Every day, a child is abducted in Guatemala, a country with a rate of impunity of 98%. For kidnappers and gangs, young people with family members in the United States are seen as easy targets. Astrid Elias Macario and Kelly Diaz Reyes were among them. They were both born in 1993 in Quetzaltenango in Guatemala. They both were abducted and abused in two separate incidents. Although Kelly was killed by her kidnappers, Astrid was released after her family paid a ransom of $3000. Her kidnappers were never arrested, and her family continued to receive threats that she would be abducted again.
Astrid eventually fled to Los Angeles in 2010, where her parents lived as undocumented immi-grants. She was caught by the U.S. border patrol in the Arizona desert, and briefly detained before being released to the custody of her parents. She has been facing deportation proceedings ever since, and has filed for political asylum. Now living in Los Angeles, Astrid is desperately trying to raise awareness about the dangers facing young women in her home country.
Kelly’s family also fled Guatemala in 2011, after four of Kelly’s kidnappers and murderers were sentenced to more than 100 years in prison. Kelly’s parents continued to receive threats after the trial, and the Guatemalan authorities advised them to leave if they could. But Karin Gramajo, Kelly’s cousin, decided to remain in Quetzaltenango despite the threats. She was determined to make sure Kelly’s case set a precedent in the courts, so that her death might not be in vain. Her goal is to become a lawyer and to set up a foundation to help victims get justice, and to make sure that girls like Astrid don’t have to flee Guatemala to get protection.
Astrid and Karin are speaking up and fighting back. They hope to slow down the number of kidnappings and femicides, and to stem the tide of forced emigration from Guatemala, a country where too many women are still seen as “prendas.”