Admittedly, it's a bit disconcerting to see some of the grandmotherly women in this short film from Vice TV, House of the Setting Sun, talk frankly about their continuing careers as streetwalkers. While others are, presumably, retired — and the home's initial mission was, explicitly, to allow residents "to explore alternate forms of income " —a number of the 23 residents continue to work, albeit at a slower rate than in years past. They are not allowed, however, to work out of Casa Xochiquetzal (named for the Aztec goddess of love and women), which in other respects resembles any other modest retirement community, complete with screening room and organized crafts.
The center was founded in 2007 by Carmen Munoz, herself a former prostitute, after she saw elderly sex workers sleeping on the streets. Over years of lobbying, Munoz gained government and celebrity support of the project, eventually gaining a dilapidated 18th-century building from then-mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. Of course, homes for "fallen women" are as old as reform itself, but what's interesting about this facility is that, while it might encourage women to explore other options, it's not about "reforming" them. They are allowed, at the end of the day, to make that choice, and their place in the home is unconditional. The only conditions are that a woman be over 60, have worked in the sex trade — and need a bed.
Many of the residents were sold into prostitution as children, and almost no a woman have no contact with their families. As such, the home is a blessing for people who might otherwise be destitute — even when work is available, the price of sex is about 200 pesos (or $20), less than they could charge as younger women. However, despite the poignancy of a Mother's Day party pictured in the film at which, says one resident, they can only "pretend" to have normal families, most of those interviewed are pragmatic survivors with no trace of self-pity. And the other part of Casa Xochiquetzal's mission — to help residents to "lead dignified lives" — has clearly been carried out.
Old Homeless Prostitutes In Mexico Get A Home [SAWF News]
House of the Setting Sun [VBSTV]
Aging Prostitutes Find Champion In Mexico City Mayor [Washington Post]