Week 3 with MIA, Mujeres Iniciando en las Américas, David JW Inczauskis

Unfortunately, the first half of my stay here with MIA has come to a close. Fortunately, we have had an active and successful week in Guatemala City. Last Wednesday we began the courses in the political science and EFPEM departments of the University of San Carlos, and about 40 participants showed up between the two groups. On Thursday, the three courses in engineering, social work, and student health continued with the sharing of many personal stories and opinions concerning the way that we can break gender stereotyping in Guatemala and around the world. Some of the comments provoked interesting discussions that opened me up to different perspectives—perspectives that touched on the main reasons why violence continues to negatively affect the lives of men, women, and children in the capital.

On Friday morning I walked over to Congress to speak to Congresswoman Zury Ríos Montt, a legislator who often supports laws that work to level the playing field between men and women. Our goal was to present to her an effective law from my home state of Illinois that obliges teachers to include rape prevention education in the public and private school systems. Although the representative was not present, I was fortunate enough to run into her later that day at the event of an organization with which MIA closely works—Sobrevivientes. During the event, the congresswoman and I set up an appointment for next Tuesday so that we can sit down and chat about the steps we need to take to make turn this proposal into law.

On Sunday, I ran a 13.1 mile race in Antigua Guatemala, which has little to do with MIA but was a great opportunity to spend some time with a few of the friends that I have made.

Monday was a day jam-packed with meetings, travel, and workshops. I woke up at 6 and headed over to see the British Ambassador to Guatemala. She is an integral part of MIA and one of the reasons why MIA was able to sign a pact with the University of San Carlos to solidify our presence on campus. She and I spoke about her relationship with MIA and discussed possible future sources of funding for the organization. Later, Luis, Regina, and I took a bus to Pedro Pablo Valdez, an all-boys school in Zone 8. The workshop consisted of recognizing popular Guatemalan gender stereotypes. Despite the rambunctiousness of the young men, they were able to identify the stereotypes and the two main objectives of MIA by the end of the class periods.

On Tuesday I continued the workshop in Chiquimula. The four-hour long session produced much dialogue between the participants, and their dramatic renditions of aggressive, passive, and assertive communication skills were rather comical. I look forward to receiving their comments about Guatemala’s Law against feminicide and other forms of violence against women next week. My goal with the participants in Chiquimula is to work with them—considering their experience on the subject—in order to rewrite this law—a law that is not very applicable given its wording and simplicity.

Thanks much for reading, and I look forward to sharing my experiences again next week!

Blog Entry 7/12/2011, David Inczauskis

My second week with MIA has been full of emotional ups and downs. On Thursday the 7th of July, we began “Hombres contra feminicidio” courses at the University of San Carlos in the Engineering Department. About 10 participants showed up, and we were overjoyed because engineering is typically a field with many males but little interest. We continued with the following two courses in Social Work—a class of about 20 participants—and Student Health—a class of about 10. In all of the classes, the participants engaged in provocative discussions and contributed interesting and innovative thoughts and opinions. In fact, the discussions in all of the courses were so intense that we had to reschedule the showing of the video Assassin’s Paradise for next week.

After a long day of training sessions, Yohanna—another one of MIA’s delightful volunteers—and I went to TrovaJazz to listen to some of the most inspirational and motivating music of Latin America. The songs and the environment were particularly relaxing, but shocking and disturbing news disrupted the peace when one of the most famous and devoted trova singers, the Argentine Facundo Cabral, was murdered on Saturday morning on his way to the Guatemalan international airport after a concert here in Guatemala. Nevertheless, the citizens of Guatemala showed their solidarity during a sad but spirited rally in the central square of Zone 1. The speeches touched the hearts of everyone present, and we all hoped that the tears that fell had not fallen in vain and that the Guatemalan government would once and for all take specific steps to end the violence that harasses the daily lives of millions around the country.

On a brighter note, I spent last night—Monday the 11th—and today in Chiquimula, an eastern Guatemalan province that borders both Honduras and El Salvador. It was hot and humid, but the mucky weather did not prevent us from making the most out of the 4 hour long training session. We completed both activities 1 and 2 with the group. The movie Assassin’s Paradise was moving and graphic, so it captured the attention of the majority of the participants. When I had to shut it off, everyone complained.

Basically, the week has been loaded with activities, and I already feel that I am beginning to delve into some deep and heart-felt topics with the participants in USAC and in Chiquimula. We can only hope that MIA continues on its path towards success now that it has officially received NGO status here in Guatemala!

Best, as always,
David JW Inczauskis

Week 1 in Guatemala

My first week of volunteering with MIA, Mujeres Iniciando en las Américas, has been unforgettable!

I left Huehuetenango on Wednesday morning to arrive here in the city around 10 AM, and Lucia and I immediately started getting to work. She showed me around Zona 1 and explained the activities that we would be doing together over the course of the next couple of days. On Thursday, I went to San Carlos University to meet with the professors, doctors, and licensed workers who have created links with MIA to allow us to give courses inside the university about what men and women can do to redefine gender roles and to combat the high levels of feminicide and gender violence here in Guatemala.

