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It is a weekly routine at brothels across Cartagena, whose thriving and legal prostitution business, much of it oriented toward foreign tourists, has become the focus of international attention since a group of American Secret Service agents became embroiled in scandal over allegations of taking prostitutes to their hotel rooms.
She leafed through a stack of folders containing the test results of her 22 employees. The brothel insists that all customers use condoms and, according to a public health official who has worked with the club, none of its prostitutes have been found to be infected in three years of testing. Many here are perplexed about why the Americans have made such a fuss over something as unremarkable, in local eyes, as a man taking a woman to a hotel room, and paying for sex.
There is also some expression of anger and wounded national pride over the behavior of the Secret Service agent who refused to pay and who, according to the woman involved, shouted an expletive at her and locked her out of his hotel room in an early-morning row. The prostitute at the center of the events touched on the same idea in an interview shortly after the scandal broke.
Prostitution is legal in Colombia, and many here say that is as it should be. But the Colombian attitude toward prostitution is not so simple. Colombia is, in many ways, a deeply traditional society, and working as a prostitute carries a heavy stigma. In interviews, numerous prostitutes said that they hid their sex work from their families. View all New York Times newsletters. On Tuesday, in Room No. A pair of women, apparently exhausted from a long night, sprawled out asleep on a second bed in the cramped room, oblivious to the comings and goings of a white-coated lab technician and their co-workers.
One of the sleeping women used a stuffed Minnie Mouse doll as a pillow. The testing took place in the afternoon, when the brothel was empty of customers. Others retreated to the small rooms — where they both live and serve clients — to put on sparkly eye shadow and fuchsia lipstick, iron their hair, fish red or black high heels out of a beer crate, or slip into work clothes.