March 8th, as well as being International Women’s Day, is also the anniversary of the death of 41 young women and girls, in 2017, in the Hogar Seguro Virgen de la Asunción, (Virgin of the Assumption Safe Home) in San José Pinula, some 25 km from Guatemala City. In addition to those who died, 15 young women and girls, received life changing injuries.
In the intervening period, mothers of the two of the deceased were brutally murdered. The first was Gloria Pérez y Pérez, the mother of Iris Yodenis León Pérez. She was brutally killed on July 8, 2018, in Sayaxché, Petén, along with her 13-year-old daughter, Nury León Pérez. María Elizabeth Ramírez, the mother of Wendy Vividor Ramírez, was found on February 21, this year, in Escuipulas. The body showed signs of violence and cruelty.
The road to justice for the victims of the fire is long and contains many obstacles. It took nearly two years for anyone to be charged in the case and the court proceedings are continuously hampered by delays and postponements. In 2019, twelve people were detained on charges of abuse of minors, breach of duties, abuse of authority, accidental injuries, and manslaughter. Although many of the deceased were in the Hogar Seguro through being victims of abuse, complaints had been made to the Attorney General’s office regarding abuse sustained in the centre. There were also complaints made regarding people trafficking and sexual exploitation.
In the Central Square (Plaza de la Constitución), a memorial was constructed very soon after the fire. The crosses are held in place by cheap cement bought by one of the mothers of the girls. Sometimes, there are flowers, and other times, there are candles. Always, there are people who pass to say a prayer, pay their respects, or shed a tear. In September 2019, the Guatemala government removed the memorial but it has since been replaced.
To honour them, the names of those who died on that day:
- Rosa Julia Espino Tobar, 16
- Indira Jarisa Pelicó Orellana, 17
- Daria Dalila López Meda, 16
- Achley Gabriela Méndez Ramírez, 15
- Yemmi Aracely Ramírez Siquín, 15
- Jaqueline Paola Catinac López, 15
- Siona Hernández García, 17
- Josselyn Marisela García Flores, 16
- Mayra Hayeé Chután Urías, 16
- Skarlet Yajaira Pérez Jiménez, 15
- Yohana Desiré Cuy Urízar, 15
- Rosalinda Victoria Ramírez Pérez, 15
- Madelyn Patricia Hernández Hernández, 14
- Sarvía Isel Barrientos Reyes, 14
- Ana Nohemi Morales Galindo, 16
- Ana Rubidia Chocooj Chutá, 16
- Jilma Sucely Carías López, 14
- Yoselín Beatriz Ventura Pérez, 15
- Grindy Jazmín Carías López, 16
- Mari Carmen Ramírez Melgar, 14
- Keila Rebeca López Salguero, 17
- Kimberly Mishel Palencia Ortíz, 17
- Nancy Paola Vela García, 15
- Estefany Sucely Véliz Pablo, 16
- Lilian Andrea Gómez Arceno, 13
- Mirza Rosmery López Tojil, 16
- Ana Roselia Pérez Junay, 14
- Grisna Yamileth Cu Ulán, 15
- Melani Yanira De León Palencia, 15
- Luisa Fernanda Joj González, 16
- Daily Analí Domingo Martínez, 15
- Iris Yodenis León Pérez, 14
- Candelaria Melendrez Hernández, 17
- Milenie Eloisa Rac Hernández, 17
- Celia María López Aranda, 15
- Hashly Angelie Rodríguez Hernández, 14
- Sara Nohemi Lima Ascón, 17
- Yusbeli Yubitza Merari Maquín Gómez, 14
- Silvia Milexi Rivera Sánchez, 17
- Yosselin Yamileth Barahona Beltrán, 15
- Wendy Anahí Vividor Ramírez, 16
For more background, and of the events that unfolded that night, Aisling Walsh wrote, 41 crosses, 56 lives: The struggle for truth and justice two years on from the Hogar Seguro Virgen de la Asunción fire, in the Women’s Media Center website, in 2019.
Brent Patterson, PBI Canada, also brought up to date the challenges regarding the court case with, PBI-Guatemala accompanies BDH law firm at hearing on the Hogar Seguro shelter fire.
Marielos Monzon wrote, movingly, in Prensa Libre, shortly after the fire, Las niñas de Guatemala, much of which I tried to capture in this GSN piece from the time, Hell is not a Metaphor for this Place.
For more on the deaths of the victims’ mothers, IM-Defensoras posted, Woman defender who was seeking justice for her daughter, one of the 56 girls victimized in the massacre at the Hogar Virgen de la Asunción, is found murdered.
OACNUDH (The UN High Commission for Human Rights – UNHCR) put out a report, in Spanish, in November 2018, into the events that night. The report can be read here, Las víctimas del Hogar Seguro Virgen de la Asunción Un camino hacia la dignidad. The report also contains illustrations of each of the victims which were made as part of a global action #NosDuelen56. They are very poignant.