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House of the setting sun

By Bernardo Loyola, editor/producer, VBS.TV
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Elderly sex workers cohabitate
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • VBS.TV visits home for elderly prostitutes in sketchy Mexico City neighborhood
  • Twenty-three women who are 60 or older live in the facility
  • Crew attended bittersweet Mother's Day party with residents
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Editor's Note: The staff at CNN.com has recently been intrigued by the journalism of VICE, an independent media company and Web site based in Brooklyn, New York. VBS.TV is broadband television network of VICE. The reports, which are produced solely by VICE, reflect a transparent approach to journalism, where viewers are taken along on every step of the reporting process. We believe this unique reporting approach is worthy of sharing with our CNN.com readers.

Brooklyn, New York (VBS.TV) -- For the launch of VICE magazine in Mexico, we decided to make an entire issue about Mexico, written entirely by Mexicans.

At the same time, we came up with the idea of producing a parallel version of that issue in video for VBS.TV and populate our site with documentaries about Mexico, local artists, local musicians and beautiful Mexican girls for the entire month.

Since then, we repeated the same concept when we launched the magazine in Brazil, and we produced an entire month of content about China during the Olympics.

Producer Santiago Stelley and I spent a few weeks in Mexico City producing an hour-long documentary about nighttime crime photographers, interviewing some of the best bands and artists in the city and shooting a project about B movies inspired by the lives of drug traffickers.

A couple of days before Mother's Day, I got to spend a few days at an amazing place called Casa Xochiquetzal (The House of the Beautiful Flowers), a retirement home for older prostitutes in Tepito, one of the sketchiest neighborhoods in the city.

I went there with Guillermo Rivero, who wrote the print version of the article, and I produced the documentary version of the same story. The house has a minimum age requirement of 60 and can accommodate up to 45 women. Right now, there are only 23 retired ladies of the night living there. The majority of them continue working, because there are still people who want to pay to have sex with them.

See the rest of House of the Setting Sun at VBS.TV

We had the opportunity to meet some of the women that live there, such as 86-year-old Reyna, who sang for us and told us stories of her youth, and Lourdes, a childless widow in her 60s who is still turning tricks.

We met Canela, a woman in her 80s who was soft spoken and looked incredibly tired. She had stopped working just a few years ago and now sells candies for a living. Finally, we spent some time with Paola, a 61-year-old who is still a sex worker and hopes to continue working for as many years as she can.

We ended up spending Mother's Day with them at what was perhaps the most bittersweet party I've attended.

The women were dancing and eating and drinking punch together, they joked around and seemed to be having a great time. But at some point, Paola started talking to me about her sons, whom she hasn't seen in years and never really visit her. She also talked about the kids of many of the other women in the house -- none of them present at this party -- to celebrate motherhood.

Most of these women actually ended up becoming prostitutes to support their children as their only means of survival.

I think the work that this house and its director Rosalba Rios do -- as weird and unusual as it may seem -- is incredibly valuable. Spending Mother's Day with these brave women forever changed they way l look at prostitution and without a doubt has been one of the most intense parties I've ever attended.

 
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