CONIC and some more…

Monday Carlos and I went to IUMUSAC and met with Pati. We looked over the student reviews of the previous week, discussed the schedule for next week, and while we were talking I suggested we use the Power and Control wheel. They liked my idea but I then had the assignment of drawing it on a poster board and explaining the wheel next week in front of everyone! Since it is pretty complex and there is a lot to say, I had the fun task of writing myself a script in English, translating it into Spanish, and drawing the huge thing, all of which I did on my weekend “off.” But back to Monday: after the meeting, Carlos and I had our own mini-meeting in a nearby café and discussed masculinity, men’s role in women’s groups, men’s emotional health, and possible future plans for Hombres Contra Feminicidio. We also discussed how queerness and gender binaries are inseparable issues and it was a refreshing change to talk to a like minded feminist about breaking the “boxes” and binaries of gender and sexual orientation.

As we walked to go our separate ways: me to meet Simón at the Edificio de Correos (the mail building where his office is located) and Carlos to go to another meeting, we happened upon an Indigenous Rights protest so we walked over to check it out.

It appeared to be organized by CONIC, Guatemala’s National Coordination of Indigenous Peoples and Campesinos, an organization which was established to promote sustainable livelihoods and community-led development for indigenous peoples across Guatemala.

“Women who fight.. women who win”

“Women who fight, win”

Aug 31, 2004 — Massacred: Peasant minors were tortured and died at the location due to the seriousness of the wounds, strikes, and burns.

Aug 31, 2004 — Massacred: Peasant minors were tortured and died at the location due to the seriousness of the wounds, strikes, and burns.

Showing the police the gruesome pictures of massacred and assaulted indigenous people

Showing the police the gruesome pictures of massacred and assaulted indigenous people

Unfortunately, it is impossible to fight for Indigenous rights such as language inclusion (since there are about 24 Mayan languages in Guatemala) and access to resources such as water and education without also demanding justice for the Mayan genocide that took place during the civil war and the continued massacres, beatings, and terrorism of Indigenous communities. Being here in Guatemala is inspiring because there are so many fearless people who fight for rights they know they deserve, even though activism here is often rewarded with death threats, drive by’s, robberies, kidnappings, and murder. There is no way to look at just women’s rights, indigenous rights, the rights of the poor, etc. without seeing that all oppressions are intrinsically connected and all struggles are really one struggle. Here in Guatemala the oppression of Indigenous peoples is very obvious since the government, the media, and the middle and upper class people are made up of Ladinos, the generally lighter-skinned mixed race Mestizos, and in reality the population of Guatemala is about half Indigenous and half Ladino, even with the 200,000 Mayans who were massacred during the war.

Tomorrow begins my “huelga” in solidarity with the women whose babies were stolen, specifically three daughters of Guatemalan mothers who now live in the U.S. with adoptive parents. For more information on the issue of stolen babies please see this video. I am going to be giving up bread, one of my favorite things to eat, especially here where a lot of my favorite foods don’t exist, and Simon will be giving up his big food-vice: chocolate. Wish me luck!

Guatemala makes landmark civil war conviction

By Sarah Grainger

CHIMALTENANGO, Guatemala, Aug 31 (Reuters) – A former military commissioner became the first person to be convicted of the forced disappearance of people in Guatemala’s 36-year civil war on Monday, and was sentenced to 150 years in prison.

A panel of three judges found former military commissioner Felipe Cusanero guilty of the disappearances of six peasant farmers between 1982 and 1984 in a landmark case that overcame Guatemala’s notorious bureaucracy and impunity.

Almost a quarter of a million people, mainly poor Mayans, were killed during the 1960-1996 conflict between leftist guerrillas and the government. Around 45,000 of them are thought to have been forcibly made to disappear.

Over 80 percent of the atrocities were committed by the army, according to a United Nations-backed truth commission.

The tiny courtroom in Chimaltenango, a provincial capital about 25 miles (40 km) west of Guatemala City near where Cusanero ordered the disappearances, was packed with Mayan villagers and families of the disappeared as the judges read out their verdict.

