backdrop for viewing the daily struggles of Cuban life during the special period.
2. 1. Curtailment of Consumption
The drive towards rationing of food consumption was thrown into high gear with the failure of 100,000 tons of wheat to arrive from the Soviet Union in early 1990. Broad rations were initially cut in most provinces from 200 grams to 180 grams per person per day while the price of a 400 gram loaf of bread in Havana was raised from 30 to 35 cents. The price of eggs was nearly doubled, from 8 to 15 cents. Tens of thousands of tons of citrus fruits originally destined for export were poured into the domestic market, improving short-term availability, but at the expense of hard currency earnings (Dello Buono, 1995, p. 2). By mid-February 1992, the price of many food products including potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, beets and bananas had doubled, while increasing significantly for other fresh food products. Pressure mounted on the Cuban state to reduce its subsidies. Fuel saving measures within forty-five major industrial firms were likewise implemented beginning in 1990 with the aim to save at least 150,000 tons per year of oil (Dello Buono, 1995, p. 2).
Throughout 1992, more drastic measures of austerity became evident throughout the Cuban society, particularly in urban areas. Beginning in January 1992, work centers had begun to reduce their hours, street lighting was reduced, most regular taxis were taken off the road, television broadcasts were reduced to five hours on weekdays, night baseball games were suspended, and air conditioners in most government offices were ordered turned off. By September 1992, the nation's single biggest development project, a nuclear power plant being constructed near Cienfuegos, was ordered suspended. The project had employed some 10,000 workers and had cost more than $2.5 billion over its seven years of construction. Designed to significantly reduce Cuba's energy bill by cutting the island's oil needs by approximately 20 percent, the project was nearing completion. The abrupt cutoff of Soviet assistance meant that Cuba now would have to pay Russia in hard currency for completion of the plant.
2. 2. The Fight for Food Self-sufficiency
President Fidel Castro indicated on several occasions that the food crisis was Cuba's "Achilles heel, and that it could be overcome only with the massive participation of all Cubans in the drive to achieve food self-sufficiency (Deere, 1991). Beginning in 1989 and expanding rapidly by mid-1990, Cuba's emergency food program (Programa Alimentatio) was designed to rapidly increase domestic food production in the event of the continued disruption of food imports. Substantial effort was also placed on improving the yield of sugar cane fields to compensate for lower prices, a principal characteristic of the new reorientation of Cuban exports toward the capitalist world market. In addition, an increasing percentage of Cuba's sugar product was diverted to domestic import substitution via by-products that could be used for animal feed.
An important aspect of the emergency program was its sponsorship of labor mobilization to produce food. Particular attention was given to cultivating lands for food production in the Havana province, including in local communities and on lands pertaining to workplaces. One object was to lower transportation costs associated with the movement of foodstuffs from the provinces into the densely populated city of Havana. The program also sought in principle to divert workers who were idled in other sectors to the agricultural sector. Thousands of state employees in the construction and agricultural ministries were given leave of absence from their jobs and sent to new posts located primarily on state farms in 1992 and early 1993.
By March 1992 scant availability of vegetables and some fruits were reported in Havana, but the early successes with food production were insufficient to resolve the demand for food in the Cuban economy. By 1994, the state took even more radical measures to encourage production and increase the stock of food supplies by re-introducing private farmer's markets that would allow producers to sell their goods at whatever price the market would bear. By early 1995, food products in variety and high quality began to circulate on the now legal market as private producers responded to the growing stimulus, making products which had not been seen for almost a decade available for those who could afford to purchase them.
3. Tourist Industry: Un Mal Necesario
With the onset of the Special Period, Cuba also placed a high priority on foreign exchange earnings. Of the many concessions made to salvage the economy and the socialist project, the most controversial has been the inception of tourism to bring in freely convertible hard currency. The State invested in the physical infrastructure in order to expand tourism into untapped regions of the island. At the same time, Cuba diverted highly educated and underemployed labor to the tourism industry, established new training facilities in tourist services, and prepared to accommodate the anticipated influx of foreign investment capital.
