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“Ladies of the Night“ Art Opening

Painted Ladies by Jessica Antonelli,

By Mila Villasana

In the early 1960s, when the likes of Beat Generation author Neal Cassady frequented San Miguel de Allende, the doors closed on the brothel with the best reputation in the state of Guanajuato: Madame on calle Órganos. Houses of the night are now illegal in San Miguel, but on September 12, local artists will pay homage to the working girls with an art opening at the former brothel on Órganos 19, from 5 to 8pm.

“Ladies of the Night”
Sat, Sep 12, 5-8pm
Casa de la Noche
Órganos 19

Now known as Casa de la Noche, a popular bed and breakfast, Madame Turca’s was the last to shut down after houses of prostitution were made illegal in the state. Madame Turca’s outlasted other brothels since the políticos and other bigwigs of San Miguel de Allende were rumored to frequent the establishment, with its late night bar, dance hall, and of course, bedrooms.

One imagines that it takes hard circumstances to lead a woman to the oldest profession in the world but, at the very least, the Madame was known as a singularly fair boss. She split the profits 50-50 with her girls, who were tested weekly for STDs. Ladies who didn’t pass the test were still able to dance with the customers but could no longer take them back to their small rooms, which have been restored in the B&B and sport the name of the lady who used to frequent it.

Respect and storytelling are at the center of the “Ladies of the Night” art opening September 12. Artist and teacher Jessica Antonelli was inspired by photographs of the ladies, and for two months offered a class in oil portraiture with the girls as the subjects. During each class, discussions sprang up about how young some of the girls were, how strong or angry or timid their expressions were, and how it could all be expressed through the medium of oil paint. How could one express the personalities of these women, their hardships and victories? For while they undoubtedly faced violence or degradation, most chose false names, so that their families never suspected how they brought money home.

We invite you to join us at the bordello to explore the sensual side of San Miguel’s rich history. Our portraits aim to take the stories of these women and represent their unique and rather scandalous position in history through the painted image and audience interaction. Multiple artists will be represented and a short historical film will be premiered.


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