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Casa Xochiquetzal

27 January 2009

In the 17th century, a Spanish nobleman, as penance for his wicked ways, endowed a refuge for reformed prostitutes under the supervision of the Archbishop of Mexico City.  It did not turn out well:

The archbishop assigned three young priests to fill the Belem. Preaching sermons around Mexico City advertising the new facility didn’t bring in any customers, but it amused the prostitutes (and a lot of others) in the congregation. When sermons failed to bring in the Belem clients, the priests turned to kidnapping. Prostitutes fought back – one priest, who was handsome and well built, was a special target. Called to a deathbed confession by a dying madam, the “dying” woman jumped naked from the bed, bolted the door and began to strip the priest. He jumped out the window.

What started as a refuge ended as a prison… the Belem became a dumping ground for all kinds of inconvenient women: prostitutes, delinquents, criminals and the insane.

(Gods, Gachupines and Gringos: A Peoples History of Mexico

© 2008, Richard Grabman)

We live in a world where we now regcognize the humanity, and the dignity of most “inconvenient women” — the mentally ill, the criminal, the delinquent.  Given our attitudes towards sex — and even among progressives who treat prostitution as victims of opression, and not persons capable of making decisions for themselves, Casa Xochiquetzal is an eye-opener.

It’s a shame that we focus on what they did for a living, and not on their struggle to survive, and the price they paid as humans for their survival.  Their story has to be told as part of something called “The Vice Guide to World Sex” when sex is really not part of the story, and there is nothing salacious or giggly about these women.  The residents are not “reformed” prostitutes, nor do they need “rehabilitation”.

Certainly, the residents of Casa Xochiquetzal have been … or are … prostitutes, but there’s something wonderful and a society that that seeks to maintain the dignity and independence of  los al abajo.

The three-part videos copyright ©2008, VBS ITV LLC). I ran across them thanks to Leon Guanajuanto webista and blogero, Abraham Paz.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. 28 January 2009 11:49 am

    When I’ve stayed at the Casa de los Amigos in DF I’ve seen women of the tercera edad soliciting on the traffic island in the middle of the boulevard or not too far from the metro. The same for several of the squares on the eastern side of down town Guadalajara. It is always a heart breaker to consider the sort of violence and danger that these humans might face everyday just to support themselves in their advanced age.

  2. 29 January 2009 9:01 am

    Survivors all. Very humbling.

  3. Mary O'Grady permalink
    29 January 2009 9:09 am

    Who else would bring us this fascinating and heart-rending documentary? Thank you, Richard!

  4. 30 January 2009 10:54 am

    Wow, that is really really sad… I think I need a drink after seeing that.

  5. 27 January 2010 2:05 pm

    That is a great survival story. Very inspiring… and sad.

  6. 22 June 2011 7:51 pm



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