The Cantinera Documentary
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The Cantinera Documentary Available for Public Screening

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The Cantinera Documentary, produced and directed by film maker Ruth Villatoro of Toro Films, is now available for public screening.

Five years in the making, The Cantinera tells the story of girls who are forced to work in latin bars, or cantinas, throughout the United States, often forced to drink 20-40 beers a night, 7 days a week. It’s a story often overlooked when studying aspects of human trafficking and forced labor, yet it’s an account of thousands of women who are caught in its web with no way out.

As seen in the documentary, filmed in the Houston, Texas area, the cantina is often the hub, set up as legitimate businesses, but used as the place where the clients meet the prostitutes who are constantly monitored. Customarily any sex acts are performed in a nearby house, motel, or building away from the cantina itself, absolving the cantina of any wrongdoing or crime. Victims are often enslaved in nearby brothels where all transportation is done by the trafficker, leaving no way to freely go about a normal daily life. Her life is spent often servicing up to 20 or more men per day.Ruth Villatoro, The Cantinera Documentary

Through the story of three women, the film navigates through the virtually unheard of subject from the perspective of a cantinera, an advocate and a vigilante. Go first hand into the cantinas while rescuers search for victims and women take a stand against one of the most powerful crime organizations….Ruth Villatoro, Director Statement

The dangers are inherent in this type of trafficking, for both the victims and those who work to rescue them from what oftentimes is the only life they have ever known. One such victim portrayed in the film was introduced to the life of a cantinera by her mother at age 12. Audiences of The Cantinera will see how advocates, Dottie Laster and Cat French, work to rescue the victims and assist them with navigating the US bureaucratic system, as well as get them needed resources to recover.

Anti-Human Trafficking Advocates Featured in The Cantinera

Dottie Laster is the Founder and CEO of Laster Global Consulting and is responsible for the rescue and service of over 200 trafficking victims. She works directly with the Bernardo Kohler Center and is credentialed to practice immigration law. She is trained directly by the US Department of Justice and trains law enforcement, social workers, advocates and organizations across the country. Laster is also available as an expert witness in court cases determining the outcome of trafficking arrests.

Catherine “Cat” French is the director of the Houston office of Exodus Cry, an international anti-trafficking ministry. She is the link between victims and legal representation, the ground runner, making it her business to patrol suspected sex trafficking establishments.  During the filming the advocates and film crew visited 160 sexually oriented businesses in the Houston area and identified possibly 600-700 more.

Elia Chino, Associate Producer,  is the founder and Executive Director of Fundación Latino Americana Contra El Sida., Inc. (F.L.A.S., Inc.) She has dedicated her life to educate and prevent HIV in the latin community. Since cantina owners want their prostitutes to be “clean”, she is welcome in even the most jaded clubs.

 Film and Screening Details

The Cantinera Documentary is recommended for audiences at colleges and universities, as well as anti-human trafficking organizations, advocacy groups, law enforcement agencies and any community involvement groups. The goal of the film is to bring awareness to what’s going on behind the scenes in the latin communities across America and the impact it has on the lives of the women held captive by traffickers and pimps.

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11 Comments

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