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Remembering The Victims Of The Orlando Shooting, Many Of Whom Were Latino

On early Sunday morning, 49 people were killed and countless more injured when a gunman armed with an AR-15 and a pistol opened fire at Pulse, a gay night club in Orlando, Flo. The attack on the was the deadliest mass shooting in American history, and it fell on the club’s Latin Night. At least 32 of the people killed were Latino and young, the very same individuals who comprise our readership. These were our brothers and sisters. mitú stands in solidarity with the victims, their families, and the entire LGBTQ community.

Below we’ve compiled profiles on those that have been lost. It’s by no means complete, and we’ll be updating as more information comes to light.

Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34 years old

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Credit: Edward SotoMayor/Facebook

“He was always part of the fun,” David Sotomayor, who identified himself as his cousin, told the Associated Press.

Edward Sotomayor worked for Al and Chuck, a travel agency that catered to the LGBTQ community. His cousin told the AP that Edward was a charismatic and caring man.


Stanley Almodovar III, 23 years old

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Credit: Stanley Almodovar III/Facebook

Stanley Almodovar III was “an amazing with a good soul,” according to his aunt, who spoke with the Orlando Sentinel. Almodovar III was a pharmacy technician working towards completing his degree in pharmacy.

Prior to Saturday night’s horrific events, Almodovar had posted a Snapchat video of himself singing and laughing. “I wish I had that (video) to remember him forever,” Rosalie Ramos, his mother, told the local paper.


Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20 years old

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Credit: Omar Capo/Facebook

Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo lived in Cleveland but was visiting family in Orlando. Ocasio-Capo was a dancer who was coming into his own as an adult, according to his cousin, Leonarda Flores, who spoke to Fusion.

“[He] did not care, he loved himself and he loved others,” Flores told the news outlet, referencing the homophobia Ocasio-Ocampo experienced. “He was very open, he lived who he was. He knew he was beautiful, he knew it and he flaunted it.”


Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22 years old

A photo posted by Juan Guerrero (@juang0628) on

Credit: Juang0628/Instagram

“He was always this amazing person (and) and he was like a big brother to me,” Robert Guerrero, his cousin, told the Associated Press. “He was never the type to go out to parties, would rather stay home and care for his niece and nephew.”

Juan Ramon Guerrero worked as a telemarketer but had enrolled at the University of Central Florida; he wasn’t sure what he wanted to study but was glad to be enrolled in school.

Guerrero came out to his family earlier this year. According to his cousin, his family was “very accepting. As long as he was happy, they were okay with it.”

Guerrero’s boyfriend, Christopher Andrew Leinonen, was also among the victims.


Christopher Andrew Leinonen, 32 years old

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Credit: Provincetown Magazine/Facebook

Christopher Andrew Leinonen was originally from Detroit but moved to the Orlando area in the last year. His boyfriend, Juan Ramon Guerrero, was also one of the victims. He was the son of Christine Leinonen, the mother who spoke to various media outlets in tears wanting to know what had happened to her son.

According to ABC News, Christopher Andrew Leinonen established a gay-straight alliance at his high school, for which he was given a humanitarian award.


Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36 years old

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Credit: Eric Ortiz/Facebook

“He was very artistic,” Orlando Gonzalez, his cousin, told the New York Times.

Described as “a goofball,” Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera was originally from Puerto Rico and is survived by his husband.”His husband called me in the morning,” Gonzalez said. “He was hysterical trying to find him.”


Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22 years old

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Credit: Peter Ommy/Facebook

Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz was called “Peter Ommy” by his friends and family, and that’s how he identified as on Facebook. Prior to his tragic death, Gonzalez-Cruz worked for UPS and had lived some time in Africa.


Luis S. Vielma, 22 years old

Credit: @jk_rowling/Twitter

“He was always a friend you could call,” Josh Boesch, who worked with Vielma at Universal Studios, told the Orlando Sentinel. “He was always open and available.”

“Every interaction with guest, he had a smile on his face and always goofy and cheerful. Fun guy to be around,” Linnette Martinez, another co-worker of Vielma’s, told mitú. She describes him as “very sweet and fun.”