In 1989 Cuba's 13,000 hotel rooms earned $200 million from 326,000 tourists. Key markets were located with Canada, West Germany, Spain, Mexico and Italy. In 1990 it increased its capacity to receive 334,000 customers largely from the German and Mexican markets. A target of 500,000 tourists was set for 1992 for a yield of over $400 million in revenues. By 1993, as the quality of services improved, the over 560,000 tourists visiting Cuba generated a gross income of $720 million dollars (Diaz, 1996). The most recent figures hover around one billion dollars, an impressive fivefold increase in less than one decade.
While the Cuban state strived to maintain control over the tourist industry, joint venture capital entering the Cuban tourist industry now included major investors from Spain and Germany. For example, the creation of Gaviota, a major state enterprise based in the Cuban military, combined private enterprise flexibility with strong state financing and high worker discipline as it entered the tourist arena. By mid-1994 Cuba's Minister of Tourism projected that the island was quickly regaining its status as a tourist competitor and indicated that Cuba would break the one million tourist mark by 1996 with an annual income of $1 billion. Although the net profits are still low compared to the gross receipts, nevertheless the importance of such a drastic change in the economy was accompanied by several social changes.
4. The Special Period and Women's Lives
Scholars have given tremendous attention to the strides women have made since the triumph of the Revolution of 1959. Women have made substantial achievements materially and culturally, especially in professional status and in the struggle to change sexual ideology in the family (Smith & Padula, 1996, chapters 1-3). This view is shared by scholars such as Max Azicri, Carolee Benglesdorf, Lourdes Casal and Margaret Randall. However, I would argue that these changes have not extended necessarily to larger political and economic policies nor to party practice. The overall quality of women's lives, which is in serious jeopardy, is overlooked by most revolutionary ideology. Thus, women's existence as women has gone largely ignored. The issue of patriarchy has not been adequately considered by the revolutionary leadership. Therefore, it is not surprising that jineterismo has surfaced with a great deal of confusion inside and outside the political circles.
In this context I am defining jineterismo as a new form of women's work, and, therefore, the daily struggles of women's lives during the special period must be highlighted. First and foremost, women have been active in all the strategic programs initiated during the economic crisis. In 1992 women constituted more than 61 percent of the middle and upper level technicians, half of the doctors and 40 percent of all executives in the health and education areas. There has not been a reduction in female participation in the economy, but a reorganization of job sites. Women who worked in light industries which were subsequently closed were transferred to local industries closer to their homes. In addition to transportation problems, brown-outs (apagones) and the lack of kerosene and spare parts greatly affected women and families. There were difficulties in producing and procuring milk, meat, chicken and eggs, and even soap and detergent. The availability of rice, frozen fish and canned meat was reduced to a minimum. Cuba even experienced a total lack of sanitary napkins.
Overall, women have felt the difficulties of daily life more harshly than men during this period. While women had achieved professional advancements, traditional roles in the home persisted with women shouldering the burden of the double day. Even though some women's jobs were geographically relocated closer to their homes due to transportation shortages, many were given the option of taking a 30 percent cut in salaries and reducing their work days by one-third. Women spent the majority of their time creating and "inventing" ways in which to obtain food. In the early years of the Special Period, the black market was in full force. The exchange rate plunged from 8 to 10 pesos per dollar in 1988 to 100 to 120 pesos for $1.00 in 1994. Those fortunate enough to access dollars either through relatives in Miami, jobs in tourism, or state jobs (where goods could be easily stolen and sold on the black market) did not always experience the general hunger that the majority of Cubans confronted. Transportation shortages led to bicycle use, thus contributing to exhaustion and tremendous weight loss among the Cuban population.
Women, in particular, began to devise ways in which to earn hard currency, illegally. Many women would bake, sew, clean, cook, create small craft items in exchange for pesos, which eventually were converted into dollars, or better yet, dollars so that they could have a foreigner with access to a tourist store buy soap, cooking oil and detergent for them, as these items were not available on the ration nor in the black market. With electrical brown-outs, many food items for daily meals were acquired and consumed the same day in order to prevent spoilage. The daily preoccupation and challenge was to obtain food with dollars because dollars had greater purchasing power. However, the possession and use of dollars was considered counterrevolutionary and thus illegal.
