New Dawn: Houston’s “Cantina”

Friday night we visited “Los Floras”, the site of a recent sex trafficking ring that has been open since 1999. The site was recently raided by Federal Agents, who arrested 13 suspects and rescued 14 victims, several of which were underaged. The “cantina” was located on Telephone Road, an area with a notorious reputation. J. R. Gonzalas, a journalist for The Houston Chronicle, said he could not “think of any other Houston thoroughfare that has garnered a more negative reputation in the last 40 years or so” than Telephone Road. As we drove through the area I could not help but believe I had been transported outside of the United States. The street was lined with illegal gambling rooms, bars, clubs and several cantinas.

When we arrived, “Los Floras” was dimly lit and boarded up. According to the news report the victims were kept locked in a second-story room above a bar now called “Nuevo Amanecer” and were regularly beaten if a “customer” left unsatisfied. The name, Nuevo Amancer was painted on the outside of the building. Ironically enough, the name means New Dawn. The entire building was covered in a painting of an orange sunset, with the black outline of palm trees. The paint was cracked, peeling and gave the entire place nightmarish quality it deserved. Although I am thankful for the recent raid, I can’t help but wish it didn’t take fourteen years to do.

This morning I read Psalms 94. Although I love the mercy of God, he is also a God who avenges: the judge of the earth who sees and hears all and who stands on behalf of the oppressed.

“The Lord is a God who avenges.
O God who avenges, shine forth.
Rise up, Judge of the earth;
pay back to the proud what they deserve.
They crush your people, Lord;

They oppress your inheritance.
They slay the widow and the foreigner;
they murder the fatherless.
They say, “The Lord does not see; the God of Jacob takes no notice.”

Take notice, you senseless ones among the people;
you fools, when will you become wise?
Does he who fashioned the ear not hear?
Does he who formed the eye not see?
Does he who disciplines nations not punish?”