Slavery on the streets of Mexico City

Mexico City is massive. It has a population of over 20 million people, making it the biggest city in the Americas and the biggest Spanish speaking city in the world. We were hanging out in this huge concrete jungle for a week or so while we were waiting for the sidecar to come. While we were there we arranged to meet up with Nicole from EL Pozo de Vida to find out more about modern slavery the city.

El Pozo de Vida is a charity set up specifically to help victims of human trafficking. Nicole has been working for El Pozo de Vida for over 6 years so she knows the issue inside out. Nicole told us that there was a big problem with modern slavery in Mexico City and in Mexico in general. El Pozo de Vida estimate that there are around 18,000 people living in slavery in the city and the Global Slavery Index thinks there could be as many as 300,000 people living in slavery across the entire country.

As with every country we have visited, modern slavery Mexico exists in all walks of life but El Pozo de Vida focuses the large majority of their attention on supporting female victims of sex trafficking. Nicole has spent the last 6 years working with these women and gave us an insight in to the difficulties of the situation and what El Pozo de Vida do to try and change things for the better.

Nicole told us how there are some fundamental problems that make helping these women really hard. The first and most challenging one is that often they don’t know they’re enslaved. Most of the women who are trafficked in to Mexico City for sex work come from rural Mexico and a lot of the time they are trafficked by a boyfriend or in rarer instances, a family member. This means that there is a much greater level of trust and often the women just accept their situation rather than trying to escape.

Another, major problem in Mexico is organised crime. Nicole told us that it’s less of a problem in Mexico City itself as local government has tried to flush it out of the city but it does persist and it presents really dangerous situations for the women. El Pozo have actually had situations where they have hade to evacuate their safe houses as a result of threats to specific survivors from angry traffickers.

In addition to these challenges, there are the usual problems of working within the remits of not so helpful laws and within the organisation’s capacity to tackle such a huge problem. So, how does El Pozo de Vida fight slavery in Mexico City?

  1. They try to prevent it happening in the first place.

Working collaboratively with another organisation named 27 million, El Pozo do awareness raising work to help educate people about the risks of trafficking. They do so through some really cool projects like Block Party – where they change the use of space in Mexico City’s red light district – and Awake – a virtual reality display which puts you in the shoes of a survivor of slavery.

  1. They intervene and pull people out of slavery.

El Pozo assist law enforcement in providing information which leads to the physical rescue of people who are kept against their will and at the same time they place themselves in the red light district to show the women that there is a way out and that they can help.

  1. They help restore the survivors lives.

El Pozo run safe house programmes that provide a safe place where the women can start to rebuild their lives. At the same time, they ensure the women get access to proper healthcare and therapy, as well as access to educational services so they can get a job and regain their independence.

Hearing Nicole talk about the way El Pozo de Vida was tackling this huge problem was super inspiring. It’s great to know that somebody is trying to do something about the situation in Mexico . We think El Pozo need all the help they can get in tackling this issue, that’s why we’ve added them to our list of partners and they will benefit from our fundraising efforts at the end of the project.

To find out more about El Pozo de Vida visit their website here and to donate to all of the organisations we’ve met on the road so far visit our pledges page here.

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