“We weren’t looking for vengeance, but for the truth and for justice,” said Hilarion Lopez, whose son Encarnacion was taken by soldiers in March 1984 when he was just 24 years old and who was never seen again by his family.

Cusanero, now in his mid-60s, was the commissioner in charge of around 40 soldiers in the region in the early 1980s.

Guatemalan rights groups believe he was responsible for the deaths or disappearances of more people, but only the families of six victims came forward to testify against him.

Legal experts say it is the first time anyone has been convicted for forced civil war disappearances in Guatemala.

“This judicial precedent opens the door for the families of the tens of thousands of victims to take their cases to court,” said Mario Minera, executive director of the human rights organization CALDH, which has spent four years fighting for disappearance cases.

Few people have ever been tried for the crimes and human rights violations that took place during Guatemala’s conflict and the army has refused to allow access to its archives.

Former military dictator Efrain Rios Montt continues to serve as a lawmaker in Guatemala’s Congress even as he faces accusations of genocide committed during the civil war.

But the country has started a healing process, exhuming war graves to search for the dead.

Molding police archives were discovered in a warehouse in the Guatemala City four years ago and could provide evidence in hundreds of cases of disappeared people.

Maria Tan, whose husband was made to disappear by Cusanero, said the verdict was a significant step for the country. “My grandchildren are growing up and it’s important that they never experience what we went through,” she told Reuters.

(Writing by Robin Emmott, editing by Anthony Boadle)


Today Lucia and I went to meet with Shenny, the teacher from the night school, because she has a women’s group that meets weekly. We informed the women about MIA and Hombres Contra Feminicidio and showed our short DVD’s: one about the campaign in the Santa Barbara school and the other the short film The Impossible Dream (VIDEO LINK HERE), a cartoon about the gendered division of labor. Afterward we facilitated discussion on gender and violence and the women shared personal experiences.

A screen shot from the short film “The Impossible Dream”

A screen shot from the short film “The Impossible Dream”

After the group, we had to say our goodbye’s since Lucia was going to spend her last weekend with her family. She wished me luck and then I was on my own.

That night was a big night for Simón because a book he edited and physically assembled was being released and he had been running around all week making sure everything was ready for the release party on top of work with MIA. The party was held at Libre Café, a cool red building in Zone 1. The book, Triciclo, is a collection of short stories by an author named Juan Calles.

The book

The book

The event was a huge success, there was a large audience, many books were sold, and my friend Jenny came and we were able to relax and talk about things other than work. This is the beginning of my first weekend off since I’ve been here, then I start work first thing again Monday morning with the next meeting with IUMUSAC.

Juan Calles reading one of his stories: Watch video below

Suben femicidios

El cadáver de Wendy Carolina Solares fue localizado con heridas de arma blanca; había sido estrangulada y se encontraba atada de pies y manos, en la colonia Juana de Arco, zona 18.
El cadáver de Wendy Carolina Solares fue localizado con heridas de arma blanca; había sido estrangulada y se encontraba atada de pies y manos, en la colonia Juana de Arco, zona 18.

Por Sandra Valdez y hugo Alvarado

Agosto ha sido el mes más violento del 2009 en lo que concierne a asesinatos de mujeres. Solo ayer mataron a cinco en el país, con las que suman 80 víctimas en los últimos 27 días, y 549 en lo que va del año.

El cadáver de Wendy Carolina Solares Arroyo, de 17 años, fue localizado la madrugada de ayer en la 1a. avenida y 4a. calle, colonia Juana de Arco, zona 18, con heridas de arma blanca, estrangulada, desnuda, atada de pies y manos, y envuelta en una bolsa negra y sábanas, refirieron los Bomberos Municipales.

Otra mujer de aproximadamente 18 años fue asesinada con arma blanca, cuyo cuerpo fue hallado en el kilómetro 18.5, finca San Jerónimo, Mixco; tenía marcas de ataduras en los pies y manos, informaron los Bomberos Voluntarios.

