January 31, 2019 (Halifax) – Beginning on February 1st, an art exhibit commemorating 41 girls and young women killed in a fire at the state-run centre for children and youth Hogar Seguro Virgen de la Asunción in Guatemala will tour the Maritimes. The art exhibit, hosted by the Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network (BTS), will visit Antigonish, Halifax and Fredericton.
The art exhibit features prints of original portraits in different media, contributed by different artists globally. Each portrait is dedicated to one of the victims of the Hogar Seguro tragedy who died on March 8, 2017. The incident, which occurred on International Women’s Day 2017, brought issues of gender justice in post-war Guatemala to international attention.
The tragedy unfolded in the early hours of March 8, 2017. Police had locked a group of girls and young women in a small room measuring 6.8 metres by 7 metres after they attempted to escape the home. Despite their cries for help, the police would not let them out after a fire broke out inside the room. As a result, 41 girls and young women died, while 15 others were severely injured.
Following this horrific incident, the failure of state institutions to act on prior reports of abuse and poor conditions at the Hogar Seguro were brought to light. The decision of high-level government officials, as well as President Jimmy Morales, to deploy 100 police to the Hogar Seguro after the attempted escape has been heavily criticized by Guatemalan civil society organizations. Currently, eight high-level state officials, the ex-director of the Hogar Seguro and police officials face charges in connection with this crime; however, no one has been convicted to date.
Since March 8th, the grassroots collective 8 Tijax has accompanied families and survivors, as well as sought justice for this state crime by supporting 14 of the legal cases being brought forward. Mayra Jimenez, an advocate for gender justice, as well as a member and co-founder of 8 Tijax, shares: “… we participate in all the hearings, with the objective of accompanying and supporting families in whatever way we can.” In March 2019, Ms. Jimenez will visit the Maritimes to provide an update on survivors and the ongoing struggle for justice.
This art project first launched online on May 15, 2017. It was conceived by the alternative media organizations Prensa Comunitaria in Guatemala and Desinformémonos in Mexico, together with 60 digital media agencies, as well as 40 organizations and collectives globally.
“This art exhibit is a way to honour the victims of this state crime, and also a call to action for an end to impunity,” says BTS Maritimes Coordinator Stacey Gomez. “We believe that Canada, as a “feminist” government, ought to play a proactive role in advocating for gender justice for these girls.”
In addition to hosting this art exhibit, BTS has launched a postcard and social media campaign in lead up to the second anniversary of this tragedy. More information about the art exhibit can be found here.
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BTS Maritimes Coordinator
BTSMaritimesCoordinator [at] gmail.
BTS is a voluntary network of people in the Maritimes who began to organize in 1988 to support the efforts of Guatemalans struggling for political, social, and economic justice. Today, BTS has committees in Fredericton, Halifax, Charlottetown, the North Shore, Fredericton, and Antigonish. BTS engages in human rights accompaniment, public education and political advocacy around key issues such as the following: defense of territory; gender justice; truth, justice and impunity; and security. For more information, visit us here.
People’s Place Library
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