The 22-year-old was an attraction operator in the Harry Potter section of the park. Upon learning of his death, Harry Potter author JK Rowling tweeted her condolences, seen above.


Kimberly Morris, 37 years old

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Credit: KJ Morris/Facebook

“She was such a great person and so full of life,” Starr Shelton, an ex-girlfriend, recounted to the Orlando Sentinel. ” I can truly say heaven has gained an angel.

Morris, who went by KJ, had recently moved to Orlando from Hawaii. She was a bouncer at the club.

“She was just the sweetest person,” added Narvell Benning, a college friend. “I can’t think of a time when I did not see a smile on her face. I’m so thankful for the good memories I have of her. This is just unreal.”


Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30 years old

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Credit: GoFundMe

Eddie Jamoldroy Justice worked as an accountant in Orlando. He texted his mother, Mina Justice, as the act of terror was taking place.
“Mommy I love you,” he texted.

The two communicated intermittently until he stopped responding. Mina Justice would eventually get news that her son was among the victims.

“Going To Try &Get Some Rest. Please Keep The Prayers Coming,” Mina Justice wrote on Facebook, according to the Orlando Sentinel. “The Prayers Of The Righteous Availeth Much. We Will Get Through This Tragedy . One Day At A Time. Sleep Tight Eddie , Mommy Loves You Son.”

A GoFundMe page was set up in honor of Justice.


Darryl Roman Burt II, 29 years old

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Credit: Jacksonville Jaycees/Facebook

Darryl Roman Burt II (second from left in picture above) was a financial aid officer at Keiser University in Jacksonville, Flo., who was working towards his master’s degree. According to people who knew him, he was a positive individual whose optimism rubbed off on others.

“He always had a smile on his face and was a very nice guy,” Lisamarie Winslow, president of KU’s Jacksonville Campus told the Florida Times-Union. “He definitely leaves an impression and had a big personality and he is missed.”


Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32 years old

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Credit: Patricia Drayton Banks/Facebook

Deonka Deidra Drayton, or DeeDee, was working at Pulse when she was killed, according to a woman claiming to be her aunt on Facebook. It’s unclear whether Drayton was an actual Pulse employee.

“While keeping the others in Orlando in prayer, keep my brother, his wife and both our families in your prayers,” Patricia Drayton Banks wrote on her Facebook page. “My neice, Deonka “Dee Dee” Drayton was killed in this horrible tragedy. Senseless. She was at work !!!. ??????. R.I.P Dee Dee. You know this Auntie will miss you.??✌✌????”


Anthony Luis Laureano Disla, 25 years old

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Credit: Lucas Daniel Acosta D’Oleo/Facebook

Laureano, originally from San Juan, Puerto Rico, was known and beloved in Orlando for his drag persona, Alanis Laurell. In a Reddit thread dedicated to Laureano’s gorgeous drag performances, one commenter bid him good-bye with, “Go make the heavens beautiful.”

Here’s Laureano, as Alanis, performing at Miami’s Azucar nightclub:

Credit: Christopher Morales/YouTube

Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35 years old

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Credit: Naej Mendez/Facebook

Jean Carlos and his partner Luis Daniel, known to friends as Danny, died together at Pulse. Jean, who was originally from Puerto Rico, is remembered as being a happy, warm, funny person who loved his job at Perfumania, where he met and fell in love with Danny.


Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37 years old

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Credit: Lestat Wilson/Facebook

Jean’s partner, Danny, was also originally from Puerto Rico, and is remembered by friends as a “protector, confidant and hero.” Growing up in a small town, Danny is remembered as always marching to the beat of his own drum, and was bullied as a result, but that didn’t stop him into growing up into a compassionate and much-loved person.


Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, 50 years old

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Credit: Jimmy Dejesus/Facebook

Originally from Puerto Rico, Dejesus was a professional Jîbaro dancer whose Facebook presence was positive and inspiring, filled with motivational sayings and pictures of his loved ones.