During the long Military Day weekend, I met with a few of MIA’s “ambassadors” and was able to interview some of the people that give MIA the opportunity to fortify its programs through their active support. I found out that while MIA only relies on the backing of only a few altruistic, generous donors and unpaid, skilled volunteers, its programs touch the lives of many young men and women who hope to change the course of Guatemala’s violent history.

Today, Monday the 4th of July, I met Yohanna del Aguila, and we went to visit the central office of the Mirna Mack Foundation to establish a relationship between said foundation, the reformers of the Police Academy, and MIA. In addition, we ventured over to USAC again to follow up with the work that I did last Thursday. Both trips were great successes.

This week, we will be beginning the next semester of courses under the “Men against feminicide” campaign at the university, and I will take my first trip over to INCA—an all-girls school—and Pedro Pablo Valdez—an all-boys school in Zona 8. Since I will be co-facilitating these workshops and courses, we have also spent many hours preparing and organizing the lesson plans.

Overall, I have learned that MIA, Mujeres Iniciando en las Américas, is an outstanding non-governmental organization that works tirelessly to accomplish its goals. I am glad and honored to be a volunteer and member of the organization, and I sincerely hope that the organization benefits from my time here in Guatemala. Despite the fact that I have only been here in Guatemala City for 5 days, I already know that the full-experience will remain a part of who I am forever.

I look forward to writing about the upcoming week because we will be engaging in a plethora of exciting workshops and training sessions. Thanks for reading and look out for further posts!

David JW Inczauskis

Volunteer MIA



El femicidio el genocidio racista, y su desarrollo histórico

SCROLL DOWN FOR ENGLISH VERSION – Updated June 14th to add the author’s English translation.

El ‘femicidio,’ el genocidio racista, y su desarrollo histórico

David Inczauskis

Doctora María Claudia González

Español 318

25 de abril de 2011


“Yo no encuentro otra solución más que exterminarlos o meterlos en reservaciones como en Estados Unidos. Es imposible meterle cultura a alguien que no tiene nada en la cabeza, culturizar a esa gente es obra de titanes, son un freno y un peso para el desarrollo, sería más barato y más rápido exterminarlos.”

-Un blanco ingeniero industrial de 55 años, 1979-80 (Casaús Arzú, 56)


Sin duda, el femicidio y el genocidio son dos de los temas más controvertidos y ocultos en la historia del ser humano; aun así, en los finales del siglo XX y en la actualidad son problemas notables que todavía forman parte de la sociedad centroamericana. A pesar de que la información acerca del genocidio y el femicidio en Centroamérica—especialmente en la sociedad contemporánea guatemalteca—sigue presentándose con más fuerza y más esperanza de cambios definitivos, la verdad es que el número de muertos, ya alto, sigue aumentando cada semana, cada mes, y cada año. Aunque el femicidio y el genocidio alcanzaron su presencia más obvia en el periodo llamado La Violencia, la cual tuvo lugar entre 1978 y 1983 durante los últimos anos de la guerra interna, las raíces de este tipo de violencia en Centroamérica se encuentran en periodos anteriores: la cultura maya (las influencias precolombinas) en el caso del femicidio, el colonialismo en el caso del genocidio racista (las influencias coloniales), y las primeras dictaduras del siglo XX en el caso de los dos (las influencias contemporáneas).

El trasfondo de la sociedad guatemalteca antes de la dilatada guerra civil (1960-1996) destaca los orígenes del problema del femicidio, los cuales permitieron que el Estado y el ejército nacional realizaran—sin dificultad—las atrocidades que sucedieron en los años setenta y ochenta. Las dos raíces violentas más fundamentales en la comprensión de la mentalidad del gobierno y el hombre de la época son la mentalidad machista que provenía de las relaciones familiares mayas y las dictaduras de la primera mitad del siglo XX que sistematizaron la matanza cotidiana doméstica de la mujer. En cuanto a la sociedad maya y su apoyo de la violencia del hombre contra la mujer, un estudio realizado por David Carey Jr. y M. Gabriela Torres declara que “el derecho consuetudinario en muchas comunidades mayas admitía que los hombres pegaran a sus mujeres” (Carey 146) (1). Por lo tanto, las costumbres mayas han consolidado el punto de vista de que la mujer es propiedad de su marido y que el hombre tiene la potestad de golpear a su esposa si ella no hace lo que quiere él. Lo sorprendente es que una de las razones citadas hoy en día es la continuación del uso de las traiciones mayas para ‘justificar’ su crimen ante el juez. De tal manera, la historia se repite. Además, el trabajo de Carey Jr. y Gabriel Torres destaca otra muestra de las raíces históricas del femicidio en sus comentarios sobre las dictaduras de la primera mitad del siglo veinte, específicamente las de Estrada Cabrera y Jorge Ubico. Por ejemplo, afirman que la “violencia que se basa en el género sostenía las dictaduras” y—aún más chocante—“los gobiernos más democráticos que gobernaron desde 1920 hasta 1931” (Carey 146). La utilización del femicidio por parte de estos gobiernos normalizó la violencia en contra de la mujer guatemalteca y permitió que los hombres siguieran con sus actos maliciosos. Por eso, cuando la guerra interna comenzó en el año 1960, la violencia basada en el género ya se había establecido firmemente en la sociedad.

