Woke myself up again sneezing twelve times. In polluted cities, sneezing is the rousing rooster. Then I took my first shower in my apartment…it called for a “would you rather” question: would you rather have a trickle of HOT water or a strong FLOW of cold water? These are showers that choose to save energy when they feel pooped out, turning off every 3 minutes or so…ah well, still emerged with a clean head.
Today I met with Amy, a PHD Fulbright scholar and Fenix volunteer who is researching everyday lives of street girls. She has become close enough to the some of the street girls here and transvestites to go out dancing with them. Her research is based on participatory observation where she gains insight on the girls’ lives by hanging out with them (in addition to interviews and street outreach). Amy has been here since 2008 and knows so much on street life function.
On the bus ride to the center, I asked her some of the burning questions I had. For example, when I went on the street the other day, I didn’t see any pimps. Apparently, the type or presence of the pimp depends on where the sex worker is prostituting herself and her age. Most of the minors that hang around la Mariposa (a huge blue, somewhat cubist, statue of a butterfly in one of the center’s squares) don’t have pimps at all. Some of them are there on their own accord and some are there because their mothers sold them into prostitution. The minors can charge a lot because they are “fresh.” In some cases the prostitutes have husbands that send them out to the streets and tap into their revenue. The more commonly known “pimp” tends to be associated with more established brothels. These brothels run off drug money that is also used to bribe the police.
We got off the bus at la Mariposa to observe the city’s main site of minor prostitution and see if any of Amy’s girls were there. We passed a tree by the road and Amy told me this tree was called “La oficina.” The office? The lesbian sex workers often congregate here. We met two girls, not looking so young, and one of them greeted me with an extra polite speech. We chatted and she started to complain that the “Patio” (a Christian foundation/homeless day shelter offering meals, a space to wash clothes etc.) was forcing the girls to go to church for Easter. Ha! Amy and I both laughed. Then I wondered: What is the relationship these girls have with religion?
On one hand, the church chastises them, but on the other, church related foundations provide them much needed help. Furthermore, many of these girls were raised Catholic and believe in god. Amy explained that god is a part of their everyday lives…many of their expressions end with “Si dios quiere” (But how much does one actually think about god when saying “god willing?”…Still, using “god” in language indicates a sort of socialized relationship with religion). It must be that this girl does not want to be told what to do, particularly if going to church is an attempt to “save” her as she knows it will not. Has the church ever really saved anyone?
And what about transvestites? The Catholic Church condemns them here and associates them with P y P, “Puta o Peluqueria” (see Amy’s blog). After Wanda Fox, a “trans” activist in sexual empowerment for transgender / transvestites with Zona Trans (here they just say “trans” so I’m not sure they differentiate between transgender and transvestites) was murdered, her trans friends had a priest perform the memorial ceremony on the street at the site of the murder. Amy reports that they were all praying at the site. In this instance, there is an obvious separation made between religion and spirituality and religion and the state. Religion is called upon in a time of struggle as an all-forgiving arc of support…it is an extra source of energy and inspiration. The trans individual’s relationship with religion is direct; it does not pass through the state. These are purely suggestions to try to make sense of the contradictions that riddle questions of religion and sexuality…