Kenya Cuevas is an express, HIV carrier and a recognized activist defending the rights of the LGTBI community in her country
Kenya Cuevas got into a whore the same day she decided to transition to a woman. In those years, in the Plaza de la Solidaridad in the Alameda Central in Mexico City, there was a street children’s camp that she knew well. “Customers used to frequent it because they knew they could get sex from minors. There was no protocol that the authorities have now mounted. “
He got into a car and asked for help to get away from home. “My first client approached me to pick up my things and took me to a hotel where some prostitutes lived. When I woke up surrounded by trans women, so beautiful with their wigs, I said to myself: Oh, what a father, I want to be like them “. That same night I was already doing the street on Avenida de Insurgentes. I was nine years old.
Cuevas is today one of the largest activists in favor of the rights of the trans community in Mexico, the second country with the most transphobic violence after Brazil. “They are angry with us! Only in this past month of August 12 murders were committed”, he claims. Check this figure is an odyssey. In Mexico, transfeminicides are not typified by the authorities. “In fact, many of the cases are recorded as homicides of men. Hate crimes do not enter the statistics. “
According to the Trans A. C Identity Support Center, an association that has documented the murder of transgender women in Mexico since 2007, during the period from June to August 2018, 17 deaths were recorded. Two more of those identified in the last quarter by Letter S, a civic organization dedicated to the dissemination of information and the defense of Human Rights, which has registered 33 cases so far this year.
The last victim was shot dead on August 28 in the streets of Guadalajara. A few weeks before, the UN had pronounced itself in the case of Alaska Contreras, Reina Gay 2018, from a municipality in Veracruz, whose body appeared with signs of torture and a barbed wire wrapped around its neck.
Upon hearing the news, Cuevas contacted various groups and civic organizations of the trans community and called the media to a press conference to address the wave of hate crimes for gender identity under the slogan # NiUnaMás.
Her claim against transfeminicides begins in 2016, the day they killed her friend Paola, who had climbed into the car of a client before Cuevas’ eyes. A few meters away, the car stopped and she listened as her friend shouted at her. When he came to her aid, she found the man with a gun in his hand and Paola in the back seat dying.
Her claim against transfeminicides begins in 2016, the day they killed her friend Paola
Cuevas could see the killer’s face and look him in the eyes, but the prosecution team that took charge of the case dismissed it as a witness to the investigation and concluded that there was not enough evidence to charge him with it. “I was there, but they put me as curious about the place, without the quality of witness or indirect victim.” The family did not want to be responsible for the body, so Cuevas and her friends organized a funeral with the coffin open where the party and the guests did not miss.
The face of Cuevas jumped to the means to the two days, when it decided to transport next to other companions the corpse of its friend by the same place where the crime happened and collapsed with a funerary carriage one of the main avenues of City of Mexico. “I have already done everything, I have stopped the traffic, I have closed the premises, cathedrals … Everything to demand justice from the authorities”.
The murderer was imprisoned 48 hours and released. Almost two years later, Paola is still buried, Cuevas threatened with death and the subject in the street. “Now you have an arrest warrant, but as long as you do not execute it, you can not advance the folder.”
Cuevas had recorded a video of her friend’s last minutes on the life he sent to the media. After the media exposure, the Homicide Prosecutor’s Office recommended precautionary measures, but they were ignored because she was a sex worker. Finally, thanks to the pressure of human rights organizations, the Public Security Secretariat finally recognized her as an indirect victim, coinciding with the process of gender change at the end of 2016. “When I claimed the protection that had been granted to me, promised, the response of the officers was that they had been ordered to take care of one Jorge Armando and that they had no idea who Kenya was. ” This name was put in honor to a companion of primaría that knew that it liked the boys and defended it off the other children. “I promised myself that when I grew up, he would call me that in his memory”
Currently, two bodyguards follow Cuevas, not Jorge Armando, as his shadows as long as he does not leave Mexico City. “I live outside the capital and I go and come every day, so when I travel to my home I do it with the panic button, a GPS-enabled phone device that has an emergency service button.” In January 2017, he received the first threats through WhatsApp. A few days later, he received a dead man’s crown with his name. “One day, he wrote that he was going to kill me like a dog like he killed Paola.”
“The fear does not stop, it will always be there, but you learn to live with it. The good thing is that I think I have managed to transform it a little bit in order to continue defending the visibility and rights of the trans community, a population that has always been discriminated against. ” Just a few months ago, he founded Casa de Muñecas Tiresias, an organization that works with vulnerable communities, people with addictions, in street situations, with HIV and prostitutes. “We have not officially inaugurated it and we already have the agenda saturated.”