[1] He traducido las citas que utilizo del trabajo de Carey y Gabriela Torres. Si desea ver los textos de primera mano, mire la bibliografía.

Del mismo modo, el establecimiento y la normalización del genocidio racista en parte proceden de las dictaduras antes de la guerra civil en la época contemporánea; sin embargo, adicionalmente, hay que añadir la influencia de fases sustancialmente anteriores: el colonialismo del siglo XVI y el calvinismo del siglo XIX. El primer rasgo del origen del racismo contra-indígena es el colonialismo. En lugar de incorporar a los indígenas en la vida cotidiana española al llegar en las nuevas tierras, hasta cierto punto los recién llegados establecieron “una sociedad dual y de castas” (Casaús Arzú 22) en la cual fue difícil traspasar las limitaciones sociales y económicas de las fronteras racistas. Ya se podía observar las raíces bien formadas de una sociedad opresiva cuando los criollos y los peninsulares se ponían por encima de los nativos simplemente a causa de la sangre. La situación se hizo más dura y opresiva con la llegada de documentos que certificaban la pureza de la sangre de algunas familias originalmente españolas. Una muestra concreta de la importancia del color de piel, estas certificaciones pusieron los pensamientos racistas sobre el papel. Conjuntamente, los pensamientos religiosos (y calvinistas, sobre todo) habían contribuido al ambiente racista de la época antes de la cúspide del genocidio guatemalteco porque estos pensamientos decían que se puede discriminar a los indígenas “porque son idólatras, pecadores y representan las fuerzas del mal” (Casaús Arzú 32). La ideología protestante—en su forma más radical—también actuó contra la igualdad a base de su propia racionalización del prejuicio sistematizado. Mientras Hitler establecía su opresión religiosa en Alemania, los altos guatemaltecos ya habían absorbido su mentalidad genocidita. Con respecto a los regímenes de Estrada Cabrera y Ubico, un estudio escrito por Marta Elena Casaús Arzú subraya el influjo de la homogeneización guatemalteca durante aquella etapa sobre el desarrollo del racismo confirmando, “[los modelos] de nación y nacionalidad eran partidarios de la homogeneización nacional y del blanqueamiento racial por la vía de la eugenesia” (Casaús Arzú 36). Ante un periodo mundial en el que los alemanes y los italianos estaban desarrollando pensamientos purificadores, algunos blancos guatemaltecos se sometieron—nuevamente—a estas influencias violentas que recalcaban la necesidad de purificar la raza nacional y en consecuencia fomentaban el genocidio de los años siguientes.

La culminación de la violencia a modo de genocidio racista y femicidio tuvo lugar entre los finales de los años setenta y los principios de los años ochenta con más de 200.000 muertes. A lo largo de esta época oscura de la historia guatemalteca, el gobierno y el ejército utilizaron su influencia, su poder, y el temor para mantener su régimen y para suprimir los derechos de la mujer y del indígena. Como ha destacado Casaús Arzú en su sección sobre esta etapa de la guerra civil, el ejército aspiraba a “exterminar al pueblo maya, declarándolo enemigo interno” (Casaús Arzú 58). El resulto de esta estrategia militar fue la inhumana matanza de miles de ciudadanos indígenas con un montón de asesinos obviamente marcados por el exceso de violencia. La mayoría de los mayas no habían sido traidores del gobierno militar ni habían participado en ninguna acción distinta de sus vidas cotidianas; no obstante, los mataron. Acerca de la mujer indígena, las consecuencias de la guerra fueron bárbaramente fatales. En un reportaje dado por un testigo de la brutalidad del genocidio, se describe, “[Los soldados] abrieron la panza de una mujer embarazada y sacaron el nene y al nene le pusieron un palo atrás hasta que le salió por la boca” (Casaús Arzú 63). Es decir, el ejército realizó asesinos públicos y tortura pública para que la comunidad indígena ‘terminara’ dando ayuda al bando que luchó contra el gobierno establecido y para que se diera cuenta de que son inferiores para siempre. Esta idea de que los indígenas ‘merecen’ la tortura en base a su raza no terminó con la llegada de la democracia años después; más bien, empezó a solidificarse como la normalidad del tratamiento del indígena y de la mujer. Hoy en día, el gobierno hace la vista gorda cuando aparecen cuerpos en las calles, y los tribunales no dan castigo (o castigo suficiente) a los criminales.