Amanda Alvear, 25 years old

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Credit: Amanda Alvear/Facebook

Amanda was dancing at Pulse with her best friend Mercedez, who also died during the attack. She had been recording herself dancing on Snapchat when the shots first rang out. Her sister, Ashley, shared her heartbreak on Facebook.


Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26 years old

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Credit: Mercedez Florez/Facebook

Mercedez, who died alongside Amanda, has a GoFundMe page set up by loved ones to help her family. Mourners there remember her as a “bright star.”


Martin Benitez Torres, 33 years old

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Credit: Martin B’Nitez/Facebook

Martin’s Facebook page is filled with pictures of his friends and his life in Orlando. Originally from Puerto Rico, Martin’s Facebook bio described him as a “fighter” who aimed to soar.

Con la family en Orlando

Posted by Martin B’nitez on Saturday, June 11, 2016

Credit: Martin B’nitez/Facebook

Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35 years old

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Credit: Xavier E. Serrano/Facebook

Xavier was a dancer who worked at Disney Live! and performed at the annual Atlanta Bachata Fest.

According to Buzzfeed, he is remembered by Splash Bar, an old employer, as always happy to help those around him.

“He took his time to work with Flagpole, Grant, Vadim and some of the other dancers to improve their moves and was quick with a smile,” they reported.

Others took to social media to lament his passing.

“I writhed in bed for hours in my head wrapped in all of this,” friend Matt Molandes said, according to Buzzfeed. “Sleep was nearly impossible and waking up to the news that Xavier E. Serrano has passed, it’s soul crushing. My heart aches for his family and Wilma Lozano and their beautiful baby boy. I’m am so happy you are no longer in pain, but this entire world feels the impact of you not being here. Look over us, watch over us, we live in your name.”

He is survived by a young son.


Miguel Angel Honorato, 30 years old

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Credit: Miguel Honorato/Facebook

Miguel’s brother, Enrique, took to Facebook to reminisce about their trips to Mexico and to Tennessee, noting that Miguel loved mango lemonades from Auntie Anne’s.

R.I.P Brother Miguel Honorato, man i wouldve never thought this would happen to you… I remember the good old times…

Posted by Enrique Ezequiel Honorato on Monday, June 13, 2016

Credit:Enrique Ezeguiel Honorato/Facebook

Enrique L. Rios, Jr., 25 years old

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Credit: Jackiii Rios/Facebook

Brooklyn native Enrique is survived by his mother and five siblings. His mother shared that Enrique had been in Orlando for vacation and has set up a GoFundMe page to help with transportation and funeral costs.

The 25-year-old was on vacation in Orlando. He studied social work at St. Francis College and was working at True Care Home Health Care Agency at the time of his untimely passing.


Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37 years old

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Credit: Juan P. Rivera/Facebook

Originally from Puerto Rico, Juan owned a spa and salon in Kissimmee, Florida.

“It is very hard to deal with this and the worse pain is the pain of being here without knowing what happened to him,” Baron Serrano, his brother, told the New York Times as he waited at the hospital to find out what had happened to Juan.


Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25 years old

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Credit: Silva Gilbert/Facebook

Originally from Manati, Puerto Rico, Gilberto had come to Orlando to pursue his studies in healthcare management. He was at Pulse with his friend, “Peter Ommy” Cruz, who was also killed during the shooting.


Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40 years old

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Credit: Harvey George King/Facebook

A supervisor at Gucci, Javier is remembered by his close friend as having a contagious smile and “making me feel like a beautiful woman and mother even on days I couldn’t see it.”

Today I woke up to the news I spent all night hoping not to hear! An old and dear friend lost his precious life in the…

Posted by Ellen Taaffe on Monday, June 13, 2016

Javier had studied tourism at the Academia San Antonio de Guayama in Puerto Rico. A co-worker took to Facebook to thank Javier for his humor and “for all the talks and advice on pursuing my passion.”


Cory James Connell, 21 years old

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Credit: Cory Connell/Facebook

Cory was studying Sports Journalism and Broadcasting at Valencia Community College, and is described by family members as a “superhero.” His family has taken to his Facebook page to express their sense of loss and how much he meant to them.

