August 12, 1996 – New York Times
Guatemala’s Maya Majority Flexes Its Political Muscles
by Larry Rohter
Guatemala City On a set of Maya ruins at the outskirts of this capital, the vice president of Guatemala last month swore in 21 Maya priests as members of a new government-sponsored Council of Elders. Throwing flower petals and sugar into a crackling fire as they chanted and danced, the shamans in turn bestowed their official blessing on him.
Two weeks ago came the traditional festival marking the end of the Maya year. For the first time in memory, those ceremonies, which invoke Maya gods and for that reason have long been condemned by the Roman Catholic Church, were not only celebrated publicly, but also covered extensively by Guatemalan newspapers and television stations. After five centuries of bitter repression, Guatemala’s Maya majority is beginning to flex its muscles.
Taking advantage of the political opening that has accompanied the winding down of the country’s 35-year civil war, Maya leaders are demanding a new relationship with a democratic government that, for its part, promises to end racial discrimination here and sees the Mayas not as a subversive force but as a voting bloc to be courted. As a result, new Maya political and cultural organizations are being formed almost daily, expressions of Maya religion and ethnic pride are on the rise, and there has been an eruption of books, newspapers and radio programs in Mayan languages.
The country’s leading newsmagazine, Cronica, published a cover story this month marveling at what it called "the Maya Renaissance." "For the first time, Mayas are speaking for themselves about themselves," Demetrio Cojti, a social scientist who is one of the country’s leading Maya intellectuals, explained. "It is not that someone is speaking on our behalf, defending us, but that we ourselves are developing visions of our own identity and questioning everything, from a colonialist church to our relationship with the state."
Richard Adams, an anthropologist from the United States who has worked here since 1950, said: "It really is a renaissance and a major time of change. Everything is up for grabs." An estimated two-thirds of Guatemala’s 10.5 million people are of Indian descent, the vast majority of them members of 21 linguistically distinct groups descended from the Mayas.
But since independence from Spain was achieved 175 years ago, the country has been dominated by an affluent Hispanicized minority, known as Ladinos, that has discriminated against indigenous Guatemalans and scorned their culture. Conditions have been particularly difficult during the civil war, which is expected to end with the signing of a peace agreement before the end of the year. In that conflict, "the exclusionary project of the Spanish-descended elite merged with the internal security concerns of the military," one European diplomat here said, leading to a situation in which "each supported the other, and counterinsurgency merged with racism."
But early last year, the government and the leftist guerrillas of the Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity signed an "Accord on the Identity and Rights of Indigenous Peoples." In that document, negotiated under U.N. auspices and due to go into effect when the final peace agreement is signed, the government agreed to constitutional and other reforms so far-reaching that as one diplomat here put it, they will force Guatemalans "to redesign their entire society" if the changes are carried out by Congress.
The government pledged to "repeal all laws and decrees that may have discriminatory implications toward indigenous peoples" and officially declare Guatemala a "multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-lingual nation." It also promised to "recognize, respect and protect the distinct forms of spirituality practiced" by Indian peoples, "promote official status for indigenous languages" and grant greater political and judicial authority to local indigenous communities. For their part, Maya leaders feel confident in speaking out now because they no longer fear falling victim to the military massacres that wiped out hundreds of villages during the 1980s.
President Alvaro Arzu, who took office in January, has largely defanged the Guatemalan armed forces through purges of the officer corps, recruitment restrictions and budget cuts, so that the military is more concerned at the moment with its own survival than repressing "subversives." "We want to steer our own boat," Adolfo Ico Tujab, an elected leader of the Qeqchi people, said in an interview here. "We do not want to be manipulated anymore, and with the breaking of the iron fist, we finally have some space in which to promote the rights and interests of the Maya people."
To turn the state’s promises into a binding reality, the Guatemalan Fund for Indigenous Development, a government agency set up to work with Maya groups, has begun consultations about new laws to guarantee Maya rights. The Council of Elders was organized to advise the agency on cultural and spiritual matters, and has been given authority to ordain priests and issue definitive interpretations of ancient Maya codices, which are being looked to for guidance on community matters.
"Our people have endured a bitter history of 500 years of marginalization," said Macario Zabala Can, a Mayan priest who is president of the agency’s national advisory council. "But we have a prophecy that talks of the return of the Wise Men, and that is exactly what is happening now: We are entering a period of gestation." A central demand of Maya groups is that their traditional system of community land ownership be given the same legal recognition and protection as individual ownership.
But the proposals being considered for enactment also include plans to incorporate Maya healers, and spiritual advisers analogous to psychiatrists, into the country’s health care system and to establish bicultural public schools. Guatemala already has several hundred bilingual schools. But the objective there has always been "to Castilianize students," or acculturate them into the mainstream Spanish-language, European-based culture, rather than instruct them in their own culture, said Anabella Griecca, director of the linguistics department at the Rafael Landivar University here.
The university held a conference on Maya studies, its first, this week. In the last three years, more than 500 textbooks have been published in Mayan languages in anticipation of truly bicultural instruction, Dr. Griecca said. The Guatemalan Constitution has also been published in four Mayan languages, requiring the creation of an entire new vocabulary of legal and political terms, and the U.N. accord has been translated into nine different tongues.
There is also talk of organizing what Otilia Lux de Coti, a prominent Maya rights campaigner, calls "a political party of and for the Maya people." In mayoral elections last fall, some Indian organizations steered clear of endorsing candidates of the traditional parties, instead joining together in nonpartisan "civic committees" that in several areas won the overwhelming support of Maya voters. In Quezaltenango, the country’s second-largest city, Rigoberto Keme, a Quiche leader, was elected mayor and gave immediate credibility to the notion of the Mayas as an emerging political group.
A European ambassador here said, "It’s too early to draw conclusions, but if they really succeed in uniting on an ethnic basis, they can be a tremendous force in the next decade." Some Ladinos view the new Maya assertiveness as dangerous. Newspapers and magazines are full of angry columns and letters expressing fear that Guatemala may be heading down "the road to another Bosnia," or complaining of some of the more fanciful proposals that a few Maya groups have recently floated, like renaming the country Guatemaya or requiring images of the Virgin Mary to be dressed in native garb.
"Ethnophobia is symptomatic and recurrent in the agendas of the populist organizations, which have been characterized by a discourse directed at ethnic confrontation," wrote Alfred Kaltschmitt, a columnist for the newspaper Prensa Libre. "They are playing with fire." There is expected to be resistance in Guatemala’s Congress, which is dominated by Ladinos, to many of the Mayas’ demands.
But outright defiance, or any organized backlash against the Maya renaissance, appears unlikely, given the obligations that the Guatemalan government has already assumed in the peace accords and the international supervision that has come with them. "Racial discrimination is outlawed under existing agreements on human rights," said David Stephen, the director of the U.N. human rights mission here, "and we are watching carefully the resurgence of racism in some sectors.