Lo más sorprendente en cuanto al femicidio y el genocidio racista es que son obstáculos graves que todavía no se han solucionado completamente. Mientras los asesinos, la violencia doméstica, y el racismo siguen siendo problemas insoportables—y en muchos sectores han ido aumentando con respecto a su gravedad—en la sociedad actual en algunas regiones de Centroamérica, los gobiernos distintos no han respondido a los gritos de auxilio—de las mujeres en particular. De hecho, en la última sección de su análisis del femicidio, Carey Jr. y Gabriela Torres cifran, “La policía hoy en día solamente hacen arrestos en dos por ciento de los cinco mil homicidios cada año en Guatemala” (Carey 161). En esta época posguerra en la cual no es fácil distinguir entre los asesinos respaldados por el estado y los asesinos no afiliados, las organizaciones no gubernamentales tienen más problemas acerca de la identificación del origen contemporáneo de los asesinos racistas y los asesinos basados en el género. Por lo tanto, es más importante que nunca empezar a estudiar nuevamente las causas de este problema real y comprometido. En vez de continuar soportando el femicidio y el comportamiento irracional de un porcentaje de los hombres actuales guatemaltecos, hay que comenzar el proceso del aumento del conocimiento internacional para que el gobierno guatemalteco se dé cuenta de que su inacción inadmisible. Sin embargo, no solo es necesario incrementar la consciencia mundial, sino también educar la población interna para que las mujeres y los indígenas aprendan que hay modos de encontrar ayuda si se encuentran en una situación violenta o despectiva. Como la violencia, el sexismo, y el racismo siguen constituyendo parte de la vida cotidiana centroamericana, cada día se hace más relevante que haya un cambio radical y de ruptura que cambie la circunstancia desdeñosa.



Carey, David, y M. Gabriela Torres. “Guatemalan Women in a Vortex of Violence.”

Precursors to Feminicide. Impreso.

Casaús Arzú, Marta Elena. “Genocidio: ¿La máxima expresión del racismo en Guatemala?.”

Cuadernos del presente imperfecto. 4. Impreso.


David JW Inczauskis is a Reynolds Scholar from Wake Forest University, class of 2014, who just finished a semester abroad at Universidad de Salamanca, Spain. This essay was written as a school assigment while still in Spain. The goal was to address issues in modern day Latin America, and he chose the topic in order to relate to the reading assignments provided by MIA in preparation to his time in Guatemala. In July 2011, David will be joining MIA in Guatemala and help with the Hombres Contra Feminicidio campaign as he also does research on children, youth and women issues.




Feminicide, Racist Genocide, and Their Historical Development

David JW Inczauskis

Doctor María Claudia González

Spanish 318

April 25, 2011


“I do not find another solution than to exterminate them or put them on reservations like in the United States. It is impossible to force culture on someone who has nothing in their brain, to culture those people is the work of titans, they are an impediment and deadweight to development, it would be cheaper and quicker to exterminate them.”

-A 50 year old White industrial engineer, 1979-80 (Casaús Arzú, 56)


Without doubt, feminicide and genocide are two of the most controversial and hidden topics in human history; even so, towards the end of the 20th century and in modern times they were and are notable problems that still form part of Central American society. In spite of the fact that information about genocide and feminicide in Central America—especially in the contemporary Guatemalan society—continues to present itself with increasing voice and increasing hope for definitive changes, the truth is that the number of killings, already high, continues increasing each week, month, and year. Although feminicide and genocide reached their most obvious presence during the period called “the Violence,” which took place between 1978 and 1983 during the last years of the Guatemalan civil war, the roots of this type of violence in Central America date back to previous times: Mayan culture (pre-Columbus influences) in the case of feminicide, colonialism in the case of racist genocide (colonial influences), and the first dictatorships of the 20th century in the case of both (contemporary influences).

The societal background of Guatemala before the elongated civil war (1960-1996) highlights the origins of the problem of feminicide—the ideological base that allowed the State and the national army to commit—without much difficulty—the atrocities that occurred in the sixties and the seventies. The two most fundamental violent roots that serve to understand the mentality of the government and the Guatemalan citizen of the time are the “machismo” that came from Mayan relationships within their own families and the dictatorships of the first half of the 20th century that systematized the daily domestic killings of women. Concerning Mayan society and its support of male violence against women, a study conducted by David Carey Jr. and M. Gabriela Torres declares that “the customary rights in many Mayan communities allowed men to hit women” (Carey 146). Therefore, the Mayan customs have strengthened the point of view that a woman is the property of her husband and that men have the responsibility of hitting their wives if their wives do not do what they want. One of the most surprising aspects is that men continue to use these Mayan customs in the courtroom to justify their malicious actions. Unfortunately, history is repeating itself. Moreover, Carey Jr. and Gabriel Torres’s work highlight another example of the historical roots of feminicide through their commentary about the dictatorships of the first half of the 20th century, specifically the dictatorships of Estrada Cabrera and Jorge Ubico. For example, the researchers affirm that “gender violence sustained dictatorships” and—even more shocking—“sustained the more democratic governments that held power between 1920 and 1931” (Carey 146). The usage of feminicide by those governments normalized violence against Guatemalan women and permitted men to continue their violent acts. Therefore, by the time that the internal war initiated in 1960, gender violence already had established itself firmly in Guatemalan society.