People were expected to depend on a ration system that did not meet the daily nor monthly needs of the population, a black market which quite often was unattainable because of the extraordinary exchange rate (pesos and dollars), and to maintain hope that the tourist industry would bring about economic recovery, namely more food. The black market began to undermine the national economy, forcing President Fidel Castro to legalize the use of dollars in July, 1993 (Figueros & Plasencia Vidal, 1994).
The stories that follow of three women and one unnamed fifteen year-old who decided to become involved in jineterismo provide us with a brief glimpse at women who resort to activities that the revolutionaries had proudly eliminated from Cuba in the early 1960s.
5. Women, Sex, and Tourism
Angeles agrees to meet with me late one summer evening in 1996. She appears nervous, embarrassed, but anxious to talk with someone about the anguish she experiences daily. She is a petite 22 year-old university student anxious to leave Cuba. She lives with her parents who are unaware of her desires to marry a foreigner and leave the island. Angeles sadly states that the future of Cuba's youth is extremely unpredictable. She no longer feels secure as she did in her early teens. "I'm a university student, but I don't feel I'll benefit from my education. My parents work so hard to maintain our home. As you know, we lack everything, especially food. And without dollars, there's nothing for young people to do in this country. It's really hard to make sense of our lives during this time." Attending the university, worrying about her livelihood, and dealing with the lack of entertainment, Angeles desperately struggles to make sense of her life. Economic and social uncertainty led her to sex work in 1993. In September of 1997, Angeles married and now resides in Spain.
A pretty, fifteen year-old bleached blond, personifies Havana's return to the decadence that Fidel Castro's revolution was supposed to eliminate nearly four decades ago. She is barely five feet tall, weighs about 100 pounds, and is dressed in lemon hot pants and a black halter top. Her eyes are rimmed with thick mascara. "What country are you from?" she asks my colleague, blocking his way to the car door. Flirting in her childlike way, she tells my friend he is handsome, intelligent. She was not an aberration in the early phase of the Special Period. She was an important "handmaiden" in the service of attracting desperately needed currency (Enloe, 1990, chapter 2). She is one of the many young Cuban girls and women who have turned Havana into an attractive "fleshpot" for foreign tourists. Every day, dozens of men arrive at Havana's Jose Marti International Airport to begin their vacations with young women like Ana. She had a carefree attitude about what she was doing. She was driven partly by the desire to obtain cash, and also a desire just to have fun in a country that offers little entertainment outside places that are closed to her unless she is on the arm of a foreigner. Maria, a twenty year-old University of Havana student, comes to the illicit arrangement with an astonishing air of practicality. One night, as the young woman awaits her "date"--a paunchy Spanish executive in his 60s who has promised to take her to the Havana Club disco--she calculates her advantages. "I can earn more in one night than my mother can in five months," she says smoothing her sequined mini-dress that the Spanish executive paid for. "If it wasn't for the dollars I earn this way, I couldn't afford to continue my studies," she said. "I can make about $35 a night, eat a good meal and have a swell time." What does her Cuban boyfriend think? "He knows what I am doing. But we look upon this as an opportunity to get ahead, as a phase in our lives. It's no big deal."
These women are confronted with a choice between the glittery world of hard currency full of materialism and food against the difficult world of the average Cuban who has very little of either. The hard-currency world of cars, tourist shops, restaurants, discos and resorts is off-limits to the vast majority of the Cuban population-even though Article 42 of the Constitution specifically forbids such a segregated arrangement. But most Cuban women can break the barrier with a foreign tourist and briefly escape the harsh living conditions of most Cubans, who earn practically nothing and endure a monotonous diet of beans and rice. Practically anything worth buying-from jeans to shampoo--can be found only in stores once reserved for documented foreigners (who had to show passport, a visa or letter of affiliation or invitation from some institution) but now open to anyone with dollars to spend.
With respect to the Cuban male's reaction, not all Cuban men are as tolerant as Maria's boyfriend. It is a source of resentment among Cuban males, who cannot compete for attention without dollars, which were forbidden until 1993. Other men like Rosa's ex-husband will not tolerate the stigma of being associated with a jinetera either past or present. Rosa is a twenty-six year-old single mother living with her parents. I arrive at her two-bedroom apartment late afternoon in the summer of 1996. She is mopping the floors preparing for my arrival, warmly greets me, and offers me a glass of water. Rosa states, "I became involved in jineterismo because of my family's economic situation and especially for my child. Without the dollars, I can barely clothe and feed my child." Rosa continues, saying that she was fortunate enough to meet a Cuban man and marry. However, once her husband learned she had worked as a jinetera, they divorced. Rosa showed me a set of beautiful wedding pictures; we both sobbed not so much over the dissolvement of her marriage, but more so because of the contradictions and predicaments of life for so many Cuban women during the Special Period.