To attack the cultural expression of the Mayans at this stage seems to me to be a disguised form of racism." In any case, most Maya leaders say the model they envision for their country is not Bosnia but South Africa. "My people are aware that the best route is dialogue and mutual respect," said Ms. Lux de Coti. "We don’t want war or confrontation. We only want to participate in the Guatemalan government to the extent of our weight."
June 25, 2000 – Reuters
Guatemalan Gays Hold First March
Guatemala City – Nervous but defiant, the gay community of Guatemala held its first public parade on Sunday, marching to four sites where transvestites were killed last year in apparent hate crimes.
About 100 transvestites, homosexuals and lesbians marked international gay day with the first Gay Pride parade in the Central American country. "Don’t be afraid, tell them with pride you’re gay,” Luis told his partner Briza, who was trying to hide his face from news photographers. "It scares us to go out and protest, but I’m proud to be gay,” Luis told reporters.
Gay rights are not widely recognised in Guatemala. "We sexual minorities are the objects of violent attacks,” parade organiser Fernando Bances told Reuters. He said organisers had given parade participants instructions on how to respond to possible attacks and where to seek safety.
By late Sunday, there had been no incidents. The marchers laid wreaths at the site where Luis Palencia, a transvestite who went by the name of Conchita, was gunned down last year. No one has been arrested in that case.
October 16, 2000 – thegully.com
How To Be A Lesbian In Guatemala
This week The Gully interviewed Claudia Acevedo, one of the few publicly out lesbians in Guatemala. She and her partner, Samantha Sams, are active in Lesbiradas, the country’s only lesbian and bisexual women’s group. Acevedo describes herself as "a lesbian, a lesbian co-mom, a ‘ladina’ (a mixed-race person, Indian, Black, White in this case), a human rights activist, a woman, a feminist."
What is it like to be a lesbian in Guatemala today?
I’m not a typical example of what it is to be a lesbian in Guatemala. I’m one of the few lesbians here who have had access to information, and who can live a life that is different from that of the majority of lesbians in this country. I’ve been politically active, openly, for some 12 years now, in Left and feminist groups. Organizing is part of who I am, and why I do what I do. That is not true for most Guatemalan lesbians, not even for most women in this country.
As an out lesbian, what is your daily life like?
I live near the historic center of the capital with my partner, Samantha Sams, and our daughter. I work for OASIS, where I’m now coordinating a regional Latin American and Caribbean networking project for ILGA, the International Lesbian and Gay Association. Samantha and I are also doing research on "Lesbian Identities in Guatemala." Thanks to the goddesses I work in what I like, and get paid to do it.
How out are you?
In reality, I live a pretty open life. I’m a public lesbian. Of course, I don’t carry a sign on the streets saying who I am, but everyone around me knows that I’m a lesbian. My family accepts it as part of their lives. My mother considers herself a grandmother, even if I’m not a biological mother. My brother, too—he sees himself as an uncle.
What do you do after work?
What we do with Lesbiradas is volunteer work. It’s great, because we’re 15 lesbians trying to do things together, without hierarchies or dues paying. It’s very relaxing to be able to talk openly among ourselves. I love women-only spaces. That’s why I’m also part of the new Feminist Forum, which is mostly straight women. But what I like best is to be with my daughter and my partner, relaxing, no pressures, to go out and play, to be kids again. My daughter is one of the people that enriches my life the most.
What is Lesbiradas about?
It’s about visibility for lesbians and bisexual women. We’ve just published the first issue of Identidades (Identities), our magazine. Last Thursday we went to the Women 2000 March in Guatemala, to be visible there. We also write articles for feminist magazines, and some mainstream media. Once a month, we organize a lesbian-only night.
What is the state of queer activism in Guatemala now?
In Guatemala, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activism and human rights work is very incipient. We’re now preparing a draft bill banning discrimination against the lgbt community . We’re also organizing a campaign against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation around the International Human Rights Day, December 10th.
As part of the ILGA project that I’m coordinating, we are putting together a human rights resource handbook for our communities in Latin America and the Caribbean. We will also publish an ILGA newsletter in Spanish and submit eight prototypical cases of violation of lgbt human rights to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. Suppose you are a 15 year-old female, you live in Guatemala City, and you find out you like girls. What do you do? Does it depend on your social class?
Regardless of social class, many young girls kill themselves when they "discover" that they are lesbians. The suicide rate due to sexual orientation is very high here. We have empirical proof of this, but unfortunately, a statistical study remains to be done. There is not a different pattern of behavior according to social class. We have seen poor, middle-class, and upper-class lesbians who have been forced to marry even after they have figured out that they’re lesbians, to hide their lesbianism. Where we have seen a class difference is in organizing. Generally, working people see organizing as a more urgent matter, as a means of survival, while the bourgeois have other resources. What I mean is that it is easier to attract working-class lesbians to our group, activities, and public work, than those who have means, jobs, businesses.
How visible are lesbians in Guatemala?
We’re hardly visible, even within the queer world. We’re very few to organize ourselves publicly. Most lesbians only go to certain things, clandestinely. That is why visibility in all aspects of national life is the main focus of Lesbiradas. Even in queer community spaces, most of the activities are geared to gay men. They say they are open to all, but then they ask you to contribute a condom to let you in. These are the subtle signs that gay and other groups don’t understand. A few days ago, for example, a group called the Lesbian-Gay Collective declared a National Day of Lesbian and Gay Dignity without consulting anyone else. We, at Lesbiradas, felt they had rendered us invisible.
Do most Guatemalan lesbians see lesbianism as identity or behavior?
At Lesbiradas we are working to build a collective lesbian identity. This is a really tough process in a society and a country that, aside from living in a culture of violence and terror, lacks a national identity. Our Guatemala is a country caught in an endless transition process, and therefore, our identity is almost zero. Some of us at Lesbiradas, like me, see lesbianism as a construction of identity; others, who have not had access to information, see it as behavior and practices. Then comes the great debate about role-playing, butch-femme, and replicating the hetero-patriarchal system, and those of us who don’t want that are considered weird by the others. So, we’re undergoing a complex process at Lesbiradas, with really deep discussions about our identity as Guatemalan lesbians.
Is there a lesbian community in Guatemala?
You can see by the level of discussion at our group that it is very incipient. A few lesbians organized ourselves in 1996 in a group called Mujer-es Somos (We Are Women). The name sent a signal that we were going to fight back as women, so transgender women and lesbians who considered themselves "men" were excluded. The group lasted until 1998. In 1999 we started Lesberadas (for liberated lesbians), which has now become Lesbiradas at the request of the bisexual members. Many lesbians here are absolutely not interested in organizing themselves, whether for reasons rooted in the history of Guatemala, like the violence, or because we activists are not doing something right. I would say that a lesbian community does not exist yet. We are a small ghetto attempting to get visibility.