Similar to gender violence, the establishment and the normalization of racist genocide in part find their origins in the pre-civil war dictatorships; however, additionally, one must include the influence of earlier epochs: 16th century colonialism and 19th century Calvinism. The first source of anti-indigenous racism is colonialism. Instead of incorporating the indigenous into daily Spanish life in the New World, the newcomers established a “dual society of castes” (Casaús Arzú 22) in which it was difficult to overcome the social and economic limitations created by the racist barriers. It was already easy to observe the well-formed roots of an oppressive society as the Spanish put themselves above the natives solely because of their ‘untidy’ appearance. The situation became more harsh and despotic with the appearance of documents that certified the purity of the blood of the families of European origin. A concrete example of the importance of the color of one’s skin, these certificates put racist thoughts on paper. Similarly, religious beliefs—above all Calvinist beliefs—had contributed to the racist environment in the era before the height of Guatemalan genocide because these beliefs stated that anyone could discriminate against the indigenous “because they are idolatrous, sinners, and they represent the forces of evil” (Casaús Arzú 32). The protestant ideology—in its most radical form—also acted against equality given its rationalization of the prejudiced system. While Hitler was establishing religious oppression against the Jewish in Europe, the high-status Guatemalans had already constructed their own form of genocide. With respect to the regimes of Estrada Cabrera and Ubico, one study written by Marta Elena Casaús Arzú emphasizes the influence of Guatemalan homogenization during those dictatorships on the development of racism confirming, “The models of nation and nationality were supportive of national homogenization and racial whitening through eugenics” (Casaús Arzú 36). Faced with a global period in which the Germans and the Italians were developing their purifying ideology, some Ladino Guatemalans submitted themselves—again—to these violent influences that stressed the necessity of purifying the national race and as a consequence fomented the genocide that was to come.

The culmination of violence by way of racist genocide and feminicide took place during the final years of the 1970s and the first few years of the 1980s with more than 200,000 slayings. Throughout this dark time in Guatemalan history, the government and the army used their influence, power, and fear to maintain their regime and to nullify the human rights of the women and of the indigenous. As Casaús Arzú has highlighted in her section concerning this stage of the civil war, the national army aspired to “exterminate the Mayan people, declaring them an internal enemy” (Casaús Arzú 58). The result of this military strategy was the inhumane killing of thousands of indigenous citizens with a large amount of slayings marked by excessive violence. The majority of the Mayans had not been “traitors” of the military government nor had participated in any action different from their normal lives; nevertheless, they murdered them. Regarding the indigenous women, the consequences of the war were barbarously fatal. In one report given by a witness of the brutality of the genocide, the witness describes, “The soldiers opened the womb of a pregnant woman and took out the fetus. Then, they took a poll and stuck it up the fetus until it came out of its mouth” (Casaús Arzú 63). Better said, the army carried out public assassinations and public torture so that the indigenous community would “finish” giving help to the revolutionaries that fought against the established military government and so that they would once and for all realize that they were “inferior.” The idea that the indigenous deserved the torture based on their race did not end with the arrival of democracy years later; rather, it started to solidify itself as a normality of the treatment of the indigenous people and of women. Today, the Guatemalan government turns a blind eye when corpses appear in the streets, and the tribunal courts do not punish (or do not adequately punish) the criminals.

The most shocking component of feminicide and racist genocide is that they are both obstacles that have not yet been eradicated. While the slayings, domestic violence, and racism continue being insupportable problems—and in many sectors have heightened in their graveness—in modern society in some regions of Central America, the national governments have not responded to the cries for help—from women in particular. In fact, in the last section of their analysis of feminicide, Carey Jr. and Gabriela Torres cite, “The police of today only arrest in 2% of the 5,000 homicides committed each year in Guatemala” (Carey 161). In this postwar stage in which it is not easy to distinguish between the murderers backed by the State and the unaffiliated crimes, the non-governmental organizations have even more problems identifying the contemporary origin of racist attacks and gender-based murders. Therefore, it is more important than ever to renew the study of the causes of this all-too-real problem. Instead of continuing to support feminicide and the irrational behavior of a percentage of current Guatemalan men, we must begin a process that raises international awareness so that the Guatemalan government will realize that its inaction is unacceptable. However, it is not only necessary to raise international awareness because we must also educate the domestic population so that women and natives learn that there are ways to find help if they find themselves in a violent or aggressive situation. As violence, sexism, and racism continue constituting part of the daily Central American lifestyle, the necessity of radical change becomes more and more relevant.


Carey, David, y M Gabriela Torres. “Guatemalan Women in a Vortex of Violence.”

Precursors to Feminicide. Impreso.

Casaús Arzú, Marta Elena. “Genocidio: ¿La máxima expresión del racismo en Guatemala?.”

Cuadernos del presente imperfecto. 4. Impreso.








Women Empowerment by Gabriela Dieguez

gadiehur at yahoo dot com

Gabriela’ss speech at Women´s Movement Conference in Milwaukee, May 2011.

Thank you very much for inviting me to this meeting I hope we can learn together and feel inspired about how to empower women and girls in our lives.

I am a native from Guatemala and I have lived in the US for 16 years. I came at the age of 17 and now after many years of study and practice I work as a counselor at Sixteenth Street Clinic providing services to undeserved population. I am also a consultant for Head Start and an active member of the Milwaukee Latino health Coalition which has as a mission to increase the health and well being of Latino communities by organizing power for social change.

I recently shared with a close friend how I come from a long lineage of women who are activists and workers for change. One example of this is my grandmother, who with two other women were the first three females to obtain a high school diploma in Guatemala what permitted them to enter university. We all have empowered women in our lives who have provided an inspiration to work for our communities in a local and at a global level.

