Human Trafficking Survivor from Tenancingo Finds Hope in Mexico City
Lane Anderson - Deseret News
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July 17, 2015

Pimp City: Mexican Town's Entire Economy Is Based on Human Trafficking (Fusion)

Marisol met Pedro in 2009, in the town plaza in her hometown, a small village outside Veracruz, Mexico. She was on her way to study with a friend when Pedro approached her, saying that he was visiting and looking for something fun to do. He was tall, and his hair was gelled into spikes with bleached tips. Marisol didn’t think he was particularly handsome, but he was a salesman in his family’s garment business, and he had his own car.

In a dusty, poverty-stricken village like Marisol’s, 20-year old Pedro was an accomplished young man. He asked for Marisol’s number. She was 16.

Marisol’s mother, like many people from poor towns in Mexico, had gone to the United States five years earlier looking for work. She cleaned houses and sent money home to Marisol’s grandmother, who took care of her. Pedro and Marisol had long talks on the phone when he was back in his hometown of Puebla, or on the road for work. He called her "princess," and took her on dates for ice cream when he visited. After a couple of months, Pedro asked for Marisol’s hand in marriage, and he brought his family to meet Marisol’s grandmother.

But when Pedro took her home to live with his family, they didn’t go to Puebla like he said. They went to 250 miles away to Tenancingo, a town about an hour outside of Mexico City in the Tlaxcala region, that is the sex-trafficking center of the country. Some locals refer to Tenancingo as “Pimp City.”

It’s unclear how many young girls like Marisol are brought to Tenancingo every year, but estimates are in the thousands. Here they will learn that the men who courted them are not fiancés, but pimps, that the mothers are part of the family business and that they have become caught in the brutal machinery of the sex trade.

Tenancingo is a clearing house of sorts, and from there, girls like Marisol will be moved to lucrative urban centers like Mexico City and the U.S., like California, Texas, and New York.

Activists estimate hundreds of thousands of women in Mexico, including young girls, are coerced or forced into sex work, though the secretive nature of the trade makes it impossible to know the exact numbers. The fight against sex trafficking is complicated by cartels that are moving into the business, and gangs like the Zetas, a criminal army formed by defectors from the military, have moved into the lucrative sex-trafficking industry.

Compared to trafficking drugs, women and girls are relatively easy to procure through feigned relationships and kidnapping, and easy to legally transport. Conditions of poverty and lack of opportunity keep vulnerable girls and young women in constant supply through promises of love or a chance at a better life. The U.N. estimates the global industry for sex trafficking to be $32 billion a year.

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