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Casa Refugio is a shelter in an old neighbourhood of Mexico City, set among avenues named after cities. It is home to one of the memorials dedicated to Mexican journalist Javier Valdez, who was murdered in Culiacán, Sinaloa, in 2017. The shelter was created by the Mexico City authorities in 1998 as a haven of safety for writers who are persecuted for their ideology or work.

It was there that I met Griselda Triana, herself a journalist who has had to take refuge in the Mexican capital after her husband was murdered. I visited her to talk about her own personal resilience and that of other families who have fled their homes out of fear. In the last year alone, 12 journalists have been killed in Mexico and there have been more than 150 cases since 2000. In addition, there have been countless other instances of threats, intimidation and kidnappings. And the overwhelming majority of cases remain unsolved. Despite the army presence on the streets, Mexico has become the most dangerous country in the world for journalists. The main threats come from organized criminals and from the authorities themselves, who are often in cahoots with them.

Griselda is still dealing with the consequences of that terrible day.  She lives in an environment of surveillance – which is a double-edged sword. She has protection from the state (in the form of a bodyguard), but was also reportedly spied upon by the previous government, and has not been able to sleep properly for two years. She feels great pain for all that her children have lost and for their unsettled lives. But she still manages to smile, and to dream. She speaks frankly of her experiences in therapy and the challenges of understanding herself as victim, while continuing her quest for justice.

Since her husband was murdered, Griselda has publicly led a coalition of civil-society actors who are pursuing his case with the federal authorities. She has also vigorously defended the freedom of the press and has continued talking about the topics that Valdez wrote about: disappearances, human rights and violence.  And she still finds time to talk to other victims, despite her own fatigue and pain.

Griselda is a grantee of the Resilience Fund Against Transnational Organized Crime, which supports investigative journalists, anti-crime activists and community-based organizations around the world.

‘I ask you to try to imagine what happens after learning that the person with whom you shared a life and many years was killed for exercising his freedom of speech. Imagine how difficult it is to continue with a life that will never be the same again, when you are aware that this crime will go unpunished, that there will be no justice.’Thus began Griselda as she told her story in Vienna during the launch of the Resilience Fund in May 2019.

Griselda knows that she is resilient – a quality, for her, that is both deeply personal, but which she is forging into something more tangible, empowering and replicable through her activism. She is uncomfortable when someone tells her that she is an inspiration, however. And while she is aware that she is a victim – like other relatives of murdered journalists in Mexico – she does not want to be defined as one, or as the widow of one. She just wants justice for Javier – and for all the journalists and activists in Mexico who have been killed.

She is keenly aware of the importance of resilience in the face of adversity, and not only because of the courses she takes and her reading on the subject, to which she applies herself with passion. But she also wants to share what she continues to learn every day about the need for resilience – she already does it with her children, and her desire is to work with families who have gone through the same ordeal as her.

The project she is now developing with the support of the Resilience Fund allows Griselda to approach the families of murdered journalists and learn about their survival stories, hear about the obstacles and the challenges they have had to face. Her focus is on resilience, on finding what has made the victims’ families stronger, on joining their voices together to seek, if not all the answers, then at least respect for their rights and the reparations they deserve.

Her project is strengthened through the support of Balbina Flores, the correspondent and representative of Reporters Without Borders in Mexico, and Claudia Corona, professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, women who for more than a decade have been monitoring cases of attacks against the media.

The trio have participated in the design of the project. Griselda’s involvement goes beyond her role as a wife, mother and victim. She is also a communications professional, and before leaving her home town, she was the head of the radio programme produced by the gender policy department at the Autonomous University of Sinaloa. Balbina brings her experience as a social worker and journalist who has travelled to Mexico’s most criminally dangerous places, interviewing relatives of assassinated or threatened journalists. Claudia joined the team to work on data-collection methods, with experience as a university researcher on human rights and freedom of expression issues.

Seeing the three work together, bringing their different perspectives and skills, is inspiring – women asking themselves life-and-death questions, sharing stories of a terrible reality among other stories of hope. Sitting in a sunlit room, they laugh and get excited between silences, when talking about the tragic realities of those they will soon interview. A passing cloud momentarily casts the room in shadow, and suddenly they all fall silent. They know that the light, the laughter they can find in this place of shelter are ephemeral. But the silence does not last long and the room lights up again.

#NoAlSilencio (#NoMoreSilence) has been the rallying call that Griselda Triana has chanted in the streets during protest marches. Her resolve seems limitless. And, that afternoon, her enthusiasm motivates us to go and put an end to the darkness engulfing those who still cannot find peace, shelter or justice.

La Casa Refugio está situada en un antiguo barrio de la Ciudad de México, entre calles arboladas, con nombres de lugares. En esa casona hoy se alberga un memorial al periodista mexicano Javier Valdéz, asesinado en Culiacán, Sinaloa el 15 de Mayo de 2017. El espacio fue creado por el gobierno de la Ciudad en 1998 para albergar a “quienes por razones ideológicas, por la violencia e intolerancia requieren de un espacio para continuar su vida y obra”. (1)

Ahí me recibe Griselda Triana quien ha tenido que tomar refugio en la capital mexicana después de que Javier, su marido, fuera asesinado. La visito para hablar de resiliencia, de la de ella y de la de las otras familias que han tenido que huir de sus hogares por miedo. Tan solo en el último año, 10 periodistas han sido asesinados en México y van más de 150 casos desde el 2000, sin contar el sinfín de casos de amenazas, intimidaciones y secuestros. Y la apabullante mayoría de los casos siguen impunes. Sin ser un país propiamente en guerra (pero con el ejército en las calles), México se ha convertido en el país más peligroso para la prensa. Las principales amenazas son el crimen organizado y las autoridades mismas que a menudo se confunden con los criminales.

