Tlaxcala-Puebla Metropolitan Area
(“Puebla-Tlaxcala (Metropolitan Area, Metropolitan Areas)”)
In extending conversations on Reproductive Health to discuss realities affecting girls and women around the world, it is important to discuss sexual exploitation, especially in the context of development. Sexual exploitation — or, more specifically, commercial sexual exploitation, or prostitution — is a practice that occurs across the world: from New York City, to Tlaxcala, Mexico, to Worcester, Massachusetts. In applying a gender lens, sexual exploitation as a whole disproportionally affects women. While it certainly not only women that contribute to the estimated statistic of 20.9 million sexually exploited persons per year (“Global Sex Trafficking Sheet” 1), girls and women make up 98% of sexually exploited individuals (“Global Sex Trafficking Sheet” 1).
But before discussing how this manifests in Tenancinco, I want to introduce some contemporary discourse around sexual exploitation. Recently, Amnesty International has been known for its call to decriminalize all aspects of “sex work” (Murphy 1).While the organization has firmly stated that it does not ally with “sex work that … involve[s] coersion, sexual exploitation, or abuse” (Murphy 1), the article “Sex Workers’ Rights are Human Rights” features very little discussion on the fundamental power differences involved in sexual exploitation in the vast majority of instances. That is, victims of exploitation are subject to abuse or an unfulfilling lifestyle, in which they are led to believe that prostitution is their only choice. In some cases, people are physically enslaved; held captive to the sex trade industry. Other times, “pimps” will inflict emotional and verbal abuse, leading the victimized person to believe that they do not have any viable options if they were to exit “the life” of prostitution. In any case, sexually exploited individuals are reminded that there will always be a demand for sex each time they are purchased — a moral discussion that Amnesty International directly avoids.
What I want to make very clear is that, while there may be an argument to be made for people who make the informed, enthusiastic choice to engage in “sex work”, the majority of the time, people do not choose to exploited.
Coming back to the theme of the blog, sexual exploitation is worsened with the pressures of development and globalization. A prime example of this takes place in Tenancinco: a small city within the state of Tlaxcala, Mexico — about eighty miles southeast of Mexico City (Pearson 1). Otherwise surrounded by mountainous areas (“Puebla-Tlaxcala”) consisting of poorer, rural populations (Lakhini 1), Tenancinco is near the metropolitan area of Puebla-Tlaxcala; an area that has been industrialized in the past half-century. The state of Tlaxcala is a major producer of “textiles, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, machinery, automotive parts, handicrafts and other goods” (“Puebla-Tlaxcala”).
However, the conditions in Tenancinco worsened as factory jobs throughout the Tlaxcala region proved to be undesirable (OECD). As time went on, more and more of the town’s economy was sustained by sex trade (Pearson 1): first throughout Mexico, and now in New York as well. Today, there are generations of boys that grow up “aspiring to be traffickers” (Pearson 1). The Guardian writes: “This improbable crime story began in the 1950s after industrialisation, when working-age men returned home from neighbouring states to find few opportunities beyond badly paid factory jobs. Pimping and trafficking, which they had seen while working away, was a way to get ahead, and many set up small, family-run sexual exploitation rings” (Pearson 1).
As mentioned before, Tenancinco is surrounded by impoverished regions, extending into Southern Mexico and Guatemala (WBUR). Many of the people in these areas identify as indigenous; a facet that is not indicative of privilege in Mexico (Lakhini 1). A common practice is for a family of traffickers to send a young man to these neighboring communities, particularly, a man that is trained to entice young women with promises of a better life: more money, a better lifestyle, and love (Lakhini 1). The young women are then brought to Tenancinco, where they are sexually exploited, while physically and emotionally enslaved (Lakhini 1).
Prostitution is so embedded into the culture of Tenancinco, traffickers seem to have no problem with visibility. Across the landscape of modest, working-class dwellings, families of traffickers will have built extravagant properties, adorned with excess decoration, some say in order to block the windows (Moreno-Taxman 20). Additionally, on highways leading out of Tenancinco, “nighclubs and motels” are conveniently placed as areas for “motorists” to solicit sex (Lakhini 1). Even public celebrations will feature “revelers as caped pimps”, that outwardly “parade their prostitutes” (Pearson 1). While Mexico has attempted to take legal action, the culture of sexual exploitation is so prevalent, it has become fairly accepted (Pearson 1).
Recently, sexually exploited individuals have been trafficked into the United States: particularly to the neighborhood of Queens in New York City (WBUR). Since then, United States law enforcement has been involved in the criminalization of families in Tenancinco (Lakhini 1). But once again — is the United States doing the right thing? After all, it is because of powers in the United States that communities in the Pueblo-Tlaxcala area cannot find desirable and sustaining work. While I believe that any trafficker should be criminalized, it is important to look at the societal implications of sexual exploitation.
What would happen if industrialization was never implemented in Mexico? How many girls and women would be saved from sexual exploitation?
“Global Sex Trafficking Sheet”. Equality Now. Equality Now, n.d. Web. 1 Apr. 2016.
Murphy, Catherine.”Sex Workers’ Rights are Human Rights”. Amnesty International. Amnesty International, 14 Aug. 2015. Web. 1 Apr. 2016.
Lakhani, Nina. “Tenancingo: The small town at the heart of Mexico’s sex-slave trade”. The Guardian. The Guardian, 4 Apr. 2015. Web. 1 Apr. 2016.
Moreno-Taxman, Karlene. “Human Trafficking Mexico: International Human Trafficking Victims from Mexico to Your Community”. Eastern District of Wisconsin. United States Department of Justice, n.d. Web. 1 Apr. 2016.
OECD. OECD Territorial Reviews: Puebla-Tlaxcala, Mexico 2013. OECD Publishing, 2013. Web. 1 Apr. 2016.
Pearson, Erica. “Small Mexican town of Tenancingo is major part of sex trafficking pipeline to New York”. New York Daily News. Daily News, 3 Jun. 2012. Web. 1 Apr. 2016.
“Prostitution Pipeline To U.S. Begins in Tenancingo, Mexico”. Here & Now with Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson. WBUR, 30 Jun. 2014. Web. 1 Apr. 2016.
“Puebla-Tlaxcala (Metropolitan Area, Metropolitan Areas)”. Instituto Nacional de Estadística Geografía e Informática, Mexico. City Population Data, n.d. Web. 1 Apr. 2016.