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  • Southern Border, Chiapas , Mexico. October 2011
    Photos  Zoe Vincenti
  • Every month nearly 5000 migrants enter Mexico illegally, from the southern border, most headed for the United States. For many women, this journey ends just after the border, in southern Chiapas.
    Their escape from poverty ends in the brothels of the border cities, where they decide to stop or are forced into prostitution. This is the story of a group of young girls into two of these brothels in the cities of Huixtla and Frontera Comalapa. In this nowhere land, where every day is dramatically the same , their prison is the only chance to pay for their debts as migrants or to maintain their families in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. 
    Usually a bar owner offered them food and a place to stay in exchange for work. In this area, work for stranded migrant women means selling sex. Almost every town along the border between Mexico and Guatemala has more than 50 legal brothels and countless clandestine ones. In all, more than 1,000 women as prostitutes, most of them, like Sasha, Charytin, Dulce, Cristina, Milena (not their real name) set off with hopes and dreams toward the north and yet today find themselves trapped in slavery.
    Their only escape is the bar out front, where they passes the day awaiting clients who pay five dollars for a few minutes of commercial sex. They gets half the money, the rest goes to the bar's owner. 

     Many of these sex workers become indebted to the bar owners through an elaborate system of financial deceit. If they try to escape, the bar owners bribe the local police to find them and bring them back. "Many of the women are trapped, unable to leave because they've become indentured slaves, literally prisoners of the bar owners, "The women are forced to work from 9 am until two in the morning or later.
    The next day they've got to be back in place. They're not allowed to read or do anything with their hands, they just have to sit there waiting for clients. That's frustrating, it's psychologically hard, it's enslaving."  
    Under pressure from the U.S. government, in the last decade Mexico has become a filter to keep third-country nationals out of the United States. That means getting into Mexico is the first serious obstacle for many migrants, and most of the cities near the border has become a tunnel for the flow of people making their way north toward the United States.
    Her dream derailed, Sasha says she had no choice but to go to work as a prostitute. She doesn't like her work, but says she had few other options. "There's no work for me back in El Salvador and I have 3 sons there, waiting for me. But my body is tired, too tired, I really don’t know how to escape from this damned place”.

  • music: 'Angelene', PJ HARVEY (album: Is This Desire?)