Sex workers of Apizaco meet with the Zapatista Army of National Liberation
To all followers of the Sixth Declaration and of the Other Campaign
To all Sex Workers fighting for their rights: Compañeras and Compañeros,
We send our greetings to you all. We wish to inform you that on 22 February we sex workers of Apizaco (Tlaxcala), who have come together as the Colectivo Red de Mujeres en Pro de sus Derechos – CNUC (Women’s Rights Network Collective), and the Sub Comandante Insurgente Marcos of the Sixth Committee of the EZLN, held a meeting in which we discussed the many injustices and persecutions we endure, the scorn and mistreatment that we suffer, and our fight for dignity.
We also recounted how it is necessity that makes us go into this work, and that we are persecuted and badly treated by the authorities, who do not even ask us why we are in the situation that we are in.
We say that we are sex workers and not prostitutes. Prostitute men and women are the government authorities who sell out to the rich and create laws that benefit the powerful and harm the poor. They are the ones who sell their dignity; and we do not sell our dignity and we demand respect.
Therefore, we believe that we must unite in our struggle as sex workers, or sex service providers, and make a great struggle. Not only for the authorities to respect us and to stop their mistreatment and extortion; nor just for better working conditions but, also and above all, struggle to change the capitalist system which forces us to do what we do.
Here, in the Other Campaign, are all those who are despised, humiliated and exploited by capitalism, and now we are saying “Enough!”, and we will not give up.
We also know that in the Other Campaign there are lawyers who defend the poor and are able to teach us about our rights and support us in our defence against the wicked deeds of the authorities.
And therefore – together – as the EZLN and as sex workers in Apizaco, Tlaxcala, we make this call to unite sex workers (women and men) throughout Mexico in order to fight for our rights and to change the capitalist system and the bad governments that are oppressing us.
We can tell you that on the website Enlace Zapatista (email@example.com), we will have a special space where we can express our thoughts on our situation and put forward proposals for ways in which we can unite in this struggle. The space will be called “Other Sex Workers”.
We also think that, if our unity moves forward, we can have a national conference – like those already held for communication, information, art and culture, but for ourselves. A conference where we can all talk about our experiences, without shame, with dignity, and thus agree to fight together, with Indigenous people, industrial workers, peasants, students, employees, men, women, children and the elderly, poor and modest people like ourselves, who are ready to defend our country, Mexico.
And so we hope that this idea appeals to you and, in the meantime, we send you an embrace as compañeras and compañeros in struggle in this great national movement, anticapitalist and of the left, which is the Other Campaign.
From the Other Tlaxcala.
Sixth Committee of the EZLN. Colectivo Red de Mujeres en Pro de sus Derechos – CNUC (Women’s Rights Network Collective)
Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos.
Mexico, February 2006.
The Other in Apizaco, Tlaxcala
22 February 2006
Sex workers meeting
“We have learned that to be sex workers is to have dignity as women” says the poster which is printed on the wall with a pink background where we are visiting the compañeras.
The sex service provider compañeras of Apizaco, Tlaxcala have spent three years in the struggle. They explained to us what their situation is like. “We are sex workers because we have children, parents; we have to pay rent, electricity and gas… We decided to become sex workers out of love for our children… Nobody has ever approached us and asked why we are doing what we do.” They themselves give the answer: “It’s because in Mexico there are no opportunities for anybody. We don’t have any educational training. Even if we had, there are no decent jobs available for us.”
Later, they tell us about their past experiences. They had begun to enquire about carrying out their work in sanitary conditions and… nothing. Zero response. Then, they started to get harassed by the government of Rubio Ruiz Peña, the governor of Tlaxcala. “The government took it upon itself to repress us, but it didn’t ask us if we were able to feed ourselves or buy clothes and shoes.” Then the women made a formal complaint to the Commission for Human Rights. They asked them for evidence and witnesses. They brought them. Nothing changed. The final response from the lawyer representing them was very clear: “It would be better if you could reach an agreement with the governor, because if I raise a recommendation, they will continue to persecute you.”
And the matter doesn’t end there. The government still had the nerve to shamelessly offer them the opportunity to leave sex work and go and work in the maquilas (assembly plants): “They wanted to pay us 20 centavos (cents) per piece, but I don’t believe it would be enough”, one of them said. “We couldn’t survive on what they were offering us”, she explained.
In a room five by ten square meters in size, the world is painted in pink… flowers, slippers, jackets, blouses, skirts and trousers, fingernails, stools, and the curtain that separates the bathroom from the rest of the space combine fuchsia, mexican and clear pinks… “We want a future without sex service providers, we want women to have a profession”, explains big hearted Eloisa.
But they are not just imagining a different world and nothing else. They are perfectly clear as to who is to blame and even make a play on words: “They are prostitutes, because those who govern us are the mafia. They are plundering the country and it doesn’t bother them that we poor are dying from hunger.”
They then discuss the Sixth Declaration and conclude by saying that they like the idea of a New Constitution, “one that benefits those of us at the bottom”.