What are the three things that Guatemalan lesbians need most?
For lesbians in general, the three biggest needs are access to information (about sexual orientation and sexuality, violence within the family and so many other things), legal and psychological counseling, and having our own spaces. What Lesbiradas needs most is to have our own financial resources and infrastructure, training in different areas, and also our own space. [Lesbiradas is currently supported by OASIS, an established, mostly gay-male run HIV/AIDS prevention organization now branching into queer human rights work.]
Where would you like Guatemalan lesbians to be by 2005?
Uggh! That’s the million dollar question, isn’t it? We see Lesbiradas by then as an established group, with our own space, doing direct actions, and researching and analyzing the situation of lesbians in Guatemala. For example, pushing for specific legislation with—this is the best scenario—the support and pressure of many Guatemalan lesbians.
How do you get from here to there?
We are going to do five things: set up a national communication network for Guatemalan lesbians, organize lesbians by sector (soccer players, lefties, lesbian mothers, indigenous lesbians, etc.), draft legislation to outlaw violence and discrimination against lesbians, lobby the Guatemalan Congress, and create partnerships with national and international human rights and other groups.
July 14, 2004 – International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission
Guatemala: Lesbian Activists Threatened
Violence against Human Rights Defenders has been a serious problem in Guatemala for years. UN Special Representative Hina Jilani visited the country in 2003 and wrote in her report that “… the most basic rights of human rights defenders have been violated in recent years in Guatemala and these violations are rarely properly investigated. Few of the reported cases of violations against human rights defenders have ended with satisfactory legal solutions.”
Since January 2002, 1,183 Guatemalan women have been murdered. U.N. Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, Yakin Erturk completed her investigation into violence against women in Guatemala on February 15, 2004. Her study showed that 306 of the 383 murders of women that took place during 2003 remain unsolved. According to the local authorities, “less than 5 percent of all murders are solved in Guatemala, which lacks a specialized homicide squad”. (Marion Lloyd, “Guatemala activists seek justice as women die”, The Boston Globe, June 14, 2004).
It is this context of violence and impunity in which we view with alarm the threats made by telephone, and the subtle intimidation engendered by visitors to a lesbian organization.. Both the telephone calls and the visitor made specific references to the series of murders committed against women- have been denounced by the Guatemalan lesbian group Lesbiradas and the coalition Coordinadora Ciudadana para la Diversidad Sexual (Citizens Coordinated for Sexual Diversity – CCDS).
IGLHRC joins Lesbiradas and CCDS in asking for urgent letters to be sent to the Guatemalan authorities demanding an investigation into the threats made to the organizations and protection to stop further violence against them.
Please write TODAY to:
Juan Luis Florido
Fiscal General (Attorney General)
Fiscalía General del Ministerio Público
8a. Avenida 10-67, Zona 1,
Guatemala, C. A.
Phone/fax: (502) 221-2718
Lic. Arturo Soto
Ministro de Gobernación.(Minister of Goverment)
6 Av. 4-64 Zona 4
Ciudad de Guatemala, Guatemala
Fax: +502 362 0239 y 362 0237
Doctor Sergio Morales
Procurador de los Derechos Humanos. (Ombudsman)
12 Av. 12-72 Zona 1
Guatemala, C. A.
Phone/fax: (502) 238-1734
Embassy/Consulate of Guatemala in your country/town.
And please send copies to the following media:
2a calle 1-42, Zona 1
Ciudad de Guatemala, Guatemala
Fax: + 502 221 2521
La Prensa Libre
13 Calle 9-31, Zona 1
Apdo. Postal 2063
Ciudad de Guatemala, Guatemala
Fax + 502-230-1384
And to Lesbiradas at
You will find below a model letter in Spanish, followed by its English translation. To make communication more effective with the authorities, we recommend you send the Spanish version.
De nuestra consideración:
Nos dirigimos a ustedes para expresar nuestra preocupación por las amenazas telefónicas y las visitas sospechosas que han tenido lugar en las oficinas de las organizaciones Colectiva de Lesbianas Liberadas Lesbiradas y Coordinadora Ciudadana por la Diversidad Sexual, en la ciudad de Guatemala.
En todos los casos, las activistas han sido objeto de agresiones verbales e insinuaciones de violencia sexual y física por su visibilidad como lesbianas y su defensa de la igualdad de derechos para las comunidades lésbicas, homosexuales, bisexuales y transgénero en Guatemala.
En el contexto de violencia contra las mujeres que se está viviendo en estos momentos en el país, dichas amenazas no pueden ignorarse. El Estado guatemalteco tiene el deber de proteger a la población, contra la violencia en todas sus formas. La protección a las defensoras de los derechos humanos que están trabajando para denunciar los abusos cometidos contra las personas por su preferencia sexual o su identidad de género, y que intentan educar a la sociedad para la convivencia pacífica entre quienes son diferentes, es fundamental para garantizar un orden social justo.
Pero no se trata sólo de una obligación moral. El Estado guatemalteco ha ratificado pactos internacionales de derechos humanos por los que se compromete a proteger derechos fundamentales de quienes habitan en su territorio, como el derecho a la vida, a la integridad física y psíquica de la persona y a la seguridad personal, sin discriminación alguna. Dichos tratados tienen preeminencia por sobre el derecho interno según el Artículo 46 de la Constitución guatemalteca, que también establece que “proteger a la persona y a la familia” (Artículo 1), así como “garantizar a los habitantes de la República la vida, la libertad, la justicia, la seguridad, la paz y el desarrollo integral de la persona” (Artículo 2) son deberes del Estado. En su Artículo 4, la Constitución consagra el principio fundamental de la no discriminación, al afirmar que “En Guatemala todos los seres humanos son libres e iguales en dignidad y derechos”.
En cumplimiento de tales obligaciones, solicitamos a ustedes que, con premura que amerita el caso:
– El Ministerio Público investigue diligentemente las agresiones y actos intimidatorios de los cuales han sido víctimas Lesbiradas y la CCDS, con el objetivo de identificar y perseguir penalmente a los responsables materiales e intelectuales;
– El Ministerio de la Gobernación tome las medidas necesarias para asegurar la vida y le integridad física y psicológica de las personas mencionadas, solicitando que las fuerzas de seguridad pública se pongan en contacto con Lesbiradas y la CCDS a fin de coordinar la implementación de dichas medidas;
– La Procuraduría de Derechos Humanos, haga una investigación inmediata, completa e imparcial sobre las amenazas de las cuales han sido víctimas Lesbiradas y la CCDS y que se hagan públicos los resultados de la investigación.
Saludamos a usted cordialmente,
We write to you to express our concern for the phone threats and suspicious visits that had taken place at the offices of two non-governmental organizations – Colectiva de Lesbianas Liberadas Lesbiradas and Coordinadora Ciudadana por la Diversidad Sexual (CCDS)- in Guatemala City.
