The Women of Casa X.
Photographs by Malcolm Venville.
112 pp., 45 color illustrations, 8¾x11".
One night in Mexico City, Carmen Muñoz, sex worker, was roaming
the streets looking for customers. Unexpectedly, she found two
colleagues, both over sixty years old, sleeping on the street, covered
by newspapers. After almost forty years of giving service to butchers,
porters, refuse collectors and criminals, they were now long forgotten
by their families and society. Carmen was confronted with what would
be her own fate, like most women of her profession. Striving for
dignity for all of them, she organized her colleagues and led a group
that resolved to find a home where they could spend their last days in
safety and warmth.
In 2006, after twelve years of work, and with the support of Mexican
intellectuals and artists, the government gave them a seventeenth-
century mansion, where Carmen founded Casa Xochiquetzal - Casa
X. Around sixty women, all over fifty years old, receive shelter, food,
and medical and psychological care. This is not just a retirement
home - most of the women who live there still walk the streets. But
Casa X is the only refuge for prostitutes in Latin America.
Casa X is located in the heart of the notorious district of Tepito.
Although only eight blocks from the historic centre of Mexico City,
Tepito is a micro-universe, where life is lived in a unique fashion. For
nearly five hundred years it has been a place of impunity, crime,
smuggling, violence and prostitution. This neighbourhood did not
submit to the Aztec Empire, or to the Spanish conquistadors, or to
the current authorities. Tepito has an identity that goes beyond its
boundaries. It has its own social organization, myths, heroes, slang,
and even its own local deity, La Santa Muerte (Holy Death). The
women of Casa X are stuck at the bottom of the ladder of this world,
and keep their memory of it in their bodies.