They walk through the most conflictive neighborhoods giving talks to make their cause visible and offer accompaniment for the change of identity. “A procedure that is now quite fast, although only four of the 12 States can do it. We offer the services for free. “
“Another thing we do is give assistance to those who do not have a family after they die. From asking the body to identifying it; we make them beautiful, we watch them and we bury them “. Casa de Muñecas Tiresias assumes the responsibility of following up the post-death dignity. “When they call me to tell me that Fulanita died, I immediately address the corresponding delegation and I no longer ask who or what, I only say that I come for my partner.”
All expenses of the funeral home are borne by your pocket. “It’s a money that we do not have, sometimes I do not even have enough money to eat, but in the end, we managed to get ahead. I call people and someone always appears with coffee or flowers; one brings 500 pesos, another one donates 20. And in the end the wool gets together! “. Once there was only an hour left for the services to remove the body and she still needed 6,000 pesos (about 300 euros) to liquidate. “Well the money was collected 10 minutes before and we managed to pay it. God bless when the will is good! “
His work has earned him a special place in the different groups for which he works. “If you get sick, Kenya takes care of you; If you die, it buries you. It feels nice to do it, but there are many responsibilities. ” In the neighborhood, they call Mama Kenya. “And I’ve even been asked for autographs in Acapulco.”
In just two years, Cuevas has realized the recognition of 12 mutilated bodies. “It’s an activity of my job that I can not get used to. You want it not to happen again, but I do not think about things, I do them. And when you do them right, the universe returns them to you. ” The organization also offers help for specialized health services in sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and HIV, with which she has been living for 24 years.
“I started taking screening tests to workplaces of prostitutes. The girls knew they were infected, but they did not know how to proceed, so I helped them with the official documents for access to health and accompanied them. It is that one feels very lonely when she finds out that she has HIV. I was only 12 years old when I found out I was infected. And what fear I felt! Because I was very young … I left nine years after my house and I got infected at 12 “.
It was in the prison of Santa Marta, where she was imprisoned for 10 years, where her activism was born. “The police entered the riding stables where they bought the drug, the seller gave them a percentage of money from the sale. And of course, they grabbed the innocent of me! “
Politicians and Mexican citizenship. They think that we are gay men. They do not even identify every acronym of the community!
In prison, they put her in dormitory 10, where they isolated the sick people with HIV, and Cuevas saw how his companions died without visits or attention. “We had a medical service, but it was deplorable, they left you in a bed. So I went to visit them, I bathed them, I fed them, I took the medicines and I told them jokes “. Some managed to get up and leave that bedroom, many others died in their arms. “Because people with HIV died, there were no adequate treatments, they gave us a general one for everyone without considering the different viral loads, without considering that resistant strains could be created. They killed people. “
Then Cuevas, without the support of a lawyer or family support, denounced the prison. “I went defending myself to reduce my years in prison, I alone, without any help I left the penitentiary.” Regain freedom and cling to activism as a way of life.
A few weeks ago, he met with the Social Development Secretariat of the new Government to organize open listening worktables. “This trans-issue is new for politicians and Mexican citizens. People think that we are gay men, and we have nothing to do with our brothers. They do not even identify every acronym of the community! “
It has also taken the first steps with the Ministry of Education, to bring the LGBTTTI community (lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transvestites, transgender, transgender and intersex) from the testimonies of life and from the problems they face, and appropriate protocols are generated of integration and inclusion. “You have to start with education. When one decides to make the transition, it is in primary or secondary. That is when they begin to violate your first rights. They forbid you the right to study because you are different. “
With the support of the volunteers and friends who help her to carry out the work of Casa de Muñecas Tiresias, Cuevas trusts that her project will be consolidated as a national organization in a few years and she can count on sufficient resources to stop exercising prostitution. “At the moment, I have no other way to get ahead, I need the wool.”
Last year he started working on a documentary about Paola’s life, with which he shared eight years of street and friendship. At the beginning of the filming, a scene was filmed as a fatal destination in the Caves was entering a troubled sea. “As if the metaphor of my life were that the darkness absorbed me and disappeared in it. I have felt resentment and hatred against everything, but everything starts with forgiveness when I understood that some feelings only darken the soul and take away happiness, I was able to rebuild myself from scratch “.
He has convinced the director to let her record a scene in which she appears “very pretty and wearing a white dress”. Cuevas became a widow four years ago when the couple she had been with for more than a decade and who she met in prison died of AIDS. “The truth is that I have suffered a lot, but I am already at peace with the universe, there is no longer darkness in my life. That’s why, when I die, I want to be dressed as a bride, all in white. “