Tag Archives: Latin American

‘Southwest Of Salem’ Tells The Story Of 4 Hispanic Lesbians Long Fight For Justice

Southwest of Salem, a new documentary feature released at the end of this month, follows the awful miscarriage of justice suffered by four lesbians over the last 24 years. The film, by Deborah S. Esquenazi, who became interested in the case and is convinced of the women’s innocence, follows the four women during their trials, their conviction, their parole, and their ongoing fight for exoneration.

Elizabeth Ramirez, Kristie Mayhugh, Anna Vasquez and Cassandra Rivera, all of whom were 19 and 20 years old at the time and lived in Texas, were accused of gang raping Elizabeth’s nieces, then aged 7 and 9.

What transpired next was basically nothing short of a witch-hunt. The case became widely known as ‘The San Antonio four’ and the state of Texas offered the four women a chance to be put on probation for 10 years and avoid prison. The young women, convinced justice would prevail as they were innocent, refused to admit guilt to anything and the case went to trial.

Justice failed them entirely and in 1998 the four women were convicted of aggravated sexual assault and indecency with a child.  Elizabeth was sentenced to 37.5 years in prison and her friends got 15 years each.

During the late 90’s the United States was emerging from a bizarre period of mass hysteria in which many day care workers, nannies and babysitters all over the country were being accused of performing satanic ritual abuse on the children they cared for. The paediatrician who examined the girls, Nancy Kellogg, whose testimony sealed the women’s fate, said she found healed scarring in their vaginas, which she examined two months after the alleged attacks happened, and said it possibly indicated molestation. She also said that there appeared to be “signs of satanic-related sexual abuse.”

According to journalist Michelle Mondo, who wrote an article about the case in 2010, Kellogg said she based her notes on her “research and experience in this area,” and published studies she could not name.

The four women were never directly accused of ritual abuse, but because of Dr. Kellogg’s testimony, the prosecutors depicted the working-class Latinas as living sordid lives of debauchery. The filmmakers and the women conclude they were accused and convicted of sexual child abuse, and suspected of being in a satanic cult for one simple reason: They were lesbians. The film portrays the deeply ingrained cultural and systemic prejudices that resulted in the convictions of these Mexican-American women. They were from Texas, a very conservative state, and didn’t have the resources to use expensive attorneys. They were simply vulnerable to racial and homophobic prejudice by the authorities and could do little to protect themselves against it.

It also emerged in court that Elizabeth’s brother in law, Javier Limon, had a crush on Elizabeth and often made sexual advances to her. It is believed that because she rejected his advances and the fact Elizabeth was a lesbian, he encouraged his children to make these allegations against the women in an act of sick revenge. Even though the love letters he sent Elizabeth were mentioned in court and witnesses came forwards stating that Limon had been crushing on Elizabeth since she was a teenager, Limon denied everything and the courts believed him, not Elizabeth.

During the time of the allegations, and a fact not known to the public or the court, Anna and Cassie were partners, and they were raising Cassie’s two young children together. They used to spend time at Elizabeth’s house because they had been kicked out of their own homes by their mothers upon learning that they were lesbians.

It was this deep cultural prejudice and intolerance that allowed people to think the worst of them. In 2010, 15 years into the women’s nightmare, Stephanie Limon, one of the girls that accused the women, by then a young mother of 25, recanted her testimony in front of Director Esquenazi’s cameras and two lawyers from The Innocence Project of Texas.  This led to Anna getting parole in 2012. She was desperate to help her friends get out of prison as well and eventually helped them to get released on bond in 2013.

The women have never been exonerated and are still fighting for their exoneration to this day. Mike Ware, lawyer for the Texas Innocence Project, who has helped the women file their appeal, anticipates that the San Antonio Four will be vindicated and all the charges dismissed.

Still, he worries that there are two other possible outcomes: the court may find there is not enough evidence for actual innocence, and order a new trial, or they will be denied and have to return to prison to serve the remainder of their sentences. No charges have been filed against Limon despite the fact one of his daughters admitted she had lied.

The film will hit the wider screens later in the year.


Puerto Rican Singer Kany Garcia Comes Out: “What A Perfect Time To Open My Heart And Show Who I Really Am”

Puerto Rican singer, Kany Garcia, came out over the weekend, announcing she is in a relationship with her personal trainer, Jocelyn Troche.

