To the Streets
On the morning of 21 October 2015, a crowd gathered as a man and a woman had sex in a busy street in Quito’s historic centre. Some filmed on their mobile phones and some shouted encouragement. What could be described as a moment of passion was not about lust (at least not for the woman) but about a passion for workers’ rights. The woman who instigated the encounter was a sex worker who was protesting the local authority’s sudden closure of fifteen hotels used by sex workers and their clients. The incident was not isolated; the previous day, around forty sex workers stopped the city’s trams from running for an hour by blocking the tracks, and vowed to continue to do so every day until the local authority reconsidered the hotel closures. Although the protest was principally about the closure of the hotels, it was part of the bigger issue of the local authority’s plans to relocate the sex workers. Street sex workers in Quito have developed a sense of identity and belonging that is intrinsically linked with the streets in the historic centre. Nevertheless, the protest in October 2015 was the culmination of many years of a fraught relationship between sex workers, government, police, local residents and most recently, tourists. This particular protest cleverly highlighted the controversial position of sex work in Quito, how prejudice and globalisation influence use of public space and identity, and the power of protest.
This illustration is a visual response to the protest and was exhibited and sold at Newcastle’s Nasty Women exhibition in spring 2017, one of many exhibitions which took place around the world that year to protest the presidency of Donald Trump. The incident took place while I was living in Quito, and it struck me as particularly innovative and effective. Its audacity launched the fight of sex workers into everyday conversation among many of my friends, colleagues and other acquaintances who had never discussed or contemplated the issue of sex work in Quito before. It seemed the perfect subject for an illustration which would form a part of a global, creative protest to Trump’s misogyny.
Please see below for a selection of sources which provide further analysis of the issues addressed by the illustration.
Cajas Salazar, D F (2014). Cotidianidad de las trabajadoras sexuales del Centro Histórico de Quito MA.. Pontificia Universidad Cátolica del Ecuador. Available at: http://repositorio.puce.edu.ec/handle/22000/7676
Van Meir, J (2017). Sex Work and the Politics of Space: Case Studies of Sex Workers in Argentina and Ecuador Social Sciences (6) 42 pp.1-40
Wilking, A (2011) Quito: History and Prostitution [online] Andes Anthropologist available at: http://andesanthropologist.blogspot.mx/2011/03/quito-history-and-prostitution.html
Beltrán, B (2015) Las trabajadoras sexuales del Centro dicen estar abiertas a dialogar, pero ponen condiciones [online] El Comercio
Heredia, V (2015) Margarita Carranco: ‘Las trabajadoras sexuales contarán con un proyecto integral’ [online] El Comercio
Heredia, V (2015) Las trabajadoras sexuales cerrarán las calles una hora al día [online] El Comercio
Ortega, J (2015) Protesta extrema de las trabajadoras sexuales en Quito [online] El Comercio
Romero, D (2017) Trabajadoras sexuales serían reubicadas en Quito [online] El Comercio
Wilking, A (2014) Sex Workers Outsmart Quito Police [online] NACLA available at: https://nacla.org/author/Anna%20Wilking
Sex workers’ blogs and networks:
La Calle en DisPuta (in English and Spanish) available at https://lacallendisputa.wordpress.com/about/
Red de Mujeres Trabajadoras Sexuales de Latinoamérica y el Caribe available at http://www.redtrasex.org/-Ecuador-8-
Global Network of Sex Work Projects Asociación de Trabajadoras Sexuales Trans de Quito available at http://www.nswp.org/members/asociacion-de-trabajadoras-sexuales-trans-de-quito
Let There be Light (2014) director Anna Wilking
Trabajadoras Sexuales de Quito: Derecho a la Calle (2015) available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EIyedtGdNuY
Tallulah Lines is currently enrolled on an MA by Research in Women’s Studies at the University of York. Her research focusses on identity and self perception of domestic workers in the Riviera Maya, Mexico. Tallulah worked as Project Officer for equalities projects at a Scottish Government organisation before leaving to live and work in Spain and Latin America. She is passionate about using art to draw attention to women’s rights issues and her work has been exhibited in feminist exhibitions in the UK, Ecuador and Mexico. For more artwork see my Tumblr.
© Tallulah Lines
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.