Griselda también es periodista y vive aún en medio de la peor noticia de su vida. Vive vigilada y lleva dos años sin poder dormir bien. Siente gran dolor por todo lo que han perdido sus hijos, cuyas vidas siguen sin asentarse. Pero ella ya sonríe y sueña. Habla francamente de su trabajo terapéutico y de los obstáculos de su proceso como víctima que se asume, pero no deja de pedir justicia. Griselda ha encabezado públicamente desde el principio, el seguimiento al caso del asesinato de su compañero y ha aprovechado los foros que le ofrecen para hablar de la libertad de prensa y de los temas que hablaba Javier: las desapariciones, los derechos humanos y la violencia, hablando con otras víctimas, a pesar del cansancio y el dolor.

“Les pido que traten de imaginar lo que ocurre después de enterarse de que la persona con quien compartieron una vida juntos por muchos años, fue asesinada por ejercer su derecho a informar. Imaginen lo difícil que resulta continuar con una vida que ya no volverá a ser igual, cuando tienes conciencia de que ese crimen quedará impune, que no habrá justicia.” Así empezó Griselda a contar su historia en Viena, cuando participó en el lanzamiento del Fondo Resiliencia en Mayo de 2019.

Griselda se sabe resiliente, pero humildemente se incomoda cuando alguien le dice que es una inspiración. Y no quiere que la llamen ni víctima, ni “viuda de”. Ella quiere Justicia para Javier y para todos los periodistas y activistas en México que han sido asesinados. Definitivamente sabe de resiliencia y no solo por los cursos que toma y las lecturas sobre el tema, a los que con afán se aplica. Ella quiere compartir lo que sigue aprendiendo todos los días, lo hace ya con sus hijos y su deseo es trabajar con las familias que han vivido lo mismo que ella.

El proyecto en el que ahora trabaja con el Fondo Resiliencia le permite a Griselda acercarse a las familias de periodistas asesinados y conocer sus historias de sobrevivencia, escuchar de los obstáculos y desafíos que han tenido que enfrentar. Su enfoque está en la resiliencia, en encontrar aquello que los fortalece, en sumar sus voces para buscar, si no todas las respuestas, el respeto a sus derechos y la reparaciones que por ley merecen.

Su proyecto está acompañado por la experiencia de más de una década en seguimiento de casos de ataques a periodistas de Balbina Flores, corresponsal y representante de Reporteros Sin Fronteras en México y Claudia Corona, profesora de la Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.  Estas tres mujeres han participado en la concepción del proyecto desde distintas perspectivas.

La colaboración de Griselda va más allá de su papel de esposa y madre víctima. Griselda es además comunicóloga de profesión, y antes de dejar su casa era titular del programa de radio del departamento de políticas de género en la Universidad Autónoma de Sinaloa. Balbina contribuye desde su experiencia como trabajadora social y periodista quien ha estado viajando a los lugares más peligrosos de México para entrevistar a los sobrevivientes de los periodistas asesinados y amenazados. Claudia, fue la última en unirse a este equipo con el objetivo de apoyar los métodos de recolección de datos y desarrollar una herramienta sólida, contribuyendo su trayectoria como investigadora universitaria en temas de derechos humanos y libertad de expresión.

Verlas trabajar juntas es para mi inspirador. Mujeres haciéndose preguntas, compartiendo historias de una realidad terrible y de ficciones esperanzadoras. Sentadas en un salón iluminado por el sol, ríen y se emocionan entre lapsos de silencio al hablar de las trágicas realidades.

De repente, todas callan al tiempo que pasa una nube que oscurece el cuarto. Saben que este albergue de la luz y las risas es efímero. Pero el silencio también dura poco y el cuarto se ilumina. #NoAlSilencio ha sido el reclamo que ha gritado Griselda Triana en las calles en las distintas marchas de protesta. Su voluntad parece incansable. Y esa tarde, su entusiasmo nos motiva a sacar de la oscuridad a quienes todavía no encuentran ni paz, ni refugio, ni justicia.

 

 

 

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Footnotes: 1. https://www.cultura.cdmx.gob.mx/casa-refugio-citlaltepetl

 

 

 

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Author

Siria Gastelum Felix

Siria Gastelum is an Emmy Award winning journalist from Mexico. Siria started writing stories on organized crime in her own native state of Sinaloa when she was still a child. She directed a documentary on Jesus Maverde, the so-called patron saint of drug traffickers. She has worked on radio, television and print media in Mexico, the United States and Canada.

In 2008, she joined the United Nations Office in Vienna. She has worked at the International Narcotics Control Board and more recently at the United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking (UN.GIFT). In 2001 she received the UN 21 Award from the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon for the creation of the UN.GIFT.HUB, an online knowledge exchange platform on human trafficking.

Siria has a BA in Communications Science from the University of the Americas-Puebla (Mexico) and a Masters of Journalism from Carleton University (Canada). She now spends her time between Mexico, Canada and India.

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