In a note posted to Instagram in spainsh, the singer said

What a perfect time to open my heart and show who I really am, on the weekend of lovers (Valentine’s Day). Love always wins, always sets one free and always transforms. Today I want to put my fears aside and face my truth. That is how I share with you this very special photo with this extraordinary woman who has stolen my heart.”


The singer-songwriter, who is also a winner of two Latin Grammys also added.

“… what is good is not to be hidden but to be shared. Because if anything is not sinful it is love and because at the end of the road I want to face myself and embrace myself, knowing that in my life I was always faithful to myself.”

That is how I share my abundance with you. When one speaks with love and with truth, only good things can happen.”

The announcement won messages of support, including one from the leader of Puerto Rico’s gay community, Pedro Julio Serrano, and fellow artist Ricky Martin, among many others.

Photographer Documents the Moment She Came Out to Her Parents (Pics)

Paola Paredes 01

It was not Paola Paredes intention to come out to her parents, but then she saw a book of lesbian photography and it planted a seed in her head.

Talking to Advocate, she says the book motivated her to capture her own coming-out story because “the idea of capturing it in photographs made it all of a sudden appealing.”

Paola Paredes 05

Coming out in any family is not easy, especially for Paredes, because her parents come from a conservative Catholic background.

I am not Catholic despite my upbringing. But I do understand that for other Latinas who are, it is hard because of what religion makes people believe. There is a lot of work to do be done. It is slowly becoming better, but the change starts in each person to build tolerance and to educate people. I think Latin women can get a lot achieved. We are empowering, intelligent, passionate, and charismatic.”

Paola Paredes 04

… I looked at them once more and shared my love for them once again. I said the words. ‘There is something I haven’t been able to share with you.’ And after that I just took a deep breath and let out the words. ‘I’m gay.’ After I told them, it was like popping a massive balloon. I had let out such a heavy thing that I had been carrying for so many years, so I couldn’t help but cry and put my head on the table.”

Paola Paredes 06 Paola Paredes 07 Paola Paredes 08 Paola Paredes 09

Their instant reaction was to reach out. They put their hands on my head and said ‘we don’t care, we accept you.’ They started crying as well. We all did. It was super overwhelming. After that, we carried on a three-hour conversation. I had a chance to share with them things they hadn’t heard before. We talked about their fears. But overall they were nothing but accepting.”

Paola Paredes 10

This is a video she shot during the “making of” her orchestrated dinner-table scene, to prepare for her parents and her sisters to join her during her coming out.

Mexico’s Supreme Court Effectively Legalises Same-Sex Marriage

The Supreme Court in Mexico has legalised same-sex marriage in a landmark legal ruling.

However, the country doesn’t have equal marriage rights just yet.

A court has decreed that it is unconstitutional for Mexican states to bar same-sex marriages.

As the purpose of matrimony is not procreation, there is no justified reason that the matrimonial union be heterosexual, nor that it be stated as between only a man and only a woman. Such a statement turns out to be discriminatory in its mere expression.”

Whilst no official legislation has been brought forward in parliament to introduce marriage for gay and bisexual couples, the court ruling represents a precedent that will require courts throughout the country to follow suit.

This means that same-sex marriage has effectively been legalised throughout Mexico.

Estefanía Vela, a legal scholar at a Mexico City university told the New York Times of the ruling:

Without a doubt, gay marriage is legal everywhere. If a same-sex couple comes along and the code says marriage is between a man and a woman and for the purposes of reproduction, the court says, ‘Ignore it, marriage is for two people’.”

However, same-sex couples might still run into a few snags because local registrars are not required to follow this ruling; however gay couples denied marriage rights in their states are able to seek injunctions from district judges since the jurisprudential thesis now requires the judges to grant them.

Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as just ignoring the discriminatory code or the local registrar. Even though judges are now required to provide marriage licenses, if a registrar denies a same-sex couple, it is up to that couple to appeal the courts.

That process can cost $1,000 or more and the legal process can take months. While this means marriage is not 100% equal, the recent ruling in Mexico is definitely a step in the right direction.

A number of Latin American countries have allowed same-sex marriage in recent years. Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay have already done so, whilst Chile and Ecuador are set to do so in the near future.