This photography project was born from my need to find answers to questions that had unconsciously led me to wander through streets and plazas. I was raised in Mexico City, where female sexuality is dominated by Christian morality, by the idealized image of the good woman and the good wife, and an unquestioned mystification of motherhood.
When I got pregnant, this need to understand women (and myself) grew. What was our role in society?
One day I ended up sitting on a bench in Mexico City’s downtown area, behind the National Palace, in a neighborhood called La Merced where trade and sex trade flourishes, amid hotels and brothels, pimps and thieves, giving this conflictive area of the city its unique atmosphere. For over four centuries, La Merced and the Plaza de la Soledad has been a hot spot for “the trade”, but also for the religiosity that is housed in the many neighborhood churches and is a fundamental part of the sex workers’ lives.
Yes. I wanted to talk about prostitution, and that implies talking about inequity and transgression, the body, sex, motherhood, childhood and old age, love and heartbreaks. I took photographs for 5 years, and then I understood what I was seeking. I wanted to unravel the secrets and meanings that women’s bodies conceal.
After taking this photographic series, I kept on visiting La Merced from time to time. I went to talk to the sex workers and introduced them to some people who might be interested in participating in projects with them.
I went through a stage where I felt the need to experiment with other forms of expression. I got interested in video as a means of narrating these stories as dialogues.
One of the photos that has always made viewers feel uncomfortable is the one I took of Margarita, a 70-year-old sex worker lying beside a client in a hotel bed. Some asked if I had staged it, if I had invented it. They argued that women of that age don’t work. I realized that they were really disturbed about older women having sexual relations.
My intention has been to incite viewers to confront their prejudices about prostitution, sex and aging while they reflect on the complex and varied forms that love ―and loneliness―can take.
We began shooting the film in February 2012, spent a year and a half editing and finished it in 2015.
Inviting us into a world we would otherwise never know, this richly textured portraiture jumps off the screen in vibrant, clarifying colors. Carmen, Lety, Raquel, and Esther, each ranging in age from 50 to 80 years old, work the streets of La Merced in Mexico City, where life revolves around a large town plaza. Age means nothing to these women, who still dance and seduce with the same energy they’ve held on to since youth. But with time comes a desire to seek out companionship and security, whether in the form of their fellow co-workers, older men, or their own deeply ingrained sense of self-reliance.
Photographer-turned-filmmaker Maya Goded refuses to shy away from the painful aspects of these women’s jobs—the abuse, fear, and discontent that come from years of selling intimacy. She leads us into their histories, families, superstitions, and hopes, while allowing the camera to hone in on the contours of their well-worn bodies—beautiful and real. Plaza de la Soledad is a sumptuous visual celebration and a refreshingly honest exploration of physical and emotional self-determination against difficult odds. – Sundance Film Festival
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