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As a young foreign man living here alone, no evening escapes the practice. Surprisingly enough, not many people are willing to openly speak about it — what with it being a highly illegal practice, so gathering information was not going to be as simple as asking the right people some questions. This was dirty work. Ignoring any racial morals you might possess and answering this one will then put you through to the more graphic stage, where you are encouraged to describe what physical attributes you most look for in a woman.
And it begs the question, how many girls work for this guy? The answer arrives promptly after you have answered all his questions when he sends you off to wait in some bar and sets off to recruit working prostitutes who he knows of.
The girls do not work for him, he merely knows of them or where to find them. You see, while prostitution is quite common in Havana, so is police presence on weekend nights. This ensures that a tourist walking down the street will, by himself, not be able to identify an on-duty prostitute. They hide among the crowds and in the alleyways so as not to be seen by the vigilante police.
Of course, there are some that are still out offering their services more openly, but the majority are now very hard to find. These local men, however, know where to look. While more traditionally functioning pimps do still exist in Havana, they rarely have more than one or two women working for them. The majority of Cuban men offering the service of girls do not actually have a single woman working for them. Thus, a sad irony becomes evident. In trying to decrease the huge size of the prostitution industry, the police in Havana have been successful in nothing but enlarging it — adding a whole new previously redundant position into the mix and accommodating the exploitation of thousands of prostitutes by local Cuban men.
Men who partake and profit from the illegal industry without putting themselves at risk of being caught — something that cannot be said of the thousands of women who rely on their own bodies to survive. Although an exact figure is very hard to come by, it is estimated that there are over 20, girls in the industry island wide, while as many as 10, men also take advantage of the easy money in the industry by renting out their bodies. Saying this, as I waited patiently in the bar I had been assigned to, I still did not know how the process worked.