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Lisa, a pretty, year-old bleached blonde, personifies this city's return to the decadence that Fidel Castro's revolution was supposed to eliminate more than three decades ago. She is barely 5 feet tall, weighs less than pounds and is dressed in lemon hot pants and a black halter top.
Her merry eyes are ringed with thick mascara. She tells the foreigner he is handsome, intelligent. She wants to be with him. Lisa is not an aberration in the current phase of Castro's troubled revolution. She is an important handmaiden in the service of attracting desperately needed currency to her bankrupt country. She is one of the hundreds of young Cuban women who have turned Havana into an attractive fleshpot for tourists. I just want to have a good time," she said.
During a two-hour stroll down the Malecon on a recent Friday night, one foreign visitor was propositioned 43 times. Every day, dozens of men arrive at Havana's Jose Marti International Airport to begin their sex vacations with girls like Lisa. It encourages prostitution by requiring foreigners to have "a date" before entering state-owned discos. At the Tasca disco in the Marina Hemingway resort, foreigners are told to pick a date from the young Cuban women outside.
The women are prostitutes allowed into the guarded resort only for this purpose. An executive at a hotel in the Varadero resort area said that his liquor sales increased percent after the government permitted Cuban "hostesses" and "dates" to enter his disco.
The government's acquiescence is at odds with one of the principal aims of the revolution -- ridding the country of the vice that had turned Havana into the sin capital of the Western Hemisphere, back in the days when casinos, cheap rum and sex attracted thousands of tourists from the United States to the Caribbean island. Amanda, 18, a University of Havana student, who bears a striking resemblance to the late actress Natalie Wood, comes to the illicit arrangement with an astonishing air of practicality.