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.”

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:



Premian investigaciones sobre migraciones

Por Héctor Pacheco

El Programa Desarrollo Humano y Migraciones entregó el 16 de diciembre de 2010 los premios a los ganadores de los concursos de periodismo, tesis e investigación sobre el tema de Migración. Los premios son parte del trabajo ejecutado por la Universidad Centroamericana José Simeón Cañas (UCA) con el apoyo del Programa de las Naciones Unidas para el Desarrollo (PNUD) y financiado por la Unión Europea.

Atendiendo a la preocupación por generar un discurso más complejo y más acorde al desarrollo humano, este concurso premia, por segunda ocasión a periodistas e investigadores que han trabajado este tema y asumido los retos que como región centroamericana debemos constantemente reflexionar. El proyecto se siente honrado de contar en la primera generación de premios con periodistas e investigadores connotados, como Marcela Zamora y Óscar Martínez del periódico digital El Faro, cuyo trabajo en este tema ha sido posteriormente reconocido en otros países.

En esta segunda edición se realizó la convocatoria a nivel Centroamericano, y se tuvo la participación de investigadores y periodistas de Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras y El Salvador

El Programa de Migraciones felicita a todos los concursantes, por su esfuerzo y trabajo constante, particularmente, a los ganadores, que mostraron que un trabajo hecho con profundo compromiso y rigurosidad puede aportar nuevas claves para entender nuestra realidad migrante.

Los ganadores de la II Edición del Concurso de investigación fueron:

Primer lugar: “Expulsados del sueño americano. La política de deportaciones y los migrantes centroamericanos” Autor: José Luis Rocha, de Nicaragua.

Segundo lugar: fue declarado desierto.

Mención especial: “La migración hondureña hacia Estados Unidos” Autor: Vladimir López Recinos. Nicaragua

En la categoría de tesis, los ganadores fueron:

Primer lugar: “Mujeres, ciudadanías y migración. Mujeres catarinecas: experiencias vitales y de ciudadanía en el contexto de la migración internacional hacia Estados Unidos” Autora: Ana Silvia Monzón. Guatemala

Mención especial: “Tejiendo redes frente al riesgo y la vulnerabilidad. Migrantes centroamericanos y organizaciones civiles de apoyo en Tapachula, Chiapas” Autor: Jaime Roberto Rivas Castillo. El Salvador

Mención especial: “Redes de los transmigrantes indocumentados salvadoreños en la frontera México-Guatemala. Autora Susana Maybri Salazar. El Salvador

Los ganadores de la II Edición del Concurso de periodismo fueron:

El primer lugar se declaró desierto.

Segundo lugar: “Los migrantes, una mercancía”, presentado por Olga Noemí Chacón, de El Salvador. Formato: video.

Tercer lugar: “Morir en El Salvador” presentado por Francisco Javier Campos, de El Salvador. Formato: fotogalería.

Mención Honorífica: “El crimen organizado frustra el sueño americano de miles de migrantes”, por Tania Sorayda Martínez, de El Salvador. Formato: radio.


Violencia contra mujeres crece 4% tras Ágatha

Estudio toma de muestra a mujeres de 10 departamentos. Análisis señala que antes de la tormenta, el 22.5% sufría de algún tipo de violencia, después, subió a 26.1%.

Wendy Moctezuma: wmoctezuma@sigloxxi.com

DATOS. Catalina López, Leonor Calderón, Sonia Escobedo y Olinda Xocop, representantes de las organizaciones presentan el informe sobre la violencia contra las mujeres. Foto: Félix Acajaabón/S.21

DATOS. Catalina López, Leonor Calderón, Sonia Escobedo y Olinda Xocop, representantes de las organizaciones presentan el informe sobre la violencia contra las mujeres. Foto: Félix Acajaabón/S.21

El informe preliminar de evaluación del impacto en los medios de vida de las mujeres afectadas por la tormenta Ágatha, realizado por la Secretaría Presidencial de la Mujer (Seprem), con el apoyo de Fondo de Población de las Naciones Unidas (UNFPA), evidencia que las mujeres de 30 municipios en 10 departamentos, sufren 4% más de violencia en comparación a la cifra obtenida antes del fenómeno climático.

