Translated by Yaqui for Borderland Beat Material from El Debate and El Universal
A Kind of Hell that Mexico Gives its Women
His name was Guillermo. He married her and then prostituted her with Mexican immigrants in Chicago. "That is where everything started to go wrong", recalls Maria.
Maria came into the office after a series was published in El Debate, a Mexican News outlet, about the oldest sex slave trade on Sullivan Street.
Her eyes were round and clear, her hair short and tinted, her body robust. Now, she was staying at a luxury hotel in Mexico City being helped by The Street to House Foundation, while they worked on her complaint that had been filed against several people who had sexually exploited her for more than 20 years in the US, Monterrey, Queretaro, and Reynosa.
Maria did not know about this street: The Zetas exploited her in the " Tolerance Zone" of Reynosa.
Maria had arrived in Chicago from Cuba, she came to the US with a group of lesbian women who were persecuted in the 80's by the Cuban Regime. Perhaps she decided to leave Cuba because she liked these women." Cubana" , they called her.
There in Chicago the young woman, perhaps 20 years old, without knowing anyone managed to get work in a taco restaurant, where she got to know Guillermo, a friendly and jovial Mexican from Monterrey, "her first man". She fell in love, they married, and for six months they lived a honeymoon. But, little by little he changed. The problem was that Guillermo used heroin and he convinced her to try it.
Maria tried heroin and she liked it. Then she wanted more and she became addicted to the hard drug. Guillermo told her: "If you want more drugs, you are going to have to pull". To pull meant to prostitute herself, to prostitute herself in buildings full of Mexican immigrants. In each room there were 15 to 20 guests. Maria passed from room to room and charged $20 per client. Soon she would be giving Guillermo $500 a day. In exchange, he would give her heroin.
Maria Didn't Understand What Happened-----
One day she became pregnant and had a child. It was 1981 or 82, she doesn't remember well when they were arrested for possession of drugs, the first time they were released very quickly but not the second time. Maria and Guillermo each spent a year in jail. The authorities convinced her to give up her daughter for adoption. "Since then, I knew nothing of her".
Upon release, Guillermo had made the decision to leave the US and take Maria to Monterrey, Nuevo Leon. He had an offer of work, he told her. She agreed to go, her heart destroyed by the loss of her child, although she recognized that she had made the right decision about the well fare of the baby by choosing to give her up for adoption.
They traveled by bus. Maria noted that on the bus were some 30 young women traveling: Mexicans, Colombians, Venezuelans. She didn't understand what was happening. She did, hours later, when Guillermo bought her a baby doll and a pair of high heeled shoes, taking her " with some of his good friends" to an elegant house in the San Nicolas de los Garza neighborhood.
There in Monterrey, NL is where he began to prostitute her again.
Guillermo kept everything Maria made and then they another child. "In Monterrey, there is no"
"La Guera" exploited a group of lesbians, but with a different business plan. Her proposal: whoever earned more per night, would get paid more. However, although they were payed a bit more, "La Guera" charged even more, and that extra money she kept. Maria was sent to San Juan del Rio with Monica Mendoza Reséndiz, another prostitute.
It was "La Guera" who took Maria to Queretaro and Acapulco. There she saw many young women, threatened by their pimps, and if they did not deliver their quotas they were forbidden to see their children. Maria spent several years there with "La Guera" until 1991, then with another until the mid-nineties, when the mafia group took her back north.
North to one of the regions with the most presence of organized crime: Reynosa, Tamaulipas. At the beginning, it was not so dangerous. In fact, the city had a "Tolerance Zone" for prostitution. There were two walled blocks, where the women worked 52 "houses".
"Here you are going to work. I will come every day to collect. Don't open your mouth and do what I tell you", Guillermo told Maria. His good friends had money, weapons, grenades, cocaine and marijuana. They had tattoos with the letter "Z" and symbols of Satan.
