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Jineterismo and the escort industry

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As a general definition, the pejorative term jinetero refers to a male hustler, or someone who will find girls, cigars, taxis or accommodation for a visitor and then take a cut for the service. He – though more commonly this is the preserve of his female counterpart, a jinetera – is often also the sexual partner to a foreigner, usually for material gain.

Immediately after assuming power, Castro’s regime banned prostitution and, officially at least, wiped it off the streets, with prostitutes and pimps rehabilitated into society. The resurgence of the tourist industry has seen prostitution slink back into business since the mid-1990s; however, in Cuba this entails a rather hazily defined exchange of services.

In the eyes of Cubans, being a jinetero or jinetera can mean anything from prostitute to paid escort, opportunist to simply a Cuban boyfriend or girlfriend.

As an obvious foreign face in Havana, you will often be pursued by persistent jineteros and jineteras. Many Cubans are desperate to leave the country and see marrying a foreigner as the best way out, while others simply want to live the good life and are more than happy to spend a few days or hours pampering the egos of middle-aged Westerners in order to go to the best clubs and restaurants and be bought the latest fashions.

Police sometimes stop tourists’ cars and question Cuban passengers they suspect to be jineteros or jineteras, and casas particulares must register all Cuban guests accompanying foreigners (foreigners themselves are not penalized in any way).

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