Sex Workers Study to Become Journalists in Mexico

PHOTO: A sex worker that goes by the name, Merida, gets ready for her daily rounds in Mexico City. Merida is also one of ten sex workers, who are taking a journalism workshop in this city.PlayMarco Campos/Univision
WATCH Sex Workers Become Journalists in Mexico

Sitting in a colorful health center, where she sometimes does her homework, Merida recalls how she became a sex worker.

"I was 16 when I started," said this woman, with large eyes and full lips, who preferred that we not publish her real name.

"I had an aunt who was sick and needed a [cancer] operation, and I urgently needed to make some money" said Merida. Like many young women from rural Mexico, Merida was lured away from her village by a pimp who promised her a cleaning job in Mexico City.

The lack of educational opportunities, and low wages in other occupations, eventually pushed Merida to accept the occupation that she accidentally fell into.

Now 46, she's part of a cluster of 10 Mexico City sex workers who are taking journalism classes once a week and are planning to publish a book about what life is like on the streets.

"People think we are the worst thing in the world," said Merida, who said that even though prostitution is not a crime in Mexico, discrimination is common. "It's hard to work when police harass you, and people spit at you just for working on a street corner."

The Street Brigade for Support to Women, an NGO that assists sex workers in Mexico City, estimates that anywhere from 0.25 percent, to 1.5 percent of Mexico's women currently work in this trade.

It says that around a quarter of the country's sex workers -- that is what they prefer to call them-- are being forced into this job by criminals.

Elvia de Madrid, the Street Brigade's director, has helped to coordinate these journalism workshops for sex workers, and also participates in these weekly lessons, where students learn how to conduct interviews, how to investigate complex topics, and how to write about their lives.

Madrid says that the book that will be published at the end of this course will also talk about issues that aren't covered by the mainstream media, like how some elderly women must join the sex trade because with their pensions, they can't make ends meet.

Check out the above video, to learn more about why some sex workers in Mexico City now want to become journalists.