Families of murdered women and trans Argentinians ensure their voices are not silenced
"ATRAVESADXS" (transversed in Spanish, the "x" is for language inclusivity) is a visual project that documents the testimonies of relatives, siblings, parents and friends of victims of gender-based crimes in Argentina. Eleonora Ghioldi has collected more than 70 testimonies from people who've lost a family member in a femicide. "ATRAVESADXS" is part of one of her visual projects that shed light on issues that affect women in Latin America and the United States.
" 'ATRAVESADXS' shows that, unfortunately, the violence does not end with femicide but continues in many other forms," Ghioldi said. "From the media — violence that not only re-victimizes and blames the victims but also the families — to the justice system that not only is not present in the prevention of violence but also does not accompany the families in the process of requesting justice."
"These are not individual, but collective experiences. Through political organization, these families can continue their fight to demand justice — by these women and also by their children that many of them leave behind," she added.
The murder of Natalia Melmann, a 15-year-old Argentine girl, occurred on Feb. 4, 2001, in the city of Miramar, in the province of Buenos Aires. The case gained great national relevance, resulting in massive marches to find Natalia as soon as possible that, once her body was found, gathered in protests to demand justice for the young woman.
Gustavo Melmann, Natalia's father, continues to seek justice for his daughter more than 20 years later.
"My name is Gustavo Melmann — Natalia Melmann's father, a 15-year-old girl with a future ahead of her, a fighter, champion of her school. She did not want to have children but to adopt them because she thought that there were too many children on the street who needed to have parents. She wanted to be a gynecologist, an obstetrician.
"On Feb. 4, 2001, the Buenos Aires police officers seized her on the Miramar coast, took her outside the city and generated all kinds of torments. They took her life with her own shoelace. That took a whole village fight. We all went out to look for her. Although the return to have Nati does not exist, all the struggle that we carry forward is in some way so that things do not happen again and generate a Never More or Not One Less. We are asking at a very important moment in this country and in the world the search for equality, against violence against women — all kinds of violence: psychological, patrimonial, physical violence, rapes. The history of humanity that we have had to reflect lots of men, in what place and in what space we have denied the equality of women, we have to rethink everything as men and as a society."
Diana Sacayán was one of the main activists of the human rights movement and the fight for the recognition and social inclusion of the trans collective in Argentina. She was murdered on Oct. 11, 2015. On June 18, 2018, the Oral Criminal Court No. 4 of the City of Buenos Aires sentenced her murderer in a sentence in which, for the first time, the Argentine justice described the murder of a transgender woman as a hate crime to gender identity.
This is the full testimony of her brother, Say Sacayán:
"Diana was brutally murdered in October 2015 as a result of a transfemicide. We find ourselves before the death of Diana with which the Argentine justice had never ruled against the deaths of trans people.
"We were able to talk about the structural violence that exists on the trans population; we were able to talk about the deaths that are preventable. When we speak of homicides of trans people, we speak of violent crimes against transgender people that are not far from the structural violence that exists because there is a whole hatred that is socially constructed as a result of the fact that there was an absent state and there was no type of right to the trans population."
Alicia Beatriz Soledad Vallejos
Alicia Vallejos was murdered by her partner in August 2016. Her killer was sentenced in 2021 to life imprisonment. The sentence is framed within the progressive law of the penalty. After 35 years, you can apply for parole. The process took five years.
María Josefa Salcedo is the mother of Alicia Beatriz Soledad Vallejos:
"I want to be justice for Alicia and for many more. Let there be no more Alicias. That the judges do something, that they do something for each mother, for each sister, for each person that we have to bury. I want to say that I miss her every day; every day of my life I miss her, I wait for her. I wait with all my soul for my daughter. For me, it was the love of my life to have her. It is very important that there is justice. I ask for justice for Alicia Vallejos, nothing more."
Marta Ramallo is the mother of Johana Ramallo, a victim of human trafficking and femicide.
"My daughter disappeared on July 26, 2017, from the city of La Plata — from 1st and 63rd streets. She was disappeared by a human trafficking network with the complicity of the Buenos Aires police and the DDI of missing people. Johana was first disappeared by a state, then by a trafficking network. They kept my daughter alive for a year. After a year of searching, they dismembered her, they cut her body into pieces and then they returned her to me in pieces, throwing her in the Palo Blando River in the city of La Plata...
"When we say that there is a complicit judiciary, it is complicit in the disappearance and the femicides of Johana because the death and disappearance of Johana could have been prevented by having a state present."
Tehuel de la Torre
Tehuel de la Torre, a young transgender man, was last seen in San Vicente, Buenos Aires, on March 11, 2021. The investigation was highly criticized by the family and they demand the authorities investigate the case as a human trafficking case.
Tehuel's father, Andrés de la Torre, affirms that the prosecutor does not have sufficient evidence to maintain the line of investigation that seeks Tehuel dead.
"Tebu, I'm still looking for you. I will not prescribe until I find you. Love you very much"
Cecilia Gisella Basaldúa
"My name is Dora Susana Reyes. I am the mother of Cecilia Gisella Basaldúa, my eldest daughter. I have four children, she is the first. The truth is that she was a fighter and pure of soul — that's what hurts me the most from her loss, that she did not deserve what happened to her.
"We are not going to stop until we discover this — until the last consequences, we are going to fight with my husband because the death of my daughter, I know, was not in vain; because, before her, there were other disappeared women. She died in Capilla del Monte, and later there were also disappeared women ... I think this has to end. Justice has to act very urgently because there are too many cases of femicide and we are not fighting just for my daughter but for those who were before her and for those who were after her. This cannot happen in this country — there is a lot of injustice. Justice doesn't work, it doesn't work."
Florencia Bustamante is the sister of Karen Bustamante, a victim of femicide in 2021.
This is Florencia's full testimony:
"We found out about Karen's femicide from the news. My mother couldn't believe it when she saw it. The state left us, let go of our hand and we are adrift, as are thousands of families, because they do not arrive until the girls experience the femicide and not even after the femicide do they reach the families that can't find any type of consolation beyond the fact that they will never be able to return our sister to us. They also do not contribute anything to leave us a little reassured that they are really working because there are many ends they leave loose; they do not move as they have to move.
"With regard to lawyers, how can it be that the detainee has a lawyer and we, as victims, do not have a lawyer? We have to be waiting if a lawyer comes from here, to gather money little by little, because we are not financially well enough to face all the expenses that come after this and you have to have the money for all things. How can we not need a lawyer? How can we not need psychological support or financial support? Of course we need it because after what happened to us, we were left in nothingness, it destroyed us."
The portraits are displayed in public spaces, on building facades, "with the intention of crossing the public space and creating a greater awareness of this problem that does not besiege each day more," Ghioldi said.
"Thinking that the problem of gender violence only concerns women is simply a fundamental mistake on the way to a profound change in our society," Ghioldi said of her project. "There is no reparation possible without justice."
More of Eleonora Ghioldi's work can be found here.
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