After nearly six months in New York, I’m finally back in Guatemala.
Leaving my family was heartbreaking. It always is. You’d think that, maybe, after almost 30 years of traveling between NY home and Guatemala home, I’d be used to it.
Nope. I was as sad and anxious, stressed and depressed this time as I was during my first trip in 1989. (My first visit to Guatemala was in 1988, with a Habitat for Humanity workcamp. I didn’t start living there, though, until the following year.)
I often feel that my return to Guatemala happens in three stages:
1. My tired body arrives in-country, complete with plane-face and aching luggage-shoulders.
2. In the following days my mind catches up, finally allowing me to form complete (and semi-coherent) sentences in Spanish.
3. The last to appear is my heart. I’m not sure how it travels (United Airlines, perhaps?), but it always arrives beaten, bruised and incomplete. It always takes a while to heal.
During these times of transition, I wonder: “why do I keep doing this to myself?!?”
(When I have the answer, I’ll be sure to share it with you.)
“The difference in Guatemala between the death of a man and the death of a woman is that the woman is raped before she is killed, she is mutilated … This does not happen to men… It is clear to see how misogyny is present up until the moment of a woman’s death.”
-Thelma Aldana, the Attorney General of Guatemala-
Latin America is the region with the most female murders on earth, a phenomenon partly due to organized crime activities such as human trafficking and gang violence. Just how do these criminal activities increase the victimization of women?
A recent report by a number of international organizations revealed that seven out of the ten countries with the highest female murder rate in the world are in Latin America. El Salvador heads the list with a rate of 8.9 homicides per 100,000 women in 2012, followed by Colombia with 6.3, Guatemala with 6.2, Russia with 5.3 and Brazil with 4.8. Mexico and Suriname are also in the top ten.
Read more at InSight Crime: Why Does Latin America Have the World’s Highest Female Murder Rates?
For the first time ever, sexual slavery will be prosecuted where the war crime took place, 30 years after 11 Mayan women from Sepur Zarco were raped and enslaved.
It was 1982, one of the bloodiest years of the country’s civil war as counter-insurgency operations against ethnic Mayans intensified under the rule of the military dictator and evangelical Christian, Efraín Ríos Montt.
More than 30 years later, two former military officers will finally face charges of sexual and domestic slavery and forced disappearance in a landmark trial which opens on Monday.
The trial marks the first in the world that sexual slavery perpetrated during an armed conflict has been prosecuted in the country where the crimes took place.
Read more: Guatemalan soldiers face civil war sexual slavery charges in historic trial | World news | The Guardian
Photograph: Jorge López/Reuters
“La violencia que sufren hoy las mujeres indígenas tiene múltiples dimensiones: sociales, políticas, económicas, culturales o familiares, donde la condición de género constituye un agravante.
La elevada conflictividad social que genera la explotación de los recursos naturales en los territorios indígenas, las situaciones de conflicto y pos conflicto, los desplazamientos forzosos, la pérdida de los territorios, la pobreza, derivan en una violencia estructural hacia las mujeres indígenas.
Pero las mujeres indígenas no son únicamente víctimas de la violencia, sino que son también un símbolo de resistencia y de respuesta, hecho que se manifiesta en el liderazgo de las mujeres en el reclamo por de sus territorios.”
– Ponencia de la Sra. Carmen Rosa Villa Quintana, Representante Regional del Alto Comisionado de Naciones Unidas para los Derechos Humanos, durante el VII Encuentro Continental de Mujeres Indígenas de las Américas. Guatemala, 17 noviembre 2015. Lea el discurso completo.