Mural-covered buildings in Bogota, Colombia.
Image: AP

Sex workers in Colombia have started a newspaper that is “flying off the shelves”—a rare distinction for any newspaper these days. La Esquina—which means “The Corner,” in English—is made by and for sex workers in Bogotá’s red light district, according to the Guardian. It’s both distributed as a regular newspaper and, ingeniously, laminated and plastered on the district’s walls for sex workers to read while they wait for clients.

“People think it is really cool,” staff member Lorena Daza told the Guardian. “I thought to myself, ‘Is anybody actually going to read this?’, but they do, and they like it.”

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The paper was founded last summer by a group of activists and artists who, as the Guardian put it, “wanted to start a positive project in the neighbourhood.” La Esquina, which is funded by two local non-profits, is mostly produced by transgender sex workers—the only cisgender woman on staff writes the horoscopes. Curiously, however, the Guardian’s coverage foregrounds the few non-sex worker staff members, as writer and porn performer Lorelei Lee pointed out on Twitter.

La Esquina covers everything from gossip to affordable recipes, but also does hard-hitting features—most recently, a piece on “the horrifying reality of botched plastic surgeries that often afflict the country’s transgender women.” The Guardian reports:

Two of the paper’s staff – Marta Sánchez, 61, and Lorena Barriga, 49 – shared their stories of injecting vegetable oil into their breasts in an effort to enhance them for better business.

Sánchez’s breast implants were destroyed as a result of injecting the substance and she wants others to know about the practice. “I injected the liquid and some months later it started to go wrong. I was unable to breathe properly. I went to the doctor and he told me that what I had injected was going to have to find somewhere to come out, and that I had to wait.”

“A few weeks later it burst from my side, just under my breast. I had to hold a piece of cloth over the wound for a few days before I could see a doctor,” she says.

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In addition to breaking news and providing entertainment, though, the paper is a platform for marginalized people—including, but not limited to sex workers—whose voices are rarely heard. “This is a neighbourhood filled with survivors,” staff member Aura Francesconi told the Guardian. “It’s filled with people who have had their lives plagued by thousands of obstacles and here they have the opportunity to show themselves for who they really are.”