“My life has been in black and white. More black than white. And now I’m putting color, ”says Fénix-x, a trafficking survivor and artist. Not many years ago he painted, it is a gift that he had hidden because he never had the opportunity to explore what he liked, what he wanted in life and pursue his dreams. At age 21, she came to Japan as a victim of trafficking to be prostituted in hidden theaters on the outskirts of cities. This country was pushed by the economic precariousness that he lived with his family in Colombia and his mother. “I didn’t get off to a good start in life,” he sums up. “I think that everything starts with the education and support that your parents can give you, and I didn’t have it,” he adds. Her mother became pregnant with her when she was almost a girl, just 16 years old, and she already had another one-year-old daughter. He does not keep very good memories of his childhood, many changes in the tenancies (a large house divided into different rooms that are rented to families) and the most painful thing: the rejection he felt by his mother. “I don’t know if he ever really loved me,” he says. From those hard first years of life his personality was forged. “I am very insecure and I blame myself for everything,” laments Fénix-x, who has sacrificed all her life so that her family could live better.
Guilt or fear of rejection and social stigma are some of the feelings that accompany women who have gone through the context of prostitution. Fénix-x is the artistic name that this 50-year-old woman has adopted to exhibit her paintings in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, but also to face the interview with this newspaper. Five years ago she left Molino de Viento Street to heal her mind and body, but this stage is not proving less hard than the previous ones. At first, she felt as if a weight had been lifted off her shoulders, but with psychological counseling, she realized that her backpack was more loaded than she thought. While she was in a situation of prostitution, she affirms that she only thought about earning money to send to her country, that she endured difficult situations but that when she went to the money transfer company she felt good, like a heroine, because thanks to that, her loved ones they were going to be able to live better. It is the same situation that her companions told her, most of whom are forced to not be able to get out of that situation due to economic pressure. “If you do a survey on this street, the majority are single mothers,” he stresses. In these years she relates that she has felt rejected. “It is difficult for society to accept you and even more so on such a small island, it seems that prostitutes have to be prostitutes all their lives,” she exclaims. Therefore, it defends that the women in this situation are the bravest he has ever met.
During this time, she has experienced unpleasant episodes with men who have continued to point her out on the street. “Sometimes I appreciate wearing the mask,” says Fénix-x, who suffers from post-traumatic stress and when he sees a man who recognizes his past, he changes the sidewalk. He has tried to look for work, but it is costing him a lot, both because of the social stigma he suffers and because of the precariousness. She recently cared for an elderly lady for just 70 euros, staying two days and whole nights a week.
The painting is a refuge that she noticed when five years ago an association of nuns encouraged her to paint some bookmarks for the Carmen festival in the La Isleta neighborhood with the aim that she and another group of women in a situation of social exclusion They could sell at the church door. There he was encouraged to continue to be inspired and paint pictures in which he transmits his story, but also joy and hope for the future. For this reason, the paintings in his collection La hija PUTAtiva UNDESEADA are impregnated with color and will be exhibited until October 22 at the Suárez Naranjo civic center and afterwards on an itinerant basis. With it she intends to encourage other women who have gone through their situation and show that “they are not just prostitutes, as they want to believe” and that they are talented women, with qualities and interests. In his staging he has had the support of the photojournalist Cesar Dezfuli, who has known how to weave the common thread of the Fénix-x exhibition.
Start from scratch every day
Fénix-x feels that every day of his life he has had to start over from scratch. It has happened several times. She arrived in Japan without knowing the language or moving through its streets and with a debt that had to be repaired in theaters that were filled with expectant men for her and her companions to go out to dance. “It is what was called dance, or first act.” He maintains that there is hardly any information about this reality and that is why he wants to tell it openly. In the second act, called “open”, they had to show themselves naked and the men present in the theater approached and commented on the bodies, often between ridicule. The third consisted of one of the men going on stage to have sex. Throughout the interview, he reiterated that the most painful thing in that country was the system, which did not end in those three acts. “When the performance ended, they called us to the dressing room for a telephone and they told us how many men were waiting for us,” he says. With up to 30 men, he affirms that a woman should be there in a single night and it ended up as “a broken toy.” He hardly had rest since every ten days he changed cities.
The survivor explains that she paid off her debt relatively early and then continued to live in Japan in a situation of prostitution but in homes or hotels. When he felt that he had sent enough money to Colombia to start a new life, he returned. But then the world came crashing down when she found out that her mother had spent all her money. Shortly thereafter, he came to the peninsula through acquaintances and began working in clubs in Madrid, Alicante or Torrevieja. From those years he keeps one of the most tragic episodes of his life: the rape he suffered. “People think that prostitutes cannot be raped, that’s what they make you feel,” he says. In one of those clubs a man came every night to talk to her and have a drink. He never asked her for sex in exchange for money and earned her trust. A year after they met, he asked her out for dinner. That man raped her for a whole day. “I never told anyone until years later,” he says. He was slow to recover from that attack and had to remain on leave until his wounds healed. He never saw the assailant again, but his face is nailed to his head. “If I saw it today, I would recognize it, but I think time has made it pay in some way,” he says.
“I always say that my memories are undone in time, I have no memories of a network of friends,” she explains. He arrived in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria about fifteen years ago and is the place where he has remained the most stable, but he remarks that after the Japanese system, the street is the most difficult. “Men believe that for 30 euros they can have you in their hands, like a slave,” he laments. He emphasizes that there are those who believe that prostitutes are worthless and that they want to make them feel that way. In her case, she did not get to be with those men who came with a backpack full of whips and objects to beat the women, but she remarks that it is very hard to be at the door and hear another colleague complain about the loud knocks. In these years he has seen all the profiles, but affirms that the majority are married men, others who come fleeing from loneliness, from all social classes and professions. Now Fénix-x has a partner, whom at first it was difficult for him to trust, but who has shown him that he is by his side and they are happy together. “He is a small self-employed person and right now I live on him,” he says with concern, since, although he assures that he never recriminates anything, she is anxious about not bringing money home.
Despite the fact that he left the street behind five years ago, he considers that he is still “going out”, since he believes that in this life you never know when you will have to return. When you see women at the doors of these houses you always think so. “I’m learning not to feel guilty, but guilt eats me up inside,” insists Fénix-x. “You get used to giving and giving and when someone wants to help you, you are not used to it.”
In the exhibition, the painter has buried a bra and platforms as a symbol of breaking with that past that has caused so much damage, a past that she says is very difficult to erase. He believes that trafficking in women and prostitution are a system that will not end as long as the powerful continue to use them. She considers that the ideal is to work from education at home and in schools, teaching women that they do not have to carry the burden of everything, that they do not have to give everything for others without receiving anything in return and doing them see that they must prioritize taking care of themselves, pursuing their dreams and happiness. It is what she would have liked to hear when she was a child and now at 50 years old, she insists that she has many consequences of everything that has happened to her. Find in the Lugo de Cáritas center a point of light where you can go to receive psychological counseling and the breath that you sometimes lack. Phoenix, who claims not to feel strong right now, He shows with his paintings to be an example of hope, courage and courage.
Details of the Fénix-x exhibition at the Suárez Naranjo civic center.
016: helpline for victims of gender violence
Psychosocial Care of Doctors of the World in the Canary Islands: 608918800 (Spanish and French)
Cáritas Diocesana de Canarias: 929251740
Daniela program. Oblates of the Most Holy Redeemer: 928361212