Later that evening, as I take another walk around the Hotel Riviera nightclub, the conflict is put into perspective. I notice a young couple dancing in front of a table of foreign tourists. Their rhythmic and synchronized moves are tantalizing and seductive. Shortly, they are invited by the foreign visitors to share a table. By the end of the evening, the young man is offering the sexual services of his female friend. During the ride home we ask the taxi driver, a young veteran of the Cuban forces who fought in Angola, about what we had just observed. He angrily stated that he did not fight in Angola to be banned from some lousy disco, so that Cubans could be treated like second-class citizens and Cuban women reduced to prostitutas.
In 1993, even though housing remained free or low-rent, food rations generally ran out by the middle of the month, forcing families to barter on the black market where stolen supplies and foodstuffs were sold. Educated Cubans scrambled for jobs they would have scorned before: tending bar or waiting tables for dollar tips in luxury hotels, where most Cubans were barred from entering. At the Capri Hotel which is centrally located in downtown Havana, my friend tells a familiar story. "I was a professor for five years at the University of Havana. Now I work 12-14 hours a day as a hotel porter. I get good tips in dollars, of course. Here, this is called progress." Indeed, the inequity between the dollar and peso has created an inverted economy in which bellhops at resorts make more money in tips than doctors and college professors do in salary. Another friend who was an elementary school teacher left his job to work as a waiter in one of Havana's finest hotels. He tells me he can now walk with me comfortably and without embarrassment as he can afford to buy me a Coca-Cola. Another friend, one of Havana's pool of young and gifted medical specialists, apologizes for not being able to spend a Friday evening with me because she has no divisa, meaning dollars.
By 1994 more than 160,000 Cubans had applied for licenses to set up their own businesses. Many others are simply going it alone without bothering with the legalities. Lacking capital and resources, most businesses depend wholly on ingenuity. An older man who lives next door to my friend refills butane cigarette lighters that in other countries would be disposable. He pays the government 50 pesos a month for his license, and another 24 pesos for every day he sets up shop in a nearby plaza with dozens of other artisans. Arts and crafts markets lined the streets of downtown Havana with artisans selling their works for dollars.
By 1995 food consumption had increased with the establishment of farmers markets, home restaurants (paladares), food stands (particulares), and the re-opening of a few state restaurants that accepted pesos. The famous Coppelia ice cream park now accepted both dollars and pesos. However, for many, especially young Cubans, tourists with dollars continued to provide the only access to certain goods and entertainment. In and around the clubs and hotels, particularly in Havana, cash exchanges for sex have become common practice. Additionally, women offer their company, their conversation, their charm in return for an expensive meal, a night of drinks and dancing or a chance to shop at the dollar stores. Beyond the hotels, on the streets and plazas, young men work in the underground economy, selling illegally obtained cigars and other goods and changing pesos for dollars at many times the official rate. Recent observations in 1996 and 1997 suggest that a small number of young men are also engaging in forms of sex work. (They are referred to as "jineteros" or the more vulgar street term, 'pingeros").
Many now depend on the black market for goods that are virtually impossible to get otherwise, for instance, cigarettes. This inevitably affects the social conscience and consciousness of Cubans. The boom in black market activity has prompted police crackdowns. Cubans are being armed to protect "important economic sites" from burglary, and street thefts are rising. These developments could threaten to undercut Cuba's ability to offer tourists a safe and secure Caribbean vacation, one of the greatest advantages Cuba has over the other Caribbean islands.
The two-tiered system of currency created during the Special Period, not only contributes to a socially stratified Cuba but has also resulted in a "tourist apartheid." Many Cubans called for the elimination of the dual currencies to counter this trend, A single currency would allow Cubans to buy any goods or enter any establishment if they had enough money; to some extent, there would still be a division between foreign and domestic tourist activity, but it would be based on purchasing power and not on discrimination against Cuba's own people.