En otro hecho, el cuerpo de Anita Santiago López, 34, fue encontrado en un terreno baldío del barrio Carrizalito, San Pedro Pinula, Jalapa, con dos heridas de arma de fuego.

Los cadáveres de María Marcelina Marroquín Osorio, 50, y de su hija Eloísa Castellanos, 16, fueron localizados en los cafetales de la finca El Collar, La Piedrita, Juan Pablo Jocopilas, Suchitepéquez.

Agosto, el más violento

Según los registros del Instituto de Ciencias Forenses (Inacif), agosto ha sido el mes con más violencia contra las mujeres, ya que del 1 al 24 de este mes, 73 féminas fueron asesinadas con arma blanca, de fuego o asfixiadas, y a ese número se suman siete crímenes de los dos últimos días.

El Inacif también informó que, entre enero y julio del 2009, 469 mujeres fueron ultimadas, y que enero y abril habían sido los más violentos.

Second workshop at USAC

Today was our second workshop at USAC and there were just as many people here today as there were last week, something that surprised me. Since the certificate program does not provide school credits, I thought people might check out what we were doing and then not come back. Anyway, today was fun because it started with an exercise on sexism in the media and most of the class (including Carlos, Simon and I) got up to dance to the two songs Carlos put on.

Us dancing

Us dancing

One was faster, and one sounded more slow and romantic. After dancing the students discussed the lyrics of the songs and analyzed their content, since both songs were incredibly sexist.

Next, the students broke up into small groups and read a recent article from El Diario La Hora, and had to make conclusions based on the article and present them in front of the class.

One group discussing the article

One group discussing the article

Presenting conclusions

Presenting conclusions

The woman talking is from Caja Lúdica! Good thing she came, she was brilliant.

Lucia said her goodbye’s to the class since she is today to symbolize that I am continuing the campaign leaving this weekend and won’t be here for the last two classes.

Brush Lucia gave me

This is the baton/paintbrush Lucia gave me at the USAC

After the presentations there was lively discussion about feminism and gendered violence, and Lucia and Carlos passed out the white ribbons which symbolized taking a pledge to join the fight against gender violence.

Lucia saying her goodbye’s to the class since she is today to symbolize that I am continuing the campaign leaving this weekend and won’t be here for the last two classes.
Handing out the ribbons

After class today, everyone swarmed

Carlos wearing his
Carlos wearing his

Lucia and me to make sure they had our correct contact information and to turn in anything they hadn’t turned in, and we reassured them that though Lucia was leaving, MIA was staying here. The baton is now mine; I hope I can do MIA justice!

Lucia and the women from IUMUSAC



CONVERSANDO CON LA PSIQUIATRA: Odio hacia las personas por su elección sexual

Opinión | Dra. Ana Cristina Morales Modenesi |

La homosexualidad es la elección de objeto amoroso perteneciente al mismo sexo, hombres atraídos por hombres; mujeres atraídas por mujeres. Hemos observado a través de la historia cómo han sufrido estas personas hasta en la actualidad; y cómo muchas veces en nombre de lo “sano”, lo “bueno”, lo “que debe ser” han sido objeto de vejámenes, torturas, menosprecios, e incluso, atropellos hacia su bienestar como personas y aun son más lamentables los atentados hacia su integridad física, llegando al extremo de actos violentos contra estas personas, que les producen su muerte.

Aun en los países que parecen ser mejor civilizados, con mayor cultura en los valores sociales, de respeto, tolerancia y el aprendizaje de vivir con la aceptación de las diferencias, al parecer existe discriminación e irrespeto hacia estas personas.

La homosexualidad no es una elección voluntaria, así como, no es voluntario que tengamos ojos color café, piel morena, estatura alta o baja. Es una característica más del ser humano y no se encuentra observada desde la perspectiva psiquiátrica como una enfermedad o una perversión. Conforma parte de la expresión de la personalidad de cualquier individuo y por ende, los factores que contribuyen a conformar la identidad de una persona, tales como la genética, lo biológico, lo psicológico y lo social son los mismos elementos que contribuyen al desarrollo de su elección de objeto amoroso.