La titular de la Seprem, Sonia Escobedo, informa que antes de la tormenta, la violencia contra la mujer estaba cifrada en 22.5%, pero después aumentó a 26.1%, en aspectos físicos, psicológicos y emocionales en los departamentos donde la tormenta causó mayores estragos, como Chimaltenango, Sololá, Quiché, El Progreso y Suchitepéquez,  entre otros.

Escobedo lamenta esta situación, ya que “no existen programas que eviten estas situaciones de riesgo”, por lo cual se busca que dentro del Plan de Reconstrucción con Transformación puedan designarse fondos para capacitar a las mujeres para que no dependan de un cónyuge, por medio de la reactivación económica, talvez con algún negocio.

EN CIFRAS: 7% de hijos de víctimas de la tormenta Ágatha no retomaron sus estudios, lo que catalogan de violencia económica.

Abandonaron la escuela

El estudio también arroja que el 7% de los hijos de las víctimas no habían podido retomar sus estudios. Según las encuestas, el 40% de niños estudiaba antes de la tormenta; después, sólo el 33.1%.

Estas cifras de violencia económica, según la representante UNFPA, Leonor Calderón, no deberían de darse y podrían ser eliminadas con programas de desarrollo social que realmente busquen alternativas para que las mujeres puedan sobresalir en forma autosostenible. “Hay que apostarle a programas que fortalezcan la labor de la mujer y las ayude n a desarrollarse”, indica.


Fighting Femicide in the Americas

Editor’s Note: This is the second of two articles about resisting femicide in the US-Mexico borderlands and the Americas

In a room hidden away in the basement floor of a campus building, gut-wrenching  images greeted visitors. A “life-size collage” constructed like a statue projected women’s faces, missing persons posters, death masks and other snapshots of sexual violence. Nearby, a poster of a skeleton and blind-folded girl depicted the “duality” of femicide (also known as feminicide) in the form of a victim coming back to life to give a potential victim advice. The works of art were products of New Mexico State University (NMSU) students and staff.

“We just wanted to show (people) what femicides looked like,” said student and collage creator Johana Bencomo. Jose Montoya, a retention adviser for NMSU’s College Assistance Migrant  Program, added that  his art  was meant to encourage people to visualize and think about femicide, the killing of women based on gender,  as the “most extreme form of violence against women.”

The collage and poster were appropriate if disturbing backdrops to a recent presentation of a ground-working book at NMSU’s main Las Cruces campus.  Terrorizing Women: Femicide in the Americas, is a book that examines women’s murders in Mexico, Central America and South America. Its chapters tell the personal stories of  victims and their relatives, delve into femicide theories, portray the cross-border anti-violence movement, and explore the notion of transnational justice.

Published by Duke University Press, the new book is co-edited by Dr. Cynthia Bejarano, associate professor of criminal justice at NMSU, and Dr. Rosa-Linda Fregoso, professor of Latin American and Latino Studies at the University of California-Santa Cruz. “This book is really a call to social action,” said Bejarano, stressing that the book’s concept goes beyond typical academic tracts to incorporate off-campus voices.

Two community women were on hand to discuss the book and share their personal stories: Ciudad Juarez mothers Evangelina Arce and Paula Bonilla Flores. Arce’s daughter Silvia disappeared in March 1998, while Bonilla Flores’ daughter, Sagrario Gonzalez, was murdered the same year. Both women have been committed and outspoken human rights activists over the years.

“We were driven to write this book by our shock and outrage,” said UC’s Rosa-Linda  Fregoso. “We’re writing against centuries of invisibility of violence against women.”

In a panel discussion, Fregoso set a framework when she spoke about violence against women in Latin America and other parts of the world as a kind of “low-intensity warfare on women’s bodies.” In places as geographically and culturally diverse as World War Two Europe, Vietnam, Africa, and the modern Balkans, women have been treated as “war booty,” Fregoso said.

With drug-fueled violence devastating Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, only 40 minutes south of  NMSU, the discussion soon began to consider the connections between femicide and other forms of violence. In the El Paso-Las Cruces area, the violence hits home. For instance, Johana Bencomo recently lost a relative to the violence devastating the state of Chihuahua.