The government is uncomfortable with market mechanisms to curtail or increase domestic demands for foreign and luxury goods. Although it has taken a definitive stand on the currency issue, the government has essentially abdicated all other key tourist development questions to its semi-autonomous enterprises. These in turn proceed without any overall strategy. Yet, the form of tourism that the government endorses--one that will benefit all Cubans by providing collective goods-presupposes a guiding political force and a plan. Yet, as the government loses its vanguard role in this now vital sector of the economy, it is relegated to acting as a kind of police force maintaining a favorable investment climate. Cubans thus enjoy neither the accumulative benefits of capitalism nor the input into the social process characteristic of the best aspects of Cuban socialism. By not permitting market activity within the domestic economy, while selling off chunks of the island to foreign investors, the government has taken a path that benefits those who least support the revolution. Everyone else suffers with the hope that the sacrifices will help them get through the crisis with health care, education and other services kept intact for their families.
Despite the economic gains made by tourism and other economic strategies of the special period, many Cubans must struggle to obtain food. No doubt, overall food consumption has increased; however, monthly incomes remain insufficient for meeting the basic needs of the population. Thus, jineterismo continues to flourish in the tourist areas. In addition to exchanging sex for food, clothes, entertainment, and other necessities, women are now looking to various forms of jineterismo as a way of leaving Cuba; that is, to find potential foreign marriage partners.
6. The Politics of Sexuality and Cuba's Economic Crisis
The return of sex work has caught the attention of both the Cuban government and the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC). The official position on sex work argues that unlike women who worked to survive or were deceived into prostitution during the period of economic destitution before the Revolution, these modern-day sex workers are trading their bodies for consumer goods and recreational opportunities otherwise unavailable to them (Diaz, 1996, pp. 1-33). Because many of these young women are well-educated--some are even university graduates--their turning to sex work puzzles and dismays many Cubans, whether or not they support the policies of the revolutionary state. Researchers from the FMC and MAGIN (organization of prominent women from the National Women's Press Association) report that the circumstances for prostitution in today's Cuba are vastly changed from the period leading up to the Revolution in 1959.
A more critical gendered analysis brings new interpretations. Jineteras are seeking power in the new tourist marketplace, the power of access to consumer goods and otherwise unobtainable amusements and diversions that are associated with the privileges of tourists and foreign businessmen. Some of the important differences between present-day jineterismo and pre-revolutionary prostitution are in the type of clients, educational access, family and social reactions, and levels of self-esteem. These changes are linked to the rapid development of tourism and increased opportunity for contact with foreign men.
Prostitution's customers used to be primarily Cuban men; today's clients are tourists from all over the world. Most young women today have the benefit of extensive educational opportunity in Cuban society compared to opportunities for most women before the revolution. Based on research conducted by the FMC, many jineteras are not rejected by their families or by most of society. In fact, few have low self-esteem compared to women stigmatized prior to 1959 as putas or whores (Weisman, 1995, pp. 24-27). What has remained the same is in the social definition of illegality; yet, today's government prosecutes and offers treatment (especially in the case of related drug addiction) to jineteras.
Mirta Rodríquez Calderón, a leading journalist and co-founder of MAGIN, who has written and published extensively on gender and sexual politics in Cuba (including Digame, Usted!, a collection of thought-provoking columns in Granma), has interviewed women who have relations with tourists. She characterizes jineteras as young women who, with very few exceptions, do not have to practice commercial sexual relations to survive. Instead, she believes, what motivates most of these young, mainly dark-skinned, Afro-Cuban, women to practice jineterismo is the desire to go out, to enjoy themselves, go places where Cubans cannot afford to go and have fancy clothes. Other women, a minority, she estimates, may be engaging in jineterismo because they have families and truly need the money and goods. Rodríguez Calderón further describes the differences between modern-day jineteras and pre-revolutionary prostitutes in terms of power. Today's young women practice jineterismo for the "freedom" to go out-dancing, dining, to concerts, to visit Varadero Beach or other resorts, and to shop in dollar stores. Some of these young women are looking for potential spouses in foreign men in order to leave Cuba for a more stable and consumer-oriented life. Others look at current options in Cuba to earn a living and make money. A secretary, for example, currently earns 190 pesos a month (roughly $9.50--given the current exchange rate of roughly 20 pesos to $1), while a family doctor (the majority of whom are women) earns 250 pesos or about $12.50 practicing medicine, compared to $35 to $50 for one evening for a woman who is practicing jineterismo.
