Author Archives: awayfare

Agnes Torres’ murder spurs petition to enact anti-discrimination law in Puebla

A tribute to Agnes Torres circulating on the internet. "My dream is to live in a better culture, one where hospitality and respect are the core values. Every morning I get up and I do much more than write, so that the next day I may awaken in my own dream. The only thing left to find out is, what will you do to share my dream?"

Civil and human rights groups in Puebla, Mexico circulated a petition on Tuesday March 12th calling for anti-discrimination legislation and protection for LGBTTTI* persons in the state of Puebla, Mexico.

Nine groups wrote the petition in response to the murder of Agnes Torres Hernandez, an activist who was the victim of an apparent hate crime because of her gender. Torres’ body was discovered on Saturday, March 10th in a ravine near a highway in Atlixco, Puebla; her throat had been slit and part of her body had been burned. News reports indicated that she had died of blood loss and that she had been tortured.

Torres had worked to promote legislation against discrimination on the basis of sex or gender identity in Puebla; among other demands, the petition asked that the law be established in her name.

Secretario General de Gobierno for the state of Puebla, Fernando Manzanilla Prieto, met with representatives from those civil rights groups on Tuesday.  In a press conference after the meeting Manzanilla avoided giving a specific number of homicides that could be classified as hate crimes, saying, “todos los crímenes se dan por odio. ¿A poco hay de otro tipo?” (All crimes are caused by hate. Could there be any other kind?)

Fueled in part by a strong internet response, protesters marched in Torres’ memory through the center of Puebla, the capital city, on Monday afternoon and evening.  Thousands of messages expressing anger, grief, and condemnation of the murder appeared on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, and the hashtag #AgnesTorres became a trending topic on Twitter.

In addition to her work as an activist, Torres was also a psychologist specializing in gender identity. She was 28 years old and is survived by her parents and sister.
For more information on Agnes Torres’ life:
English-language news report on Torres’ death
A tribute by Alejandra Gómez Macchia
An interview with Agnes Torres’ mother Vinicia Hernández

The text of the petition and its introductory letter follow.

Dear comrades,

We are soliciting your help, once again, so that the crimes against Agnes Torres and five other murdered people do not go unpunished, and moreover so that conditions change and these crimes do not happen again.

If you agree with our position, we request your signatures, either as individuals or as organizations.  We ask that groups affiliated with political parties abstain from signing as a group and instead sign as individuals.

Please send signatures via email to observatoriodsyr@gmail.com. We will be closing the petition on Wednesday, March 14th at noon Central Standard Time.

Thank you.

——————————————————-

March 12, 2012

Puebla, Mexico

Given conditions of extreme vulnerability and violence against the Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, Transexual and Intersex population of the state of Puebla,

Given the authorities’ negligence to make appropriate public policies addressing respect, inclusion, and diversity,

Given the ominous silence of legislators, who have consistently put off work that addresses civil rights and discrimination, allowing discrimination to instead take on life in this realm,

Given the inaction by the state’s justice and Human Rights defense agencies, which have allowed for the continued existence of hate crimes, for a state of impunity and for a torn social fabric,

The signing organizations and individuals demand:

1) The resolution of all crimes against members of the LGBTTTI community, using the topic of “gender-based hate” as an investigatory focus, with emphases on transphobia and homophobia.  This process must happen with all possible speed and facility, as the law dictates the procurement of justice must occur.

2) That, once and for all, the State of Puebla enact a Law to Prevent and Eradicate Discrimination perpetuated for any motive, regulated and reflected in public policies immediately.

3) The establishment of a working group to generate a law on sex and gender identity for the state of Puebla, which will be known as The Agnes Torres Hernández Law.  The working group must include civil society organizations and specialists in the topics at hand.

4) The establishment of clear and firm punishments for all public servants who commit homophobic or discriminatory acts, especially when those acts cause people to become victims of those discriminatory crimes.

5) That the Human Rights Commission create a specialized office for topics related to Sexual and Reproductive Rights, with an expert staff, an appropriate budget, and a public agenda which has been discussed and approved of by Civil Society Organizations.

6) That the State Attorney General open a specialized agency for gender-based crimes, with focuses on feminicide and hate crimes including homophobia, transphobia, biphobia and lesbophobia; with a trained staff; and with a designated, appropriate, sufficient budget.

7) That the State Governor once and for all decree May 17th to be the State Day Against Homophobia, with organized activities and a state-wide budget to fight this atrocious problem.