Si miramos a nuestro alrededor encontraremos muchas personas gays, amigos, amigas, hijos e hijas, hermanos, hermanas, otros familiares cercanos, compañeros y compañeras de trabajo y de vida social. Si nosotras y nosotros anhelamos la aceptación de los demás, ¿por qué discriminar a las personas por el simple hecho de una elección sexual distinta a la esperada socialmente?

Las personas que cursan con profunda antipatía, aversión, repulsión hacia una persona por el simple hecho de ser gay (homófobas), de alguna manera se encuentran cultivando sentimientos de destrucción y agresión. Siendo lo más probable que este tipo de respuesta exacerbada hacia el mundo gay, sea el resultado de propios temores homosexuales latentes.

La sociedad con una cultura machista genera mayor violencia contra la mujer, pero también hacia las personas gays. Contrariamente a lo supuesto, mientras más machismo es esperable mayor homosexualidad latente.

Vinimos a vivir la vida entre otras personas y es necesario el reconocimiento de respeto, tolerancia a las diferencias, tomar en cuenta la dignidad de todas las personas para vivir en armonía, bienestar y paz.

No tratemos de cambiar a los demás, iniciemos un cambio interior que nos permita crecer, o sea madurar. Nos ayude a construir en la vida y a no destruir.

Y como decía un finadito tío: “Cada uno es cada uno y no se metan con cada uno”.

Espero que lo escrito el día de hoy nos ayude a meditar sobre la necesidad de vivir en la diversidad; con el merecido respeto de la orientación sexual de cada persona, de su género, su etnia así como los diferentes niveles socioeconómicos y educativos.

La vida no es fácil y no me canso de repetirlo desde que lo aprendí a cuenta propia; ¿por qué ayudar a complicar la vida de otras personas? Y no actuar de manera constructiva y solidaria.

Ordinaria locura: Por haber nacido mujeres

Opinión | Claudia Navas Dangel |

Su delito, dice un rótulo escrito con mala ortografía, fue haber sido infiel. Así lo reprodujeron periódicos y noticieros de radio y televisión. Para su familia, además del dolor de verla muerta abruptamente queda esa carga cultural que acá fustiga: “era una mala mujer”, comentó un curioso que al ver los flashes quiso tener un minuto de fama y se apresuró a opinar en base al cartelito que acompañaba el cadáver.

Cada día, muchas mujeres mueren por la violencia en este país. Siempre que digo esto, más de alguno arremete sentenciando: pero mueren muchos más hombres; y yo ya no intento explicarle que las formas de asesinato son distintas, que la saña con la que hieren los cuerpos de las mujeres es mayor, que generalmente las violan y que muchas veces, la mayoría quizá, ellas no habían estado involucradas en robos, secuestros ni ningún acto delictivo, a veces pienso que gasto inútilmente las palabras, ya que a pesar de las evidencias, muchos machos siempre argumentan lo mismo.

El error de estas mujeres, si podemos llamarlo así, fue estar en el lugar equivocado, a una desafortunada hora. Su falta fue haber sido mujer, es más, haber nacido mujer en un país en donde el machismo impera. Su equivocación fue quizá salir con un mal tipo, o no haberle hecho caso, hay muchas historias que dan cuenta de esto. Tal vez su problema empezó por sonreír, por vestirse con una falda corta o blusa escotada, como si no tuvieran derecho a una u otra cosa, por tener que salir a trabajar para mantener a su familia, o salir a estudiar para superarse.

Pero cómo explicarle eso a quienes tienen el cerebro gobernado por un falo, a quienes se creen jueces y santos, a aquellos que suelen rápidamente señalar a las víctimas como culpables por el simple hecho de ser mujeres.

