Mario Garfias never thought twice when he pulled out his baseball bat, nicknamed Panchito, to beat the women and teenage girls that he used as prostitutes in Mexico City’s red light district of La Merced.
Together with his younger brother Enrique and mother Esperanza, Garfias was a sex trafficker. For nearly eight years, the trio inflicted terror over young women and girls – who the brothers referred to as “merchandise.”
If the girls, some as young as 16, did not earn their daily quota or disobeyed rules, they faced Panchito.
“I’d say it was time to see Panchito. I’d hit them with it,” said Mario Garfias, who headed the sex trafficking ring.
“Obviously never in the face because I’d send them to work. But I’d hit them across the back, legs and buttocks,” said Garfias, who like his brother and mother, spent nearly 12 years in prison for his crimes.
Dart pistols were also used against women, while one woman was once tied to a chair with fireworks placed around her genitals, the brothers said.
Two years after the family’s release from prison, their stories offer a rare insight into the methods of sex traffickers – how they lure their victims and the violence they use to control them.
They also reveal a cycle of violence that usually starts in childhood – an experience traffickers and their victims often share – blurring the lines between the abused and the abuser.