In all cases, activists have been verbally harassed and threatened with sexual and physical violence because of their visibility as lesbians and their work towards equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities in Guatemala.
In the context of the epidemic of violence against women that the country is facing right now, those threats cannot go unanswered or unnoticed. The government of Guatemala has the duty to protect the population against all forms of violence. Protecting human rights defenders, who are working to denounce human rights abuses perpetrated against individuals because of their sexual preference or gender identity, and educating society to peacefully coexist with diversity, is a key element towards building a just social order.
But it is not only a moral obligation. The Guatemalan State has ratified international human rights treaties that mandate it to protect the fundamental human rights of those living in its territory, such as the right to life, physical and psychological integrity, and personal security, without discrimination whatsoever. According to Article 46 of the national Constitution, such treaties have precedence over local legislation. The Guatemalan Constitution also affirms that “protecting the individual and the family” (Article 1) as well as “guaranteeing life, freedom justice, security, peace and the full development of one’s personality to all those who inhabit the territory of the Republic” are obligations of the Guatemalan State (Article 2). In its Article 4, the Constitution consecrates the fundamental principle of non-discrimination, by stating, “In Guatemala, all human beings are free and equal in dignity and rights”.
To fulfill those obligations, we request that, with the urgency that the situation deserves,
– The Attorney General Office properly investigates the aggressions and intimidatory acts committed against Lesbiradas and CCDS, with the purpose of identifying and legally prosecuting those materially and intellectually responsible for such acts,
– The Ministry of Government take the necessary steps to guarantee the lives, physical and psychological integrity of the activists who have been threatened, requesting that the security forces contact both organizations to implement those measures.
– The Ombudsman Office conducts an immediate, full and impartial investigation into the threats received by both organizations, and makes the results of its efforts public.
(Name, organization, address)
Context: Violence Against Women and Human Rights Defenders, and Impunity
Hina Jilani, Special Representative of the UN Secretary General on Human Rights Defenders, visited Guatemala in June 2002. In her Report (E/CH.4/2003/104/Add.2), submitted during the 59th Session of the UN Commission on Human Rights, she says,
The Special Representative observes that the most basic rights of human rights defenders have been violated in recent years in Guatemala and that these violations are rarely properly investigated. Few of the reported cases of violations against human rights defenders have ended with satisfactory legal solutions.
The Special Representative considers it important to recall that State responsibility for human rights violations and breaches of international humanitarian law is not limited to direct actions or omissions by public officials, but extends to actions of private individuals and non-State elements, especially when committed at the instigation, or with the consent or acquiescence, of the authorities. It is the obligation of the State to protect its citizens from human rights violations, to prevent such violations, to pass relevant internal legislation to punish those responsible as well as to refrain from passing legislation that is contrary to international law, and to award compensation to the victims.
U.N. Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, Yakin Erturk completed her investigation into violence against women in Guatemala on February 15, 2004. Her study showed that 306 of the 383 murders of women that took place during 2003 remain unsolved. Ms. Erturk said that “The official response to the brutal murders of women who had been kidnapped and later found dead with signs of rape and torture illustrated that violence against women – whether domestic violence, rape or sexual harassment -– was not seen as a serious crime. Women in both countries also shared problems related to the long years of armed conflict and to more recent problems of violence and exploitation linked to domestic and transnational criminal networks. Most crimes remained uninvestigated, resulting in impunity, reinforcing patterns of gender discrimination and constituting a source of perpetual terror in the everyday lives of women”
(Press Release HR/CN/1074 /
“Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women Warns of Threats To Gains on Women’s Human Rights”, Geneva, April 5, 2004) Threats against Lesbiradas and CCDS
CCDS defines itself as “a collective force whose goal is to transform the situation of discrimination endured by sexual diversity in Guatemala through visibility, promotion and defense of the human rights of those who are sexually diverse”. The lesbian group Lesbiradas is a member of CCDS.
On June 26, 2004, CCDS organized the 5th Pride Gay Parade in Guatemala City that marched through the streets of the city’s Historical Section. Organizers estimated attendance in about 1.000 people. Marchers demanded equality in terms of rights for lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender, transvestites and transsexuals. And also condemned the violent murders of 18 transvestites between January and June 2004.
Before the Parade took place, CCDS organized a series of activities to promote Sexual Diversity, including a visibility campaign, a gay movie festival (June 4-18) and a cultural event (June 24). The campaign was widely covered by local media, through newspapers, radio and TV.
On July 4, 2004, Vanesa Anzora – a transvestite activist who took part in the parade- was found strangled in a hotel located in Guatemala City. With her death, the number of transvestites murdered in Guatemala during 2004 reached 19.
On July 7, 2004, at about noontime, Claudia Acevedo received the first phone threat at the office that Lesbiradas and CCDS share in Guatemala City. An anonymous voice asked “What are you all doing in there?” (¿Qué hacen allí?). And the insults started: “Huecas cerdas, lo que quieren es una buena chimada” – “hueca” is a pejorative term used to name lesbians, “cerdas” is a strong insult and “chimada” means “fuck”.
Evi Mendez, Lesbiradas’ Office Manager, took the second phone call. Claudia Acevedo took the third one and both Ms. Mendez and Abraham Boror, a member of CCDS, took the last one. In all those three phone calls, the same voice said “Ahorita vamos y nos las cogemos” (Now we go and fuck you all). There were also references made to the work that Lesbiradas and CCDS are doing.
About 5 minutes after the last phone call ended, a man appeared at the office saying that he was from the School of Architecture, from San Carlos de Guatemala University and that he wanted to donate materials from the University to both groups (computers, printers, furniture, etc.). He claimed to have been referred by the Director of another NGO. He asked specifically for Claudia Acevedo. Activists were suspicious and kept interrogating him. According to those who were at the office, the man was sweating, looked nervous and his language was very vulgar. He kept looking around the office, in an apparent attempt to memorize how spaces were distributed.
At one point, the man said “The work you are doing is good, but be careful with being so public, because given the way things are right now, with all those maniacs out there and with what is happening to women … It is not that I am threatening you, it’s just an advice”(Esta bueno el trabajo que hacen, pero tengan cuidado de no ser tan públicas, porque como están las cosas, y habiendo tanto maniático suelto y con eso de las mujeres. ¡No es que les este amenazando, solo es un consejo!).
Activists became very nervous and made efforts to end the conversation. Finally, the man agreed to come back later to bring the donations. Activists promised to get in touch with him later and he replied that he already had their phone – something that made them even more suspicious, as they had never provided that information to him. The man left. The name and phone number he gave the activists ended up being false.