Who are empowered women that have inspired your lives?

Looking back to my upbringing I can remember many other inspiring women in my life. I lived in Nicaragua during the 80s, after the Sandinista had won the revolution, and the country was surviving under an embargo from the US. Women were crucial during the revolution an unprecedented event in history. Women in Nicaragua fought as guerrilla and had important roles on the reconstruction of the country. I grew up hearing about the martyr Arlen Siu, a young woman who joined the Nicaraguan guerrilla at age 18 and was killed during an ambush by the Somoza army at age 20. I also remember seeing on TV Gioconda Belli and Rosario Murillo, both great writers, inspiration of empowerment and determination.

A present example of global perspective in empowering women close to me is the immigration process of Latinas into this country. I came to the US as a married woman during a time when the US needed my husband’s skills and the doors for legal immigration in his area of work were open. As a young immigrant I saw my self in need to learn English, strengthen my study skills in my new language and strengthen my social support system. I enrolled in ESL classes several evenings while my husband took care of our kids, I also enrolled in GED classes to refresh my knowledge in sciences and math. I created a play group for mothers with young children at the apartment complex where we lived, what gave me opportunity to have social support, cultivate friendships and practice my English skills. I consider myself a bicultural woman that is able to serve as a bridge between cultures to other immigrant women.

The process of immigration in a more global perspective affects women greatly. In my work as a counselor I have learned about many grandmothers that stay back in Mexico raising their grandchildren while their husbands and grown up children come to the US to work and send money to sustain their families. Many women who travel to the US are exposed to great dangers. In a recent documentary sponsored by Amnesty international I saw testimony from women from Latin America who start the trip towards US with the knowledge that in the process they are likely to suffer rape and as part of their preparation for migration they get a birth control injection.

Women who migrate to the US have an empowered position in their families. A good number of Latina women who have a husband and kids are able to stay home to raise their children and have the opportunity to study English and become the cultural brokers. The women who need to work to help support their families are strong women who are able to juggle one or two jobs, home care and parent their children.

A couple of weeks ago a young Mexican anthropologist visited Milwaukee and gave two talks about her work investigating deaths of migrants in the border between Arizona and Mexico. Rocio Magana a sociocultural anthropologist has been working in developing an ethnographic analysis of contemporary struggles over border control, humanitarian intervention and unauthorized migration. Rocio takes a look at the process of migration bringing voice to the people who migrate back to Mexico when their families are able to recover their bodies from the Sonoran Desert region located in Arizona.

Violence against Women is one of the focus areas for United Nations women. UN says “This fundamental violation of women’s rights remains widespread, affecting all countries. Women need strong laws, backed by implementation and services for protection and prevention.” Mujeres de Juarez is an example of the work done in regards to violence against women. Mujeres de Juarez is a non governmental agency in Ciudad Juarez a border city in northern Mexico. This organization works providing support to families that have lost a female family member due to violence. Some of these women are women who were traveling from south of the continent towards the US seeking a better future for themselves and families back in their own countries.

Rigoberta Menchu is the closest person who comes to my mind when thinking about the focus area of Peace and Security. Rigoberta Menchu is an indigenous Quiche woman from Guatemala, who was awarded in 1992 with the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of her work for peace and security for indigenous people in Guatemala. Peace and Security is one of the focus areas of UN. UN recognizes that women bear the burden of modern conflicts. Many times women are left by the men who leave to fight and they are exposed to extreme poverty, need to protect their children and recently in danger of being victimized by rape as a war weapon. UN states that specific threats to women must be identified and stopped, and women must be at the center of peace talks, and post-conflict reconstruction.

Rigoberta Menchu is a perfect example of this UN focus area Peace and Security. During the 1980s Guatemala’s 36 year civil war intensified and during these years Rigoberta Menchu’s family was persecuted and some of her family members assassinated. Rigoberta was forced to flee Guatemala and from Mexico she continued her work in defense of indigenous people. Rigoberta was an active player in Guatemala’s peace talk agreement in 1996 and continues to be an activist in Guatemala, working to build a better country.

Economic Empowerment is one of the other focus areas for United Nations women. Recently I read “Half the Sky” by Kristoff and WuDunn one of their stories talked of a young Pakistani woman who with a $65 loan from a microfinance organization started a small business selling embroidered clothing. Her small business grew and she was able to pay the family debts, bring back her daughter to live with the family and employ some of the neighbors in her business.

This example is no exception many times I have read of programs lending money to women. I also remember my father in law talking about how women who had small loans were the most responsible and creative in using money always putting the well being of the family first. Invest microfinance is a local example of global work in economic empowerment. Envest is a loan fund which manages a unique mix of programs that seek to alleviate poverty and promote an earth-friendly economy. Envest has microfinance projects in Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia and Nicaragua and their offices are located in Madison Wisconsin.

Leadership and Participation is the other focus area of United Nations women. This focus relates to the need that women take active roles in policy-making and leadership of their countries. Leadership is not narrowed to the need for women to participate as representatives and senators but the need for them to organize in grassroots movements that educate and transform their communities. In “half the Sky” there is an inspiring story of how women in Senegal have created a movement of education and empowerment to fight genital cutting. The story talks about how legislation was not affecting this practice until a group of women organized and started focusing on education, talking about human rights and opening the possibility to discuss what are the health risks of the practice. These women also discovered that the change needed was the support of the town’s people in order not to create rejection towards the women who were no longer practicing genital cutting.