8) That all public agencies within each state municipality implement permanent training programs on sexual diversity for their staff, to be planned and regulated by a multilateral agency, including participation by civil society organizations.

9) That there are guarantees and protection for those of us who dedicate ourselves to the defense of Human Rights in Puebla; this includes not only responsive actions, but, more importantly, preventative measures.

10) Given present Mexican electoral context (2012 is an election year), we want to be clear that we reject possible political or partisan gain with this citizen-directed document.

Sincerely,

Comité Orgullo Puebla (Puebla Pride Committee)

Observatorio Ciudadano de Derechos Sexuales y Reproductivos AC (Citizen Observation Group for Sexual and Reproductive Rights, Civil Association)

Vida Plena, No dejarse es Incluirse AC (Full Life, Civil Association)

Erósfera, Centro de Atención e Incidencia para la Salud y los Derechos Sexuales AC (Erósfera, Attention and Incidence Center for Sexual Health and Rights, Civil Association)

Red Democracia y Sexualidad (The Democracy and Sexuality Network)

El Taller Centro de Sensibilización y Educación Humana AC (The Public Awareness and Human Education and Workshop Center, Civil Association)

Asociación Jurídica Juvenil de Puebla AC (Puebla Youth Legal Association, Civil Association)

Radar 4º.

Red por los Derechos Sexuales y Reproductivos en México-Puebla (Sexual and Reproductive Rights Network in Mexico-Puebla)

*LGBTTTI means lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, transvestite and inter-sex; it is a preferred acronym to refer to people on the sexuality spectrum or the gender-identity spectrum who are not heterosexual and/or gendernormative. A similar acronym commonly used in the US is LGBTQIA, for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, intersex, or asexual.

Social Media mobilizes in response to the murder of activist Agnes Torres

Agnes Torres. Photo via @pulgarebelde on Twitter.

The term #AgnesTorres became a trending topic on Twitter on Monday afternoon March 12 after the human rights activist was found murdered, victim of a presumed hate crime in the state of Puebla, Mexico.  The State Attorney General’s office confirmed the murder of Agnes Torres Hernandez, also known as Agnes Torres Sulca, political activist and psychologist who worked for sexual and reporductive rights, and began a preliminary investigation on Monday.  The autopsy confirmed that Torres had bled to death after her throat was slit; her body was found near a highway in the state of Puebla, Mexico.

Publicity surrounding the case began on Facebook and Twitter when Torres was reported missing.  Members of human rights groups, feminist groups, and gender and sexuality resource groups posted and shared photographs of Torres asking for information about her whereabouts.  Friends of Torres began the postings after realizing that she had not been seen since Friday night, when she left for a party in Chipilo, a town near Atlixco.

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Art circulating on Twitter memorialized murdered activist Agnes Torres. By @mtorch

After her body was found on Saturday afternoon and identified by family members on Sunday, the pleas for information changed to memorials and calls for action.  The gender-rights defender was widely believed to be the victim of a hate crime because she was transgender and advocated for equal rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people as well as gender equality and reproductive rights.

Fueled by interest on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook, a large crowd gathered in the Zócalo central square in the state capital Puebla on Monday afternoon to remember Torres and protest violence against minority groups in Mexico.

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A protester at the memorial for Agnes Torres. The sign says "No more discrimination, homophobia, hate crimes."

The protesters, who according to news reports numbered between two hundred and one thousand, filled the central square with pictures of Torres, art, candles, and signs that read “La homosexualidad no es una enfermedad, la homofobia sí,” (Homosexuality is not a disease, homophobia is.)   Members of the crowd also taped signs to the walls of the buildings that border the central square: “Exigimos justicia,” (We demand justice) “¿Cuántas más?” (How many more?) “No somos todas; faltan nuestras muertas,” (This isn’t all of us; our dead are missing.)

The crowd chanted “va caer, va caer, la homofobía va caer.” (It will fall, it will fall, homophobia will fall.)  Instead of a minute of silence, the demonstrators had a minute of applause to remember and celebrate Torres’ life.  After filling the square for two hours, the group marched to the state government offices in downtown Puebla.

Word of Torres’ death spread quickly through social media, allowing the protest to be organized within about 24 hours.  On Monday night Twitter users were writing about plans for protests and memorials in other Mexican cities such as Xalapa and Guadalajara.