Previous attacks against LGBT activists
On 13 May 2003, Mr Jorge López, President of the Organisation for the Support of an Integral Sexuality against AIDS (Orgaización de Apoyo a una Sexualidad Integral frente al SIDA – OASIS) was kidnapped by two men and locked up in a track. On Friday 23 May, Mr López and other members of OASIS were persued by five men driving a car who disappeared shortly afterwards.
Harassment against OASIS is probably linked to the organisation´s protest actions against police abuse of men, women and transvestite sex workers as well as against young and male homosexuals.
Furthermore, these events add to the list of violent attacks in Guatemala such as the murder (November 2002 – March 2003) of nineteen young protesters against the modification of the penal code and who were supported by the organisation CALDH and the Institute of Comparative Studies and Penal Sciences. These dramatic circumstances were preceded by the continued harassment of and spying on members of other organisations, such as H.I.J.O.S. and Lesbiradas, and the employees of the CASA ALIANZA during the last few years.
On one hand, it appears that the reason for all these attacks are the actions of OASIS, as well as other human rights organisations in denouncing publicly the irregularities committed by the Guatemalan police department. On the other hand, the common mark of these attacks is that they are directed against those organisations that work for the protection of the rights of vulnerable communities such as youth, abandoned children, homosexual male and young, lesbians, women, transvestites and men sex workers.
(For more details, see our forwarded Action Alert “ILGA Demands A Stop to Aggressions in Guatemala Against Human Rights Activists”, July 9, 2003. And for an even earlier account of a series of intimidatory acts against LGBT activists, see our May 3, 2001 Action Alert).
International Legal Framework
Right to life, liberty and security of person is protected by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 3), by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Article 9) and by the Interamerican Human Rights Convention (Article 7.1).
The UN Declaration Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (G.A. res.53/144, U.N. Doc. U.N. Doc. A/RES/53/144 – 1999) affirms: "Everyone is entitled, individually and in association with others, to be effectively protected under national law in reacting against or opposing, through peaceful means, activities and acts, including those by omission, attributable to States which result in violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms as well as acts of violence perpetrated by groups or individuals that affect the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms" (Article 12.2).
And it adds that, "In this connection, everyone is entitled, individually and in association with others, to be protected effectively under national law in reacting against or opposing, through peaceful means, activities and acts … attributable to States that result in violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as acts of violence perpetrated by groups or individuals that affect the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms" (Article 12.3).
Guatemala ratified the ICCPR in 1992 and the IAHRC in 1978.The UDHR is considered customary law for all Member States of the United Nations, including Guatemala.
The mission of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) is to secure the full enjoyment of the human rights of all people and communities subject to discrimination or abuse on the basis of sexual orientation or expression, gender identity or expression, and/or HIV status. A US-based non-profit, non-governmental organization (NGO), IGLHRC effects this mission through advocacy, documentation, coalition building, public education, and technical assistance.
350 Fifth Avenue, 34th Floor
New York, NY 10118
HOW TO SUBSCRIBE TO OUR EMERGENCY RESPONSE NETWORK (ERN):
To receive our action alerts via email (saving printing costs, postage, and trees), visit our website
http://www.iglhrc.org and select "Action Alerts."
Participation in the Emergency Response Network is free, but contributions are greatly appreciated and needed. Contributions are tax-deductible in the United States. Contributions can be made on your Visa or Mastercard (just include the amount, your account number, and expiration date). Alternatively, contributions can be sent by check via regular mail to the address above.
2004 – From: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,Transgender, and Queer Culture
4 Short History of Gay Guatemala
Guatemala A republic in Central America with the third largest area in the region, Guatemala is, after Mexico, the largest of the Central American countries in population, with about 11.5 million people. Homosexuality was made illegal by the Spanish conquest (1524). It was decriminalized in the nineteenth century, but it was not until the 1960s and 1980s that more open-minded attitudes toward homosexuality began to appear within Guatemalan society as a whole.
The Colonial Period
After the Spanish conquest, the administrative entity called Captaincy General of Guatemala comprised an area that today comprehends six countries (Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua). The Spaniards condemned the same-sex sexual practices that were common among many of the Mayan peoples and promulgated the Christian sexual ethic that only heterosexual relations in marriage were acceptable sexual behavior.
The Spanish colonial period ended in 1821, but the cultural hegemony of the Catholic Church remained until 1871, when a liberal revolution took place. Through all the "ecclesiastical period," homosexuality was illegal and persecuted under statutes forbidding "sodomy" or "pecado nefando." The law covered both male and female homosexual acts, but only male cases were indicted. Female homosexuality was invisible to the male-centered establishment.
Although homosexual acts were illegal, the penalties were rather mild. Natives were regarded as minors under the law, and thus they were not actually tried for sexual offenses. Instead, they were subjected to sermons and lectures.
The more common offenders during this period were friars and priests, but if they were sentenced for violating these statutes (which very seldom happened), their jail terms of six months to four years were served in their monasteries or religious houses, not in secular prisons.
The Revolution of 1871
In 1871 a vast reorganization of the Guatemalan state began. The state abandoned the colonial discourse and changed the laws that had been dictated by the Catholic Church. French ideas and concepts replaced the old ones. As part of this revolution, homosexuality was decriminalized on the constitutional grounds that private sexual acts between consenting adults were not the concern of the state.
The law changed, but a culture that despised homosexuals and homosexuality remained for many decades. Denigrating jokes about homosexual relations were common in families and even in the newspapers.
It was not until the late 1930s that a noted lesbian, Julia Quiñones, began a cultural club composed of gay men and herself. The activities of this group were very discreet, consisting mostly of reading and discussing poetry. Nevertheless, it was a beginning.
The 1950s and 1960s
In the 1950s, the attitudes of Guatemalan society began to change. After the surgical sex-change of Christine Jorgensen in the winter of 1952-1953, a timid discussion of sex in general began to take place in the media. The most important of the newspapers, El Imparcial, published for some months a weekly page about the "third sex."
This opening was expanded during the presidential tenure (1958-1963) of General Miguel Ydigoras, who appointed some noted homosexuals to important administrative offices.
From the AIDS Panic to Today
The AIDS epidemic of the early 1980s found the Guatemalan glbtq community without any cultural, social, or political organizations. At that time there really was no glbtq community. Moreover, the AIDS pandemic had a very negative effect on attitudes toward homosexuality.
However, in the 1990s a few political organizations appeared. The most significant of these was the Colectivo Gay de Guatemala that in October 2000 changed its name to Guatemalan Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transsexual and Transgender Community. It has subsequently grown to become an important voice in Guatemala.
However, despite this new political voice, crimes against homosexuals continue to be a serious problem. Moreover, they do not receive the same attention from the authorities that other crimes do. In July and October 2003 several transvestites were murdered, and the crimes were not seriously investigated by the police.
Thanks to the valiant struggle of activists to counter a long tradition of intolerance and machismo, Nicaragua now has a more visible glbtq community than ever before.
