In Albuquerque, Human Trafficking Evolves And Grows

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — It was a bad night, and none of the girls had made much cash. The evening’s customers were more interested in the San Antonio Spurs game on television than the strippers. But one of the dancers knew how they could make up for it.

“There was this guy that was a regular at the strip club,” Serena said. “He sold a lot of drugs in big quantities — he was really popular with the girls that did coke and stuff — and he had a place for us to go after work if you didn’t make enough money.”

“Serena” is a pseudonym. She asked for her identity to be concealed for reasons that will become apparent.

That night, she went to a party at the regular’s house.

“He had a pole and a little stage,” Serena said. “It was like just being at a strip club.”

Serena was tipped in $20s and $50s and given a seemingly endless supply of cocaine. At some point that night, she and her friend were the only two women left in a room full of men. Her friend paired up with someone, and Serena – still unclear to this day why – did the same. She left with $1,200 in hand.

“Once the person that I was living with found out about it, I was there all the time, because it was an easier way for him to have more money,” Serena said.

About a year before, Serena had been a college student with a full scholarship. But in her first semester, the man she lived with had introduced her to cocaine, stripping, domestic violence, and had now effectively pushed her into prostitution. Within months, Serena would be walking the main drag of Albuquerque.

“Even now when I tell my story, sometimes people are like ‘Your story doesn’t make any sense. Why didn’t you just leave? What’s wrong with you?’” Serena said.

To put it simply: it’s complicated.

Listen to the report here at the Fronteras Desk.

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tristan ahtone

Tristan Ahtone is an award winning journalist and member of the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma. Born in Arizona and raised across the United States, he was educated at the Institute of American Indian Arts and the Columbia School of Journalism. He lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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