Wednesday, June 15, 2005


Underbelly News
Downtown Eastside

Hi All!

Posted below is a news clipping from I believe its an interesting article to share. It certainly warms my heart -- Jamie Lee!


Mexico City - In Mexico City's colonial downtown, women whose ages range from 60 to 85 offer sex in exchange for a few pesos or a bite to eat. They live on the street. Dusty sheets of cardboard are their beds.

Ostracised by society, rejected by their families and with no place to spend their final years, they are forced to continue to practise their profession.

But hope for a better life is beginning to crystallise. In the coming months, 60 of these elderly prostitutes will move into an 18th-century building donated by the local government and located in San Jacinto square in the heart of Mexico City.

The project to create a home for elderly prostitutes, to be named Xochiquetzal after the Aztec goddess of the earth and love, came into being thanks to Carmen Munoz, 45, a sex worker who sought backing from figures such as Mexican writer Elena Poniatowska and the leftist mayor of Mexico City, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

The unique project seeks to spur action to improve the living conditions of elderly sex workers.

"Once they are no longer profitable, they are abandoned by those who lived off of them: the madam, the pimp, the policeman, the hotel owner and even their families," Munoz said.

The home will offer its residents medical and psychiatric care, education and handicrafts training so in the future the home will be self-sufficient and they can quit selling their bodies.

Now, the ageing women spend long hours in a square called Parque de Loreto, waiting for a client, old or young, to give them "the day's alms".

They dress and look just like any grandmother. They don't wear makeup or look like prostitutes. Some are white-haired while others dye their hair, but there's nothing to indicate how they make their living.

For Leticia, a 60-year-old mother of five, life as a sex worker has been doubly humiliating. Twenty-five years ago, her husband forced her to sell herself for a few pesos at a public bath.

The then-35-year-old who came from the countryside became a full-time prostitute, filled with shame and threatened with being beaten if she did not come home with earnings from her new "job".

Munoz said the idea to find an honourable place for prostitutes in old age was born of her sadness and desperation at the plight of the elderly prostitutes she saw around her. Munoz turned to major personalities, activists and women's groups for help.

"They deserve all the credit," Poniatowska said.

Another group, Semillas, is in charge of supervising and raising funds for the prostitutes' home.

Not even the Mexican government knows the exact figure of women who engage in prostitution at an age at which most people have retired, but an estimated 120 elderly prostitutes live as best they can. Sapa-DPA