Things That Matter

Mexico Has Become The World’s Second-Deadliest Country For Transgender People To Live

In Mexico, many in the trans community have become fearful for their lives as a record number of trans people have been killed in the country. Even with a pro-LGBTQ+ rights government at the helm, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who took office Dec. 1, has yet to put out any protections that would protect transgender people. 

Upon taking office, President López Obrador made promises that his administration would conduct “effective” investigations into LGBTQ+ hate crimes and physical attacks. So far, these promises haven’t led to any changes violence has continued to increase against the LGBTQ+ community, according to a recent study by the LGBTQ+ rights group, Letra S.

From 2013-2018, 261 trans women have been killed in Mexico. Brazil is the only country more dangerous than Mexico for trans women.

Credit: @AP / Twitter

While the study reflects numbers over a five-year span mostly before President López Obrador took office, death rates for trans women have already surged this year. 16 transgender women were reportedly killed from January to April this year already and at least six more since then, according to the Associated Press

These growing numbers aren’t just a reflection of the dangers in Mexico but in Latin America as whole where these trends have continued. Trans women in Latin America are some of the most at-risk citizens facing sky-high rates of violence, sexual abuse, and homicide. An Amnesty International survey found that 88 percent of LGBTQ+ asylum-seekers from these areas have suffered sexual and gender-based violence in their countries of origin. From 2006 to 2016, 1,654 trans and gender-diverse people were killed in Central and South America.

So what is being done to help curb these homicide rates and pursue justice for those being killed? Not much. 

Similar to other homicide-related crimes in Mexico, most of these attacks on the LGBTQ+ community have resulted in little to no actual convictions. According to the AP, less than 3 percent of LGBTQ+ homicides have resulted in a conviction since 2013.

In 2014, Mexico City became the first city in the country to allow trans people to change their gender and names on their legal birth certificates. This law has since been adopted by six of Mexico’s 32 states. Despite the progress in trans rights, a lot more needs to be done to protect people from violence and death.

There is still little being done to help the LGBTQ+ community in Mexico leaving community leaders and activists to pursue justice on their own. 

Credit: Unsplash

Kenya Cuevas, a trans sex worker in Mexico, became an activist for the LGTBQ+ community when a fellow trans sex worker was killed in front of her. On Sept. 29, 2016, Cuevas’ friend, Paola Buenrostro was shot multiple times as she entered a john’s car. Cuevas ran to her friends rescue only to have the gun pointed at her but even though man pulled the trigger, she survived as the weapon jammed. She would hold the man until authorities came. She recorded everything that happened on her phone for evidence. 

Despite Cuevas recording the incident and multiple witnesses on hand, the gunman was released from custody within a week. The incident lit a fire within Cuevas and inspired her to take matters into her own hands. She left the sex work industry and founded the organization Casa de Muñecas, a group that focuses on promoting protections for transgender women. 

Cuevas has quickly become one of the most recognizable trans activists in Mexico who is calling for legal change in the country that would protect the trans community.

“When that happened to Paola, I protested and I did it publicly, asking for justice the entire time,” Cuevas told the AP. “I don’t want special treatment. Just give me justice — do your job.”

Women are leading the charge when it comes to supporting LGBTQ+ rights and protections in Mexico. 

Credit: @sentinelglobe / Twitter

The fight for the protection and equal rights for trans women in Mexico has been an uphill battle for many activist organizations. When it comes to finding jobs, employers have openly refused to hire transgender women which has resulted in many looking for sex work. In return, these limited opportunities have led to many of these women being on the streets where there are dangerous conditions. 

The increase in violence against trans women in Mexico is a reflection of the overall dangerous situation in the country where homicide rates have reached record highs. Murders in Mexico have spiked in the first half of this year and at this current pace, it will most likely be the highest on record, according to official data.

Lina Pérez, president of the pro-LGBTQ organization Cuenta Conmigo, told the AP that the trans community is constantly left behind when it comes to receiving help because they are often shunned by police.

“It’s easier to grant impunity because the same people that oversee the law think that they’re sick, that there is something wrong with them,” Pérez said.

Cuevas said she will do whatever it takes to support LGBTQ+ rights and fight on behalf of the memory of her slain friend. This means having to deal with constant death threats if the Mexico government won’t take action. 

“If I don’t do it, the government isn’t going to do it,” Cuevas said. “And if I wait for the government to do it, how many more people are going to be killed?”

READ: Federal Judge Blocks Ban On Asylum-Seekers Who Travel Through Safe Third Country

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A Tourist Was Arrested For Illegally Climbing Up The Pyramid of Kukulkán

Culture

A Tourist Was Arrested For Illegally Climbing Up The Pyramid of Kukulkán

Jon G. Fuller / VW PICS / Universal Images Group via Getty Images

It is important to be a responsible tourist. This means following rules, acting responsibly, and not violating sacred places. That is something one tourist learned the hard way when she climbed the Pyramid of Kukulkán in Chichén Itzá.

Here’s the video of a tourist running down the steps of the Pyramid of Kukulkán.

The Pyramid of Kukulkán is one of the most iconic examples of Pre-Hispanic architecture and culture in Mesoamerica. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the most visited archeological sites in Mexico. In 2017, more than 2 million visitors descended on the site.

