This column originally appeared in El Diario La Prensa.
To start off the new year, I’m heading to Chiapas, where we’re going to ride on the tops of trains with Central American migrants and launch a new movement called “Todo por ellas” (“All for Them”), which will demand an end to the sexual exploitation of young women migrants. We want the next generation of Latinas to see an end to the child prostitution and pornography, the rape and murder.
This is an undeniable tragedy and it’s unacceptable. The fact that there are men capable of doing things like this breaks my heart and enrages me. We have to take on this fight.
The exploitation of young women is driven by the eagerness to make more money, feeding itself on those who are forced to abandon their homes to look for jobs in “el norte.”
I know there are plenty of women in the United States who have endured these atrocities. Often, these women travel alone or in a small group. Often, they’re too young.
I’m angry with the men who profit from this business, but also with the governments that turn a blind eye to it. The US and Mexico have tolerated this underground labor system. Say what you will, they’ve permitted it and even promoted it.
Only one solution exists for these massive human rights abuses. The solution is to get the millions of immigrants—upon whose sweat there has been so much profit—out of the shadows, where they completely lack legal protection.
In the meantime, we ourselves have to call for an end to the exploitation of youth. If there are men in our communities who abuse these women, there are men capable of defending them. No one can tell me that they don’t know that these things happen, from the mountains of Chiapas to the streets of the Bronx. We know it very well. If you don’t have papers, you can’t appeal to the authorities, and that makes these women easy prey for those who intend to attack, capture, and abuse them.
This year should be the year that we take it seriously when we say that no human being is illegal, that all human beings deserve basic protection. These young women are like your daughters and sisters. They’re no different, or less human. Let’s defend them.
Translation by Ted Hesson.