Fleeing the economic collapse that has been destroying her country since 2015, Esmeralda, a 21-year-old Venezuelan, quit nursing school and left for Brazil with hopes of pursuing her education, finding a job, and providing for her family.
In her suitcase, Esmeralda packed her scrubs and books. Yet in Roraima, Brazil’s northernmost state, her work uniform became something different altogether: a short, tight dress and heels. Without many job opportunities, and facing discrimination from Brazilian employers, Esmeralda is one of the hundreds of Venezuelan women who have been pushed into sex work to make ends meet.
“My family doesn’t know I work like this, it would bring them shame. I didn’t study to have this life,” she says, after hopping out of a client’s vehicle. Shame – and fear – are common feelings among women like Esmeralda, especially when they have families waiting for them in their home country. To avoid exposing her identity, Esmeralda chose not to disclose her surname.