Hookers, Hookers, Everywhere... Sex Tourism in Panama
Saturday, May 12 2007 @ 06:51 PM EDT
Contributed by: Don Winner
The Cotton Club: There's a new place that's about to open (supposedly) on Via Espaņa, just below the El Panama Hotel. It's called the Cotton Club and there are a couple of questions I have about this place. First of all, according to a source in the immigration office, they have not handed out any new "alternadora" visas since the new director Ricardo Vargas took over. Their line is that he inherited the system as it is and is doing the best he can to manage things the way they are, within the confines of existing law. Perfect. Party Line. Got it. But then how is the Cotton Club going to open, I ask? If, according to existing law, the "alternadora" visas can not be transferred from one club operator to another then are there going to be any "alternadoras" working at the Cotton Club? Or are they all going to be Panamanian hookers? Remember that one of the main reasons they went after the Midnight Club (supposedly) was because their "cupos" for the "alternadora" visas were assigned to the Life Girls club but the sign out front said Midnight Club. And, if the guys at immigration are right and no new "alternadora" visas have been issued for the Cotton Club, then what's going on? Lovers of transparent government want to know.
Smell the Farts in Church: The other thing is that the Cotton Club is only about 200 meters from La Iglesia Del Carmen in Panama City. And someone told me (remains to be verified in Panamanian law) that you can't have a whore house within like 500 meters of a Church. According to this picture, the Cotton Club can't open in this location. And who are the owners of the Cotton Club, anyway? Is there any chance that the raid against the Midnight Club (which is practically right across the street, just a little further away from the church) and the opening of the Cotton Club are related? Whatever. Just more questions I have about this industry in Panama.
Why Should I Care? I don't. The guys that care are the rest of the club owners who don't want to see another option come open. Every owner in town wants to be the only guy operating in what is now a very competitive business. The owners "steal" the girls from other clubs by offering them better working conditions or chances to earn money. And the girls know where the guys go, and they go where they get the best payday. And here's the kicker - the club owners who are following the rules (law) and playing the game the "right" way have the biggest complaints about the clubs that are not operating legally. For example...
Check Out The "Felice" Club: Not for the faint of heart. It's in Santa Ana just up the street from Nelson's on the corner. Again, I did my best "dumb wandering Gringo" routine and the table guy filled me in on the place in thirty seconds. They have rooms upstairs where the girls live and they will go for $15 bucks a pop. There's no cover and national beers at $1.25 a bottle. Have a great time. There are places like this, low end whore houses, all over town. They are in the worst parts of town in places you really don't want to go unless you know what you're doing. But most of them don't have any kind of permits or permissions to be working in the sex business but they've been there forever and have paid off all the right people decades ago.
10% Entertainment Tax: The government gets 10% of every $30.00 glass of champagne that you buy a stripper. Betcha didn't know that one. In Las Vegas there are more than 180 strip clubs and most of them are open 24 hours a day. They charge $7.00 bucks a beer, and of every beer they sell .70 cents goes to the gub'ment. The Panamanian government should have a huge fiscal incentive to make sure that all of the hookers are on the books because they would make a whole hell of a lot more money in taxes. The increased revenue would more than make up for any additional costs required for manpower, etc. It would be a money-maker. Shake it for La Patria, baby...
So, How Many Hookers Are There, Anyway? Excellent question. And, no one knows the answer. There are about 1,000 registered sex workers all over the country, including foreign "alternadoras" as well as Panamanians who are registered to work in massage parlors and the like. But there are an estimated 4,000 hookers who are "independents" or working off the books. They are not registered or required to go to any kind of health screening or education. For the most part they are either Panamanians or foreigners who have been through the system a couple of times and they know there are significant fiscal incentives to remain off the books, and little down-side if they don't.
Busted For Being A Hooker? It's an administrative process, not criminal. That means there's no chance of jail time if you're caught. A cop can catch you getting some action in the middle of Parque Porras and the worst thing that will happen is a $20 fine from the "corregidoria." Have a great day. C'ya next time. All of the corregidores have seen the hookers who routinely work in their areas of responsibility, especially the Panamanians who can't be deported. The point is this - there's not much of a down side even if they get busted, and in any case the chances that they will get caught are slim in any case.
