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For the first thirty years after the triumph of his revolution, Fidel Castro championed Cuba as a model socialist society. Gone were the casinos, the bootlegging Americans, the mafia, and the brothels they frequented. Socialist society, he claimed, is superior to capitalism. Women gain liberation through socialism. They have equal opportunity for employment, share the responsibilities of the household, and have the same access to education as men.
Over the past decade, however, Soviet subsidies disappeared and trading partners were lost. Prostitution has come back. Despite government claims that it remains committed to eliminating the sex trade, prostitution continues, albeit at reduced levels from several years ago. Increased prostitution in Cuba is a byproduct of the economic crisis precipitated by the collapse of the Soviet Union and the economic reforms initiated in These reforms, intended as temporary measures to save socialism, have encouraged many types of behavior contrary to socialist ideology.
With the planned socialist economic infrastructure cracked at the seams, Cubans are forced to find new ways to survive. Prostitution presents a problem for Castro: it shows the outside world that socialism has failed. The rhetoric of the Revolution cannot convince the population to adhere to the norms of socialist behavior.
This is not surprising, since prostitution allows Cuba to capture millions of tourist dollars annually. Furthermore, it provides income for thousands who would otherwise need to turn to the State for jobs or assistance. This paper will analyze the re-emergence of prostitution as a result of the Cuban economic crisis. The aim of this paper is not just to analyze the business of Cuban prostitutes, but also to examine the political, social, and economic conditions that allow prostitution in a society that for thirty years managed to keep it under control.
The paper is divided into four sections. The first section will analyze the link between prostitution and tourism, both before and today. The second section will describe the re-emergence of prostitution in the s and the conditions that allow it to operate. It will also discuss why the government has not been able, nor has had the incentive, to completely eliminate prostitution. This paper is largely based on field research conducted in Cuba in February Many of the men and women interviewed by the author were met at random.