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Tijuana Union

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Freedom Review had an article in their 09-01-1995 issue about a
prostitutes' union in Tijuana. The article is by Sally Hughes and is
called "Women's Work". Here's a summary:

The organization is called "Organizacion Vanguardia de Mujeres Libres
A.C." or "Las Magdalenas". They have 260 members and organized sit-ins
and street marches to protest police corruption and anti-prostitution
policies of City Hall.

It started in 1990 when a new city government tried to clean the
streets from prostitution. They organized and fought back. The
authorities backed off. When a new government came into office, they
did it again, and were successful again.

They have since expanded their activities into workshops on AIDS and
self-esteem, proposals to better the public health system, and plans
for a cooperative day-care center.

Most say they came to Tijuana initially to work in the industrial
plants but couldn't support themselves on the $30/month minimum wage.

Most women don't tell their families about their job, but regularly
send money home. Some leave home in the morning dressed for office
work only to change clothes in the changing room of their bar.

The group does not encourage women to leave the profession.

Prostitution is not explicitly forbidden in Mexico, but vague laws
about public order lend themselves to police corruption which the
union fights against. After collecting information about corrupt
police officers and presenting it to the City's human rights official,
two officers were suspended for a short time. That was not sufficient,
so the union began to target City Hall. They got the mayor to abandon
his anti-prostitution policy and the police chief to exchange the
patrolling officers.

The union now has an office where they hold weekly meetings, often
with guest speakers who talk about the law or AIDS.

The next project for the union is to get their own medical examination
room, so that the required monthly health checks can be done by
doctors of their own choosing. Right now, the city provides the
doctors and charges for the exams. The prostitutes complain about bad

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