Bénédicte Desrus

Documentary Photographer + Photojournalist
     
The Women of Casa Xochiquetzal
Location: Mérida, Mexico
Nationality: French
Biography: Bénédicte Desrus  is a French documentary photographer based in Mexico and working worldwide.  After 20 years of living abroad, she will return to her home country in June 2021, where she will be based in Marseille. She is... read on
Public Story
The Women of Casa Xochiquetzal

THE WOMEN OF CASA XOCHIQUETZAL


Have you ever thought about what happens to sex workers when they get old?



For ten years, I documented the day-to-day lives of the women living at Casa Xochiquetzal, a unique shelter for elderly sex workers in Mexico City.


In downtown Mexico City, elderly women offer sex in exchange for a few pesos or a bit to eat, they live in appalling conditions on the street. Ostracised by society, often rejected by their families and with no place to spend their final years, they are forced to continue to practise their profession.


To most of us they are invisible.
 

But hope for a better life is beginning to crystallise. The local government has donated a building, located in one of the poorest and most marginalized neighborhoods in Mexico City, to house these elderly sex workers - and also provides daily meals and utilities for the home.


The house, named Xochiquetzal after the Aztec goddess of the earth and love, came into being - in 2006 - thanks to Carmen Muñoz, a sex worker herself, with the help of prominent female artists and feminist groups.

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


It is the only such shelter existing in Latin America.


The shelter gives older and independent sex workers the space and opportunity to gain dignity and learn about their human rights. It also offers its residents medical and psychiatric care, education and handicrafts training, as well as courses to help them rediscover their self-confidence and deal with traumatic aspects of their lives.

The only condition is that they be over 55 years old and abide by a set of basic rules. Some continue to work in the sex trade, and some not. They are all encouraged to set up small businesses. 


The shelter gives the women a dignified way out of their profession.



“In the end, we all end up in peace, because for us this house is a place of peace. It is ours." - A resident of Casa Xochiquetzal.


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