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