The NMSU student told Frontera NorteSur how her father’s uncle was murdered on a trip back home to a little Chihuahua mountain town. The man had relocated to Albuquerque, New Mexico, at the urging of his son, but went back to check the house only to encounter an unexpected and violent end. The relative was not involved in the drug business, Bencomo insisted.

“It’s really scary how much this drug cartel violence has hit every single corner of Mexico and not just Juarez and the bigger cities,” Bencomo said, adding that she has relatives in Ciudad Juarez but doesn’t visit them because of the unsafe situation in the city. “I don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s sad, really sad,” she said.

Dr. Hector Dominguez-Ruvalcaba, an associate professor in the department of Spanish and Portuguese at the University of Texas-Austin, also participated in the panel discussion. Dominguez-Ruvalcaba said “impunity” was a common thread linking the femicides with other homicides in Mexico.

“Anyone can kill anyone with the possibility that they will get away with it,” the one-time Ciudad Juarez resident and former NMSU student warned. Mexico, he added, has good laws on the books, but the problem resides with applying them.

Central to their mission, the panelists analyzed strategies and tactics to combat gender violence. Bejarano was a co-founder of the Las Cruces- based Amigos de las Mujeres, a group established to aid the relatives of femicide victims in Ciudad Juarez and Chihuahua City.

She recalled how activists had brought US Congressional delegations to the border and engaged high-level US authorities to put pressure on the Mexican government. Ultimately, she said, the strategy had limitations due to Washington’s stance that Mexico was a sovereign ally of the US and a “friend of business.”

Bejarano criticized other aspects of US policy, including Washington’s failure to ratify the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. The US’ inaction on the treaty sets it apart from virtually all the world’s nations.

In recent years, Bejarano added, an increasing number of groups in Latin America have returned to the grassroots to  resist gender violence. The New Mexico scholar cited the example of community defenders in Peru who accompany victims of violence to court and pressure the justice system to uphold women’s rights.

The issue of vigilante justice was debated by Bejarano, Fregoso and others in attendance at the Las Cruces event.

On September 22, residents of Ascension, a small town in the northern part of the Mexican state of Chihuahua, rose up and detained a gang of kidnappers which had been terrorizing the populace for months. Two of the suspected kidnappers, young men, were severely beaten by townspeople and later died while awaiting transfer by law enforcement officials.

Residents then took over city hall and disarmed the town’s police force, which had been accused of collaborating with criminals, and vowed to defend their farming community. In subsequent days, the Mexican press carried stories of other alleged rapists and kidnappers killed by outraged citizens in Chihuahua City and Ciudad Juarez.

In the absence of effective rule of law, the “Ascension Syndrome” represents a double-edged sword, Bejarano said. “Even though I can understand Ascension, it is a dangerous precedent,” she added. “I think we need to reinvigorate or reinvent this movement at the community level… and we’re seeing some of that in Ascension.”

Bejarano cautioned against the Ascension uprising as being misinterpreted in the US as another instance of the violence some contend threatens to spill across the border. In her view, Ascension is an opportunity for people on both sides of the border to come together for the purposes of mediating grievances, restoring the rule of law and assuring genuine justice. “Unfortunately, it will take something like this to be a wake- up call on this side of the border,” Bejarano contended.

For NMSU student Johana Bencomo, fundamental awareness is still lacking at home. As part of a class with Dr. Bejarano this year, Bencomo helped interview 15 randomly selected NMSU students, mostly in their 20s, about their knowledge of femicide in general and the murders of women in nearby Ciudad Juarez in particular. According to Bencomo, only three or four students knew about the Ciudad Juarez slayings, and one student even said the word “femicide” meant “some sort of pesticide.”

“I was unpleasantly surprised how many people didn’t know,” Bencomo said.

-Kent Paterson

Frontera NorteSur (FNS): on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news

Center for Latin American and Border Studies

New Mexico State University Las Cruces, New Mexico

For a free electronic subscription email: fnsnews@nmsu.edu

MIA asks for TPS while in Guatemala

While Guatemala was reeling from the effects of a recent tropical storm and the eruption of the Pacaya volcano, MIA’s big brother organization, RPDG (Network for Peace and Development in Guatemala) mobilized successfully to petition for Temporary Protected Status (TPS).