Calderón also theorizes the interaction of racism and prostitution. Many of the people who left Cuba since 1959 are light-skinned and living primarily in the United States; they are sending money to their relatives still living in Cuba to lessen the economic hardships. Young women without access to family resources in the U.S. have a greater need for the economic assistance of this kind of work, adding to increased racial segmentation in both class and gender status. Racism and the double sexual standard also create the market among European businessmen for the exotic/erotic "other." The combination of foreign men seeking sexual partners who are racially and culturally different, coupled with the sexual double standard's separation of women into "good" versus "bad" ones, reinforces the desirability of darker-skinned Cuban women as sex objects.
The government's inconsistent response to the rapid rise of sex work reflects the double gender standard. The major focus is on changing the behavior of women, not the behavior of male prostitutes (jineteros), foreign businessmen or tourists. A number of feminists have called for a shift in emphasis. Instead of attacking the supply, attack the demand. What is most frightening about this unexpected result of tourism is the illusion of "freedom." Although jineteras do not appear trapped now, the practice of jineterismo may bring harm to young women in more serious and limiting ways. Celia Berger of the FMC states that if a young woman manages to marry and leave the country, she faces the possibility of being sold into sexual slavery (Weisman, 1995, pp. 24-27).
Therefore, the FMC is urging women in grassroots organizations to target schools through the leadership of the UJC (Union of Communist Youth) and encouraging the 50,000 social workers (mainly volunteers) associated with the FMC to conduct studies on the images of Cuban women portrayed abroad to promote tourism. The MAGIN is conducting the educational and training programs for tourism planners and economic decision-makers. The MAGIN further advocates a major shift in tourism's focus, emphasizing the wealth of health and medical, ecological, family/recreation and historic/cultural resources--instead of selling implied sexual adventure (Diaz, 1996).
While the current methods to reduce and ultimately to prevent the practice of prostitution are significant and timely, there is a need for fundamental economic, social and political responses to jineterismo. Given the underlying cause of economic scarcity, the extreme difficulties of solving the economic crisis, and its further exacerbation by the U.S. government's foreign policy, can (or how can) the Cuban government overcome these structural barriers? The problem requires a gendered analysis of the construction of sexuality. For example, which women are jineteras and who decides what behavior is prostitution? Given the still unequal sexual division of labor in Cuban society and the relatively traditional socialization of men and women and their sexuality, how does "the Revolution" change the culture that creates the desire for prostitution by men and the perception of economic powerby women who practice jineterismo? Only a social and political revolution of feminist values can provide a decisive analysis and vision for new constructions of gender, sexuality and power relationships, Until women become more than a sector for development and accomplishments, power arrangements will continue to perpetuate models of domination. For many women inside and outside Cuba, it is a great shame that the Cuban Revolution can no longer claim to have eliminated both illiteracy and sex work.
7. Sexism, Tourism and International Politics
Further probing into the tourist industry from a critical, global, feminist perspective can shed light on international politics and longstanding political relationships between local residents and tourists. For example, Enloe (1990, chapter 2) argues that women in many countries are being drawn into unequal relationships with each other as a result of government sponsorship of the international tourist industry, some because they have no choice, but others because they are making their own decisions about how to improve their lives. Many women are playing active roles in expanding and shaping the tourist industry, as travel agents, travel writers, flight attendants, crafts women, maids, sex workers--even if they do not control it. Despite the good intentions of the feminist tourist/researcher, the relationship between the privileged tourist/researcher and jinetera, for example, fall short of any imagined international sisterhood (Enloe, 1990, p. 20).
