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Stories of migration from some of the best young journalists in Mexico, Central America and the United States

Fleeing machismo

Francisco Rodriguez de Leon and Giovanna Dell Orto reporting from Guatemala

Twenty-two percent of Guatemalan girls are pregnant before the age of 18. A long-standing culture of machismo, especially in rural regions, turns a blind eye to underage sex and rape, even of family members. Men are forgiven or go unpunished while the girls drop out of school at a young age. Aminta Cifuentes, fled to the US, where an immigration judge set a legal precedent by granting her asylum as a victim of sexual abuse. Back in Guatemala little has changed, but some women are taking a stand against machismo.





Ruling changes little: Guatemalan women still victims

by Giovanna Dell Orto


May 17, 2015

She suffered beatings and rapes during 13 years of marriage. Repeated attempts to get police help failed. It took one last death threat in 2005 to finally convince Aminta Cifuentes that her husband really meant to kill her.

She took just enough cash to pay some bus fares, snacks and fruit juice for her three younger children, and passage across the Rio Grande. Then the Coatepeque mother started a two-week trek north, despite knowing the dangers of crossing into Mexico and then the United States without documents.

"If I die... well, I'll die anyway together with him," Cifuentes, now 41, …

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Guatemalan girls caught in cycle of pregnancy, poverty

by Giovanna Dell Orto


May 17, 2015

The regional representative for the government agency defending children's rights leafed through a paper register densely filled with hand-drawn black dividing lines and minute cursive.

"You don't want the rapes and incests, just the pregnancies, right?" Ana Isabel de Leon asked two reporters.

She quickly tallied the total: six.

Six pregnancies to girls ages 13 to 14 reported by hospitals and clinics around the city on that single mid-March morning.

Children having children, and sexual violence, are widespread in the rural, mountainous and jungle departments of Alta Verapaz and neighboring Peten, home to some of Guatemala's most celebrated natural and …

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Cuando una adolescente dice no al matrimonio

by Francisco Rodriguez de Leon


May 31, 2015

La nina de 13 anos queda sola en casa todos los miercoles, el dia que la madre debe instalar su puesto de venta en el mercado. Una noche, la senora no quiso tener relaciones sexuales con su esposo, el se enfurecio, los golpes y gritos fueron tan escandalosos que los vecinos intervinieron. Al ver a su madre desahogarse frente a los policias, la nina tomo la palabra, "Yo tambien tengo algo que decir de mi papa". La menor detallo agresiones sexuales, todas con fecha precisa y hora aproximada.

Fuente: Refugio para la Ninez, Coban.

Ni ella sabe explicar de donde …

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La guatemalteca que huyó y cambió las reglas del asilo político estadounidense

by Francisco Rodriguez de Leon


April 26, 2015

Desde fuera de su casa varios hombres la observaban. Aminta Cifuentes, aterrada, solo distinguia de ellos los ojos, lo unico que dejaban ver los pasamontanas negros que portaban. Preguntar por sus nombres e intenciones estaba de mas, suponia, con suficientes argumentos y golpizas recibidas durante ans por parte de su esposo, que ellos eran amigos de su pareja. Hacia poco tiempo se habian separado, si ellos estaban ahi seria para darle un escarmiento de lo que implicaba alejarse de el. Los hombres de rostros cubiertos, que no pudieron entrar al hogar, fueron una primera visita del angel de la muerte. …

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From the field


Francisco and Giovanna approached their stories from very different backgrounds and for very different audiences. Giovanna says Francisco's local knowledge and experience were invaluable to the project, but her own outsider's view also brought fresh insights:

"The first interview that we did together with a regular person (as opposed to the NGOs and the Embassy) was this woman, she showed up in the traditional Mayan huipil and I'm interested. Francisco isn't because he sees it all the time. I've never seen one and I've never had this chance to ask somebody about it. So I asked her if she had embroidered it herself, because it was really beautiful, and it turns out that, 'yes! she had embroidered it herself in the five months that her father wasn't letting her out of the house for punishment for wanting go on with her education.' So that was a really great quote and I remember Francisco and I later talked about it. Never in a million years would it have occurred to him to ask that question, because he sees it all the time. It would be the equivalent of asking somebody about their jeans. You don't!"