Dear Workshop,

On Thursday, January 12, Sarah Luna, PhD Candidate in the Department of Anthropology will present:

“Lovin’ on the Women of Boystown: The Spiritual, Spatial, and Relational Projects of American Missionaries in a Mexican Border Prostitution Zone”

Time: 12:00, Thursday, January 12, 2011
Place: Swift Hall, Room 406
Food: Snacks provided, feel free to bring your lunch!
Paper: Copies of the essay are available by emailing

A small selection from Sarah’s work follows:

“There’s a real need to be needed in Americans, and it’s created like a “we need you” situation over here. The little girl Jasmine that came over and talked to us today for a long time would only come over and ask me when Americans were coming back to give her coloring books or to bring her shoes…And she has those things in her house, she doesn’t need them, and I thought, ‘I don’t want that to be the nature of our relationship.’ I’m happy to share whatever I have, that’s not the issue. The issue is… we’re both having needs met in an unhealthy kind of totally dysfunctional way. Somebody’s got some nice pictures to show at home of these sweet poor little Mexican kids they helped and somebody has a stash in their room of sweet gringo treats they’ve been getting their whole life.”

American missionary Stacy White


On a hot July day in the Mexican border city of Reynosa, a South African missionary named Elanore and I were two blocks from the prostitution zone (Boystown) looking for friends who, it turned out, were not home. As we walked back to my car, we passed a group of four Mexican children between the ages of about six and ten. My phone rang, and as I answered it and scheduled an interview with an American client who frequented Boystown, I saw the children posing and smiling as my missionary friend took pictures. The oldest girl, Jasmine, the one mentioned in the above quote, asked me if she could see what was in my purse, and I let her, mostly because I was distracted by my phone conversation. She reached into my purse, grabbed a ten dollar bill, and asked me in Spanish, “Will you give it to me?” I said no. She did this with several items in my purse, until I, who wanted her to leave me alone, finally agreed to let her have a pen. I finished my conversation with the Boystown client, and my missionary friend, Elanore, finished taking pictures.

This exchange, which occurred months after my interview with American missionary Stacy White, was a strange sort of literalization of the phenomenon she described, with the very same little girl asking me for money while Elanore, a member of Stacy’s team which focuses upon the prostitution zone, took photographs. The geographic proximity to the prostitution zone were what brought Elanore and me to Jasmine’s neighborhood, and it was in the walls of the same prostitution zone where I had first met Chuck, the client to whom I was talking on the phone. There we all were, each trying to get a little piece of the value produced by the difference the border creates—Jasmine digging dollars out of my purse, Elanore snapping photos of the cute Mexican kids, Chuck looking for inexpensive sexual encounters, and me taking head notes to later turn into fieldnotes for this vignette.


– Paul Chang

Persons with a disability who believe they may need assistance, please contact Paul Chang in advance at