This week, 16 year-old Angélica Aimé Martínez Vivar, who participated in MIA’s workshops at INCA (all-girls’ school in zone 1) last year, was killed on her bus home from school by a stray bullet. Angie’s death marks the second time in the last two years that MIA has lost a young family member to senseless violence.
A “bala perdida” is a bullet that misses its intended mark but finds another. These are the two scariest words I have ever heard in any language. It is the epitome of senseless, random violence. There is no precaution against pure chance. Angie wasn’t engaging in any “high-risk behaviors” when she was killed: she was caught in cross-fire on a bus going home from school.
But honestly, this is the reality in Guate right now. Living in the city means living under a shroud of fear and distrust. You step out on the street and everyone you see is a potential mugger/assaulter/rapist/murderer. You must always be on guard, evaluate everyone you see, keep track of places to duck into if everything goes wrong. Going for a walk around the block can be exhausting.
It might be the legacy of thirty years of civil war, it might be the result of a market flooded with small arms, it might be due to the government’s inaction over the past few decades. But it’s hard to care about why and how we got here when a 16-year old dies and we cannot hold a single person accountable. If justice exists in cases like this it will not come through the trial of one individual.
We must prosecute the entire society, the structural violence and lack of opportunities that led three men to board a bus with arms and demand money from the passengers. We must prosecute the culture of fear that led one man to carry a firearm for personal defense. We must prosecute the culture of individualism and machismo that made him defend himself by opening fire.
I know all this sounds like rhetoric with no practical application. But in a way, this is what MIA does. From our own humble place we are fighting all these things and struggling each and every day to change them, one person at a time.
And for what it’s worth, I am proud of our girls at INCA. When they heard about this senseless act of violence they did not just go home and cry like generations of women were taught to. They marched out onto the streets, protesting against all those ineffable evils that force them to stay inside. They went out and they screamed, not with fear or anguish, but with anger, with outrage at the mindless violence that surrounds them. They marched to the Palacio Nacional, the seat of the Guatemalan executive on a day when Ban-ki Moon himself was in attendance to make themselves heard.
I can’t know if MIA being in this school played a part in these girls’ ability to find their voices, but I’d like to think that our workshops, where many of these girls get to talk about what it means to be a woman with a voice and how to channel this voice to make Guatelinda a little more linda plays a part in the confidence, courage, and valor it took for them to do this.
We’ll be back in INCA next week with these girls, and until then, kudos to these bright young girls, with them at the helm, we can all have high hopes for the future of this city.
Photo from El Periodico: http://www.elperiodico.com.gt/es/20110317/pais/192570/