-Morales, Oscar. Al final del arcoiris. Guatemala City: Editorial Oscar de León Palacios, 2003.
-Whitam, Frederick L. Male Homosexuality in Four Societies: Brazil, Guatemala, the Philippines, and the United States. New York: Praeger, 1986.
February 26, 2006 – 365Gay.com
Guatemalan Gays, Transgenders Victims Of Deadly Attacks
New York City – The Guatemalan government is accused of doing little or nothing to stem a growing number of violent attacks on gays and the transgendered.
Human Rights Watch, an international organization based in New York, suggests at least some of the violence has been carried out or instigated by police.
In a letter to Guatemalan President Oscar Berger Human Rights Watch calls for immediate steps to investigate and end the " pattern of deadly attacks". One transgender woman was murdered and another was critically wounded on December 17 when they were gunned down on a street in Guatemala City.
The women were stopped by four men on motorcycles at an intersection in the center of Guatemala City. Eyewitnesses reported that the assailants were wearing police uniforms and riding police motorcycles that identified them as members of the national police. The assailants shot one of the women twice in the head, killing her immediately. They shot the other three times, and she is still recuperating from her injuries, Human Rights Watch said.
Both women worked for the Organización de Apoyo a una Sexualidad Integral frente al SIDA (OASIS), a nongovernmental organization that works to prevent HIV/AIDS and to protect the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. "These cold–blooded shootings are just the latest tragedy in Guatemala’s pattern of deadly violence based on sexual orientation or gender identity," said Jessica Stern, researcher in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Program at Human Rights Watch. "The police have not done enough to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, and now there is concern that they may be responsible for someone’s murder."
LGBT people in Guatemala regularly face attacks and threats. In 2005, at least 13 transgender women and gay men were murdered in Guatemala. On December 21, two men in an unmarked car with tinted windows robbed two gay male sex workers at gunpoint in Guatemala City. In the space of a single month, three gay men were murdered in Guatemala City late last year.
In its letter to Guatemala’s president, Human Rights Watch said the government must ensure prompt, thorough and impartial investigations of the December 17 shootings — as well as other similar attacks reported over the past year. The authorities must also ensure that those responsible for these crimes are brought to justice.
June 20, 2006 – Maimi Herald
Transgender prostitutes get political to end violence
A group of transgender prostitutes is working to put an end to the ruthless violence and disease that have recently beset sex workers.
by Jill Repogle
Guatemala City – Wigs, fake breasts and very high heels were on display recently at the first political forum held by the Queens of the Night Collective, a group of transgender prostitutes who work in Guatemala City.
The mood was serious. Around the room, posters commemorated the dozens of cross-dressers who have died in Guatemala in recent years — almost all brutally murdered or killed off by AIDS. One was killed and two others were wounded in a shooting just this past weekend.
A sex worker turned political activist who goes by the name of Fernanda Milán opened the forum by denouncing the lack of jobs, health, education and security for the gay and transgender population in this small Central American country.
”The security forces that should be our protectors are our main aggressors,” Milán said.
In the safety of the forum, the dozens of cross-dressing participants were free to put on lipstick and use the women’s bathroom. But out on the street it’s not so easy, or safe, to dress as a different gender.
At least 17 murders of transgenders have been reported in the Guatemalan media in the past five years, according to a study by OASIS. a Guatemalan gay-rights organization. And activists say there are probably many more that go unreported. Prostitution can be a particularly deadly profession for cross-dressers in Guatemala. Last year alone, seven cross-dressing prostitutes were murdered.
High Murder Rate
OASIS estimates that around 1,200 cross-dressers work as prostitutes in Guatemala, mostly in the capital. That makes the murder rate among this sub-population some 17 times higher than the already alarming national average — 35 murders per 100,000 citizens.
In the most recently publicized case, a cross-dresser who went by the name of Paulina was shot and killed last December while working a street corner in Guatemala City. The government’s human rights ombudsman said that four police officers may have been behind the murder. The case is still under investigation.
A cross-dressing sex worker from Honduras who goes by the name of Alexa Robinson showed up at the the recent forum with eight steel rods holding a femur together. The bone was shattered by a gunshot from a client.
Most of the cross-dressers interviewed for this story asked that their real names not be published out of fear for their safety.
Guillermo Alonzo, the public investigator in charge of the Paulina murder case, said that some of the killings probably are hate crimes.
However, the mix of drug trafficking, theft and other side businesses of prostitution add to the dangers of the trade, he said.
”It’s a world that also includes a lot of dirty businesses,” Alonzo said.
But transgenders in Guatemala say their choices of work and dress have been made extremely limited by a machista society that discriminates against anyone who doesn’t fit the norm.
”In developed countries sex work is an option, while in Guatemala it’s the only option” for transgenders said the activist Milán.
By organizing cross-dressing sex workers, the Queens of the Night Collective hopes to chip away at the discrimination and violence, and get their members off the dangerous streets. Leaders of the group, which has 80 to 100 members, also hope to halt the spread of HIV/AIDS among the gay community.
Jorge López, executive director of OASIS, said the path to achieving all of these goals has to start at home. ”We don’t need condoms, we need mothers who don’t throw their gay children out of the house,” said López.
A 24-year-old cross-dressing prostitute who goes by the name of Monica Fisher was kicked out of the house at age 19 after coming out as gay and expressing a preference for dressing like a woman. Fisher has been working on the street ever since.
The combination of violence and a high prevalence of HIV among gay men in Guatemala –– 18 percent, according to a recent OASIS study — is wiping out the gay community, according to López.”Every year we count how many people our community has lost,” López said. "It’s a plot to make us disappear.”
López complained that efforts to fight the spread of HIV/AIDS in Guatemala are focused on women in their reproductive years while the gay community, which has a much higher HIV infection rate, has been virtually abandoned.
In Need of Funds
The Queens’ goal is to create business and educational opportunities for members as alternatives to working on the streets, explained Johanna Ramírez, the group’s current president. Ramírez, a 33-year-old from El Salvador, said the group has plans for opening up a small clothing factory but still needs to come up with the funds. ”I’d like to be a fashion designer,” Ramírez said, dressed for the working night in a short, ruffled miniskirt and halter top.
Fisher, who works a corner near Ramírez, sees prostitution as a temporary job. Fisher has a high school-level degree in business administration and hopes to use it someday. ”I don’t think I’ll be working in the street in the future,” Fisher said. "One day we’ll have other job options.”
October 8, 2007 – Reuters
Family bill could hurt Guatemala single moms -group
by Mica Rosenberg
Guatemala City (Reuters) – Guatemala’s Congress is to vote this week on a bill limiting the legal concept of family to heterosexual couples with children, a move rights groups say threatens health-care access for single parent and gay homes. The proposed law is meant to reinforce existing legislation that prohibits gay marriage in Guatemala by explicitly saying families can only be formed by heterosexual couples. But U.S.-based Human Rights Watch fears single parents could also be thrown into legal limbo.
