Like the saloons found across Central and South America, Houston’s cantinas are bars that cater to Hispanic immigrants. These “pony bars” are popular among local Latinos for beer, dancing, and commercial sex. They are concentrated around the Ship Channel area (McCarty Drive and Harrisburg Boulevard) and along Telephone Road.
Cantinas notoriously traffic in Latin American women and girls. The majority of “cantineras” or “cantina girls” our teams have encountered have come from Central America and Mexico.
Customers typically purchase a beer with an added charge, which allows a cantinera to sit with the customer and negotiate a price. Cantinas usually have out buildings or cheap nearby motels where sexual services are offered. These can be as ramshackle as small, dilapidated trailers or aluminum-corrugated stalls.
Only Spanish is spoken in cantinas. We recommend that teams conducting direct outreach there be bilingual.