What Does It Cost to Be Legal: Short answer, about $250 bucks a month. That's the total cost for a girl to be on the books, pay her dues and fines, go to the clinics, get the visas, etc. And that's not counting the cost of clothes, those black leather boots with the 6" spiked heels and the short red mini-skirt. Independents just need a cell phone and a pad to work from. They advertise in the "personals" section of all the major newspapers and turn tricks like it's going out of style. OK, this is a test. I'm going to see how many cell phone numbers I can come up with in ten minutes on the Internet for hookers in Panama. Ready? Go!...
- Go figure - The first one I run into is for the ladies, on Encuentra24.com an add for a "tall black guy, athletic, will only make house calls or to hotels. 6509-7283" There are a bunch of adds on Encuentra24.
- Classified Ads: Aim High, shoot low. If you would like to check out the ads currently running in "La Critica" just follow this link go to straight to the adult section. There are currently 26 listings, mostly independents working off of a cell phone who will come to you.
- This Counts: Call 6628-7526 for the "Tienda Divertida" sex toys store. This counts because they apparently have a home delivery service, and if you're too embarrassed to go out and buy that 12" model that takes two "D" batteries then they will scoot that sucker right over to your door, no questions asked.
- Back To The Hookers: Check out The Oasis Club for a quick massage. More about this place later.
That Was Ten Minutes: No kiddin'. I didn't even really have to try. It's not like they're hiding or anything. As part of my deep and probing research into this subject I wandered over to the center of gravity for Panamanian hooker-dom, Via Veneto. I walked around the inside of the casino for awhile, then walked out of the front door of the hotel and headed for Via Espaņa. I had barely cleared the Dunkin Donuts, and doing my best to look like a gringo who had been in town for about thirty seconds, I was approached by the guy who sits on the stoop in front of the Oasis Club, handing out cards and dragging people in to get a "massage." I asked "what kind of a place is it, a bar or what?" Yeah, there's a bar. Come on in and have a good time. The funny part is that when I followed the dude into the massage parlor there were two people there in the entrance who are supposed to be the "meet and greet" people to steer you through the process. They were both talking on the cell phone, and this was the side of the conversation I could hear:
- "Yes sir. It's $30 an hour for the massage. You pay that up front and then head into the back with the girl of your choice."
- "Like I said, sir. You pay here at the front desk and then you head into the back with the girl, so the cost of the massage is paid up front. Then later, you know, whatever happens between you and her is up to you."
- "I really can't say. Like I said whatever you two work out is up to you."
- "About $75 for full service, less for anything else. All-right. Great. We're open all night. Looking forward to seeing you."
Independent Confirmation of my In-Depth Journalistic Investigation: Just had to check their website under "prices" and there it is, all laid out. Not hard at all.
- Stop by The Oasis on Via Veneto or call The Oasis for in-room delivery at 264-4785 or 264-1351 to get the best value for your dollar. We offer the lowest prices for basic and full-service massages in the city, not to mention some of the most beautiful ladies to entertain and please you.
- $30.00 Basic massage
- $50.00 Full-service massage from 11:30am - 2:30pm (Lunch Time Special, must be requested to apply)
- $75.00 Full-service massage after 2:30pm
- $80.00 Full-service massage in your hotel room
- $100.00 Full-service massage with 2 girls in our place.
- Get a $5 discount of any full-service massage after 2:30pm by printing out our coupon! We accept cash, travelers checks, American Express, Visa and Mastercard
What? You Want to Stamp my Passport? Any of the girls who come to work as "alternadoras" get a big, fat stamp in their passport which basically screams "hooker" to the world. Many times girls will show up at a place to work but not want to have their passport stamped and they want to work off of the books. That exposes the owner to the same kinds of problems that the owner of the Midnight Club had with a bunch of Colombian "tourists" working as independents under his roof.
That's It For Now: It's late and my eyes are getting blurry. This is a subject that deserves my full attention for awhile, just because if Panama did it right they could turn this place into a real magnet for the "entertainment" industry. And doing it wrong leads to dumb wandering gringos (or gringas) who get caught up in the wrong crowd and end up doing 20 hard in La Joyita. Just ask Debra Ann Ridgley who was having a lot of fun with her nice new Colombian friends that she met at the casino. Caveat emptor is always in effect, and even more so for the intrepid international sex traveler.
Copyright 2007 by Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com. As usual, go ahead and use whatever you want, just please give credit to the original source. Salud.