United Nations has a chapter focused on women United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women. They have six focus areas some of which I covered today in my talk: Violence against women, Peace and security, Economic Empowerment, Leadership and Participation, National Planning & Budgeting; Millennium Development Goals

A guide for global perspective in my life has been the idea that I am part of the world and the “suffering of any man or woman diminishes me”. I feel a strong connection with all people in the world and feel a strong call to work to make the world a better place. When I was 14 I read “For Whom the Bells Toll” and memorized the poem on the first page which has been my guide for work:

“No man is an Island, entire of itself;

every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main;

if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less,

as well as if a promontory were,

as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were;

any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind;

And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.”

Transmisión radial del Encuentro Mesoamericano de Estudios de Género y Feminismo

Esta es la información sobre la transmisión radial del Encuentro Mesoamericano de Estudios de Género y Feminismo que se llevara a cabo en Guatemala esta semana.

Estaran participando nuestras compañeras Ana Silvia Monzón, Walda Barrios, y también habra una ponencia de MIA. Apoyemos y eduquemonos juntos.

La cobertura en vivo al II Mesoamericano podrá seguirla los días 4, 5 y 6 de mayo, desde las 8.30 a.m. por medio de:

el sitio de Radio Internacional Feminista -FIRE o desde la web de Radio Internacional Feminista www.radiofeminista.net


También existen esposas agresoras

Solo en el 2010 el sistema judicial conoció 57 mil denuncias de violencia intrafamiliar, en los cuales la gran mayoría de víctimas son mujeres y niños, que son los casos más difundidos; sin embargo, también se reportaron cuatro mil 891 hechos en los cuales el agredido fue el esposo.


Debido a los estereotipos machistas, los hombres no se atreven a hacer pública su situación, y si lo hacen es porque se ha llegado a extremos insoportables.

De hecho, el hombre y la mujer violentados tienen en común esconder los golpes, laceraciones y, en fin, su congoja. Resisten gritos, insultos y amenazas, sin atreverse a denunciar.

“Hemos visto casos extremos donde el hombre le tiene hasta miedo a la mujer, porque es tan violenta que incluso sabe manejar armas”, refiere José Posadas, psicólogo del Juzgado Primero de Familia.

Pocos denuncian

“Pocos hombres víctimas de violencia se animan a denunciarlo, por el machismo en el que se vive”, explica una jueza de Familia que pidió el anonimato.

Debido a la baja percepción de este problema, los hombres agredidos tampoco tienen muchas opciones para solicitar ayuda.

Elvira Samayoa, del Programa de Prevención y Erradicación de la Violencia Intrafamiliar (Propevi), uno de los pocos que atienden este tipo de casos, comenta que en la entidad funcionan al menos 15 grupos de autoayuda para hombres agredidos.

Casos extremos

Una de las historias más extremas que ha conocido Samayoa es la de un hombre que pidió ayuda porque su esposa lo golpeaba en forma salvaje. “Ella era sordomuda, pero sus gritos eran tan fuertes que los vecinos creían que él la golpeaba, hasta que una vez se dieron cuenta de que era la señora quien golpeaba al señor, con lo que tuviera en la mano”, cuenta Samayoa.

Fue necesario un intérprete para comunicarse con ella, y fue así como se confirmó que era la agresora

Las golpizas fueron el extremo de una serie de manipulaciones que empezaron con órdenes pequeñas como hacer que él cocinara o ayudara con las tareas de los niños, lo que después se convirtió en obligación.

Cuando él ya no hacía las actividades como a la esposa le gustaba, dejó de darle de comer, y después comenzó el proceso de la agresión física.

Otro caso es el de un hombre que se casó con una salvadoreña que había sido trabajadora del sexo. Él trató de darle todas las comodidades que le permitía su sueldo, pero para ella no fue suficiente y empezó a exigir más.

Cuando ya no fue posible que él accediera a sus peticiones, la esposa lo denunció en falso ante un juez de Paz, por violencia.

La mujer logró obtener la custodia de sus hijos y les prohibió que vieran a su padre, de quien se burlaba e insultaba cada vez que podía.

También se reporta que algunas esposas acosan a sus maridos y los vigilan de manera obsesiva, por celos, lo que ha motivado a algunos de ellos a denunciar la situación en el Propevi.

Samayoa refiere el caso de una esposa tan celosa que el hombre prefirió irse de la casa. En su desesperación, ella se golpeó para denunciarlo, y cuando ya no logró que regresara, pidió medidas para impedirle al esposo que pudiera ver a sus hijos.

Las grandes víctimas

En todo caso de violencia intrafamiliar, sea él o ella la víctima, quienes más sufren son los hijos, pues afrontan el dolor de ver sufrir a un ser amado. Además, la autoestima, los valores y patrones de crianza se distorsionan.

