The faces of the Na Savi women from the municipality of Ayutla de los Libres showed anger, impotence, pain and rage at the feminicide of Angelina García Alejandrino from the community of Coxcatlán San Pedro. They were perplexed by the images of the crime that took place in the early hours of January 1st of this year. Angelina’s mother, hiding her tears, remained with her eyes on the concrete floor, amidst the gazes of the attendees that pierced her soul. The atmosphere in the assembly was disconcerting because of the nameless grievance.
Despite the pain, the women and men present took a firm stance against feminicides. The coordinators of the community police of El Paraíso, municipality of Ayutla de los Libres, of the Regional Coordinator of Community Authorities-Community Police (CRAC-PC), assumed their role as guarantors of the community justice system.
In the front rows of the assembly, the men had to give way to the women, while the women were able to gather and find solidarity in the presence of the feminist organisation from Ayutla. Also very significant was the presence of Inés Fernández and the ambassadors of the Community Centre Gúwa Kúma: the house of knowledge, who came to show solidarity and be part of this historic assembly. The mothers were accompanied by their young daughters to show the discomfort that exists among women because of the violence they suffer in the region of Ayutla and the great indolence of the authorities.
One assembly member expressed very forcefully: “We have to listen to the women and our assemblies must take their words into account. We can no longer be the cause of this violence”.
Never before had we witnessed a regional assembly of the CRAC-PC with more than 200 indigenous women in attendance. Their presence marked a new direction for the CRAC-PC in El Paraíso. This unprecedented assembly is taking place in a context of extreme violence faced by women in the region. As of October 2021, the Casa de los Pueblos, which exercises autonomous community government, had registered 14 feminicides in the Costa Chica municipality. The most recent feminicide is that of Angelina, who was murdered by her partner Roberto in the early hours of January 1st during a New Year’s Eve dance. In Roberto’s public testimony to the assembly, he was heard to say: “I killed her because she told me something I didn’t like. I did…”. Disgusted by the cruelty, the stares and hushed comments caused more anger and demands for justice.
Since 2018, the CRAC-PC has received two cases of feminicides, Angelina’s would be the third. In the first two cases, there were difficulties because the men conducted the interviews and belittled the victims’ statements. For this reason, this assembly has called for the incorporation of women in the different bodies of the CRAC-PC. Angelina’s case marks the beginning of a collective reflection on the need for community justice to be culturally relevant and with a gender focus, where women are part of the decisions taken as community authorities.
The coordinators, regional commanders and councillors of the house of justice of El Paraíso reflected that it is not possible to advance in the administration of justice without the participation of women. They reiterated that this climate of impunity cannot continue and called urgently for the communities and authorities to intervene to stop the violence. They considered it essential that in the community system, women are called upon to be a bulwark of community justice.
A former coordinator of the community police in El Paraíso spoke of the respect that should be shown to women and the importance of their participation in the assemblies. “This is the first time that many women have attended this assembly, it is good because the system belongs to everyone. From now on all communities must assign a minimum of 10 women. Women have to speak out because we can’t allow them to be killed, we have to stop violence against women.
Angelina’s father remembered her as a great daughter who watched over them. He described how in her childhood she did her best to help with the work her mother did. Despite poverty, she managed to finish primary school. All their lives they have been agricultural labourers. They have to work in the agricultural fields of Sinaloa for more than six months. Angelina had just got a job in the port of Acapulco. She worked in a cheap kitchen. What she earned she saved to help her parents and her younger siblings. Despite her young age, Angelina worked from the age of 12 in the agricultural fields of Sonora. She became an expert at cutting cucumbers.
“Nobody has the right to take a person’s life, especially if it is a woman”, said the assembly members. Every word was a memory for Angelina’s parents. Her dream was to support her father, to buy animals and to remodel the house. She had the illusion of having a more dignified house. Now that she was back, her plans were to fix up her house, but everything was cut short by Roberto’s murderous hands.
Everything fell apart, which is why the indigenous women of the 33 communities of the house of justice of El Paraíso came together and demanded justice against feminicide. They confronted the perpetrator and the community authorities themselves because they have not worked to prevent violence against them. They demanded exemplary punishment for anyone who attempts against the life and physical integrity of women.
Among the dozens of women, a mother from Coxcatlán San Pedro, with great anger and trembling, said in her mother tongue: “We are afraid to speak out because the men are used to beating and mistreating us. We are not going to allow that anymore. As women we have rights. We don’t want any more violence against women. We want justice for our daughters. Today we raise our voices and ask that justice be done for us and that those guilty of feminicide be punished. In Ayutla, we women are not alone and we will not allow ourselves to be violated.
Another woman took the floor to protest: “This is not about being in favour of people who have already committed a crime. The next of kin are the ones who have to speak out because they are the most hurt, in this case Angelina’s parents, because as an outsider you feel that pain, but as a close family member it is even more painful. I suggest that as organisations or as communities we take action so that the municipal, state and federal authorities look after our safety and repair these damages. We need to demand that the governments look at us so that they can work on the issue of violence, so that the laws are applied, because it’s one thing to make a lot of noise and another thing to apply it,” he said.
Despite the fact that the community authorities have reflected on women’s participation, there is still a long way to go on this path because “there are women who are willing to participate, but their voice is still not heard in the assemblies. We have to open up spaces so that men respect us and also support us. For now, this assembly was historic because we came from various communities of the Costa-Montaña and because now men will no longer be able to decide about our lives and because we will not allow any more mockery or mistreatment.
In the assembly the women said that they will no longer tolerate a murdered woman. They have to punish the aggressor. That they will not forgive the many murders that have been committed. That they will defend themselves with the law and with their hands. All the women in the assembly gave their support to Angelina’s parents and confronted Roberto for his cowardly action. They listened to the cry for justice and also echoed the demand of Angelina’s parents that Roberto should be punished with jail for the rest of his life. Faced with this firm and clear position, the CRAC-PC coordinators opted to consult with the 33 communities that make up the El Paraíso justice system. Community justice is testing its effectiveness in order to act with the full support of the communities against feminicidal violence.
Originally published in Tlachinollan