April 16, 2021

Mexico City, through the eyes of a sex worker | Culture

Mexico City, through the eyes of a sex worker | Culture

Nancy has seen everything. At 13 he left his house in Monterrey like an effeminate child. At 18 she returned as a woman after living in the streets and making a living as sex worker in one of the corners of Mexico City. "I thought you were already dead," his mother told him: "It would have been better, I'd rather see you dressed like that." A few months later he knew he had to leave again. Without having finished elementary school, he had no choice but to return to look for bread with the sweat of his body.

At 24 he contracted HIV. At 27 she was imprisoned for the first time for hitting a policeman. A few years later he lost an eye after two guys beat her with a bat. He was in a coma for 15 days. She could not defend herself. I was sunk in alcohol and in crack. She was later sentenced to two years and four months for another fight with a police officer, but she went out for an early release program. At age 45, he was infected with tuberculosis. At age 48, what he earns in heel it does not reach him at all.

"Everything that has happened to me has strengthened me," says Nancy, who has asked not to appear with her real name. "It's sad for me to tell this," he says after staring into space. "But it's my life, it's what one lives, it's real life," he repeats. There is also the story of Amanda, who was abducted and sold at age 14. The story of Libertad, daughter and sister of pimps. The story of Xóchitl, a Mazatec indigenous woman who was forced to marry before her first menstruation. The story of Viridiana, who does not know how to tell her son what she does. The story of Rubí, who dreams of building his house and finishing his studies.

Sluts, activists and journalists is a book of sex workers written by sex workers. "People believe that we are the dirty, the useless, the plagued … the whores," says Mérida Ortiz, one of the five authors. For them, publishing is to take the floor, raise your voice, say "enough". "Writing a note is an opportunity to defend ourselves," Sandra Montiel, another participant, explains in an interview.

The stories revolve around the questions that almost never ask them: their childhood, the machismo they have faced at home, the risk of sexual diseases, the violence of some clients and, above all, the reasons why they decided to stop in a corner. There is no morbidity in the struggle of a mother who has to make ends meet or in the lack of opportunities for a transsexual confined to precarious jobs or selling his body. But in the prostitutes who pocket "thousands of pesos" per night or in the "little women" who appear handcuffed to a patrol car. The publication is a scream of tiredness against the raids, humiliations and police extortion, the sensationalism of the press and a society that has condemned them to the underground, but that continues to demand their services. "We feel very proud because we realized that we can create, that we know how to write," says Ortiz.

The book is free, was presented at the end of 2018 and was the culmination of an effort that lasted seven years. The project began with a workshop led by journalist Gloria Muñoz Ramírez, from the Desinformémonos collective. It was coordinated by the Street Support Brigade for Women Elisa Martínez, an organization that has fought for 29 years for the formal recognition of non-salaried sex work. The issue still divides opinions among those who consider it a form of oppression of women and sexual minorities, and those who see in regulation the only way to end abuses. In Mexico there are no consolidated figures for trafficking victims, although non-governmental organizations estimate that around 340,000 people are exploited labor or sexually. Without measurements on the problem, there are no parameters on the impact of government actions. And the debate is still open.

The Street Brigade, which defends anti-immoralism, works in 27 states of Mexico and supported last year with HIV tests, condoms, psychological care, legal advice and pantries to some 75,000 workers. Also has Noticalle, a news portal to bring to light what they see and what they live on a daily basis. "The government has never had the capacity and the interest, they talk about rescues, but they are not saving anyone," criticizes Elvira Madrid, one of the founders, about what she accuses as the authorities' punitive approach. "The real prostitution is in the corruption of politicians," says Montiel. "In double standards, in people who have no principles and then criticize us," adds Ortiz.

The organization has obtained an injunction that has contained the persecution of the police and that opens the doors to 750 workers credentialized in the capital to social security and other work benefits. The next step is to organize in a labor union. Although things have improved, the stories of abuse and discrimination are still valid. "He's crazy, but we do it out of love for life," says Madrid, without any fuss. "You almost always punish the most fucked up, instead you should think about how to improve the conditions of those who dedicate themselves to this because they have no other option and change the hypocrisy of society," he concludes.

Months after being interviewed, a client tried to murder Nancy with a knife in the neck. This time she had been sober for four years and was able to defend herself. "I thought I was going to die, but I was saved," he says as he shows the scar: "Here I am again, here I am telling you what happened to me". At the bottom of the five biographies of the authors and the 16 testimonies compiled in the book are indigenous people, migrants, transsexuals, older adults, ordinary people. "Women are not going to need to stand in a corner to feel identified with what we have, with each other's struggle to get ahead," says Montiel: "We are all human beings, we all have a history."


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