Cómo hacer entender a quienes nos gobiernan y tienen en sus manos la ley, que no bastan las leyes para parar esa ola de violencia desenfrenada. Que hace falta mucha, muchísima educación y sumarle presupuesto a las leyes y políticas aprobadas, tener gente capacitada trabajando en los juzgados y la policía, hogares de protección y atención para las víctimas y sus familias y por supuesto sentenciar a quienes amparados en un pantalón y en nuestro débil sistema de justicia violentan la vida de las mujeres. Y por supuesto es necesario profesionalismo en los medios de comunicación para no replicar este tipo de mensajes cargados de estereotipos y misoginia.

Workshop at Caja Ludica

This morning Lucia, Simon and I began our day by going to Caja Lúdica so we could re-create the first workshop for them as a kind of make-up since no one was able to make it to USAC on Thursday and some members expressed that they would like to come to all 4 sessions. The Lúdicos were sharp as ever, and many had poignant remarks and ideas related to gender. We are hopeful that some of them will make it to our workshops at USAC since we want to maintain a relationship with them, and if some are trained in our program, then hopefully one day we could do workshops together. For this session I acted as a participant as Simón and Lucia co-facilitated for the group.

Lucia introducing the campaign

Lucia introducing the campaign

Working in partners

Working in partners

Right after the workshop, we rushed off to our meeting with the director of Instituto Universitario de la Mujer (IUMUSAC), Miriam Maldonado. We discussed how well the first session went and planned for the next one. After the meeting Lucia, Carlos and I were relieved and were able to have a nice dinner prepared by Simón to celebrate.

Lucia, Carlos and Simón

Lucia, Carlos and Simón

Class introduction

Tonight was me and Simon’s first time going to the night school alone and as we walked down the broken sidewalk as the sun was setting, I was lost in thought about our lesson plan for the night. When we got there, we were told that it was Shenny’s (one of the two teachers who welcomed us into their classes) birthday so she won’t be in class, but we could go ahead and talk to the students for 20 minutes (instead of our usual 40). So we introduced ourselves and MIA, and “Hombres Contra Feminicidio” and we ended up just doing a quick exercise about safety on the streets and how there are clear gendered differences in how each gender is expected to and advised to behave. It was a short start, but the students were happy to participate and I was happy that we had broken the ice with this group. On the way home, which is about a 20 minute walk, I looked around at the homelessness, the cockroaches, the litter, the public urination and human defecation on the sidewalks and the leering men and thought: this isn’t so different from the US. One big difference is I have a car there and can breeze by these things with my windows up and music on.



On air at Radio USAC
On air at Radio USAC

This morning Lucia and I met up at Radio Universidad, USAC’s radio station, so she could be interviewed for the program “Voces de Mujeres” and as she is discussing “Hombres Contra Feminicidio” she mentions that I am there working for the campaign and the woman interviewing her asks me what brought me here. Suddenly I was talking on the air about what I am doing here in Guatemala! It was scary because I am not confident with my Spanish and being spontaneous is a bit difficult for me, but I ended up just describing how when I met Lucia it was my first time hearing about femicide/feminicide (read on for in-depth explanation of these terms) and that I wanted to help. Then Lucia talked about my visit to Rabinal with Simón and I answered a few questions about how that went. What a relief when we were finally off the air! But what a rush también!

Lucia being interviewed
Lucia being interviewed

After the interview, Lucia and I got picked up by a woman who works for the first lady of Guatemala so we could see a halfway house in Antigua that she thought Lucia might be interested in being involved with.  The house was called “Mi Hogar” which means “My Home” and housed at the time of our visit 123 girls, a handful of which were pregnant or had babies.

The sign said “WELCOME to ‘My Home’ where you are received with care”
The sign said “WELCOME to ‘My Home’ where you are received with care”

We were given a tour by the director of Mi Hogar and got to see the campus, visit a few classes, and see the room where the new mothers stayed with their babies. The place seemed really nice and the girls clearly adored the director. It felt welcoming which is very important considering every girl is there for a different reason, all of which were traumatizing I am sure.

