I apologize if my repeated posts about this woman are boring or uninteresting to some, but I truly believe that her story is worth writing about, or in my case, translating about. I think this case has brought Guatemala to a crossroad, and there are some exceptional women in that country who are trying to make sure they make the right turn, by not keeping silent. There are a couple blogs from the original writer who brought us this story that I have been wanting to translate, but they take more time in skill due to her exceptional writing, so they will come with time. But today, I came across the following opinion piece, and felt is was worth translating and sharing. The subject is something that I’ve wanted to blog about for over a year, and I just haven’t made the time to do so: why are women in our culture (by “our” I mean Hispanic) so frequently victims of domestic violence? And why do they remain in relationships marred by domestic violence? As a volunteer with several legal nonprofits, I have worked with women who were victims of domestic violence in order to help them apply for immigration relief (through VAWA and U-Visa petitions), and the degree and frequency of violence that so many of these women put up with has always scared me. Alas, I should save my “opinion” piece for my own blog entry…

The Robert Barreda Syndrome

(As published on September 22, 2011, in El Periodico)

In Guatemala, things have to change and the aggressors have to know that their only place is in jail.

Sylvia Gereda Valenzuela

Since 2001 I have worked and investigated the subject of femicide and aggression against women in Guatemala. I find it interesting that we have such an aggressive male population, that has caused more than 6 thousand women to die in the most cruel ways: tortured, severed in their private parts, raped, and mutilated.

In those days, Ciudad Juarez was a site of murders that moved the world. Ten years later, Guatemala left Mexico behind.

I got to know the case of Mindi Rodas, the woman who’s husband ripped off her face, nose and mouth with a knife and after a long battle for justice was murdered.

I got to know the case of Claudina Vasquez, a young woman who was going to be an attorney, that was first raped and then put on her knees to die with a bullet to the temple.

Towards the middle of this decade, while I was going through my masters in sociology, I completed a thesis about femicides in Guatemala, and then I had to course through the morgues, see puddles of blood that wet my shoes, the bodies of dozens of women that arrived cut in pieces and their faces bruised. That year, when I started my television project of Informe Especial (Special Report) on Canal Antigua, I decided to go back and check the pulse of this silent drama. I didn’t even have to take a step to realize that the problem had surpassed us.

In July I started to investigate the disappearance and murder of Cristina Siekavizza, where the principal suspect is her husband Roberto Barreda. A story already known by everyone, but where the aggregate of influence peddling, abuse of power by Barreda’s parents, Beatriz De Leon and Roberto Barreda, has been an important factor in keeping this case without any punishment and allowing the two minors to disappear along with their psychopath father, according to those who have declared to know the case: the judge Veronica Galicia and Norma Cruz.

I have found myself with more than three dozen messages and letters from women commenting that the story of Cristina has made them understand the dangerous drama in which they are submerged. Many, for the first time, seeing the criminal extremes that Barreda allegedly reached, are daring to break the cycle of violence and raise their voice.

“My sister that was married for 33 years with a psychopath, controlling and feticidal that followed her with a gun, hit her, etcetera. Today she has separated from him and she is getting fucked over. He left her in the street, even though he has millions in accounts in the United States and he uses his best friend as a figurehead. She gave him her whole life, since she was 19, she never finished her career nor did she ever work. He told her that he was never going to giver her anything, over his dead body.”

“He would get home late, drunk, aggressive, he would smack me around.”

“He left with some girl that was 20 years younger than him, got her pregnant. When I confronted him about it he grabbed me and hit me, he slapped me and insulted me.”

“I knew that he lived in bars and whore houses. On three opportunities he transmitted venereal diseases to me. He would threaten me that if I left him he would leave me in the street and ruin me forever, I have never worked.”

Norma Cruz, president of the Fundacion Sobrevivientes (Survivors Foundation), told me on one occasion that Guatemalan woman has started to talk about what she called the “Barreda Syndome,” many of the attacked women are seeing in Roberto Barreda, a man that appeared to not be aggressive but that was a despot at home, their own husbands. En the case of Barreda, nobody saw the alleged murderer of his spouse coming. But when everyone reacted, Cristina had ceased to exist and her children had disappeared.

I have always believed that we all came into this world with a mission, that no life is in vain, just like no death is in vain. Cristina has moved more hearts and sentiments with her death than she did with her life, this is a sign that her spirit continues still today and it can be the point of inspiration so that many women who have been attacked start to talk and ask for help from prosecutors, support groups, or organizations in defense of women.

For my part, these stories of terror that have hit so many guatemalan women hurt me to my core, and they motivate me to commit myself with what I will soon start as a new life project, to save thousands of women, teenagers, and girls who are victims of violence. If I can be sure of something, it’s that today, more than ever, I will not lower my voice and I ask the women that they don’t either. In Guatemala, things have to change, and the aggressors have to know that their only place is in jail.