A joke about if his wife is deceiving him, all of these are words that wound, finally they are words that kill.
Minerva Valenzuela is a Mexican activist, cabaret dancer, columnist and, above all else, a woman. She finished studying theater in Mexico City in 1990, starting her career in cabaret almost immediately. ”I saw a way of life in it [cabaret], not only a 9 to 5 job.”
Part of her activism is focused on defending the rights of sex workers. Conscientious of the dangers sex workers face in Mexico, and the rest of the world, Minerva hopes to raise awareness of a large group of women determined to bring that violence to light, and of the fact that other women were obligated to sell their bodies.
“There exist people that we call rescuers. They are those who look for political and media attention, and get it by supposedly rescueing women from trafficking networks and from the streets, to exhibit them, force them recount how they were raped by fifteen men, including making them lie, without offering them adequate psychological help.”
The biggest danger that these “rescued” and exhibited women face, Minerva mentioned, is rejoining society. “There are known cases, many of them, where neighbors and family members find out through news papers or TV reports, and kill the woman because she is a ‘whore’. Even children or parents have been known to be the killers.”
As part of her work supporting female sex workers, Valenzuela has dedicated herself to giving workshops, among them one given to various prositutes of “Casa Xochiquetzal”, a refuge in Mexico City for older ex-sex trade workers, where the majority of the inhabitants arrived after living on the streets, because their children and neighbors found out about their profession.
Minerva asserts its these types of experiences that have led her to lose her prejudices: “I would think, surely she will tell me interesting things because she was a prositute. Not true, she will tell me something interesting because she has lived eighty years and she is a woman, and its equally as interesting as something my grandmother would have recalled.
Some of the women in the refuge were sold by their mothers, some were traded for televisions. “From the women at the shelter I leared to talk about different topics, not about their past. We chatted because we are two women looking each eye to eye, and as ever when two women look each other in the eye, both become stronger, more powerful.”
‘La del Cabaret’, as she is also known, was always fascinated with sexual work: “Since childhood there was something about them that captured my attention. You would see them on the street, and one time I said to my dad that their dress are beautiful. Obviously let out a yell towards the heavens. What is worse is that they weren’t put off because a child saw a show with an almost naked actress, everything was appropriate there, but it was not okay to see sex-workers.
Minerva started dancing burlesque and commented that in many countries its considered sexual work, but this activity does not only imply having sex for money. In her words “If that is so, I was or am a sex worker according to this logic. Sex work is the exchange of eroticism for compensation, and so those who work for hotlines are sex workers, as are porno actresses. Dancing burlesque I undress on stage, because nudity creates a distinct connection with the audience, they eroticized it but I never had sex for money, nonetheless, it was sex work.
Currently Minerva participates in the project Bordamos feminicidios (embroider female homicides), where, along with other women, they gather to embroider, with purple thread on white napkins, the histories of murdered women in Mexico narrated in first person. She continues her defense of women’s integrity, and hopes, as she says, that no one says more words that kill.
This is the last post of our special on prostitution. Picture taken from: www.hiwtc.com
About the author: Juan Pablo Lozano has a BA on Communication Sciences from Mexico’s UNAM. Currently 23, he has worked on several projects focused on education and ICT, as he wants to raise awareness among Mexican young people about human rights and education.