Authorities estimate the number of sex workers in San Jose to be about 800, howver, the real numbers could be double or triple that

Q COSTA RICA / Many living and visiting Costa Rica’s capital city know about San Jose’s other side, the side where in bars, massage parlors and night clubs women (and men) offer sexual services for payment.

A recent report by Crhoy.com says that 800 people offer sexual services in San Jose. However, confidential sources to the Q say that the number is more like double or triple or more.

The San Jose municipal police estimates there some 75 commercial premises where some kind of sex trade has been discovered, a number that has grown from an estimated 70 in 2015.

The operative word here is ‘discovered’, the same confidential sources told the Q the number of massage parlors, for example, and not including bars and night clubs, where prostitution is the order of the day at is more than 100, anything from a small operation of one or two rooms with less than a handful of women, to like the Thursday afternoon raid on a massage parlor in Barrio Amon, that includes more than 20 rooms, a sauna and steam room.

In the Thursday afternoon raid on the New Fantasy, located behind the Instituto Nacional de Seguros (INS) building, in downtown San Jose, a massage parlor than has been in operation for more than decade, the Organismo de Investigation Judicial (OIJ) and the San Jose police inside found 15 women, the majority Costa Rican and Nicaraguan and several clients.

Municipal police officers outside the New Fantasy Thursday afternoon, while OIJ agents inside were conduting a raid of the premises. Photo from San Jose municipal police

Authorities confirmed that prices for sexual services ranged from ¢12,000 colones for 30 minutes to ¢18,000 colones for an hour for “nationals” or “locals”; if they were foreigners, the prices ranged from US$35 dollars (¢20,000) for a half hour and US$50 (¢28,000 colones) for the hour. According to OIJ investigators of the Crimes against Physical Integrity, Trafficking of People section that led the raid, the women split the money 50-50 with the business.

Detained for the suspected crime of “proxenetismo” (pimping) is a 60 year-old man believed to be the manager, as well as the owner of the bar/massage parlor, a man identified by his last name Fallas and who has been under the investigative eye of the OIJ since 2014 when the Judicial Police received the complaint that, within the premises of the business, there was prostitution.

Police say they also confiscated evidence to support the claim of pimping and the business operated as brothel continuously from 10:00am.

Important to note here tha prostitution is not a crime punishable by the laws of our country. That is, women (or men) can freely offer sexual services in lieu of compensation without repercussions. This also goes for the customer

Hoover, what is a crime is pimping (obtaining benefits from prostitution) and trafficking of people (trata de personas in Spanish).

Marco Rodríguez of the police intelligence unit of the San Jose municipal police says the target of the raids in pensiones (hotels licensed to offer rooms for short-term), massage parlors and night clubs is to discover possible crimes reported to the OIJ.

Rodríguez added that the San Jose mayor’s office is currenly working on the process of definitive closure of six commercial premises identified with the sex trade, however these processes take years.

“What we do is to perform intelligence work to identify possible crimes, then we conduct searches (raids) and send the report to the OIJ to initiate the judicial investigation,” said Rodríguez.

The focus of authorities continues to be the area known as “Gringo Gulch” (la quebrada del gringo in Spanish), an area between Avenidas 1 and 3 and Calles 7 and 11.

According to Eduardo Mora, investigator for the Universidad Nacional (UNA), In a study conducted in 2012, located in Gringo Gulch there were at least 10 hotels and 20 bars frequented mostly by North American (US and Canada) visitors, and an estimated 500 sex workers earning an estimated ¢20 million colones (US$35,000) every night.

Mora says that the latest reports is that sex tourism has now moved to the Pacific coastal areas like Jaco and Tamarindo and that Gringo Gulch, although it continues to attract foreigners, there is also now a large number of nationals, resulting in a drop in revenue for the sex workers.

“The national customer goes to the bar, drinks a few beers and haggles with the price,” said Mora.

In contrast, and the reason for sex workers’ preference is that foreign (sex) visitors rarely haggle with the price of sexual services.

More photos of the Thursday afternoon raid on the New Fantasy.


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