Mexico’s street brigade, sex, revolution and social change

Written by Raúl Zibechi in December 2007
Source: Americas Program and Indymedia Mexico

The alliance between Zapatistas, sex workers, and transvestites shows the power of social change in a key cultural way—when it’s anchored to daily life. In Mexico, one of the strongest and most overbearing enclaves of patriarchy and machismo, Subcomandante Marcos has opened the doors to debate about discrimination in a controversial area.

What purpose is there, in classic revolutionary logic, in covering thousands of kilometers to meet with a handful of whores and crossdressers? What can such alliances offer to strengthen the “accumulation of power,” any professional politicians’ central task? It seems obvious, from a cost-benefit analysis, that this type of effort should be useless. However, Subcomandante Marcos has been committed to this kind of meeting since January of last year under the auspices of The Other Campaign (La Otra Campaña), with the understanding that it means looking for new ways of doing politics. It passes through places that are far from the madding crowd and takes place with actors who, like indigenous people, understand
social change as an affirmation of difference.

A Question of Charm

The sale of condoms is the main source of financing for the diverse projects of the Mexican Sex Work Network. Choosing the type of condom alongside design and name becomes a form of claiming ownership of the instrument of work and protection, and was left up to the ideas of prostitutes and transvestites.

“When we began the AIDS-protection program,” remembers Elvira, “we realized that price was one of the main problems. For older ladies, to spend 25 pesos on a condom was to invest almost everything they had charged the client.” Firstly they looked for donations from the State, which through CENSIDA, the organization dedicated to the fight against AIDS, donated them 60,000 condoms a month. “But when we began to report cases of corruption they reduced that to 3,600 condoms.”

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