TPS means that deportations from the US to Guatemala are temporarily on hold until the country recovers from these natural disasters.

Here Lucia is interviewed for her perspective on how these disasters disproportionately affect women.

Grupos presionan por el TPS


La Procuraduría de los Derechos Humanos (PDH) y organizaciones de migrantes instaron al Gobierno y población a seguir presionando por el TPS para los guatemaltecos indocumentados en EE. UU.

Representantes de organizaciones y de la PDH presionan por la concesión del TPS. Erick Avila

Representantes de organizaciones y de la PDH presionan por la concesión del TPS. Erick Avila

Lucía Muñoz, representante de la organización Red para la Paz y el Desarrollo para Guatemala, expresó que no es posible que este sea el único país centroamericano que no cuente con un Estatus de Protección Temporal (TPS, en inglés), y aseguró que hay poca voluntad del Gobierno para presionar por ese beneficio.

También anunció que se intenta organizar una marcha para presionar al Gobierno de EE. UU. a la concesión de la medida temporal.

Oswaldo Cardona, representante de la Unidad contra la Impunidad, de la PDH, recordó que tras los desastres naturales registrados en el país, el TPS es más necesario que nunca.

“Lo tienen salvadoreños, hondureños y nicaragüenses. Por alguna razón no ha sido otorgado a nuestros compatriotas, y eso nos pone en una situación de mayor vulnerabilidad con relación a otras naciones, en aquel país”, enfatizó.

“Creemos que es justo y humano que sea otorgado el TPS, independientemente de la reforma migratoria”, subrayó.



Asociación Guatemalteca Morazanecos Ausentes en USA (AGMAUSA), Red por La Paz y el Desarrollo de Guatemala (RPDG), Mujeres Iniciando en las Américas, Mujeres Abriendo Caminos, Alianza de Organizaciones Guatemaltecas de Houston, Texas: Consejo Comunitario Guatemalteco, Comité Guatemalteco, Posadas Guatemaltecas, Unity Soccer League, Voces Unidas por los Inmigrantes, Congarigua, Juventud Garifuna, La Nueva Juventud con Fé, the Bronx, NY, América Calderón, Washington, DC, Leonor Hurtado, San Francisco, Dora Pimentel, Denver, CO, Lic. Marvin Pinto, Los Angeles, CA, Oscar Sandoval, Chicago, IL, Casa de los Migrantes, Las Vegas, NV, Alas de Justicia, Los Angeles, Fundación Sobrevivientes, Guatemala, UDEFEGUA, Guatemala.


Dear Friends of the people of Guatemala, Guatemalan immigrants need your support to request Temporary Protection Status (TPS) due to the devastation and state of emergency declared in Guatemala in the aftermath of the passage of tropical storm Agatha. Guatemalan immigrant organizations sent a letter to President Barack Obama urging him to consider the current state of emergency and recommend granting TPS to Guatemalans living in the United States. The Government of Guatemala has officially requested a Temporary Protected Status for Guatemalans.

Granting TPS to Guatemalans does not correct the underlying injustice in economic and immigration policies, but is an acknowledgement of the enormous humanitarian crisis caused by tropical storm Agatha.


• ENDORSE THE LETTER: You can sign online at: The Petition Site. If you or your organization would like to sing on to the letter please respond via e-mail to Erasmo Morales (631)786-7048 erasmo@agmausa.org with the following information:

NAME OF ORGANIZATION:__________________________

CONTACT PERSON:_______________________________


Phone:____________ E-mail:________________________

This first letter will be sent on Monday, June 14th with copy to Attorney General Erick Holder. DEADLINE TO SUBMIT YOUR NAME TO SIGN INTO THE LETTER IS Sunday, June 13TH. If needed a second letter will be sent by Wednesday July 7th However if you or your organization do not want to sign into the letter, you can use the same format provided and send your own letter.


MUJERES INICIANDO EN LAS AMÉRICAS is collecting money donations. M.I.A. is a registered 501 (c) (3) non-profit corporation and all donations are tax deductible, where applicable.

You can mail your contribution to: MUJERES INICIANDO EN LAS AMÉRICAS, 1256 Conway Ave.
Costa Mesa, CA 92626 — U.S.A.


