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Jineteras and Chupa-chupas

April 16, 2010 5 comments

Laura Capote just turned 22-years-old.  She quit her studies after finishing High School.  Now she has a new job: she offers herself on the peripheral highways bordering the city of Havana.

Her clients: drivers who stop in traffic when they see her hand signals.  She offers various sexual favors and she has a set fee, in national currency, for each one.

Yadira Gonzales is 21-years-old and does the same thing for a living.  She is in her fourth year at the University of Havana studying for a degree in History.  She offers herself along the most important streets of the city: Quinta Avenida, La Rampa, El Paseo de Prado.

In order to attract the attention of her clients, who are mostly foreigners, she wears provocative and sensual clothing.  She seduces her customers with erotic gestures and looks.  Unlike Laura, she charges for her services in freely exchangeable currency, and she has no set fees.

Laura Capote and Yadira Gonzales are part of that Revolutionary youth who have the opportunity to study and work.  Both of them use prostitution to make a living.  However, they do not attract equal attention from the police authorities.

Prostitution is not prohibited by the Cuban legal system.  Regardless, it is repressed because of certain activities associated with it that are considered illegal, such as operating a brothel or the practice of pimping.  However, recrimination depends more on political-economic factors, rather than social factors.

It is very difficult for Yadira to pass by unnoticed, they always end up asking her for identification.  She has two documented official warnings for lingering in the tourist district for no good reason.  A third warning carries the risk of going to prison for antisocial behavior.

Laura does not run that same risk.  She practices her activities in practically uninhabited places.  The interprovincial roads have little or no traffic and her signals arouse no suspicion.  Hitchhiking — called “to catch a bottle” in Cuba — is one travel option amid the critical situation with transportation.  Neither does she need provocative clothing to seduce.

Even in their own neighborhoods, they are judged differently.  They call Yadira “jinetera” [variously translated as escort, streetwalker and prostitute].  Those who know her, justify her way of making a living with phrases such as “this struggle.”  Laura they call, contemptuously, “La chupa-chupa,” [which literally means "lollipop" and is a word for oral sex].

The difference in the way they are treated by police is, in the first place, because Laura does not damage the government image and she is looked down upon.  Her earnings are barely enough to survive.

The situation with Yadira is different.  She offers herself in crowded places.  Her relationships with foreigners damage the international image of the government and social tolerance.  What she makes increases her purchasing power.  Also, she can become one of the “nouveau riche” who are feared by the historical leaders.

The police authorities exclusively persecute prostitution associated with tourism.  They sanction the “jineteras” for antisocial behavior.  However, they tolerate the ones who prostitute themselves in peripheral localities and are popularly known as “chupa-chupas.”  They don’t worry about them because they do no harm.

Laritza Diversent

Translated by M. E. Caballero

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