Cory Connell im doing my best to be as strong as i can man. But being here without you man. Its tough. I can you feel…

Posted by Ryan Connell on Monday, June 13, 2016

Credit: Ryan Connell/Facebook

Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19 years old

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Credit: Joseph Bebe/Facebook

One of the youngest casualties from the shooting, Jason called his mother as shots rang out. Jason was a student at Valencia College, studying computer science.

He was still figuring who he was, and prior to his passing, he’d started developing new passions

“He mentioned to me that he wanted to start taking pictures, he had a passion for photography,” Christopher Long, his uncle, told the Orlando Sentinel. “He was just real special.”

On Facebook, he tended to express self-love and positivity.

i love myself so much right now i really really do ??????

Posted by Jason Bebe on Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Credit: Jason Bebe/Facebook

Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega, 24 years old

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Credit: Jonathan A. Camuy/Facebook

Jonathan, who had moved from Puerto Rico to Miami, worked on the Telemundo show “La Voz Kids.” He was a proud member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.

On Monday, Telemundo tweeted their condolences.

Credit: TelemundoNews/Twitter

Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33 years old

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Credit: Shane Tomlinson/Facebook

A graduate of East Carolina University, Shane managed and sang in the Orlando-based Frequency Band. His Facebook bio describes him as an “ordinary guy living an extra-ordinary life using my God-given gift to navigate through this journey.”

Here is Shane performing with his band:

A little snippet from our shoot last night.

Thank You All ?

Posted by Frequency Band on Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Credit: Frequency Band/Facebook

Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25 years old

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Credit: Tevin Crosby/Facebook

Though young, Michigan native Tevin owned his own business. His brother Chavis described him as “very ambitious,” telling the Orlando Sentinel that “[w]hatever goal he had in mind, he worked hard. Whether alone or on a team, he worked on that goal.”

Oscar A. Aracena-Montero, 26 years old

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Credit: Oscar Aracena/Facebook

Oscar’s cousin remembered him on Facebook as being a humble and inspiring young man who will be missed dearily. Oscar was at Pulse with his partner Simon, and the two were remembered by a mutual friend who shared that she will miss “the arepas you made for me with so much love, our conversations” and the advice that they shared.

Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, 31 years old

Simon, who lost his life alongside Oscar, leaves behind a Facebook page that offers a portrait of a young man who loved the beach and who adored and was adored by his family and friends. According to a friend’s post, Simon and Oscar had recently found a home together. Another friend posted that their passing has taken a huge toll, calling them both “princes” and promising that they’d never be forgotten.

Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, 49 years old

Brenda was a mother of 12 who had beat cancer not once, but twice. She was at Pulse with her son, who survived the shooting. The Orlando Sentinel reports that, that night, Brenda had been sharing videos from the club on Facebook, showing happy couples dancing to Latin music.

Our hearts are with you, Orlando. Don’t forget to click share.

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This Digital Posada Is All About Helping The LGBTQ Migrant Community, Who Face A Uniquely Challenging Reality

Things That Matter

This Digital Posada Is All About Helping The LGBTQ Migrant Community, Who Face A Uniquely Challenging Reality

Spencer Platt / Getty Images

With homosexuality still illegal in more than 60 countries around the world and attitudes towards transgendered people often even less welcoming, it’s obvious why so many people risk their lives to migrate to the United States.

However, that journey to a better life is often one of many dangerous hurdles and often times, once swept up in immigration proceedings, things don’t get much better.

LGBTQ detainees across the country have shared harrowing experiences of being mocked or tortured for their gender identity or sexual orientation. Many others have been sexually assaulted while in ICE custody or while waiting for their asylum claims at the U.S.-Mexico border. And transgendered and HIV-positive detainees have both been denied medically necessary healthcare that has posed a risk to their lives.

LGBTQ migrants have the same issues and problems to worry about that all other migrants face, however, the LGBTQ experience comes with several extra hurdles.