Send them a letter requesting they support the petition of a Temporary Protected Status for Guatemalans.

Contacting the Congress in English? http://www.contactingthecongress.org/index.html

¿Quiere ponerse en contacto con miembros del Congreso en Español? http://www.contactingthecongress.org/index.es.html

Letter proposal to the Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano

July 7, 2010

Ms. Janet Napolitano

Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security

U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Washington, DC 20528

Dear Ms. Napolitano:

We are writing to you to fully support the request by Guatemala’s Foreign Ministry, presented to the United States Government on June 4, 2010, that in the wake of tropical storm Agatha, Guatemalans in the United States be granted Temporary Protected Status (TPS). We urge you to positively respond to this petition as early as possible.

As portrayed in the media, on the last week of past May, extremely heavy rainfall caused by tropical storm Agatha fell over Central America and southern Mexico. Guatemala was most affected by this disaster, with loss of life, widespread damage to infrastructure, and agricultural losses.

In Guatemala, there are more than one hundreds confirmed deaths, and many other persons are missing, with entire communities buried. We have been informed that more than 120,000 people have been displaced, and that some 700 communities have been affected. Thousands of homes have been destroyed, and tens of thousands have been damaged.

According to the Washington Post article on June 2, 2010, Guatemala suffered“… huge losses in the agriculture sector. The country’s association of exporters reported a 75 percent drop in production in the vegetable and shrimp industries, while the National Coffee Association forecast a loss of 122,000 bags this season.”

The government statistics so far of the damage caused by Agatha are: 88, 971 homeless people; 142,959 persons were evacuated, and 152,488 affected; 497 schools and 107 towns were damaged, and damage to 400 bridges has made communications difficult. The Pan American Health Organization has issued a health alert due to different illnesses that can affect the population from diarrhea to dengue. Last year, because of a drought 136,000 families were affected with malnourishment. The Pan American Health Organization reports that Agatha just increased the risk of this population due to the loss of crops, and that famine will affect the area.

As you are well aware, Guatemalan communities and citizens here in the United States send more than $4 billion a year in remittances that help maintain social stability and provide basic needs to relatives in Guatemala. These remittances take on added importance while Guatemala recovers from the storm. We recall that when TPS has been granted in the past to nationals of other countries, remittances immediately increased by not less than 25%. This would amount to the most significant aid to recovery and reconstruction, and it would be provided by our own nationals.

Therefore, until the country can get back on its feet, we believe that granting Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Guatemalans in the United States will help to ameliorate the desperate situation of those victims that may benefit from funds sent by relatives in the United States. We also believe that it is in the interest of this country not to return people so soon after this natural disaster, because that action may generate further instability in a country where poverty was already very high before the storm. Such a grant would certainly not be without precedent, as Nicaraguans and Hondurans were granted Temporary Protected Status after suffering widespread destruction from Hurricane Mitch in 1998.

We believe that the conditions that justify this request for TPS –a significant calamity in a country, high risks for nationals of that country if they are forced to return, and an official appeal from the government of the affected country—have been satisfied. Therefore, we strongly support granting TPS to Guatemalans, and we ask that you give this request your most serious consideration.


Signatures of sponsors and endorsers

CC: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton,  Attorney General Erick Holder

Trip report on establishing the Hombres Contra Feminicidio Program in Guatelinda

Twelve Weeks in Guatemala City

I arrived in Guatemala on Feb 20, and dove straight into starting programs. Was very fortunate to find a a place to live right smack in the middle of the action, zona 1. I am subletting a room at a friends house. I wanted to stay in zona 1 for many reasons. 1st to not have to wake up to traffic every morning to zona 1 where all the networking needs to be done and almost everywhere I need to go to work is within easy walking distance.

In Guate I felt the need to walk with the pueblo and bump into people and talk to them. It was a surreal experience for me. It was almost like going back to the 3 years i lived in Guate as a teenager.

We did two 4 day workshops at USAC. Sadly, during the course of the workshops two of the students were killed while getting snacks near the university. So sad.

We also started our annual programs at the all boy’s school in Zona 8.

