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Image by Lauren Wilks. Brazil, Turning the corner onto Rua Sotero dos Reis, a conspicuously bulky camera swinging from my shoulder, it wasn't long before I reluctantly conceded that it had been a good idea to bring Matheus.
The area is also infamous for its criminal gangs; Vila Mimosa is regularly raided by the police for drug trafficking offenses. On first sight, Vila Mimosa appears to be nothing more than a jumbled warren of dilapidated buildings and leaking pipes. Matheus explains that, although prostitution is legal in Brazil, running a brothel is not; each of these establishments therefore holds a legal registration of trade.
An estimated 2, women work here, providing cheap thrills to a primarily straight, working-class male clientele male and transgender prostitutes are confined to other quarters of the city. Some work part-time, holding down day jobs as maids and cashiers; others work around the clock. It is mid-afternoon as we enter the crumbling edifices and business is just getting started. In dimly-lit rooms — some throbbing with neon-tube lighting, some adorned with the odd Halloween decoration — scantily-clad women drape themselves across doorframes and chat in half-empty bars with friends.
Stopping to linger between rooms, we catch glimpses of female silhouettes gyrating to Brazilian funk and fawning over the few clients that have arrived early to avoid the Saturday-night rush.
Others simply sit around, waiting. But for some, Vila Mimosa is a place of relative freedom that offers the chance to earn quick money. I was introduced to her on my second trip to the district and, as we sat at a makeshift bar on the street where she lives, she explained why she prefers Vila Mimosa to the more glamorous hotspots of Rio's sex scene. Despite a grueling schedule, Carolina failed to make enough money in the fancier, upscale places she worked. By contrast, Carolina earned enough money in one week at Vila Mimosa to furnish her apartment; she could even pay someone to watch her children while she worked.