In the lurid promotional video, a Fox News reporter and her team are confronted on the streets of Tenancingo, Mexico, by a cluster of local police SUVs.
Leave, the police say, or you’re going to get lynched.
Sadly, Fox reporter Lara Logan is only the latest of a string of journalists who have been threatened while investigating this entrenched sex-trafficking capital.
For years, international media have been attempting to shed light on the family-run human trafficking enterprises of Tenancingo and other towns in the “El Sur” region of tiny Tlaxcala state, east of Mexico City.
Reporters, spurred by occasional prosecutions of sex traffickers in Mexico and the United States, find their way to this region.
They capture a few cursory views of the garish mansions of trafficking families, and the many seedy motels where clients connect with prostitutes.
And, like the Fox News team, they are quickly chased out by locals who gather at the sound of church bells rung by lookouts.
Trafficking, particularly of young girls from impoverished parts of Mexico and elsewhere in the Americas, is an extremely lucrative business.
In Tenancingo and nearby communities, girls can be seen plying their trade openly in the streets.
Yet their visibility is only a small part of a vast crime enterprise guarded carefully by local governments and directly connected to international drug-trafficking cartels.
Girls are lured by scouts who promise them stable domestic employment or pretend to be in love with them.
Once ensnared, the girls, and in many cases their families back home, are kept quiet by intimidation, embarrassment, or guilt.
Prostitution takes place locally, but it is Tenancingo’s link to sex slavery across the world that has drawn the sustained attention of Interpol, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and other agencies, not to mention perpetually frustrated Mexican authorities with whom they collaborate.
Tenancingo is believed to be a major gateway and gathering point — perhaps the primary one — for abducted girls sent on to cities across the United States and elsewhere.
In 2015, five of the U.S. government’s ten most wanted sex traffickers were from the town of 11,000.
Given the dire risks to investigative journalists, little formal coverage of the Tlaxcala sex trade reaches the pages of Mexican newspapers — but one brave organization stands out.
The Centro “Fray Julián Garcés” — a human-rights organization based in the Tlaxcala state capital — has made an ongoing campaign of exposing child prostitution and trafficking.
Culture of trafficking
According to academic research, the entrenched sex-trafficking trade in the region emerges from a deeply patriarchal society where girls have very little power.
It’s a region where the cultural practice of “robo de la novia” (“stealing the bride”) — in which teenage boys wanting domestic partners abduct teenage girls — is not unknown.
Adult males have no social stigma for practicing polygyny — unlike women who want multiple partners.
All this helps perpetuate trafficking conditions — wherein victimized girls are disempowered by feelings of guilt and shame, and are viewed by the wider local society as outcasts.
The Tlaxcala sex trade is the mainstay of a regional economy — and, like the Mexican drug trade, it serves mostly Americans.
In 2014, two members of a Tenancingo-linked sex-trafficking ring were given life sentences for orchestrating the exploitation of hundreds of slaved women and girls, though they represent just the tip of the iceberg.