You may remember that we did workshops in the PNC academy in 2009. Since then, they had a complete change of leadership both at the academy and in the PNC overall. Thanks to our work nurturing relationships, we were able to get in again this year. This year we are year round. Remember MIA”s goal is to get in the curriculum and this time we actually are in the midst of signing an agreement to be part of the curriculum on an ongoing basis. This is HUGE!!!

The PNC is in the middle of construction, there is a interium director who does not have the power to sign anything, but does have the power to allow us in every other Friday. We go in 5 classes per Friday and each class has between 40 and 60 students. I feel very optimistic that we wil be signing an agreement with the PNC Academy to adopt our campaign. I have been sitting with instructors and all of them want our manuals. It is a matter of time for the academy to have a stable director and then i think we be able to get a contract.

We’re finding that there are plenty of places ready to take us in to give the workshops. The biggest challenge for us is to find funding to make our work happen. I want to share with much pride that we were also able to get in with an agreement adopting our campaign. The department of health at USAC has welcomed us to their programs. I signed the agreement only days before my departure last May 15. This means that every single student that signs up to go to college will have to go through our classroom *as a requirement*. I am so new inside the USAC system that I still dont understand how this is going to unfold, but during my time here i am in constant contact with their personnel that we are are going to plan it out. USAC is the model and when MIA is able to hire permanent staff, we will be moving in to some of the satellites of USAC. We will become a BIG movement within the university.

I’ve also been dealing with the challenges of getting MIA recognized at a nonprofit in Guatemala. The latest was that my name was misspelled on some paperwork and I had to get it corrected and resubmitted, adding two weeks to the process. In addition, I had to get an ID card at the Guatemalan DMV, and in the process learned that my fathers name on my birth certificate was some stranger, a name I’d never heard of before. This opened up an old wound, my not really knowing who my birth father was. During this trip, I also was spending some time tracking down my birth father. Apparently I’m the result of an Immaculate Conception, which sounds better than not knowing who my father is. My blood father, according to the latest story I hear, was a boss in a bus company where my mother’s then-ex-husband worked. My father had been a bus driver and worked his way up to being the boss. Later, he was killed when returning home from work.

Also met with the Association of Widows of the bus drivers killed while working. As you may know, there have been hundreds of bus drivers killed on duty in the last few years. A reporter asked me why I was getting involved with the bus driver widows and I started crying: I realized right then it was through what happened to my blood father that leaves me feeling so closely connected with the widows.

We are working on a program to help the widows get into small businesses by creating micro loans. In a micro loan program, we would sponsor the women to get basic training on how to make a business work, and a small amount of funding, about $100, to get the means to make their business happen. This is the newest cause MIA adopted, and stuggled with it, because we barely have money for the campaign, but to see the widows going in circles trying to help themselves I could not look the other way. When I visited their little whole in the wall there were five women that for some reason I connected stongly and asked if they would be willing to attend a workshop on Sundays at Jenny’s house. They all come from a distance, one comes from a 2 hour and a half distance and tends to be the one who arrives first. They have been meeting for four Sundays in a row except last Sunday because of the Pacaya volcano and Tropical Storm Agatha. Through Jenny we were able to find them counseling for free on Saturdays too. These women have had no time to grieve. They were forced over night to pick up the pieces for their children and have not had the chance to be swallowed by their pain., and allow themselves to grieve.

I want to end with telling you a little about our facilitators. They are six young men who come from different schools within USAC. Two are artists, who are studying to become music teachers. Our longtime friend Randy from Colectivo Rogelia Cruz is going to school to become an archeologist. William is going for a teaching degree, Gary is going for business administration and Derick is about to graduate as a civil engineer. They are all volunteering and we give them a small stipend for their time and expenses. We meet twice a week.

Our chapina volunteer from Canada, Maria Luisa, is working with them while i am here to support the facilitators in their readings on gender issues and to train them to become strong facilitators.

When the academy called me, I was not prepared with facilitators and told the interim director that MIA was ready to go. I walked out of there with Randy who is a long time supporter, and asked him what to do. He said we (volunteer facilitators) have to go forward and MIA has to train us overnight. We started calling people we have worked with in the past and 5 accepted immediately. I feel I have been training a little too rapidly, but I had no choice.

