Guatemala City, Guatemala – Women are leading protests against gender violence and femicides this weekend in Guatemala, where the recent murder of a university student has sparked sorrow, outrage, and calls for action.
“It made me scared and sad,” said Sofia, a 20-year-old law student who asked that her last name not be used, at a protest Saturday in Guatemala City, where she carried a sign with names of murdered women.
“I know what it feels like to live in fear and I am tired of it,” she told Al Jazeera.
More than 200 women were killed in the first eight months of this year in the Central American nation, and more than 3,000 women and girls have been killed since 2015, according to human rights groups tracking government statistics.
The overwhelming majority of the cases remain unsolved.
Social work student Litzy Amelia Cordon, 20, was abducted Monday and her body was found the next day in Teculutan, a municipality 130km (80 miles) east of the capital. Primary school teacher Laura Daniela Hernandez, 22, was murdered there the week before.
Hundreds of women of all ages marched for justice Wednesday in Teculutan, and demonstrations are now spreading around the country. Women organised protests this weekend in at least seven cities and towns.
“Litzy was like an angel. Litzy was always a well-behaved girl,” Gladys Guardado, Cordon’s aunt, told Al Jazeera in Guatemala City’s central plaza, where she and other relatives, as well as Teculutan residents, had travelled to attend the protest.
Guardado raised Cordon as her own after the girl’s mother migrated to the United States 18 years ago. One of Cordon’s siblings also attended the protest, holding a banner calling for justice.
But her older brother Pablo migrated north last month and only just made it to the US on Friday. He learned of his sister’s murder along the way in Mexico. “He found out on social media. Alone,” said Guardado, her voice breaking.
“I know that nothing is going to bring her back, but I want justice.”
A few metres away, around the flag pole in the plaza, young women prepared flowers and candles inside a ring of small wooden crosses commemorating a 2017 tragedy that often is front and centre at women’s protests in the city.
On March 8, 2017 – International Women’s Day – forty-one teenage girls burned to death inside a state-run facility and 15 others were injured.
The girls had reported being sexually assaulted and forced into prostitution in the Hogar Seguro Virgen de la Asuncion shelter, but their protests were ignored.
The fire broke out in a room where girls were locked in as punishment for helping a group of boys escape. As the blaze raged, shelter officials waited nine minutes before they unlocked the door.
Stop-and-start court proceedings against several government employees, including police, are continuing.
The girls’ memory is being honoured around the country this weekend in performances of, Cancion sin miedo (Song without fear), with tweaked Guatemalan lyrics.
Composed by Mexican singer-songwriter Vivir Quintana earlier this year, the song has transcended borders to become a feminist hymn calling for justice for femicide victims.
I know that nothing is going to bring her back, but I want justice
“For all the girls who were burned, for all the women shouting in the plaza, for all the mothers searching without peace, we sing without fear, we call for justice,” women sang Saturday in Guatemala City.
Maria Fernandez, a 22-year-old medical student, decided to attend the protest because she said it is important to support social movements for change. “The right to life is a human right,” Fernandez told Al Jazeera.
“I think this new generation can make change, and that through speaking out and expressing ourselves we can make a difference.”