The area was run by a man nicknamed "EL Catracho": violent, ruthless, brutal, and he was in charge of receiving the quotas. "They hooked me on crack/ rock cocaine. They give it to you to smoke, then you pay for it. I had to turn 30-40 per night but that helped me resist the pain. Every single day was drugged and crazy".
Punishment To the Death-------
All of the women of the "house", some 40, were drugged. "There was a room with ashtrays full of coke", said Maria. Those who were lazy or lacking were punished, beaten, sometimes to death. Maria watched how they took out women wrapped in blankets or sheets: "I saw hundreds of dead women. They would be put in a van and taken out to bury them", she said.
"Then I understood that I only had two options: one, that they kill me or two, that I live".
From then on, Maria forced herself to get along well and please everyone, to do what they told her, because "her clients liked me in bed". She noticed how frequently the mafia criminals brought young girls of 13 and 14 years of age to the house "that were robbed from other sides". It was their habit to "keep it clean", with every new arrival of "new meat", they would send the rest of the women to other places.
Maria related: "I was pretty, a size 3, I had gotten breast implants. Many sought me, Z-42 looked for me, I knew him well: one day they took us to a party at a ranch in Allende. Lots of drugs, dancing, everything. It was there I met him. He gazed at me with tattooed shoulders, chest and back, and he chose me.
At one of those parties I saw a man with his skin ripped by a saw; at another, Los Zetas buried a few young girls up to their heads. "I do not know what happened, why they did that, you do not ask anything, you fear and have terror of those men. First, they are happy and friendly, but they become embittered and the beatings start. Once I had my teeth kicked out."
Maria says that Los Zetas are absolute masters of Reynosa. No one chases them, on the contrary, they look out for them. "They also were the owners of the women, they killed them and they sold them. Many never returned".
In the end, according to her account, many of Los Zetas were killed. The Gulf Cartel seized Reynosa, one of its leaders, "Metro 3", became the owner of several houses of prostitution in the Tolerance Zone.
By now, Maria had aged. Roberto Saavedra Santana, "Commander Chiricuas'', the new plaza boss gave her $30,000 Pesos and told her : " Go away now. Go make your life".
Maria managed to work independently, little by little, but she was still hooked on drugs. As the years passed, she no longer prostituted herself, but worked for other girls and young women who were still being exploited, by washing clothes, running errands, shopping, whatever they needed.
One day, with an overwhelming addiction, her now adult son shut her in a room, and forced her to pass through the withdrawal. Her son told her before he shut the door: "Mama, this hurts me more than it will you, but it is for your well-being". Maria spent various days, then weeks, alone in that room with nothing but a television. But, she did it, she managed to do it in the end.
Some years later, Maria worked helping other women in the same situation, through the help of an evangelical Christian, who rescued her. Through the Christian Church of the Good Samaritan, she found her way.
"What we lived was terrible. Put yourself for a moment in our place. You are not going to like it, and neither did we. These days, still many young girls and women are being exploited, just like me".
On the World Day Against the Trafficking in Persons, civil organizations revealed that Monterrey had become the Mexican city with the highest number sexual exploitation of women, most of them young girls.
In Nuevo Leon, speakers from the advocacy group "Mexico United Against Delinquency" said that despite the fact that in recent years Monterrey had been in second place in the national statistic, following Cancun, now it was at the top of the list.
They reported that Monterrey is the principal center of operations of sexual exploitation, highlighting that 75-80 % are victims under the age of 15. They also referred to recent studies made by the Center of Investigations of UANL (Autonomous University of Nuevo Leon) that came up with the same numbers.
The spokespersons explained that some 400 victims arrived every month from various Mexican cities, along with some foreigners and ended up as street prostitutes or working in clubs featuring table dancers. Others are taken to Border areas or the US and forced to work in the sex trade.
The strategic location of the capitol of Nuevo Leon, Monterrey, adds to the problem of the arrival of these women, whether voluntarily or by force, many of whom are migrants trying to get to the US.
The group also questions the actions of the authorities of the three levels of government, saying their investigative and /or prosecutorial efforts against organized crime's role in the sex trade, are sporadic at best and often nonexistent.