Striking PHOTOS Of The Lives Of Retired Prostitutes (PHOTOS)

Striking PHOTOS Of The Lives Of Retired Prostitutes (PHOTOS)

By Wires | The Trent on May 27, 2014
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retired prostitutes
Mexico City, 2013, Portrait of María Isabel, a resident at Casa Xochiquetzal, in her bedroom. The former sex worker, who grew up in Michoacán, ran away from home at the age of nine after a year in which her father “used her.” When she got to the Mexico City bus station, she met a woman selling tamales who offered her a home and education. María Isabel nearly finished her studies to become a teacher, but when her caretaker died, she became a sex worker (at the young age of 17). She now reads, writes poetry, embroiders and makes earrings and bracelets. (Photo Credit: Slate/Bénédicte Desrus)

It’s an unusual question that isn’t often asked: What happens to sex workers once they retire? Photographer Bénédicte Desrus spent six years answering that question while documenting Casa Xochiquetzal, a home in Mexico City for (mostly) retired sex workers.

Desrus, who is French, first discovered Casa Xochiquetzal when she was assigned by a women’s magazine to take a portrait of Carmen Munoz, a retired sex worker who opened the shelter in 2006. Fascinated by the shelter, Desrus wanted to learn more about it and the roughly 26 women who lived there. To do that, she began with an organic and somewhat slow approach by simply showing up and developing relationships with the women. “You really need to live with them because they will tell you one story, and the day after they will tell you another story, and the next day they will tell you the truth,” she said. “They love to talk, but they aren’t open. You need trust, and for this you need to spend time with them.”

Desrus relied on humor and curiosity to help build relationships with the women. If she had to travel for work, she always made sure to return to the shelter to convince them she was sincere about sharing their stories. She only took photographs of the women who gave her permission and provided them with prints, which often inspired other women to participate. They often asked her why she was interested in taking their portraits. Desrus used that as an opening to earn their trust through lighthearted banter. “I was respectful,” Desrus laughed. “I said, ‘Because you’re old and ugly.’ ”