"The bill … would declare that the nearly 40 percent of Guatemalan families that are not nuclear — consisting of father, mother and children — are not families at all," the group said in an open letter opposing the proposal. Crucial health services now provided for single parents, their children, and indigenous families under a 2001 law could be taken away," it said.
Congressmen backing the measure, which could be voted on as early as Tuesday, say that human rights organizations are misinterpreting the law and that its main aim is to bar gay unions.
"There is a broad definition of family here, single mothers are families. So are widows," said Carlos Velazquez from the tiny, right wing National Unity for Change party. The only concept we are limiting is marriage. It is not correct for same-sex couples to marry," he said, claiming he has the backing of Catholic and evangelical Protestant churches and has collected 82,000 signatures of support since the law was proposed in 2005.
Legislators are considering the bill in response to a series of gay-friendly laws passed in Latin America in recent years allowing legally recognized civil unions in parts of Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, Argentina, and the United States. Guatemala’s two presidential candidates in the Nov. 4 run-off election have said they oppose gay civil unions.
The lawmakers are scrambling to pass the bill this month after Guatemalan gay rights group Oasis announced that it will host 10 symbolic same-sex weddings in October, complete with traditional food, marimba music and the blessing of a Catholic priest. The couples — including a transvestite planning to wear a white wedding gown — will sign contracts promising their lives to each other even though the union will not be recognized by the state.
"They can pass whatever laws they want, we are still going to have our civil unions," said Oasis Director Jorge Lopez. Lopez is keeping the identity of the couples secret and will not reveal the date or place of the ceremonies, fearing violent retaliation. "Our lives are at risk," he said. In the last three years close to 50 gay, lesbian and transgender people have been killed and often mutilated in Guatemala, one of the world’s most violent nations. Hate attacks are common against highly visible transvestite prostitutes.
August 22, 2008 – Kaiser Network
Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report
Global Challenges | Researchers Examine How Perceptions of Masculinity Influence HIV Prevention in Central America
A team of researchers is examining how different perceptions of masculinity can influence HIV prevention messages in Central America, the Columbia State reports. The team, which is supported by USAID and Population Services International, has held focus groups with 1,200 men from El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Panama to learn about different perceptions of masculinity and how the men see themselves. The men completed 11-point surveys on issues such as what motivates them, what is important in life and what word best describes them. Using the surveys, the researchers developed six primary categories to which HIV/AIDS prevention messages can be customized, according to the State. "It’s another approach for behavioral change messages," Susana Lungo, program director for the initiative, said.
The six primary categories are powerful, men to whom researchers should stress that they have the power to choose condom use; energetic, who can be reached by emphasizing that they can make a contribution to the fight against HIV/AIDS; protector, who should be given messages about fidelity and condom use for the sake of protecting their families; relaxed, who tend to be receptive to condom use because of generally open attitudes; searchers, to whom condom use has to be presented in interesting and engaging ways; and passionate, men who are receptive to fidelity and condom use messages out of respect for their partners.
According to the researchers, although the categories were developed to promote HIV prevention, they also can be used for teenage pregnancy prevention and other health issues (Reid, Columbia State, 8/21).
December 04, 2008 – Belize Web
Guatemala Lacks Funds to Fight AIDS
Guatemala, (Prensa Latina) Twenty-four years after the first AIDS case was reported in Guatemala, HIV continues to spread due to insufficient funds for programs to prevent and fight the disease, experts said. Although health authorities have reported 16,825 HIV cases, other institutions, including the National Program on the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, claim that the number of cases may exceed 66,000.
Maria Tallarico, representative of the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) in Guatemala, said both reports are conservative, and called on authorities to make greater efforts to collect more accurate statistics.Tallarico warned that if the State does not allocate more funds to prevent the disease from spreading, it will become an epidemic. In addition to detection, educational programs on prevention, especially among youths, who are the most vulnerable sector, are needed, she added. In Guatemala, 94 percent of HIV transmissions are sexual, because people are not aware of the need for safe sex.
The most affected departments, in addition to the capital, are those along the so-called immigration corridor, which includes eastern Guatemala, the Pacific coast and the Mexican border. However, a study carried out this year among 1,000 pregnant women detected 42 cases in faraway regions, so the disease has spread nationwide. Most programs to provide care to HIV carriers or full-blown AIDS patients are carried out in urban areas, thus the difficulties to fight the disease.
January 21, 2009 – PinkNews
Guatemalan trans rights advocate faces arrest warrant
by Staff Writer, PinkNews.co.uk
A human rights group has questioned the decision of a public prosecutor in Guatemala to charge the director of transgender rights group with attempted murder. An arrest warrant has been issued for Jorge López.
Human Rights First said: "Mr López is the director of a prominent organisation that works to protect the rights of transgendered sex workers in Guatemala and he has spent many years advocating for them. He worked closely with the victim and sought police protection for her shortly before the attack. He later submitted complaints about police misconduct against sex workers, shortly before the arrest warrant against him was issued. On Friday January 23, 2009, López faces a court hearing and may be sent to prison. Given the nature of his work, he would face considerable risks in prison. It is possible to prevent an unnecessary trial, and even a conviction, if the appropriate authorities can determine now that there is insufficient evidence to arrest and charge him."
Human Rights First is asking the Guatemalan Attorney General to begin an independent review of the validity of the charges against Mr López. Last year the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission claimed there is an "apparent policy of persecuting sexual rights activists" in Guatemala.
IGLHRC said that on October 18th an HIV prevention event in Samayac Suchitepéquez, a town located 158km from Guatemala City, was granted and then refused permission to use the municipal hall after the mayor was questioned by church groups.
The event ultimately took place in a rental space. "Although the police provided some protection at the start of the event, their presence was transient," according to the human rights group. After they abandoned the event, someone threw a tear gas bomb into the room where the event was being held. While no one was seriously injured, people fainted, children became excessively tearful, and everyone was affected by the fumes."
A similar attack took place in 2007 at an LGBTI festival in La Blanca, Ocos San Marcos, a small town 300km from Guatemala City. LGTBI activists have subsequently been unable to meet in that town.
12 February 2010 – Pink Paper
Interview: Human rights activist Jorge Lopez
While Britain celebrates LGBT History month, the fight for basic freedom and equality across the world rages on. Jorge Lopez is a testament to this ongoing struggle.
by Oli Balcazar – news.PinkPaper.com
While Britain celebrates LGBT History month, the fight for basic freedom and equality across the world rages on. Jorge Lopez is a testament to this ongoing struggle. A human rights activist from Guatemala, he’s visiting London this week to raise awareness of the crises facing LGBT communities in Central America. He spoke to PinkPaper.com exclusively.