“People should know about her. #AgnesTorres she was a daughter, she was a friend, she was a professional, she was human being. She is no longer with us. She was murdered”

-@mtorch on Twitter

Messages were directed at politicians such as state governor Rafael Moreno Valle asking him to take action to prevent hate crimes in the state. Tweets expressed a range of emotions from grief to anger and indignation.

Angry comments on Twitter also centered around a user who tweeted that Torres had deserved to die.  The account purported to belong to Juan Pablo Castro, a young man who had earlier in the week been forced to apologize for using a derogatory slang word for homosexuals at a political event for young people in the congress building in Mexico City.  However the account tweeting about Agnes Torres contained a slight variation in spelling from the real Juan Pablo Castro’s account name (substituting a capital i for an l) leading many to believe that it was a case of stolen identity.  The fake Castro account continued to tweet negative comments about Torres throughout the evening.  Perhaps in response to the backlash against “Castro,” other politicians took to Twitter on Monday evening to condemn Torres’ murder.

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"Femicide is an act of fear, of hate, of incompetence, omission, of cowardice and abuse. Not one more." Photo via @feminicidios on Twitter.

People attending the protest also tweeted that the body of César González Martínez, a gay man, had just been found in Momoxpan, Puebla, at 2 PM that afternoon.  Some news outlets reported that including Agnes Torres, there had been three murders attributed to homophobia in Puebla so far in 2012; activist groups, some represented by Ibrahim Zamora and the organization “De Ser” (To Be), claimed that there have been six homicides of members of the gay community in Puebla so far this year.

According to the autopsy performed by the coroner, the cause of Torres’ death was hypovolemic shock caused by beheading with a sharp weapon. The autopsy was performed as part of the preliminary investigation into case number AP/406/2012/Atlixco.  News reports also stated that part of the body had been burned.

In addition to working as an activist, Torres was a psychologist specializing in gender identity. She was 28 years old.

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Related Articles:

Milenio.com

Guadalajara street art

Houston, Texas: A Day in the Bark

Ellie poses for a photo.

One of the possible names for this blog was going to be Pata de Perro, a saying in Spanish that literally means “Dog’s Paw” and refers to somebody who travels a lot.  But as with most good names, it was already taken long before I thought of it, by, among other websites, a dog grooming company and a bilingual site about travel within Mexico.

Besides, I didn’t really have the necessary equipment to make a good Pata de Perro travel blog, since, ideally, a blog with such a name would be about traveling the world with one’s dog.  I know a fun, usually sane, travel-loving dog named Ellie, and if I could borrow Ellie, take her around the world, and post a photograph of her in every location, I’d have the makings of a fun blog.  Since Ellie is very attached to her human family, I had to suffice by accompanying Ellie and her human mom on an afternoon trip to the Millie Bush Bark Park in Houston, Texas.

Where to: Millie Bush Bark Park, Houston, Texas, USA

When: February 2011

The pedometer says: 4,000 steps in many small loops around the park with Ellie; 14,000 steps on a walk down the nearby woods trails.

Can flush toilet paper? No- the park comes equipped with many plastic baggies and trash cans for your poop-scooping needs.

Lowlight: When other people don’t clean up after their dogs.

Highlight: People-watching for the humans, and dog-sniffing for Ellie.

Astoria, New York: Mmmm, chocolate pizza!

Astoria, Queens, New York, is known for many things.  It’s the home of Sesame Street.  It saw the Guinness World Record set for largest musical saw ensemble.  And it is one place where you can get a chocolate pizza.

It’s pizza dough with chocolate hazlenut cream, chocolate sauce, powdered sugar and chocolate chips.  So sweet it makes your teeth hurt.  From Rizzo’s Fine Pizza.

Where to: Astoria, Queens, New York

When: February 2011

The pedometer says: At least 10,000 steps a day.

Can flush toilet paper? Yes.

Lowlight: The MTA not working when you need it.

Highlight: Walking down the street hearing 4 different languages in one block.

The Fungus Bus

The Fung Wah bus is a bus of legends.  If you want to get from New York to Boston or vice versa, Fung Wah will get you there for $15, while other bus companies cost $70.  But it’s also the bus of not-so-good legends, like being in the worst 2% of drivers in the nation. 

