Boys aspire to be pimps in this small town outside Mexico City

The article below is written by Erica Pearson from NY Daily News.  It talks about a small town outside Mexico City being a large source for many sex slaves in New York. According to the article, young boys from the town of Tenancingo aspire to be pimps.


The small town of Tenancingo outside Mexico City is the source of many New York sex slaves

Families of pimps send young victims to New York where they are often abused and forced into prostitution

TENANCINGO, TLAXCALA — In this small Mexican town that sends sex slaves to New York, little boys dream of growing up to be pimps.

Gaudy gabled houses that rise above gated walls are proof of the profits to be made from funneling “delivery girls” to Roosevelt Ave. in Queens.

An annual parade of pimps in plumed hats — wielding whips to settle business beefs — is evidence that cash and fear has conquered shame here.

“Many kids aspire to be traffickers,” said Emilio Munoz Berruecos, who grew up in the next village and runs a local human rights center. “This is a phenomenon that goes back half a century.”

The town of 10,000, about 80 miles from Mexico City, is Mexico’s undisputed cradle of sex trafficking, one end of a pipeline that leads directly to our city’s streets.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s New York field office arrested 32 sex traffickers last year; 26 of them were from Tenancingo.

It’s a family business, and through the decades, the pimps have perfected methods to coerce women into sexual slavery using romance, lies and the threat of violence.

Over the last 20 years they have branched out of Latin America, sending sex workers to New York and other U.S. cities, experts said.

At first glance, the little municipality looks innocent enough.

A big yellow Catholic church anchors the town square, decorated with animal-shaped topiary. The main roads are gaily draped with purple and white banners.

But during a drive along the side streets, where authorities say some of the major trafficking clans live, it becomes clear Tenancingo is not the average Mexican town.

Sprawling homes painted pink, bright orange or kelly green stand three and four stories in the air, replete with pagoda-like turrets and massive finials shaped like eagles or angels.
Plaster swans decorate balconies. Windows are covered in mirrored glass etched with wolves or flowers, making it impossible to see inside.

Townspeople have long called the houses “calcuilchil” or “houses of ass” in their indigenous Nahuatl language, according to anthropologist Oscar Montiel.

“The entire community isn’t OK with it. However, to say something against the traffickers is seen as dangerous,” said Rosario Adriana Mendieta Herrera, who runs a state women’s collective.

During carnaval in February, traffickers return from the U.S. to celebrate. The streets fill with revelers as caped pimps parade their prostitutes around and whip each other.

“They try to see who can stand the most lashes,” said Mendieta Herrera.

Every Sept. 29, Tenancingo celebrates its patron saint, St. Michael the Archangel, with a procession. Some call him “San Miguel Caifancingo” or “St. Michael of Pimpville.”

Behind the pomp is a tightly organized business.

Each family sends its youngest and most handsome men across Mexico to pose as salesmen with nice clothes and fancy cars, Munoz Buerrecos said.

They woo rural women waiting at bus stops or taking Sunday strolls in the park. Once the women are seduced, they are coerced into prostitution.

The women are held inside the Tenancingo “security houses” — where some say they were repeatedly raped. If they have children, the kids are kept in the town for leverage after they are dispatched to red-light districts.

Some go to Mexico City. Many end up in Queens, where johns can order them for delivery by calling numbers advertised on cards, key chains or bottle openers, authorities say.

One 24-year-old survivor said she spent two months in Tenancingo after her “boyfriend” took her there to meet his family.

He turned out to be a pimp and she wound up in New York. After escaping from her Queens apartment in 2009, she helped ICE catch the family ringleader — but her nightmare is not over.

Sadly, we can’t talk by telephone. I don’t know if my family is OK or if those men went to look for them, because they know where I lived,” she said.

Her lawyer, Lori Cohen of Sanctuary for Families, has worked with dozens of trafficking victims from all across Mexico.

“But the pimps all come from Tenancingo,” said Cohen.

“It’s multi-generational. You have families where the grandfather, father and son are all engaged in trafficking. They pass down the tricks of the trade.”

Officials said each prostitute they bring to New York — where they service up to 35 johns a day — nets the traffickers about $100,000 a year.

The money is wired back to Tenancingo, where the pastel fortresses grow ever larger.

Many townspeople, like Cristina Romero, 21, who works at a sandwich shop off the main square, believe the women are willing partners.

“They are from humble, poor towns and working like this gives them a better standard of living,” she said. “They look happy, out at carnaval.”

She doesn’t blame the traffickers or the johns because “men will go as far as we let them,” she said.

Last year, the Autonomous University of Tlaxcala surveyed some 350 Tenancingo schoolboys about their goals. About 16% said they hoped to become a pimp, while 44% said at least one friend had told them about wanting to be one.

“Boys have a perception that becoming a trafficker is easy money. It’s not punished, and it’s so easy to do,” said Mendieta Herrera.

However, members of at least four of the town’s biggest families have been caught and tried in the U.S.

A massive metal gate blocks the home at No. 40 along Calle 3 Sur, where federal police recently rounded up members of the Granados ring.

In March, Angel Cortez Granados, 25, pleaded guilty in Brooklyn Federal Court to luring a woman named Esperanza to the U.S. and forcing her into prostitution.

Six other Granados family members have been charged in New York.

One of Tenancingo’s most notorious families — Los Carretos — was busted by ICE after a tip to the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City.

The Carreto brothers got 50 years in prison in 2004 after admitting they forced at least eight women, once wooed with chocolates and teddy bears, into prostitution in Queens.

The 4-foot-10 matriarch, Consuelo Carreto Valencia, was dubbed “mini-madam” after she was extradited to New York. Court sketches from her 2008 plea show her with her white hair pulled up in pigtails.

While Tlaxcala and other states have passed laws making human trafficking a crime, punishment in Mexico is rare. Before last year, victims’ families didn’t even have any official way to report trafficking in Tlaxcala.

Since then, there have been 120 complaints and 24 arrests — but not a single conviction, Munoz Buerrecos said.

A stricter federal anti-trafficking bill has been passed but not signed into law. Mexican congresswoman Rosi Orozco said she hopes the tougher standards will deter trafficking.
But she knows history is not on her side.

A Tenancingo legend holds that pimping goes back to the arrival of conquistador Hernan Cortes in 1519. The Aztec warrior Xicoténcatl is said to have offered Tlaxcaltecan virgins to the conquering Spaniards.

“They got blankets in exchange,” Orozco said.


About Haley Behre

I graduated from Syracuse University in December 2011 with majors in newspaper journalism and women and gender studies. Using these majors, I aspire to become a journalist who writes about human rights issues. I have held internships at the Syracuse New Times, Dash Media PR Firm, Syracuse Post-Standard and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. I also had an internship at the Not For Sale Campaign Syracuse chapter, which is a non-profit organization dedicated to eradicating human trafficking. I was born in Seoul, Korea on September 30, 1990 and moved to the United States before I was one year old. When I was 8, my family and I moved to Norwich, England for three years. While I was here I was immersed into a new culture and got to experience many things other children my age do not get to. Over the three years, I visited Ireland, France and the Netherlands several times, and Belgium, Wales and Sweden once. In the winter of 2010, I got an amazing opportunity to visit Kenya for a month. This was by far the single most eye-opening experience of my life thus far. The natural beauty of the landscape and its people do not compare to anything I have seen. I currently intern for the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press in the hopes of getting a full-time job at a newspaper or non-profit after.
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