Of course, #LadyKukulkan started to trend on Twitter.

You know that Twitter was ready to start calling out this woman for her actions. According to Yucatán Expat Life Magazine, the woman was there to honor her husband’s dying wish. The woman, identified as a tourist from Tijuana, wanted to spread her husband’s ashes on the top of the pyramid, which it seems that she did.

The video was a moment for Mexican Twitter.

Not only was she arrested by security when she descended, but the crowd was also clearly against her. Like, what was she even thinking? It isn’t like the pyramid is crawling with tourists all over it. She was the only person climbing the pyramid, which is federally owned and cared for.

The story is already sparking ideas for other people when they die.

“Me: (to my parents) Have you read about #ladykukulkan?
My Dad: Yes! (to my mom) When I die, I want you to scatter my ashes in the National Palace so they call you “Lady Palace,” sounds better, no?” wrote @hania_jh on Twitter.

READ: Mexico’s Version Of Burning Man Became A COVID-19 Super-Spreader Event Thanks To U.S. Tourists

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These Women Created A Cookbook That Honors Victims of Mexico’s Violence With Their Favorite Recipes

Things That Matter

These Women Created A Cookbook That Honors Victims of Mexico’s Violence With Their Favorite Recipes

FRANCISCO ROBLES/AFP via Getty Images

Despite a slight change in strategy in combatting the country’s endemic violence, Mexico continues to see a staggering degree of violence plaguing communities. Although the country’s president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, promised sweeping changes that would help pacify the country – violence has continues to spiral out of control, reaching record levels in 2020.

No where is this more evident than in the communities that have lost dozens or even hundreds of loved ones. Many of these communities have formed search brigades to help try and find their loved ones (or their remains) but they’re also getting creative with the ways in which they work to remember those they’ve lost.

A search brigade publishes a recipe book containing their loved ones’ favorite foods.

A group of women who came together to help locate the remains of their loved ones, have worked together on a new project to help remember their loved ones. Together, they have created Recipes to Remember, a book of favourite dishes of some of the missing. Each dish has the name of the person it was made for and the date they disappeared. It was the idea of Zahara Gómez Lucini, a Spanish-Argentine photographer who has documented the group since 2016.

The women are known as the Rasteadoras, and they’ve literally been digging to uncover graves of Mexico’s missing. Now, they’re finding ways to help remember those who have gone missing. The book is a way to strengthen the community and as one of the mothers told The Financial Times, “the book is a tool for building ties.”

“This recipe book is very important because it’s an exercise in collective memory and that’s very necessary,” says Enrique Olvera, the chef and restaurateur behind Pujol in Mexico City and Cosme in New York and a sponsor of the book. “It enables the Rastreadoras to connect with the memory of their loved ones through food and brings us, the readers, closer … It weaves empathy,” he told the Financial Times.

Many of these women came to know each other as they searched for their missing loved ones.

The women – who are mostly housewives in their 40s and 50s – literally scour the nearby grasslands, deserts, and jungles with shovels in hands hoping to make a discovery.

Their “treasures” are among the more than 82,000 people recorded as having disappeared and not been located in Mexico since 2006, when the government declared a war on drug cartels, unleashing terrible, seemingly unstoppable violence. Notwithstanding Covid-19, 2020 may prove to have been the deadliest year on record. As of November there had been 31,871 murders, compared with a record 34,648 in 2019.

Their stories of loss are heartbreaking.

One of the mothers, Jessica Higuera Torres, speaks of her son Jesús Javier López Higuera, who disappeared in 2018, in the present tense. For the book, she prepared a soup with pork rind because “he loves it — when I was cooking, I felt as though he was by my side.”

On the other hand, Esther Preciado no longer cooks chile ribs, her recipe for her daughter’s father, Vladimir Castro Flores, who has been missing since 2013. “That one’s just for the memories now,” she says.

“You get addicted to searching,” she adds. The 120 or so Rastreadoras have found 68 people, but only about a quarter of those are their missing loved ones. She acknowledges many victims may have got into trouble because they sold or used drugs; others were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Mexico’s missing person problem continues to plague the country.

Since taking office in 2018, the government of President López Obrador has stepped up efforts to locate missing people and identify bodies. It says the number of reported disappearances for 2020 was trending down. But the government acknowledged in November that in 2019, a record 8,804 people had been reported missing and not been found.

According to official data, Mexico has counted 4,092 clandestine graves and exhumed 6,900 bodies since 2006. Sinaloa is notorious as the home of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, once Mexico’s most powerful drug baron, now locked up in a maximum-security jail in the U.S. The city of Los Mochis, where the Rastreadoras are based, is currently in the grip of Fausto Isidro Meza Flores, known as El Chapo Isidro.

The Rastreadoras acknowledge that they’re on their own, turning to the authorities for help is not an option. As shown in the mass disappearance of 43 Mexican students in 2014, which rocked the country, municipal police have a terrible reputation for being infiltrated by cartels. “They won’t help us — they’re the same ones who are involved,” scoffs Reyna Rodríguez Peñuelas, whose son, Eduardo González Rodríguez, disappeared in 2016.

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