Hispanic Heritage Month has officially started (September 15 to October 15). The month, which is not really a proper month if you think about it, was built/invented around the independence (from Spain) days of some Latin American countries (i.e. Costa Rica, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua – 9/15, Mexico 9/16, Chile 9/18). For those countries/nationalities whose independence days fall outside this range, or for those, like my own Puerto Rico, who have yet to have an independence day, we are expected to rest easy knowing that within this invented month is included October 12 – Columbus Day/Dia de la Raza/Discovery Day/genocide day so that we are all included via our “creation” as an identity if you will.
The issue of naming the 30 days set aside to acknowledge the existence of Latinos complicates things further. Originally called Hispanic Heritage Week and later turned into the month we now know , the government label of “Hispanic” makes the role of the Spanish/European conquest central to the “celebration”. Some people, who reject the label “Hispanic”, prefer to call the month “Latino Heritage Month” in an attempt to deemphasize the conquista and focus on the survival and growth of the diaspora/mestisaje.
Clearly I’m somewhat comfortable with the label Latino – defined by me as including the diaspora of those colonized in Latin America, the Hispanic/Latin@ identity is complex and controversial and certainly not universally accepted. The idea of Latinidad is sometimes – and rightfully to some extent – accused of erasing certain aspects of what have made Latinos who we are today. The mixing of the indigenous with the European and the European with the African was not based on mutual consent but conquest, rape, violence, and war. All other variations were based on survival. This not a matter of ancient history, this is a matter of looking at how right now across Latin American governments are actively committing acts of theft and violence against indigenous communities. It is not a matter of ancient history the way many among “us” claim/re-claim our Indigenous identities to the exclusion of our African roots or vice-versa or claim none of the above at all.
In all honesty, there was some internal resistance to writing this post. Today is International Women’s Day and part of this woman just wanted to take the day off but instead, I would like to acknowledge where the multiple struggle(s) for justicia are and their relationship to mujeres and yes giving space, creating space, opening space for women to step back to rest, heal, and conserve energy for the battles to come.
It is interesting, I spent the weekend going through documents of my personal 16 year history doing various work. When I was a baby activist, my mentors and role models were all men and I functioned in a hyper-masculine world where struggle was about long meetings, long actions and preparing for those long meetings and actions. There were plenty of women around : mothers whose children had been killed by racist violence, including police brutality, independent journalists, loyal partners, and other young energetic mujeres like me. What there wasn’t was alot of talk about taking care of ourselves, unless we were forced to.
*****May be triggering due to discussion of extreme violence**************
In the last four weeks the bodies of five transgender women in Honduras have been found. The murder of women, especially transgender women, has been on the rise following the June 28, 2009 coup. According to the International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission, prior to the most recent murders, there have been 31 deaths of LGBTI people in Honduras in the last year and a half.
In the most recent incidents, the media is reporting that these women showed signs of physical and sexual assault. According to Planet Transgender :
On December 22, 2010 in Comayagüela, 23-year-old Lorenza Alexis Alvarado Hernández was found dead, her body visibly beaten and burned. There were also signs of rape and she was beaten so badly, perhaps even stoned, that it was difficult to recognize her.
The same day, Lady Oscar Martinez Salgado, age 45, was found burned to death in her home in Barrio El Rincón of Tegucigalpa. Her body showed multiple stab wounds.
Less than two weeks later, on January 2, 2011, a young transgender woman known only as Cheo was found murdered on the main street of Colonia Alameda in Tegucigalpa. Her body was left without legal documentation. She appears to have died from a severe stab wound to her chest.
The mainstream media, the United States government, and even some commenters here want to paint Mexico as the biggest danger to the United States since hmmm communism/the Russians/ Cubans…ay you get the point. Some stats tell a different story though.
The country currently with the highest murder rate is Honduras, followed closely by El Salvador.
There is no analysis as to why, although many will point to the drug war and gangs which really are crimes based in poverty. Much of the poverty in Latin America can be linked to inequity which can be linked in part to United States intervention ( a la NAFTA and more direct military interventions).
What I have not seen is much analysis about how many of these deaths are that of mujeres and under what circumstances. In El Salvador, 562 women were killed. We do know that in Honduras, for example, post-coup (because we can call it a coup now) there has been an increase in violence against women.
Via / The Mex Files
While the focus of the latest round of WikiLeaks release of secret cables has focused on the impact of U.S. national security, WikiLeaks also clarifies what happened in Honduras last year. In what now has been spun as “not a coup” as President Porfirio Lobo is set to mark his one year anniversary as President, a released cable from the U.S. Embassy shows that when Manual Zelaya was ousted it was indeed considered an illegal act.
