A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from August 28, 2007
Boy’s Town or Boys Town (Zona de Tolerancia; Zona Roja; Zona Rosa)

"Boy’s Town” or “Boys Town” is a place in Mexico near the Texas border where “boys” go to find “girls.” These places of prostitution are also called “Zona de Tolerancia” (Zone of Tolerance) and “Zona Roja” (Red Zone) and “Zona Rosa” (Rose Zone or Pink Zone). The term was popular by at least the 1950s.

The term has nothing to do with the Boys Town (now Girls and Boys Town) in Nebraska that was founded by Edward J. Flanagan in the 1920s for at-risk children. However, it is possible that the prostitution sense borrowed from this established term.


Wikipedia: Boy’s Town
Boy’s Towns, also known as Zonas de Tolerancia, Zonas Rojas or Zonas Rosas, are formally designated zones within several Mexican cities where legalized prostitution exists. These normally walled compounds, most of which are located along the U.S.-Mexico border, operate as red light districts. Notorious Boy’s Towns are located in Ciudad Acuña, Nuevo Laredo, Piedras Negras, and Reynosa.

Wikipedia: Girls and Boys Town
Girls and Boys Town, formerly Boys Town and Father Flanagan’s Boys’ Home, is a non-profit organization dedicated to the care of at-risk children, with national headquarters in the village of Boys Town, Nebraska. The property was listed as a National Historic Landmark on February 04, 1985.

The original Boys Town was founded as a boys orphanage in 1921 by Edward J. Flanagan, a Roman Catholic priest working in Omaha. The “City of Little Men” pioneered development of new juvenile care methods in 20th century America, emphasizing social preparation as a model for public boys’ homes worldwide. 

20 December 1957, Brownsville (TX) Herald, “U.S. Ambassador To Probe Matamoros Vice Industry,” pg. 1, col. 2:
Recurrent rumors in this area frequently refer to a section of Matamoros known as “Boys Town” where Mexican officials are reported to take a somewhat easy-going attitude toward prostitution.

9 March 1961, Corpus Christi (TX) Times, “Reynosa: Old, New Mingle in ‘Sin City’” by B. F. Kellum, pg. 18:
Just about everyone on both sides of the Rio Grande agrees most tourists who get into trouble do so because they wander about a mile west of the international bridge to “Boys Town,” a sprawling community of neon signs, cantinas, dope pushers and prostitutes.

Conservative estimates place the number of prostitutes in “Boys Town” at 800, ranging from 14 years up.

Prostitution is legal and government-regulated in Mexico. The girls even have a sort of social security that pays them a few pesos a day when they are unable to work.

The tourist usually gets cheated—but most expect it when they venture into this town-within-a-town.

24 June 1977, San Antonio Light, “Prostitutes Protest In Nuevo Laredo,” pg. 8A:
NUEVO LAREDO, Mexico (UPI) Protesting prostitutes are complaining city officials are allowing harlots to work in the normally off-limits downtown area, and they want the mayor to put a stop to the practice.
(...)
“Mr. Mayor. We believe everything has a place: You in your office and prostitutes in the red light district,” said one sign carried by the group of prostitutes who were joined in the protest march by waiters and the owners of eight nightclubs in the “Zone of Tolerance,” which Americans refer to as “Boy’s Town.”

Mexican law permits prostitution in supervised zones located away from the city. The prostitutes are required to register and undergo periodic medical examinations.

1 May 1990, Pacific Stars and Stripes (Tokyo, Japan), “Border town brothels still lure Americans,” pg. 7:
CIUDAD ACUNA, Mexico (AP)—In a handful of cities on the Mexican border, American men still throng to the brothels of “boys’ towns,” legal prostitution zones little changed by fear of sexual disease or campaigns for more wholesome tourism.

At least five Mexican border cities have flourishing boys’ towns, and though some have been moved away from central tourist districts, they remain popular attractions for businessmen, hunters and teen-agers.

They’re accepted with little controversy, although Texas’ Republican gubernatorial candidate, Clayton Williams, drew heat after admitting recently that he frequented border brothels during his college years more than 30 years ago because they were the only place to get “serviced.”

Visiting the prostitutes, Williams said, was just “part of growing up in West Texas.”
(...)
OUTSIDE along the dusty streets of boys’ town—also known as La Zona de Tolerancia or Zone of Tolerance—scattered groups of men from nearby Air Force installations, teen-agers and other Americans wander to bars like the Rio Club and La Camelia.

3 November 1981, Frederick (MD) Post, “Maverick mayor: ‘Jorge is the change,’” pg. B4, col. 1:
MATAMOROS, Mexico (AP)—A radio station owner with a grandfatherly face, a handlebar mustache and an easy smile is turning this border city upside down with his maverick brand of populist politics.

Since taking office Jan. 1, Mayor Jorge Cardenas Gonzalez has closed cantinas on Sundays, donated his $12,000 salary to illuminate crime-plagued neighborhoods and told barkeeps in the infamous “Boys’ Town” redlight district to move out or shut down.
(...)
Shootings and knifings within the “zona roja” have alarmed the surrounding residential areas.

“We’re going to run a socially moral city, that is my aim,” he said.

(Trademark)
Word Mark BOYS TOWN TIMES
Goods and Services (EXPIRED) IC 016. US 038. G & S: SEMI-MONTHLY NEWSPAPER PUBLISHED IN THE INTEREST OF THE HOMELESS BOY. FIRST USE: 19381024. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 19381024
Mark Drawing Code (1) TYPED DRAWING
Serial Number 71449479
Filing Date December 15, 1941
Current Filing Basis 1A
Original Filing Basis 1A
Registration Number 0398772
Registration Date November 24, 1942
Owner (LAST LISTED OWNER) FATHER FLANAGAN’S BOYS’ HOME UNKNOWN BOYS TOWN, NEBR.
Type of Mark TRADEMARK
Register PRINCIPAL
Live/Dead Indicator DEAD

Posted by Barry Popik
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • (3) Comments • Tuesday, August 28, 2007 • Permalink


Ah! The Matamoros Boys Town of the 1950s, I remember it well. The Navy had an auxilary airfield just north of Port Isabel, TX where I and about 100 other Sailors survived among the rattlesnakes, horntoads and javelinas for five days each week waiting to spend the the weekend drinking 35 centavo Carta Blanca beer and loving those fine Mexican ladies in the Boys Town just south of Matamoros. There weren’t no nother other way to be! I’m 73 years old now but I still remember the joys of a youth well spent…

Posted by Wallace B. Love  on  10/23  at  10:54 PM

i’m trying to find the exact address of the on in acuna and the one in larado, and if the one in larado is legal like the one in acuna, even though the larado one is on american soil. also how would i go about getting ahold of anybody there for price info. and any kind of specials or shows they may have going.  i like mexico for many reasons and this is not the only one, just the reason for the trip this time. sooo… if you could send me as much info about them as possible it would be greatly appreciated from me and my wife. thatnks again and good day to you too,

Posted by shamen  on  05/04  at  01:26 AM

We crabbed in Port Mansfield in the late 70’s and had to hit Boy’s Town on the weekend. A friend of mine went there when he was 15. It was his first time and he was excited. He looked around and within a few minutes there was women everywhere. He went back with a girl and it didn’t take long to get it done. There is no way to stop a young guy from going there. I mean if you stayed home and didn’t go you wouldn’t get any sleep. I heard things are more violent there now.

Posted by Doug Eberspacher  on  11/02  at  02:12 PM

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