Three Live One Message Stop Killing Mexico’s Transgender Women

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Three Live One Message Stop Killing Mexico’s Transgender Women

Mexico is the second most dangerous country in the world to be transgender, according to human rights groups. Only Brazil has higher rates of transphobia and violence against the trans community. Most attacks go unpunished, including murder. Three women are fighting for change.

In a small paved patio beneath a bust of the Virgin de Guadalupe, Ariel Hernandez Serrano’s lilting voice echoes across her rundown corner of Iztacalco, the most densely-populated borough in Mexico City.

Accompanied only by a classical guitarist, she performs a poignant rendition of a Mexican folk song, La Llorona, meaning The Weeping Woman.

The music itself originates far from the bustle of the capital, in the south-eastern state of Oaxaca, and Ariel’s version includes phrases in the indigenous Zapotec language.

Bleached-blonde and invariably smiling, Ariel says she is trying to achieve two things with her music: to help preserve Mexico’s fast-disappearing indigenous languages, and to give greater visibility to the country’s marginalised trans community.

Last year, she became the first transgender woman to perform inside the presidential palace of Los Pinos.

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Maybe I can do something positive to educate and sensitise people,” she says between songs. “I’ve realised that art and music can erase prejudice, stereotypes and ignorance.”

Being transgender in Mexico is far from easy, Ariel says. “This is a poor neighbourhood but it’s safe,” she explains as we walk the streets near her family home. “Luckily I’ve never been subject to any physical aggression, although I sometimes receive insults and stares. But most people respect me here.”

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But while her neighbours know and appreciate her, it is a very different story elsewhere in the sprawling city, let alone in rural and less tolerant parts of the country.

Ariel is well aware of the risks involved in fighting for greater visibility for transgender people. “I’m not dedicating my life to trans activism,” she clarifies, preferring simply to be considered a musician. “But I have great respect for those who do because they put their lives on the line.”

That is no exaggeration in a patriarchal society like Mexico’s. As many as 98% of murders in the country go unsolved and unpunished, and the authorities often show little inclination to investigate the killings of transgender women.

Three Live One Message Stop Killing Mexico’s Transgender Women

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