About a hundred people gathered on 110th Street, “Tito Puente Way,” in East Harlem last night to remember the life of Camila Guzman. The vigil, sponsored by the Anti-Violence Project, took place outside of Camila’s apartment, where she was found murdered last week.
We’ve been to too many of these types of candle light memorials in the past year, usually in cold weather months. But this one, taking place on a warm summer evening, when the candles were useless in the evening sun of a long August twilight, was different. The absence of Camila, for the friends, strangers, and members of the NYPD who were out for the vigil, seemed especially jarring, given how basketball games and ice cream trucks and kids playing in sprinklers were going on raucously through out El Barrio without her.
The vigil featured speakers who not only tackled what the death of Camila, a transgender immigrant from Chile, meant for the LGBT community and trans women of color in general, but what it meant to them personally.
Flor Bermudez, a staff attorney for Lamba Legal, shared her thoughts about her friend: Bermudez said Camila was the fifth friend of hers who has been murdered.
A running theme through the speeches, given in English and Spanish, was the need for families to accept their gay, lesbian and transgender children. While the murder is not solved, “Discrimination starts at home,” said one grieving mourner through a translator, the mother of one of Camila’s friends. “Do not discriminate against your children,” she begged in Spanish.
Citing the recently released National Hate Violence Report, members of the AVP staff pointed out that what happened to Camila sadly was not atypical, as trans women of color are the most common victims of LGBT violence. Some 70 percent of LGBT murder victims are women of color, and a staggering 44 percent of murder victims are transgender women, despite accounting for only about 9% of the LGBT population. Camila was known to many friends, including several who were tied into LGBT activism, but a huge number of crimes against trans women, especially immigrants, never get reported.
The evening ended with a recognition that Camila’s murderer wanted her to disappear, and a call for the attendees not to let her disappear in their hearts. A white rose was given to everyone to carry home with them.