From the cable :
..The Embassy perspective is that there is no doubt that the military, Supreme Court and National Congress conspired on June 28 in what constituted an illegal and unconstitutional coup against the Executive Branch…
…There is equally no doubt from our perspective that Roberto Micheletti’s assumption of power was illegitimate…
The cable also called the resignation letter that Zelaya presented as a “fabrication”.
Yesterday the ACLU filed a lawsuit against the United States, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, and a number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (I.C.E) officers over the wrongful deportation of 33 year old Mark Lytlle, a U.S. citizen of Puerto Rican background who has mental disabilities.
According to the complaint( PDF File), in the fall of 2008, Lyttle was detained by I.C.E. in North Carolina, identified as a Mexican national and subsequently deported to Mexico. Lyttle had no ties to Mexico and spoke no Spanish. For four months he lived on the streets and in the shelters and prisons of Mexico, Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala.
From the ACLU :
Lyttle’s entanglement with immigration authorities began when he was about to be released from a North Carolina jail where he was serving a short sentence for inappropriately touching a worker’s backside in a halfway house that serves individuals with mental disorders. Despite having ample evidence that Lyttle was a U.S. citizen – including his social security number, the names of his parents, his sworn statements that he was born in the United States and criminal record checks – officials from the North Carolina Department of Correction referred him to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) as an undocumented immigrant whose country of birth was Mexico. Lyttle had never been to Mexico, shared no Mexican heritage, spoke no Spanish and did not claim to be from Mexico.
Yesterday marked the official start of Latino (of Hispanic) Heritage Month, 30 days or so of corporate cafeterias serving tacos. Ok so I’m being cynical. The marketing is so over the top some time (see picture). The political pandering so offensive, especially at a time like this with the mid-term elections, it feels like all fluff and no substance.
It’s not that I don’t love being a Latina, it’s my primary identity above all others. I think in large part because of my political awaking when I was a teenager, whenever someone asks that tired old question and I am forced to limit myself to one answer, I’ll go with Latina over mujer. It’s just it is who I am, how I live. I don’t wake up in the morning thinking about how can I be more Latino and don’t try extra hard to be extra Latina during this month. But that, that not trying so hard to prove myself, is a shift for myself so maybe in that there is value in this month as a kind of “new year” of sorts for our multiple communities.
In 2007 it was “porque no te callas”, now it’s “vete al carajo”. At the Rio Summit earlier this week, Colombian President Alvaro Uribe and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez shared a few choice words of love and respect.
From the New Yorker
President Álvaro Uribe of Colombia, who seems to equate masculinity with an archaic code of honor, uttered the phrase, which translates as “Act like a man!” with studly connotations of challenge and defiance attached. His neighbor, Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, shouted back in his standard street-fighter mode, “¡Vete al carajo!”—or, roughly, “Go fuck yourself.”
And really that’s all par for the course between those two, but the bigger “vete pal carajo” went to the U.S. and Canada who were excluded when Latin America leaders decided to form a regional organisation that will unite the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean but that will not involve either the United States or Canada.
The swearing in of new President Porfirio Lobo hasn’t brought the peace that the people of Honduras are seeking. Unfinished business post the ousting of Manuel Zelaya is particularly impacting local labor organizers, especially women.
The body of 29-year-old Vanessa Yamileth Zepeda, still dressed in her nurse’s scrubs and killed by a bullet, turned up in the Loarque neighborhood of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, on February 4. Zepeda had young children and was a leader of the SITRAIHSS labor union (Workers Union for the Honduran Social Security Institute). She had been abducted that afternoon while leaving a union meeting.
The fact that Zepeda’s death is being dismissed as an act of “common criminality” is disturbing enough, as if the murder of a mujer should be somewhat acceptable. Since Lobo’s inauguration there have been 10 to 15 assassinations of resistance members and leaders according to activists. Were those also acts of common criminals or the work of the common criminals of government?
Via Casa de Maryland:
WHAT: Protest Outside Baltimore Federal Building to Demand Constitutional Rights
WHEN: Thursday, February 4, 2010; 3:45 pm
WHERE: Federal Building, 31 Hopkins Plaza, Baltimore, MD 21201-2825
(Baltimore, MD) – Federal officials raided an Anne Arundel County restaurant today and have brought the restaurant workers to processing. Despite their internal policies, they have refused advocates requests to interview the workers prior to processing. People will protest outside ICE this afternoon to demand that the federal government comply with the law and allow the detainees to speak with attorneys.
Obviously this is an ongoing development. More information as it becomes available.
Update at 5:27 pm EST: According to sources on the ground, 7 people are being detained. All are from Honduras and one is a minor.
RESTAURANT RAIDED BY IMMIGRATION: DOZENS GATHER OUTSIDE FEDERAL BUILDING TO DEMAND THAT DETAINEES BE ALLOWED TO SPEAK WITH ATTORNEYS