WEIGHT: 50 kg
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He was 21 years old, an Afro-Cuban sex worker in Havana. He started the work when he was 13 and the Cuban economy was at its worst, two years into the "Special Period During Peacetime" but one year before the state reluctantly legalized the dollar for internal exchange in The dollar changed everything, he told me.
Now, his addiction was money, dollars to be precise, and the Nike shoes they could buy. And his profession was not sex per se, but rather the dollars that sex could bring in the new tourist economy of the neighborhood of El Vedado in central Havana. Of course he could not understand the role that his work—and his body—had for the new Cuban economy nor his role in the struggles over the meaning of Cuban nationalism in an era of foreign capitalist incursion. He did not understand that the collapse of the Soviet Union had brought as well the collapse of the Council of Mutual Economic Assistance COMECON , the socialist states' trading alliance, and the extremely lucrative trade relations it facilitated.
He didn't know about Fidel's Decree Law 50 which had as early as provided the first "revolutionary legal base for normalizing and organizing the process of foreign investment," nor about the Fourth Party Congress of that paved the way for the constitutional reform of , codifying capitalism. What he did know was that in there were foreigners at the Hotel Deauville who would pay top dollar for a chance to sample the famous Cuban phallus, renowned both in gay travel networks and in literary representations of cubanidad.
And he knew that the dollar had changed everything. What was in a tiny number of male sex workers who catered to the few foreign capitalist investors was by an industry of perhaps young Cubans whose developing identities as Cuban men had been interrupted by a dramatic change in both economy and nationalist identity.
A new class of male sex workers had been born, the "pinguero. Capitalism is hungrily devouring every resource in Cuba, including its male and female bodies, commodifying them and configuring them according to the logic of the market.