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The tent version at the annual festival in Chila
Any community in Mexico of 20,000 or more as well as any large fiesta is likely to have at least one house of ill repute. These are often located on the outskirts of town, possibly right on the highway, or on the fringe of the fiesta but may also be found downtown in a large city. There may be a name, such as the infamous Tony's Bar in Puerto Escondido, or the establishment may be unmarked or may have a sign that says simply Ladies Bar. In case you are wondering why you are even reading this article, this may be the reason it is worthwhile to you. Ladies, a Ladies Bar is not a watering hole catering to you and your girl friends. There! If you are still curious and want to check it out, you should bring along a male escort. There is a ladies bar on Primera Sur [map] in Puerto Escondido overlooking Hwy 200 and Playa Principal.
Although the sign, Ladies Bar, is displayed in English this may not mean that the establishment caters to the foreign client. I think the sign is in English as a courtesy to the local Spanish-speaking population, an attempt to politely announce the presence of their services without directly offending the neighbors. Reference the American expression "pardon my French". The Mexican ladies bar has the primary function of serving the Mexican population.
The fiesta version of the ladies bar may be an unmarked tent on the fringe of the festival with clients waiting outside. It may have uniformed armed security. An example seen in the photo at right is the large fiesta held annually in Chila, a small community outside of Puerto Escondido.
The ladies of the evening are colloquially called putas. Puta is a "4-letter word" that is also applied as a derogatory term in other contexts. The puta is often an unmarried woman with a child or without a family who is seeking to support herself. She is shunned by the community. On the kinky side, some of these putas are actually men dressed up as women. This is more common than you might think. The festival tent at Chila reportedly features both flavors of putas. So to be on the safe side, a quick check a la Paul Hogan in Crocodile Dundee II might be in order to ward off even greater embarrassment down the line. I just love giving travel advice. Forget the movie stereotypes, these ladies are often on the homely side and may be packing some extra weight. The exception would be in the more upscale resort areas where the ladies are more befitting of that environment.
So who are the clients? Mostly local Mexican men. Since the ladies bar is indeed a bar, the clients may be drunk and not on their best behavior. A facet of the Mexican culture that may contribute to the success of the ladies bar is the prevalence of the Catholic religion. The religion strongly discourages divorce but promotes forgiveness of confessed sins. So when a marriage fails, the couple often remains married. If the husband turns to the ladies bar, he can still gain admission to heaven by confessing his sin. Another manifestation of infidelity is the Motel de Paso or Auto-Hotel. This is what we refer to as a No-Tell Motel. This establishment is found on the outskirts of large cities and features an enclosed parking spot at each unit with curtains that can be drawn behind the vehicle so that the lady may be escorted into the room discretely and the car kept out of view. Rooms are available by the hour or by the evening. The low end version of this skips the private parking. My wife and I once stayed in one of these by accident. The room was only $3 but we had to ask for toilet paper, towels, and sheets, and the TV stayed on in the hall all night.
Tony's Bar, no longer in operation, was once the best-known of Puerto Escondido's brothels. Tony built his place on the highway above Playa Zicatela as an economical hotel for the surfers that frequented the popular surfing beach. The rooms were small, just big enough for a bed and a surf board. A couple of ladies who were dissatisfied with their working conditions at an establishment further down the highway rented a room from Tony and set up shop at the hotel. Other ladies followed suit and before long, Tony was running a brothel. Well, talk about location, location, location, Tony's was located right on the main highway on the outskirts of town, across from a military base, and within walking distance of one of the world's most popular surfing beaches. Success followed. Pronounced as one word, "tonisbar" by the cab drivers, everyone who was interested knew of this place and it operated for many years.