La Cantinera – The Cantina Girl
During the Allies Against Slavery Free Summit, I attended a film screening of “La Cantinera”. The documentary “La Cantinera” was filmed in Texas, specifically in Houston and Austin. La Cantinera followed a woman named Liliana, who lives in Houston. Liliana was a victim of human trafficking. Liliana and her mom immigrated to the United States when Liliana was only 12 years old. As a payment for their transportation into the U.S., Liliana and her mom were forced to live and work as prostitutes in a nightclub in Houston. These women were expected to converse and entertain men at the bar, sometimes drinking more than 40 beers a night, then lead them through secret doors to a back building where they would perform sex acts for money. Liliana recalls receiving only a small portion of her funds, giving the rest to pay her “debt” to the bar owner. Liliana was a victim of human trafficking for almost 30 years until her escape from control.
The film also starred a “human trafficking fighting warrior”, Cat French. Cat is a sociology professor from Houston. She is an advocate for human trafficking, devoting hours of her time invading bars known for human trafficking, reaching out to victims and reporting illegal fractions of the bar, in hopes law enforcement will investigate and ultimately remove the bar’s alcohol license, forcing it to shut down. With the help of Cat, numerous bars and nightclub businesses have been shut down. Recently, Cat moved her anti-trafficking ministry, Elijah Rising, to a previously ran sex trafficking massage parlor.
Dotti Laster, another advocate featured in the film, explains that human trafficking happens “in plain sight” and often will go unnoticed even by law enforcement. She suggests the most effective responses to human trafficking are community education and community advocacy. Dotti also spoke about the need for Human Trafficking tasks force in collaboration with law enforcement and policy reforms to protect victims.