|Colin was here: A woman walks down a street in Bogotá's Santa Fe red light district.|
That was understandable, certainly, since Colin was selling visits to Bogotá's brothels. Ultimately, immigration officials forced him out of the country, and he shuttered Bogotá Brothel Tours.
|Women wait for clientes on a street in the Santa Fe district.|
When I met Colin in Bogotá's La Candelaria neighborhood a few years ago, he was a young American into basketball, blogging, Internet marketing, recreational drugs and women - nothing too unusual. He taught English, visited brothels, and then came up with the brothel tours idea, as detailed on his Expat Chronicles blog. (Prostitution is legal in Colombia inside designated 'Tolerance Zones.'
|Seedy Santa Fe at night: Neon starlight.|
|Colin looking |
Colin's book is entertaining and interesting. You'll read about one client's fetish with breast milk, another's sexual escapade; about some of the low-life characters Colin meets in Bogotá's sex industry. And the less-than-glamorous ambience inside many Bogotá brothels.
Altogether, it's a fast read, and a short one, at only 31 PDF pages.
Too short is better than too long. But, since he was writing a book, even an e-book, he should have made a book. Instead, he's strung together a bunch of blog entries. Sure, it's interesting and entertaining - but it could be much more.
|A man walks near the Las Vegas, one of many low-end |
brothels in the Santa Fe prostitution tolerance zone.
|In the Santa Fe neighborhood, transvestites |
have their own street.
A few photographs would be nice, too.
Colin's e-book ends, not with details about how he shut down his tour business, said good-bye to the prostitutes and moved to Peru, but a sort of investigatory attack on a Medellin-based gringo sex tour operator - who evidently did not practice Colin's lofty sex-tourism standards and got himself killed. It's interesting and informative about the sex tourism business, but doesn't fit into this book. (International sex is a high-risk industry. A few years ago another American, who ran an international dating company, was gunned down on an avenue in Cali, if I remember right.)
These stories are, naturally, interesting, Colin's a good writer, and the book will carry you along. But readers expecting pages of wet, kinky, breathless copulation will be disappointed. If this book were a movie I'd give it an R rating.
Given all that, Colin's book is worth a read, which won't take long. I got a few insights into human nature and a world I know little about. But with more time, effort and literary ambition, Colin might have written another South American gringo classic like Marching Powder, about a crazy Bolivian prison.
My deeper, non-literary, criticism of Colin's book involves his 'it's just harmless fun' attitude toward prostitution. "I never thought about the ethical implications because prostitution is legal in Colombia," Colin writes. "The politically correct line is that sex workers are victims of poverty. Many are. But most of the working girls I'd known were in it for the fun and easy money."
I'm not a moralizer and believe that prostitution, like drugs, euthenasia and organ sales, should be legal and regulated. I've heard of cases of young women paying their way thru university thru prostitution. And, as a journalist, I've interviewed single mothers who were raising children thru their trade.
But I've also heard horror stories about girls and women being kidnapped and forced into prostitution. Of girls being addicted to crack and held as sex slaves. And on and on. I have no doubt that that kind of exploitation happens in Colombia, altho it may be rare among the higher-class prostitutes hired by Colin's clients. Nevertheless, Colin made me wonder when he describes Colombian prostitutes as coming from all across Colombia, as well as from Argentina and Brazil. Why would a woman move from Brazil or Argentina to equally poor Colombia to be a prostitute? I suppose there could be legitimate reasons, but human trafficking must also happen, as it does all over the world.
I also talked with a woman in Bogotá's Santa Fe district who cares for prostitutes' children while they're working. She told me that most of the prostitutes she knew were addicted to alcohol or other drugs, a result of stress and the requirement that they drink with clients. So, there's a dark side to all that partying.
And even in cases where prostitutes are adults, working independently, many started in the business while underage, raising the issue of how voluntary their career choice really was.
Colin ultimately got forced out of Colombia by authorities who didn't like the idea of a foreigner marketing their country as a sex-tourism destination. His blog entries about bribing cops and using and smuggling drugs probably didn't help his case, either. Then came last year's firestorm of publicity over the U.S. Secret Service agents' misbehavior with prostitutes in Cartagena.
The Secret Service scandal also said something to me about prostitution's role. Dania, the high-class escort at the center of the scandal, evidently made out pretty well by selling her story to Colombian media. She seemed self assured and comfortable with her profession. But she also told reporters that she would use her income to set up a foundation to help other woman leave prostitution. If prostitution were really so great for the women, why do many want to get out?
As for Colin, he's now living in Peru, married to a Peruvian woman and marketing herbal supplements via Amazon. Brothel episodes and run-ins with the police have disappeared from his blog, replaced with tourist photos. I guess that's what marriage and impending fatherhood can do.
Related posts:Bogotá's Red Light District
The Red Light District's Guardian Angel
A Profession Like Any Other?
Not Such a Glamorous Profession