Left: 2Mexico City, 2008, Paola, a resident at Casa Xochiquetzal, puts on makeup before going to work. When this photo was taken, she was one of the youngest women at the shelter and still worked the streets. On January 1, 2011, she disappeared and never came back. Right: Mexico City, 2008, Portrait of Victoria, who, at age 81, is the oldest resident of Casa Xochiquetzal. (Photo Credit: Slate/Bénédicte Desrus)
Left: 2Mexico City, 2008, Paola, a resident at Casa Xochiquetzal, puts on makeup before going to work. When this photo was taken, she was one of the youngest women at the shelter and still worked the streets. On January 1, 2011, she disappeared and never came back. Right: Mexico City, 2008, Portrait of Victoria, who, at age 81, is the oldest resident of Casa Xochiquetzal. (Photo Credit: Slate/Bénédicte Desrus)
Mexico City, 2009, Canela, a resident at CasaXochiquetzal, takes a visiting dog on a walk. Originally from Oaxaca, Canela came to Mexico City to work at a very young age. She is now well known and respected in the neighborhoods that surround Casa Xochiquetzal. At 72, she suffers from Down’s Syndrome and a number of other illnesses. Of all the women at Casa Xochiquetzal, Canela is the only one who did not have children. Most women who live at Casa Xochiquetzal have relatives, but for a number of them, contact is sporadic or non- existent. (Photo Credit: Slate/Bénédicte Desrus)
Mexico City, 2009, Canela, a resident at CasaXochiquetzal, takes a visiting dog on a walk. Originally from Oaxaca, Canela came to Mexico City to work at a very young age. She is now well known and respected in the neighborhoods that surround Casa Xochiquetzal. At 72, she suffers from Down’s Syndrome and a number of other illnesses. Of all the women at Casa Xochiquetzal, Canela is the only one who did not have children. Most women who live at Casa Xochiquetzal have relatives, but for a number of them, contact is sporadic or non-
existent. (Photo Credit: Slate/Bénédicte Desrus)
Lunchtime at Casa Xochiquetzal in 2010 (Photo Credit: Slate/Bénédicte Desrus)
Lunchtime at Casa Xochiquetzal in 2010 (Photo Credit: Slate/Bénédicte Desrus)
Pachuca, Mexico, 2013 Victoria, a resident of Casa Xochiquetzal, visits her daughter in Pachuca, a city located an hour northeast of Mexico City. (Photo Credit: Slate/Bénédicte Desrus)
Pachuca, Mexico, 2013 Victoria, a resident of Casa Xochiquetzal, visits her daughter in Pachuca, a city located an hour northeast of Mexico City. (Photo Credit: Slate/Bénédicte Desrus)
Mexico City, 2013,  Juana, a residet of Casa Xochiquetzal, takes a shower at the shelter. (Photo Credit: Slate/Bénédicte Desrus)
Mexico City, 2013, Juana, a residet of Casa Xochiquetzal, takes a shower at the shelter. (Photo Credit: Slate/Bénédicte Desrus)
Mexico City, 2012, Leticia’s belongings at Casa Xochiquetzal. At the age of eight, Leticia watched as her mother said goodbye from the back of a trailer, never to see her again. Originally from Chihuahua, she began working at nightclubs and eventually married. She didn’t walk out on her husband when he hit her—he made good money—but she did leave when he brought other women into their house. She abandoned everything, including her children, and has tried to take her own life twice, yet she’s still here. At Casa Xochiquetzal, she practices yoga daily and tries to be a peacemaker and a good housemate; however, her sweet expression can quickly turn to anger. She stays active by knitting, embroidering and reading the Bible. (Photo Credit: Slate/Bénédicte Desrus)
Mexico City, 2012, Leticia’s belongings at Casa Xochiquetzal. At the age of eight, Leticia watched as her mother said goodbye from the back of a trailer, never to see her again. Originally from Chihuahua, she began working at nightclubs and eventually married. She didn’t walk out on her husband when he hit her—he made good money—but she did leave when he brought other women into their house. She abandoned everything, including her children, and has tried to take her own life twice, yet she’s still here. At Casa Xochiquetzal, she practices yoga daily and tries to be a peacemaker and a good housemate; however, her sweet expression can quickly turn to anger. She stays active by knitting, embroidering and reading the Bible. (Photo Credit: Slate/Bénédicte Desrus)
Mexico City, 2013, Norma, a resident at Casa Xochiquetzal, rests in her bedroom. Although she remembers her early childhood fondly, she was abused by one of her brother’s friends when she was nine years old, and was also assaulted by the priest at El Refugio, Jalisco, where she lived. Soon after, she decided to find work as a waitress in various red-light districts. She always liked watching the dancers close up—“but not so close she’d get burnt,” as her coworkers used to joke. She’s a cheerful, extroverted woman who has the dirt on absolutely everyone. (Photo Credit: Slate/Bénédicte Desrus)
Mexico City, 2013, Norma, a resident at Casa Xochiquetzal, rests in her bedroom. Although she remembers her early childhood fondly, she was abused by one of her brother’s friends when she was nine years old, and was also assaulted by the priest at El Refugio, Jalisco, where she lived. Soon after, she decided to find work as a waitress in various red-light districts. She always liked watching the dancers close up—“but not so close she’d get burnt,” as her coworkers used to joke. She’s a cheerful, extroverted woman who has the dirt on absolutely everyone. (Photo Credit: Slate/Bénédicte Desrus)
Mexico City, 2009,  Jimena, a resident at Casa Xochiquetzal, in her bedroom. A solitary woman, she tends to spend much of her time alone in her own room. (Photo Credit: Slate/Bénédicte Desrus)
Mexico City, 2009, Jimena, a resident at Casa Xochiquetzal, in her bedroom. A solitary woman, she tends to spend much of her time alone in her own room. (Photo Credit: Slate/Bénédicte Desrus)
Mexico City, 2010, A sex worker, who prefers not to share her name, attends the funeral of another sex worker who died of cancer at age 64. (Photo Credit: Slate/Bénédicte Desrus)
Mexico City, 2010, A sex worker, who prefers not to share her name, attends the funeral of another sex worker who died of cancer at age 64. (Photo Credit: Slate/Bénédicte Desrus)

Read the full report at The Slate

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