by Robert Lovato for Colorlines
Reyna Martinez Osorio Orizaba stands regally on the third-floor balcony of Reyna’s Bar, the pub and brothel that she spent her adult life building, and points to the new paradise rising out of Cancun’s shrinking jungle and former ejidos (communal lands). “That’s the Mayan Paradise housing project,” says Osorio, a 44-year-old mother of two and grandmother. “I built Reyna’s so that my son Ruben would not suffer what I did when I was a child: having to walk 2 kilometers for water to bring back so we could boil the herbs that we ate for dinner every day.”
Osorio migrated to Cancun 10 years ago from the Orizaba Valley in Veracruz. A fierce, 5-foot-2 former sex worker, she planned on giving Ruben the keys to her castle, the brothel bearing her name. She built Reyna’s near the shanty towns and new mini-cities of massive, low-income, privately-owned housing projects like the Mayan Paradise. Local politicians and police pressured her and other sex workers to move, because authorities felt she and her colleagues were conducting business too close to Kilometro Cero—the invisible, but definitive border separating the storied hotel zone of tourist Cancun from the chaotic city of almost a million people that houses most of the tourism workers, including those that make Cancun one of the Caribbean’s hubs of sex tourism.
“We [the sex workers] organized ourselves, fought the authorities and got them to help establish this complex of sexual service businesses on the margins of the city. When he turned 26, I let Ruben start managing Reyna’s some evenings. I thought that he could handle himself and be strong as I taught him to be,” Osario explains. “I didn’t want him to live in my hell.”
Unfortunately for Osorio and, especially, for her son, the line separating paradise and hell in Cancun is blurred. The city is the suicide capital of Mexico. That’s a subject that’s not likely to come up as thousands of people from almost 200 countries gather here over the next two weeks for the U.N. Conference on Climate Change (known as COP 16). This, despite the fact that the climate injustices that they’re supposed to be confronting lead to the poverty, droughts, floods and other disasters that drive people like Osorio to migrate here, including those who take their lives when they arrive.
Read the rest on Colorlines.
Photo of Reyna Martinez Osorio Orizaba and article are by Roberto Lovato.