Cuba, Tanzania, North Korea, Vietnam and Nicaragua are being governed today by officials who have adopted a friendlier attitude toward tourism. Indebted governments that have begun to rely on tourism include those that previously were most dubious about the tourism route to genuine development, especially if "development" is to include preservation and national sovereignty. Cuba and the other mentioned countries are being complimented and called "pragmatic" by mainstream international observers because they are putting the reduction of international debt and the earning of foreign currency at the top of their political agenda. Many of the advertisements luring travelers to sunny beaches and romantic encounters are designed and paid for by government tourist offices. Most of those bureaucratic agencies rely on femininity, masculinity and heterosexuality to make their appeals and achieve their goals. Local men in police or military uniforms and local women in colorful dresses-or in the case of Cuba, very little dress at all--are the preferred images. The local men are militarized in their manliness; the local women are welcoming and available in their femininity.
Sex tourism is not an anomaly; it is one strand of the gendered tourism industry. While economists in industrialized societies presume that the "service economy," with its explosion of feminized job categories, follows a decline in manufacturing, policy-makers in many Third World countries have been encouraged by international advisers to develop service sectors before manufacturing industries have the chance to mature (Enloe, 1990, chapter 2).
To succeed, sex tourism requires Third World women to be economically desperate enough to enter prostitution; having done so, it is difficult to leave. The other side of the equation requires men from affluent societies to imagine certain women, usually women of color, to be more available and submissive than the women in their own countries. Finally, the industry depends on an alliance between local governments in search of foreign currency and local and foreign businessmen willing to purchase sexualized travel (Enloe, 1990, chapter 2).
The hushed and serious tones typically reserved for discussions of nuclear escalation or spiraling international debt are rarely used in discussions of tourism. Tourism does not fit neatly into public preoccupations with post-Cold War conflict and high finance. Although it is infused with masculine ideas about adventure, pleasure and the exotic, sexual relations are deemed "private" and thus kept off stage in debates about international politics. Yet, since World War II, planners, investors and workers in the tourist industry, and tourists themselves, have been weaving unequal patterns that are restructuring international politics. And they depend on women for their success (Enloe, 1990, chapter 2).
Cuban tourism might be providing much-needed liquidity, but it is not a solid foundation on which to build an economic recovery, especially as it relies on foreign investment to trickle down to the population. An alternative strategy would instead increase participation of the Cuban people in economic planning and implementation. Here the government could begin by engaging a public debate on how to develop a form of tourism that does not come at the expense and exclusion of Cubans. This debate could then extend to the larger issue of how to integrate market activity into a socialist country in a way that preserves the gains of the revolution. The absence of such an internal discussion will not forestall difficult choices but would mean simply that such choices will be made for Cuba by the more powerful forces of international capital.
On a global scale, government and corporate officials have come to depend on international tourist travel for pleasure in several ways. First, over the last decade they have come to see tourism as an industry that can help diversify local economies suffering from reliance on one or two products for export. Tourism is embedded in the inequalities of international trade, but is often tied to the politics of particular products such as sugar, bananas, tea or copper. Second, officials have looked to tourism to provide them with foreign currency, a necessity in the increasingly unequal economic relations between poor and rich countries. Third, tourism has been looked upon as a spur to more general social development; the "trickle down" of modern skills, new technology and improved public services is imagined to follow in the wake of foreign tourists. Fourth, many government officials have used the expansion of tourism to secure the political loyalty of local elites. Finally, many officials have hoped that tourism would raise their nations' international visibility and even prestige; tourism continues to be promoted by bankers and development planners, the majority of whom happen to be men, as a means of making the international system more financially sound and more politically stable.
Without ideas about masculinity and femininity&endash;and the enforcement of both&endash;in the societies of departure and the societies of destination, it would be impossible to sustain the tourism industry in its current form. It is not simply that ideas about pleasure, travel, escape, and sexuality have affected women in rich and poor countries. I am suggesting that the very structure of contemporary international tourism needs patriarchy to survive. Men's capacity to control women's sense of security and self-worth has been central to the continuation of tourism.
Feminist organizations concerned with jineterismo, both inside and outside Cuba, must seriously examine the larger question of patriarchy and international tourism in relationship to Cuba's current economic crisis. Movements that upset any of the patterns in today's international tourist industry are likely to upset one of the principal pillars of contemporary world power. Such a realization allows us to take a more optimistic second look at the young women who seductively entice men along Cuba's Malecon for a fistful of dollars. They could have, with a certain combination of socio-economic conditions, the potential for reshaping the international political order, thus placing Cubans at the forefront of dismantling patriarchy and serving as a beacon of hope, justice, and democracy.
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