“I come from a family that stands up for what we believe, and we stand up for human rights.”
Laura Reyes is an activist from Ciudad Juárez, Mexico who is deeply committed to justice for her family. Her family has been the target of brutal violence—everything from house burning and harassment to assassinations—for their work defending the rights of their fellow citizens in Ciudad Juárez. It is estimated that drug-cartel violence has killed more than 50,000 Mexicans since 2007—many of them in Ciudad Juárez, a city that borders El Paso, Texas.
Activism has always been familiar to Laura. Juárez is a city of great inequities, and many poor people. She remembers her Aunt Josefina gathering members of her community to protest for access to electricity at a reasonable cost. Later, her aunt became nationally known for her opposition to the militarization of the region in 2008 (called “Operation Chihuhua”) and for protesting the Sierra Blanca radioactive waste site.
Her Aunt Josefina and other members of Laura’s family have protested for more than a decade for an official investigation of hundreds of unsolved killings of women in the Juarez Valley and against human rights violations committed by the military.
Laura’s family’s willingness to speak out has made them a target for violence. Laura has lost six members of her family, including two uncles, two aunts and a cousin. When the murders started to snowball in 2011, Laura and the remaining members of her family organized a sit-in at the Assistant Attorney General’s office. They stayed there for three weeks, staging a hunger strike, and even held a wake for two dead family members there.
The Reyes family is one of many cases that have led organizations such as Amnesty International and the Nobel Women’s Initiative to call for Mexico to implement measures to protect the safety of human rights defenders.
Laura says that many families experience such violence, and the government is part of the problem. Laura and her family fear police, and they fear for their lives. Everyone in her family is in danger, and many family members have received offers of asylum to live elsewhere.
While Laura’s family connections do not come by choice, she is proud of her family’s commitment to human rights and boldly stares fear in the eye. “All of my aunts and uncles have fought for human rights and it wouldn’t be right for me to turn around and say ‘I am too scared because my life is in danger.”’
We stand in solidarity with Laura, and the other women in Mexico courageously working to end violence and impunity for such crimes.
Download a copy of our delegation report - From survivors to defenders: Women confronting violence in Mexico, Honduras, and Guatemala
Mexico: Known abusers, but victims ignored: Torture and ill-treatment in Mexico, Amnesty International, Oct 2012.
Mexico urged to protect targeted family following triple killing, Amnesty International, 25 Feb 2011.
Wave of Violence Swallows More Women in Juárez, the New York Times, 23 June 2012.