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University of North Carolina Press, While some favored preserving existing regulations, others viewed them as a holdover from years of colonial exploitation and favored immediate deregulation. This contentious issue, as Sippial demonstrates in this book, was about much more than morality and public health. Rather, debates over prostitution in late colonial and early republican Cuba served as a prism through which competing ideas about modernity, decolonization, citizenship, and republican statehood were refracted.
In , Cuban reformers deregulated the institution, replacing it with an expanded public health campaign aimed at all Cuban citizens. In the colonial period, for instance, prostitutes contested the geographic parameters of the tolerance zone, found multiple ways to avoid mandatory physical exams, and consistently refused to affix their likenesses to registration cards, eventually forcing the chief hygienist to abandon this latter requirement.
In a particularly fascinating find, Sippial analyzes the short-lived Onion , an anarchist-run newspaper specifically addressing prostitution. Prostitutes were not simply acted upon by the state and their clients, but were agents in the making of their own labor conditions. Chief among these is the intersectionality of gender, sexuality, race, and class both among prostitutes themselves and within wider discourses.
For example, Sippial mentions that several critics condemned male homosexual sex workers, but says little about what such stigmatization meant for the function of sexuality and gender in turn-of-the-century Cuba. Contemporary critics looked abroad to Western Europe for examples of deregulation, while criticizing the United States for having outlawed prostitution on the mainland and in Puerto Rico but leaving it intact in Cuba during the occupation.