The saddest part was when we visited a classroom of girls who had only been there about a week or less, like a transitional class, and they were still getting used to living in a new place.


There was no way of knowing why each girl ended up in the halfway house, but it was obvious that it was hard for them. After the tour Lucia told the director that she wanted to meet again so they could talk about “Hombres Contra Feminicidio” and we were off once again.

Fundacion Sobrevivientes
Fundacion Sobrevivientes

I realize I haven’t spoken about Sobrevivientes yet, but there are other blogs on MIA’s site that do. “Sobrevivientes” is the Spanish word for “Survivors” and it is a fantastic feminist organization that supports survivors of all types of violence using a variety of techniques. The group was started by Norma Cruz and her daughter Claudia in 1999 and has been an enormous source of inspiration and collaboration for MIA. Sobrevivientes provides counseling, legal counsel, massage, therapy, and other forms of support for survivors of violence. It also has a shelter and a crisis hotline.

Norma Cruz speaking to the MIA delegation in Nov. 2008

Norma Cruz speaking to the MIA delegation in Nov. 2008

Every time a MIA delegation visits the headquarters, the women are running around working hard on their most recent case or issue. The first time I went (July 2008) they were busy working on a case of a young girl who was kidnapped and used as a drug mule before being murdered by two women. They won this case and the two women are in jail. The second time I visited (November 2008) was a dangerous time for them because Claudia’s husband had recently been kidnapped and threatened and had to flee to Canada for awhile. There was a lot of pressure on the foundation at that time to shut down because the man who had abused Claudia when she was younger was running for election for some political position and didn’t want his past to emerge. But Claudia refused to flee the country and she and Norma kept working courageously.

A caricature of Norma on a hunger strike; most likely the one in July 2009 that MIA was able to participate in.  Translation: “This wasn’t a hunger strike, it was a thirst for justice.” Photo taken at Sobrevivientes headquarters.

A caricature of Norma on a hunger strike; most likely the one in July 2009 that MIA was able to participate in. Translation: “This wasn’t a hunger strike, it was a thirst for justice.” Photo taken at Sobrevivientes headquarters.

Today Lucia and I stopped by the foundation because it was Norma’s birthday. Norma is under the most pressure to seek asylum right now. Even though she was recently awarded the “Woman of Courage” award this March 2009 by Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama, Sobrevivientes’ most recent campaign regarding “Guatemala’s child-snatching plague” has been bringing a lot of attention to the group and one of the foundation’s clients was killed. The problem of “stealing babies” in Guatemala and selling them for adoption to other countries has been around since at least the 36 year civil war which ended in 1996 according to this recent article on According to, “[b]etween 2002 and 2007…22,000 [Guatemalan] children were adopted by foreigners, more than 90 per cent of them…from the US. Since “child-snatching” is a lucrative practice, there has been a dangerous backlash on Sobreviventes and the Cruz family has taken to having security as well as bullet-proof vests at all times. It was surreal talking and laughing with Claudia and her husband and then watching them walk out with vests in front of their chests. Sobrevivientes has had multiple death threats through the years and hasn’t stopped working.

While at Sobrevivientes, Lucia and I had a chance to meet about our schedule for the rest of the week since she is leaving this weekend and while we were in Norma’s office I saw this photograph of a blonde Barbie dressed in Guatemalan indigenous attire. “Oh my god!” I exclaimed as I stared at her blue eyes peeking out from under her traditional dress. I took a picture and Lucia told me to look up Foto 30, the emblem that was in the bottom left hand corner. What I found was that since 2003 there have been photo exhibits every day for 30 days each September here in Guatemala, each year with a different theme.


Since September is next week, I looked up the calendar so I could make it to at least one exhibition.  This year’s theme is “Paisaje” which means landscape.  After Sobrevivientes, Lucia and I split up for the night.  Tomorrow she is going to an event at USAC and Simon and I are going to facilitate for the night school alone for the first time.  I am a bit scared, but excited too.