About 10 years ago, Fung Wah dominated the cheap-rides-to-Boston-and-New-York market.  You showed up at Chinatown on the day you wanted to travel, and fought your way through a line on the street corner to squeeze your way onto the bus.  Very inexpensive fares meant very popular buses and a moment of panic about not being able to get a seat, whether or not you already had your ticket.  It was commonly accepted that you rode at your own risk; I heard stories about everything from buses catching on fire, getting stuck at toll plazas or losing wheels to passengers having to spend the 5-hour ride next to a crate of chickens. 

Things have improved a bit since then; the buses seem to be nicer, you can order online, and the Boston end of the operation moved into a cleaner, user-friendly location in the South Station bus terminal.  Other cheap bus services like Megabus and Lucky Star provide competition, and even Greyhound offers tickets as low as $18 on the internet.  The term “Chinatown bus” can now mean any cheap bus to New York, from Boston, Washington or Philly, regardless of whether it even goes to Chinatown.

I wanted to try out a “Chinatown bus” again for my first wayfaring adventure.  I had a long weekend, and a Facebook spouse good friend in New York who I’d been promising to visit for far too long.  Plus, Chinatown buses are cheap.  I love cheap.

Frugal Traveler Seth Kugel recently wrote a comprehensive guide to cheap buses which I read with interest as I debated taking this trip.  He gave good reviews to new lines like Bolt, and I was tempted by the idea of $1 tickets for those who book in advance.  In the end, though, it was a last-minute trip leaving very early in the morning on a long weekend, and as I stood in the bus terminal without a ticket considering my options, Fung-Wah caught my eye.  I had taken it before.  My last Fung Wah trip was about 7 years ago, and, from what I remember, it wasn’t too painful.  In fact, I was safely delivered from New York to Boston late at night in a raging blizzard.  And Fung Wah has $15 tickets no matter when you travel, so I wouldn’t wait in line hoping to score $1 only to find out only $20 seats are available.

How did Fung Wah perform?  Service at the ticket counter in South Station was quick and efficient.  Buses ran every hour, with some half-hour departures too, as early as 2 AM and as late as 11. In less than 5 minutes I was through the line, ticket in hand.  I texted my friend Jess to tell her to meet me in 4 hours at Canal and Bowery.  “You’re on the Fungus bus!” she told me.

There was no actual fungus on the Fungus, only some pushy ladies who cut me and everyone else in their quest for good seats.  No matter.  I ended up next to a kid in a hoodie who slept the whole ride.  Sometimes you get a Chinese movie on the Chinatown bus, which is always interesting, but this time they had a documentary about a boxer.  The ride was not unpleasant, we didn’t break down, and nobody puked, not even me.  The drawback: this Fungus bus had seen better days, and its shock absorbers didn’t do the job.  The seats were cramped.  As we got closer to New York and the roads got bad, I curled up in a ball to keep my knees from bashing into the seat in front with every bump.  One middle-aged couple stood up after we got over the bridge and into Manhattan and elected to spend the rest of the trip on their feet.  I don’t know if it was the best decision, because with traffic, they were standing for a good 45 minutes.  But we all arrived in one piece.

The return trip had its ups and downs, too.  The plus was that I arrived early, thinking that the bus I wanted might be in danger of selling out, and instead snagged a seat on an earlier bus.  The downside to that trip was that this time, there was no DVD player and, after the sun went down, nothing to do to pass the time except listen to other people’s cellphone conversations. The old bus did a number on my digestive tract. I ended the journey in South Station feeling nauseous and looking urgently for a trash can.

Where to: New York City on the Fung Wah Bus.

When: February 2011

The pedometer says: Although I didn’t expect to get a lot of steps on the bus, it logged over 4,000 just in the process of getting to the bus station, buying a ticket, getting last minute coffee at Honey Dew, etc.  The bus itself is not a good place for your morning walk; if you make too may trips down the aisle to the bathroom the other passengers may become alarmed.

Can flush toilet paper? I assume so.  As mentioned above, there is a bathroom at the back of the bus equipped with one of those vaccum-flush toilets.  However I have prided myself in never having used a bus, airplane, or train toilet, and I didn’t intend to start now.

Lowlight: Banging my knees into the seat in front of me.

Highlight: Sometimes you get a Chinese movie with subtitles.

The verdict: Take the Fungus Fung Wah if you don’t mind an older bus and want decent service for cheap.

Where awayfare?

Wayfare v. to journey; to travel; to go to and fro.

Wayfare n. the act of journeying; travel; passage.

Wayfaring a. traveling, especially on foot.

Wayfarer n. a person who goes on a journey.

Where? Away.

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