For many of the residents at Casa Xochiquetzal, a clean bathroom and a safe place to sleep at night are a luxury. For 23 women, who have been or are currently employed as sex workers in a central neighborhood of Mexico City, Casa Xochiquetzal community center provides them a safe residence for the first time in their life.
Casa Xochiquetzal opened in 2006, with the support of Mexico City’s mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. Obrador helped the founder, Carmen Muñoz—a former sex worker herself—find a building in the area that could be used to safely house prostitutes between the ages of 60 and 85. After seeing dozens of aging sex workers sleeping on the street, Muñoz felt an urge to act.
The stories of the women who inhabit the community center are heartbreaking. Many were sold into prostitution and have been sex workers for more than 40 years. They have been robbed, beaten and attacked, and Casa Xochiquetzal is the only chance they have ever had for protection. Named after the Mayan god of love and women, the end goal of the center is to empower these women and help them find work outside of the sex industry.
Although a move away from prostitution is the goal of Casa Xochiquetzal, many of the women are still involved in the sex industry to earn money for their families. Even with the safety of the center, many of the women have only known life as a sex worker, and changing that after 40 or 50 years is practically unthinkable.
The facility has room to house up to 60 women, and has had great success since its opening in keeping predatory men from infiltrating the walls of the residence.