When we met with the academy they wanted to start that same week I said we couldn’t start that quick, but to give us 2 weeks and we would be ready. Never told them it was because we didn’t have workshop facilitators trained yet. It was exciting to make this happen over night. The facilitators are loving the work and the hands-on training / workshops. We all read and discuss the readings. Then, the next day they train to present, and they all facilitate to the rest to make sure they understand the curriculum.

I can go on and on about the facilitators, I am very fond of them. Because we are meeting so often we have become like a family. They look forward eating together while exchanging ideas on how else they can contribute to a Guate without violence and day dreaming when we have an office. We are meeting at my friends house where I sublet a room, but sometimes we can get loud and we don’t want her to kick us out. I am hoping come next year we can get some serious donations and can have an office and employ them full time.

Unfortunately we were not able to get funds from the private company we were hoping from. As a matter of fact, it was them who prompted my trip in February and decided to stay for so long. But it is all good, we were able to network and find us BIG place to work in where we have a captive audience and helps us from running around all over the city. This private company asked that we revisit the project in July., wish us good luck.

Lastly, we were able finally meet with close people to the first lady again. As you may remember, we met with the first lady last July. She delegated the job of assisting us to certain subordinates, then her words were forgotten. Out of sight, out of mind. Being there for so long, allowed me to sit on it and finally got a person with the power to remind the first lady to revisit our conversation. I will be meeting soon with someone in a position to make this happen, to discuss the national school system adopting our curriculum. This reconnection with the first lady talk from last July delegation happened thanks to assistance from Norma Cruz. Norma picked up the phone and put us in contact with the right people within the Avocado House (Palacio Nacional).

Helping girls in the path of education is an on going project. Because of limited fundsy we are presently only helping 5 young girls. Please help us help them keep them on track.

And now to end, I want to announce that I will be going back to Guate for at least another 3 months if not more. Maybe till the school year ends., that is in October. Chris and I have been talking for the last two years and finally both us are o.k. with me living long period of times in Guate. He will be visiting me a lot .

Don’t forget that we are a 501(c)(3) non profit, and so all donations are completely tax deductible.


Hombres Contra Feminicidio is an educational campaign in Guatemala which objective is to train teachers, students and people in power on how to prevent and erradicate violence against women. M.I.A. strive  to bring the campaign to teachers nationwide in order to bring the topic into the schools curriculum.

What is the Temporary Protected Status, TPS?

1. What is Temporary Protected Status?

Temporary Protected Status (TPS) is a temporary immigration status granted to eligible nationals of designated countries or parts thereof.

During the period for which a country has been designated for TPS, TPS beneficiaries may remain in the United States and may obtain work authorization. However, TPS does not lead to permanent resident status (green card).

When the Secretary terminates a TPS designation, beneficiaries revert to the same immigration status they maintained before TPS (unless that status had since expired or been terminated) or to any other status they may have acquired while registered for TPS. Accordingly, if an immigrant did not have lawful status prior to receiving TPS and did not obtain any other lawful status during the TPS designation, the immigrant reverts to unlawful status upon the termination of that TPS designation.

TPS is not granted to persons that try to register after the first registration period ends, so if a person of a country that is currently under TPS did not register the first time TPS was assigned, then that person does not qualify for TPS.

2. Who is eligible to apply for Temporary Protected Status?

You may be eligible to apply for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) if:

• You are a national of a country designated by the Attorney General for TPS. You may also be eligible if you are a person who has no nationality but last habitually resided in a designated country

• You apply for TPS during the specified registration period. The registration period is stated in the Federal Register notices of designation and is also generally noted in USCIS press releases

• You have been continuously physically present in the U.S. since the TPS designation began, or since the effective date of the most recent re-designation

• You are admissible as an immigrant and are not otherwise ineligible for TPS

• You have continuously resided in the U.S. since a date specified by the Attorney General

Note: This date is listed in the Federal Register notice of designation and may be different than the date TPS became effective.

3. Who is ineligible to apply for Temporary Protected Status?

You are ineligible for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) if you:

• Have been convicted of any felony or two or more misdemeanors committed in the U.S.

• Are a persecutor, terrorist or otherwise subject to one of the bars to asylum

• Are subject to one of several criminal-related grounds of inadmissibility for which a waiver is not available

For a Spanish version, see this link.