LGBTQ migrants coming to the U.S. face unique challenges that often put them at increased risk of violence.

Credit: Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images / Getty Images

Like so many others, LGBTQ migrants are often fleeing violence and persecution in their native countries. But despite often fleeing sexual violence and trans- and homophobia, so many migrants are sexually assaulted while in U.S. custody.

While just 0.14 percent of ICE detainees self-identified as LGBTQ in 2017, they reportedly accounted for 12 percent of sexual abuse and assault victims.

Based on a new report from the Center for American Progress, a public policy research and advocacy organization, LGBTQ migrants in federal detention centers are 97 times more likely to be sexually assaulted than other detainees.

Studies show LGBTQ migrants are among the most vulnerable, more likely to be assaulted and killed, especially trans migrants. Of Central American LGBTQ migrants interviewed by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in 2017, 88 percent were victims of sexual and gender-based violence in their countries of origin; two-thirds suffered similar attacks in Mexico.

Human rights group allege that ICE fails to provide proper medical care to LGBTQ migrants – particularly trans and HIV-positive detainees.

Migrant advocacy groups and several lawmakers have demanded that ICE release all LGBTQ detainees and anyone with HIV in the agency’s custody, because the government has repeatedly failed to provide adequate medical and mental health care to them.

“We know that lack of medical and mental-health care, including lack of HIV care, is the norm,” Roger Coggan, director of legal services at the Los Angeles LGBT Center, told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “By the Department of Homeland Security’s own count, 300 individuals identifying as transgender have been in custody and at the mercy of ICE since October of 2018.

For detainees with HIV, antiretroviral treatment is necessary to help kill and suppress the virus which ensures a healthy life but also reduces the risk of transmission to basically zero. Yet ICE is failing to provide this life-saving care.

Johana Medina Leon, a transgender woman who was detained at Otero and had tested positive for HIV, fell seriously ill and died at a hospital in nearby El Paso. Leon, 25, was the second trans woman to die in ICE custody in New Mexico in the past year. Roxsana Hernandez, 33, died in November 2018 after falling ill at the Cibola County Correctional Facility.

Meanwhile, Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” policy is presenting additional challenges to the LGBTQ community.

Credit: Spencer Platt / Getty Images

While the Trump administration has severely limited asylum qualifications for Central Americans fleeing gang violence and domestic abuse, migrants can still request asylum based on persecution because of their gender identity and/or their sexual orientation. But their path is far from easy.

The administration continues to return LGBTQ migrants to Mexican border cities where they face assaults, kidnappings and death while they await U.S. court hearings.

“Here, the same as at home, the police discriminate against us,” Alejandro Perez told NBC News in early October. “We’re very vulnerable. I don’t feel safe here in Mexico.”

Border Patrol officials initially said “vulnerable” asylum seekers would be exempted from the Remain in Mexico program, including those who are LGBTQ, pregnant or disabled. But that hasn’t been the case.

Thankfully, the LGBTQ Center Orange County is working hard to protect and help the most vulnerable.

Southern California is home to the nation’s largest undocumented community, which means organizations like the LGBTQ Center Orange County have their work cut out for them. However, the center has proudly stood up to help in powerful and life-changing ways.

The LGBTQ Center OC is one of the leading migrant outreach centers in the region, attending numerous events throughout the year and providing outreach at the Mexican consulate in Santa Ana – each year reaching more than 5,000 people. The center also played a pivotal role in ending the partnership of Santa Ana Police and the Orange County Sheriff with ICE, bringing an end to ICE detention within the county.

As those migrants were detained at facilities outside the county – sometimes more than two hours away – the center mobilized volunteers to help stay in touch with detainees. This team helps provide much needed companionship through letters and notes, as well as providing legal representation and even cash payments that help detainees get everything from a filling meal to in-person visits.

And the work the center does is so important because it shouldn’t just be on detainees to speak out. All of us as part of the LGBTQ and migrant communities should support those in detention and speak out about the injustices they’re suffering in detention.

The Center is hosting a digital posada and you’re invited!

