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"Castro feels at one with what he thinks of as the 'perfect revolutionary society of Cuba'.."
- Kirk Stephan

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Gaviota, the last cowgirl in Cuba
by Kirk Stephan, Iowa City, Iowa, USA, who travelled to Cuba
October 1999

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Even though having promised never to do it, Fidel brought tourism to the Island. He thought he had to in order to save the crumbling economy and I think he also felt that the program would be simple and without ramification. CubaThere were however... a fine name for condensed capitalism would be tourism, and one, of course, can't exist without the other. So, with very little time separating the events, the first few happy-holiday visitors were joined by hustlers, thieves, drunks, blackmarketeers and rip-off artists.

The hustlers were to be called Jinateros(Cowboys!) and appeared as "guides" and helpers on the Varadero beach, around the second day. About the third day, women, usually being stronger and smarter than men, took over the new profession or at least made the dudes look like pikers, since they discovered their own brand of hustle, specifically "partying". Now, all Cubans had been deprived of most luxury happenings and items since the Soviets had pulled out, at least 10 years before, so they were more than ready for this new possibility: Food, drink and gadgets suddenly were available, at least to the few who could meet a tourist, and a lively beautiful girl didn't have much problem with this.

The first 5000 Jinateras recognized the possible rewards of this way of life and, consequently, never asked for money, at least never put a price on her services, which were to be happy, have fun, and share some fancy living. She usually made out much better with this arrangement since foreigners appreciate "giving" attitudes (romance, parties, drink) and the lack of pressure (no price list/bill presented "a priori")!

So things went on like this for a few years, underground capitalism midst a communist paradigm... Well, Harry and me had arrived this year, not to experience a "first" Christmas, for there was no evidence of the holiday at all (and we agreed that it was perhaps the most pleasant aspect; that no corny music was being blared through the streets, nor advertisements or any hoopla at all), but to see a major crackdown on the people who, by now, had a "taste" of free enterprise.

Quote from a Russian general: "Ridicule is not permitted under socialism" -H. Mitgang

For the year prior to this visit the foreign feminist and politically-correct press had been having a field day, particularly focussing on the prurient (how rare!) so that the Jinetera became the center stage of the newly discovered "Island sex paradise". Of course the salting of the stories with contiguous terminology helps so tidbits like "drugs" and "crime" were added. Fidel didn't like this.

Castro feels at one with what he thinks of as the "perfect revolutionary society of Cuba", and so when the press of the world began the feeding frenzy and the finger-pointing, he took it personally, and acted. Of course, he has the complete control necessary, the dictators equipment, to unillateraly deal with such events.

Harry and I had heard of the massive arrests but we were startled by the frequency of the sight. Remember that the year before it had been days before I'd even noticed policemen on the streets of Havana. Now they were approximately 2 per each block, and were shortly to be joined by Dobermans and Shepards, the people making wide swerving detours in flowing foot-traffic so to not get too close; they didn't appear too amused by the phenomenon. We'd also heard that roughly 5000 young women were being held in Havana prisons alone.

I must've witnessed a dozen or so good-looking, well-dressed girls, every day being hauled away in squad cars; the accompanying cops didn't appear displeased with this new line of work. We also witnessed a similar number of men being stopped at random, searched, questioned, and usually, taken away, somewhere...

We ourselves were stopped, probably the 2nd or 3rd day, resulting in our taxi driver being arrested for not having paid the (huge) license fee necessary for carrying foreigners. I was stopped 3 more times in Havana while the bicycle rick-shaw drivers wheeling me about were given the same treatment (imprisoned) Just before one of these events the driver was explaining that this special fee was about $200/month (10 times what the salary of an average doctor would be!) and therefore would equal about 200 average trips, meaning a necessity of working, steadily, 15 hours a day, 30 days a month...

and what's Kirk's verdict on Cuba?

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