Sex, drugs, religion, and love are potent combinations in la zona
, a regulated prostitution zone in the city of Reynosa, across the border from Hidalgo, Texas. During the years 2008 and 2009, a time of intense drug violence, Sarah Luna met and built relationships with two kinds of migrants, women who moved from rural Mexico to Reynosa to become sex workers and American missionaries who moved from the United States to forge a fellowship with those workers.
Luna examines the entanglements, both intimate and financial, that define their lives. Using the concept of obligar
, she delves into the connections that tie sex workers to their families, their clients, their pimps, the missionaries, and the drug dealers—and to the guilt, power, and comfort of faith. Love in the Drug War: Selling Sex and Finding Jesus on the Mexico-US Border
(University of Texas Press, 2020) scrutinizes not only la zona
and the people who work to survive there, but also Reynosa itself—including the influences of the United States—adding nuance and new understanding to the current Mexico-US border crisis.
The book has been recently awarded the 2020 Ruth Benedict Prize
by the Association for Queer Anthropology for its “vibrant ethnographic detail and deft work across conceptual fields.”
This interview is part of an NBN special series on “Mobilities and Methods
Sarah Luna is the Kathryn A. McCarthy Assistant Professor in Women's Studies in the Department of Anthropology and the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program at Tufts University, with a focus on issues of sexual labor, migration, race, borderlands, and queer studies.
Alize Arıcan is a PhD candidate in the department of Anthropology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her research focuses on urban renewal, futurity, care, and migration in Istanbul, Turkey. Her work has been featured on City & Society, entanglements: experiments in multimodal ethnography, and Anthropology News.