We all think about the peace and relaxation that awaits us in our ‘golden years’. Those of you who are good with money might even have started saving for it. For the lucky few, it’s a package you get at retirement. But many people don’t have the luxury of a peaceful retirement. Nobody knows this better than sex workers, who have little or nothing saved once they become too old to work. But one retirement home in Mexico has set out to change the lives of retired sex workers. Casa Xochiquetzal is a very unusual retirement home, but it’s creating a space where sex workers can enjoy old age in peace and with dignity.

 

Retirement Home Casa Xochiquetzal

Photograph by Benedicte Desrus

 

Casa Xochiquetzal opened its doors in 2006 and has, to date, been a sanctuary for over 300 women. The home was founded by Carmen Munoz, after she saw sex workers too old to continue working sleeping on the streets. She was so moved by what she saw, that she took on this project. Carmen is herself a retired sex worker, so her heart is close to this home as she knows first hand how cruel the world can be to people working in the sex trade.

So what is life like in a retirement home for sex workers? Well, there are a few rules that the women have to abide by. They have chores and a curfew, and no men are allowed in at night. Although they’re all retired, they are allowed to do a bit of business here and there if they want to. But mostly, these women want to focus on themselves: getting in touch and reconciling with old friends and family, sourcing lost birth certificates and other documents, and just enjoying their lives in peace.

 

Retirement Home Casa Xochiquetzal

Elia, a resident of Casa Xochiquetzal, photography by Benedicte Desrus

 

Without a retirement home like this, many of these women would be sleeping and dying on the streets, marginalised and discriminated against even in their old age, after a life spent in the sex trade, often marked by violence, exploitation and financial insecurity. This remarkable story of hope inspired Bénédicte Desrus and Celia Gómez to capture the stories and images in a book titled Las Amorosas Mas Bravas (The Toughest Lovers). We featured Casa Xochiquetzal and other remarkable stories in the July edition of Marie Claire, on shelves now.

 

Retirement Home Casa Xochiquetzal

Laeticia, photograph by Benedicte Desrus