The deaf prostitute took my hand in hers and traced “20” on my palm with her finger. When I look back on all my nights out, it’s a moment more depressing than even a wet Tuesday in Torquay could muster. I’d bumped into her down on the corner in front of Havana’s faded Hotel Nacional, former stomping ground of Sinatra, Hemingway and Brando and host to the infamous Mafia conference in 1946 that Coppola recreated inGodfather II. All I’d done was ask her for directions. I shook my head and tried to mime: “Sorry for wasting your time”.
It wouldn’t have been the first time a foreigner in Cuba was assumed to be in the market for transactional sex, and now that the USA and Cuba are friends again there’ll be a whole lot more of it. Thanks to the travel ban currently in place, only around 60,000 Americans visit Cuba each year. Jay-Z and Beyonce caused a minor diplomatic incident when they went this summer, and they’re the closest things the Yanks have to infallible royalty. The US figure is dwarfed by the 150,000 Brits and more than a million Canadians who are drawn there by the promise of sun, rum and hot, steamy salsa dancing.