Photographer Spends Six Years Documenting The Lives Of Retired Sex Workers In Mexico City

A shelter set up in 2006 has now helped around 250 women.

1. French photographer Bénédicte Desrus spent six years documenting Casa Xochiquetzal – a shelter for elderly sex workers in Mexico City.

Bénédicte Desrus / Via

The home provides the women with food, health services and courses helping them rediscover their self-confidence and deal with traumatic aspects of their lives.

Casa Xochiquetzal was opened by Carmen Munoz, a retired sex worker, in 2006.

2. Around 26 former prostitutes, aged between 55 and 86 live at the home, with more than 250 women having received help since it opened.

Bénédicte Desrus / Via

3. According to Slate, Munoz spent 20 years trying to convince the government and NGOs to open the shelter before Mexico City’s municipal government provided the building and resources.

Bénédicte Desrus / Via

Portrait of Jimena, a resident of Casa Xochiquetzal, at the shelter.

4. After earning the women’s trust, Desrus teamed up with journalist Celia Gómez Ramos and the pair created a book entitled “Las Amorosas Más Bravas”(The Toughest Lovers).

Bénédicte Desrus / Via

They said they wanted to show the women’s stories of survival.

5. One of the residents Amalia, 66, has suffered from schizophrenia for 22 years.

Bénédicte Desrus / Via

To earn a bit of money, she collects plastic bottles to recycle and helps sell clothes in a stall operated by her boyfriend of 31 years.

6. Laeticia, originally from Chihuahua, left her husband when he brought another woman into their house.

Bénédicte Desrus / Via

She abandoned everything, including her children, and has reportedly tried twice to commit suicide.

At Casa Xochiquetzal, she practices yoga daily and also stays active by knitting, embroidering and reading the Bible.

7. When this photographer was taken Paola was one of the youngest women at the shelter and still worked the streets.

Bénédicte Desrus / Via

On 1 January 2011, she disappeared from the home and never came back.

8. Sonia was 14 when she received a bullet wound in her head after being raped.

Bénédicte Desrus / Via

Her left arm and leg are paralysed.

Despite her injuries, she’s described as “confident, loquacious and stylish”.

9. Despite remembering her childhood fondly, Norma was abused by one of her brother’s friends when she was 9 years old, as well as being assaulted by a priest where she lived.

Bénédicte Desrus / Via

She later found work as a waitress in various red-light districts. She apparently always liked watching the dancers up close, “but not so close she’d get burnt”.

10. Canela is 72 and suffers from a number of illnesses, including Down’s syndrome.

Bénédicte Desrus / Via

Of all the women at Casa Xochiquetzal, Canela is the only one who did not have children.

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