We all know the tradition of a posada. So many of us grew up with a holiday season full of them and although this year will look very different (thanks to Covid-19), the LGBTQ Center OC wants to keep the tradition and celebration alive.

Posadas commemorate the journey of Mary and Joseph in search of a safe refuge, a sentiment that so many migrants and refugees in our communities can relate to. It’s with this spirit that the center is hosting it’s annual posada – but virtually.

The important event is free for all to attend but is a critical fundraising event that enables the center to do all that it does for the LGBTQ migrant community across Southern California. You can learn more and RSVP here but just know that it’s an event you do not want to miss.

Not only will you be able to virtually hang out with members of the community and leaders from the LGBTQ Center OC but there will also be a screening of the short documentary, Before & After Detention, a spirited round of lotería, raffle, and a live performance by the LGBTQ Mariachi Arcoíris de Los Angeles.

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Selena Gomez Will Play Trailblazing Gay Mountaineer Silvia Vasquez-Lavado

Entertainment

Selena Gomez Will Play Trailblazing Gay Mountaineer Silvia Vasquez-Lavado

Raymond Hall / Getty

Selena Gomez is ready to make mountains into movies

The Texas-born singer, actress, and producer has set her sights on a big-screen biopic about Peruvian mountaineer Silvia Vásquez-Lavado who became the first Peruvian woman to summit Mount Everest. Vásquez-Lavado is also the first openly gay woman to scale the Seven Summits in their entirety.

In the Shadow of the Mountain is an upcoming biopic based on Vásquez-Lavado’s memoir of the same name.

The Seven Summits challenge encourages climbers to climb the highest mountain on each continent.

Vásquez-Lavado’s story of pursuit and inspiration will be produced by Scott Budnick’s impact-focused co-finance company One Community. The company is a film, television, and digital content co-financing company that “harnesses the power of storytelling to inspire and encourage positive change in the world.” The film aligns with One Community’s efforts given the fact that Vásquez-Lavado’s story follows her childhood experience of assault and neglect. According to Vásquez-Lavado mountaineering proved to be a source of healing.

Vásquez-Lavado’s memoir In the Shadow of the Mountain is scheduled to be published in winter 2022.

View this post on Instagram

I am so humbled and grateful to share this thrilling news, which has been in the works for the last 10months, that an all-star team has optioned my upcoming memoir In The Shadow of the Mountain (to be published 02-2022 by @madelinecjones Holt/Macmillan) for a movie adaptation. I am so honored and touched for the bold, talented, and brilliant @selenagomez in taking the starring role and as producer; To her incredible team @zackmorgenroth and @aleenkeshishian; Grateful to have the groundbreaking visionary #DonnaGigliotti and her Tempesta films involved; For the talented @elginnjames on the helm for screenplay and direction; And the support of @onecommunity films led by the trailblazer @scottbudnick1 and @lauren_denormandie None of this would have happened without the faith of my amazing family at @ideaarchitects, my incredible agent and dearest friend @laralovehardin, #dougabrams and my sweet family at WME led by #sylvierabineau and #carolinabeltran And to all of my family and friends, thank you for all your words of encouragement and support along this road. I can’t wait to share more! Link on my bio!

A post shared by Silvia Vasquez-Lavado (@silviavasla) on

According to The Hollywood Reporter, “Vásquez-Lavado’s work in survivor circles has been heralded, particularly her efforts to organize treks to Mt. Everest’s base camp for other women who have endured abuse.”

Oscar-winner Donna Gigliotti who is set to produce the film, called Vásquez-Lavado “a force of nature.” Scott and I are so excited to work with Elgin and Selena to tell this story of resilience, courage, adventure, and humanity.”

Gigliotti has worked on acclaimed films such as best picture Oscar-winner Shakespeare in Love, she also produced films such as The Reader, Silver Linings Playbook, and Hidden Figures.

“We are thrilled to get to work bringing Silvia’s incredible and inspiring story to life onscreen,” Budnick said of the film.

Gomez will produce the film through her July Moon Productions. Vásquez-Lavado will executive produce.

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