“The widespread homophobia in Guatemala is symptomatic of its broader problems; poverty, corruption, social and economic inequality all foster feelings of discontent and hatred against minorities,” says Lopez. “Anger at the system is directed against the LGBT community, making it more of a target than ever.”
We might expect those on the fringes of society to be protected by the State, but it is the Guatemalan government that most hinders Lopez and his gay rights organisation OASIS in their struggle for equality. In 2006, an transgender member of OASIS, Paulina, was killed, prompting the human rights organisation Peace Brigades International to provide protective accompaniment to OASIS. The case has yet to come to trial, though witnesses alleged attackers were officers of the National Civil Police.
“The executive and judicial powers have absolutely no interest in protecting the vulnerable or enforcing justice. Attacks on gay people remain unpunished, leading to a culture condoning violence against the LGBT community. This impunity exists because of a fundamental failure of the State.” Lopez himself has faced numerous threats and attacks while campaigning. He refuses however to be silenced by such tactics, continuing to run a programme of services, training and advice, as well as documenting and reporting the human
rights violations, exclusion and discrimination that LGBT communities, including sex workers and those with HIV-AIDS, suffer in his country.
He has met with openly gay MEP Michael Cashman to highlight the violent persecution across Guatemala and central America. “Our meeting was a great step for us. It can take a while for the severity of the situation to implement action, but I’m confident OASIS can raise the global awareness we need.” Lopez is also meeting with the All-Party Parlimentary Group on AIDS, a backbench cross-Party group of MPs and Peers, to discuss the critical situation for HIV sufferers in Guatemala.
“The country is facing a HIV epidemic, yet the government refuses to acknowledge the problem. Any money for HIV treatment is given solely for the rich elite, leaving poorer people such as sex workers with only international aid to treat the virus.” The tasks of protecting LGBT people from violence, as well as changing social attitudes of his country, are ones Lopez is ready to tackle. “I want to put a face to the struggle in Guatemala. People need to understand the problems we face and how we can unite to uphold justice and freedom.”
Lopez will visit Madrid later in the week to alert the Spanish government to the severity of Guatemala’s situation.
April 6, 2010 – AIDS-Alliance
Special report: Transphobia and hate crimes in Guatemala
So far this year in Guatemala 13 transgender people have been murdered and a 20 year old transgender person is missing. Johana Ramirez, a leader of the Latin American and Caribbean Network of Transgender People (Redlactrans), was the victim of attempted murder. Here she talks to Key Correspondent, Alejandra Ruffo, about how these ‘hate crimes’ are carried out with impunity in Guatemala.
“We’re really afraid of the national civil police and the public ministry, because of their direct actions towards us, and the things we have seen”, says Johana. "There have been human rights violations by security staff and uniformed persons. People who hold power in our country.”
Reinas De La Noche
Kenia Mayli, Jessica Andreina and Sabrina Cajas were murdered last year between late October and early November. These hate crimes, a result of transphobia – an irrational aversion to transgender people, transsexuals and transvestites – led members of Redlactrans and local organisation Reinas de la Noche (Queens of the Night) to mobilise.
They publicised the hate crimes in the media and participated in a national demonstration to stop violence against women. But nothing changed. “As a result of those actions there were more attacks, more threats. I was attacked and someone tried to kill me”, says Johana. This happened in November, when she was walking along the street and noticed four men following her. “They came very close and started to say ‘it’s her, it’s her’. When I looked at them I realised that one was getting his gun ready to shoot me… I ran off and went into a shop.”
Johana escaped, but her nightmare didn’t end there. Catherine Barrios, her roommate, who is 20 years old, has been missing since mid-February. “We don’t know her whereabouts, or how she is. We don’t know whether she was kidnapped or murdered,” says Johana.
Acts of violence are repeated week after week, day after day. A week after Johana was threatened a group of transgender women were shot at by a group of men of similar description. Other reports include threats repeatedly carried out by men driving by in a red car, faces covered by balaclavas.
24 de Febrero de 2011 – Sentidog.com
La dura realidad de las transgéneros en Guatemala – The Harsh Reality of Transgender People in Guatemala
by Carlos Rigalt C – (El Periodico)
Las travestis se protituyen para sobrevivr Ayer se cumplió un año de la desaparición de Catherine Michelle Barrios en las calles del Centro Histórico. No se trataba de una prostituta sino de una miembro de la comunidad transexual que, como muchas en esa condición, venden sus servicios sexuales en las céntricas avenidas para sobrevivir. Miembros de Onusida y de la Organización Trans Reinas de la Noche, Otrans, escogieron la fecha para presentar el documental Translatina el cual, según Pier Paolo Baladelli, representante de la Organización Panamericana de la Salud, data de 2008 y ha servido para elevar la discusión sobre las personas transgénero en Latinoamérica.
En la región, reportan, los derechos humanos de las personas transexuales no solo aún no se reconocen sino que estas personas son castigadas por la sociedad a través de prácticas de discriminación que comienzan desde el propio hogar o la escuela, prosiguen en el transcurso de la vida con la estigmatización y rechazo laboral y terminan trágicamente para muchas de ellas al ser asesinadas. Por ejemplo, el documental muestra entrevistas con empleados del Sistema Penitenciario peruano quienes, sin asomo de vergüenza declaran ante la cámara las vejaciones a las que someten a las travestis en las calles de Lima para intentar -en vano dicen- “reformarlas”.
Aunque Guatemala no se muestra entre las tomas –sí están Perú, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Brasil, Honduras, El Salvador, México- se adivina que las cosas para las “reinas de la noche” no son mucho mejores. Johana Ramirez, representante de Otrans, habla de una treintena de travestis asesinadas o desaparecidas en el país entre 2009 y 2010.
Las personas transgénero a menudo enfrentan retos “únicos” que las hacen sumamente vulnerables y marginadas en la sociedad, dice Otrans. Julio Coyoi, de la subdirección de rehabilitación social del Sistema Penitenciario, subraya cómo en las cárceles estas personas llegan a sufrir vejaciones que difícilmente se conocen afuera. “Hubo un caso de una transexual que estaba asignada a una cárcel de mujeres y nadie lo sabía” u otros que, cumpliendo su condena en una cárcel de hombres, y con el afán de buscar “protección” de parte de otros reclusos, permiten que se les abuse sexualmente. “Es un fenómeno muy complejo, y no se puede desarrollar un programa si no se tiene una idea de cuántas” existen dentro de las cárceles. Esto se ignora actualmente, agregó.
Entre las nuevas herramientas que la comunidad transexual en el país comienza a construir para protegerse de la discriminación que padecen se encuentra la elaboración de una ley que garantice su derecho a la educación, el trabajo y la salud, entre otros temas. “Que podamos tener una identificación individual que vaya de acuerdo a nuestra identidad sexual” agrega Ramírez.