Lo peor del caso es que las cifras son altas. Propevi conoció entre el 1 de enero y el 31 de marzo últimos, 783 casos en donde los hombres eran los denunciantes, aunque las quejas de mujeres se quintuplican.

Si una persona necesita ayuda puede marcar el número telefónico 1515 para mayor orientación.


Student activists

At the risk of sounding repetitive, I’d just like to start with: what a week!

On Monday, Lucia went down to the U.S. embassy to promote the right to vote outside the country for presidential and congressional elections, as well as to explain to the social movement here the various initiatives undertaken in the United States to support the request of TPS for Guatemalans in the United States presented by the Guatemalan Government last June.

You can read more about it in Spanish at La Hora’s website: http://www.lahora.com.gt/notas.php?key=83369&fch=2011-03-25.

This is where MIA wears two hats: working with our own mission and also as a part of the Red para la Paz y el Desarrollo para Guatemala.


We had a pretty successful day at the all-boys’ school in Zone 8. The boys are enamored with our facilitator, Manolo. Already the boys “aww” when we leave. There’s always “discipline” issues, but usually we can channel all their vivacious energy into our activities. (No small feat this, with classes of about 40 ten-year-olds.)

USAC classes on Thursday were fun times. We assigned a reading on the role of women in the history of the Maya-Quiché, based on their presence in the Popol Vuh, which generated a lot of interest and discussion. The students had a lot to say about how societies develop their social norms and where these norms might come from. During the course of the workshop we talked about people who influence us, and in our responses we got everything from Daddy Yankee to Álvaro Colóm (el señor presidente) to our mothers and fathers, and even our kids.

The students’ homework for this week is to get together their midterm project: an interview with a person who influences them in a positive way and an oral presentation about this person. I am really, really excited to hear more about the students’ backgrounds and learn about the people who have made them who they are. I think one of the students is even going to talk about Lucía as her “persona influyente”!


On Friday, Carlos and I headed over to el INCA (Instituto Normal de Centro América), the all-girls’ school where Angie studied (see my previous post for more on Angie’s story) and where we give our workshops on Fridays. We were feeling some pretty mixed emotions because this was going to be the first time we would see the girls since the death of their friend and our former student.

I’m not sure what exactly we expected to hear from the students, but what we saw was nothing like what I had expected.

When we turned the corner to go towards the school’s main entrance, three girls standing in the sidewalk said hi and explained to us that the students’ association was occupying the building and had cancelled classes for the day. They took us to one of the girls guarding the entrance and the girls there (students of 6to magisterio, 15-year-olds) explained to us and to some parents who had gathered around that there was nothing to worry about. Everyone in the building was safe and no one was being held against their will. All students would be let out at the normal end of the school day at 12:30.

When we asked if they could tell us more about what was going on, they explained that (and this paragraph is all more or less translation and paraphrasing) after Angie’s death, when the students of the three highest grades decided to march in protest to the Palacio Nacional, where Ban-Ki Moon was visiting with the president, their principal forbade them to leave school grounds. But the girls wanted justice and wanted to make their voices heard and so they left, with 16 teachers (none of whom had pressured the girls to leave). The principal was ticked off and has since declared that 4 of those 16 teachers are essentially eligible to be fired (even under Guatemala’s employee protection laws) for “abandonment of their posts”. The students are outraged by this abuse of power and have taken possession of their school in a non-violent way to speak out against the principal’s actions and in fact, ask for her to be replaced instead of the teachers.

They let us in to see the girls’ and as far as I could tell, there was no one being held against their will. The girls were letting the younger kids go about their classes and recess as usual on their side of the building (their was even a sound system to play music for the kids during their recess). The other side of the building, where the older students have class was basically a scene from last year’s student power protests but with younger actors. The girls were sitting on the floor anywhere they could find shade, and a bunch of them had gathered in the central courtyard under the (scorching!) sun to listen to girls from 6to explain their demands and join them in chants of “El INCA unido jamás sera vencido!” And “ Qué queremos?” “Justicia!” And “Voz y voto”, because those are the two things that in the current system, our girls just don’t have.




Check it out for yourself:



Angélica Aimé Martínez Vivar

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/


Getting ready for USAC – UPDATE

So I missed opening day, but Carlos, Manolo, and Lucia, who facilitated the first three workshops de-briefed me and the classes were a resounding success. And by resounding success I mean applause, standing ovations! Around 50 students all told, and all excited to continue learning about gender roles and violence in Guatemala!

This is incredible! We are getting college students who are hungry to learn more about our work and to get involved with the lucha! Even before class started, Lucia was bombarded with e-mails asking for readings and information to get started. These young people are ready and excited to learn more, and MIA is here to guide them. We have started a journey that is going to be transformative for our students and hopefully for us facilitators too. A very exciting time for MIA!!


Vineeta Singh is young American college graduate woman who in 2010 worked in Guatemala as an English teacher for a well-to-do private school.  As she learned about the violent reality of Guatemala, particularly for women, Vineeta looked around for activities that she could get involved with. She found this website first then Lucia Muñoz, who welcomed her immediately.  Vineeta quickly embraced the Hombres Contra Feminicidio Campain and soon became a co-facilitator. She returned to Guatemala in February 2011 to work with MIA for 5 months.