Casa Azul (Blue House) - PhMuseum

Casa Azul (Blue House)

Giulia Iacolutti

2016 - 2017

"Casa Azul" (Blue House) is part of a socio-visual research about the life histories of five trans women imprisoned in one of the male penitentiaries in Mexico City. The project shows the process of identity construction and corporal practices of people whose bodies are considered doubly abject: due to their identity and to their condition of seclusion. Since it is mandatory for prisoners to wear blue, they have called the jail “the blue house”, alluding to the imprisonment they suffer in their own male bodies.

In men jail, it is forbidden to have feminine objects, but throughout corruption, imprisoners smuggle some things. By doing this, these feminine articles in a male jail become resistance tools against an environment that imposes them masculinity. Finding a biology manual from the 1990s in a prison’s classroom triggered the development of the parallelism with Biology, a science that recognizes the cell as the basic unit of life.

The general staining procedure with hematoxylin-eosin used in histology paints tissue samples in pink. To the photographs printed in cyanotype –old printing system, characterized by the Prussian blue color– microscopic photographs of healthy cells processed in pink taken in collaboration with the Institute of Biomedical Research of Bellevitge (IDIBELL) were joined. Thus, if the blue evokes the exterior and the imposed identification, the pink stands for the interior, for the self and the self-determination. "Casa Azul" shows the binary, the eternal struggle of these people to be what they are: women.

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  • Microscopic photographs of healthy cells processed in pink, taken in collaboration with the Institute of Biomedical Research of Bellevitge (IDIBELL). The general staining procedure with hematoxylin-eosin used in histology paints tissue samples in pink.

  • A picture of America before entering in the jail. When she begins to meet other trans women, she learns how to put on make-up, to take hormones and to practice sex work. She loves to dress tight in black and silver.

  • They have long nails, in their room they loosens the hair and dress like a woman: sometimes the security guards threaten them to undress them is they do not dress as a man.

  • América is born in Xochistlahuaca, Guerrero, in 1974. When she tells her family that she does not want to get married, they beat her: it hurts more the rejection than the blows. She spends a night of drunkenness with her cousin and her boyfriend; he dies chopped. She is twenty-nine years old when she is arrested and later she is condemned for qualified homicide with advantage and treachery. She purges a penalty of twenty years. America accuses her cousin.

  • Frida is born in Nezahualcoyotl, State of Mexico, in 1987. At sixteen, she migrates to the United States with the help of his migrant father. her visa expires and she is deported to Mexico. There, she works in call centers and as sex worker at the Alameda. There she is baptized as Frida.
    In 2013 she is arrested for gang robbery, with physical and moral violence. She is sentenced to ten years, five months and eighteen days in prison. She appeals against the sentence.
    In the jail is raped for three years: her first love used to hit her, to call her bitch, to force her to have sex with him. One day he grabs her by the neck, breaks her lips, and leaves her on the floor. But Frida gets up. She carries her toiletries and hygiene products in a heavy bag: "It seems I have a man locked up," she says.

  • Since it is mandatory for prisoners to wear blue, they have called the jail “the blue house”, alluding to the imprisonment they suffer in their own male bodies.

  • Not taking hormones generates frustration and anger, also not being able to wear pink tennis shoes. One of Martina's sisters manages to smuggle feminine hormones.

  • When they get into prison, thier hair are cut, they don't have access to hormonal treatment, thier chest size reduces, thier beard grows.

  • Gabi is born in a town in San Luis Potosí in 1972. At nine, when she sees a boy getting on the bus, she feels, for the first time, attraction to a person of her own sex. Due to economic reasons, at sixteen, Gabi gives up high school; she starts working in a beauty parlor, her specialty are haircuts and dyes. At night, she reads Umberto Eco with a Latin dictionary next to her. For ten months, she gets hormone injections; she stops because she does not want to look “bulky”. On July 19th, 2004, when heading home with her partner, Gabi tells, a passenger that is in the same bus they are traveling in touches her with his erect penis. She strongly complains about it; this person precipitously falls from the vehicle and dies run over. The driver points her and her partner out as guilty. They are sentenced to twenty years, eleven months and seven days in prison for homicide with premeditation, treachery and advantage. Gabi claims to be a victim of a prejudice process that was oriented to demonstrate a non-existent culpability, in a disproportionate degree. She does not stop asking herself how to live in a society where a sexual aggressor has more rights than a person who only defends her identity.

  • Alejandra is born in Mexico City in 1973. At seven, her family takes her to the psychologist due to her behavior as a girl. At thirteen, she starts taking hormones. It changes her voice and body. She dresses as a girl. With her sister, she learns how to put on makeup and at fifteen she celebrates her debut as a quinceañera. She is a devotee of La Santa Muerte.
    At eighteen, Alejandra starts working in private administrations. She lives with her partner and they adopt a baby. In 2005, she is arrested for attempted murder and attempted rape of a minor: her son. She is sentenced to twenty-seven years and six months in prison. She pleads not guilty.

  • In men jail, it is forbidden to have feminine objects, but throughout corruption, imprisoners smuggle some things. By doing this, these feminine articles in a male jail become resistance tools against an environment that imposes them masculinity.

  • Martina is born in Mexico City in 1985. She is a hairdresser. Hidden from her family, she wears wigs: she feels comfortable when she dresses like a woman. A family member rapes her for eight years: he makes her believe that it is the only thing she is good at. At sixteen, she starts to prostitute herself. She feels this job as an act of emancipation. At twenty-four, she is arrested for aggravated kidnapping in a gang and with a homicide in it. She is currently serving a sentence of 43 years and 9 months in the Penitentiary. she dresses as a woman every day, except Sunday, the visit day. "Respect the times, Marcos", her sisters ask her; her parents are old, they would not understand the change. During the visits, Martina wears wide pants; she ties her hair, but still she wears a pink watch on her wrist.

  • Before entering the prison Gabi had an affair with a painter who always painted her like this.

  • America's self-portrait. When I asked them how they remember their body before entering, they answer "with heels"

  • Earrings like heels shoes

  • Microscopic photographs of healthy cells processed in pink, taken in collaboration with the Institute of Biomedical Research of Bellevitge (IDIBELL)


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