August 19th: Day of Struggles of Homeless People in Latin America and the Caribbean.. Fotografía de Imagen: cortesía del colectivo Ni Todo Está Perdido
Photography by Imagen: cortesía del colectivo Ni Todo Está Perdido

August 19th: Day of Struggles of Homeless People in Latin America and the Caribbean.

By María Cristina Pérez Venegas
Diversas organizaciones sociales y personas en situación de calle organizadas a la largo de Latinoamérica se han propuesto impulsar este día a fin de crear una sinergia regional para visibilizar las demandas de la población sin hogar.

Various social organizations and organized homeless individuals throughout Latin America have set out to promote this day in order to create regional synergy to raise awareness of the demands of the homeless population.

Eighteen years ago, between August 19th and 22nd, the “Sé Massacre” occurred. In a series of nighttime attacks, 15 homeless people were beaten on the head in downtown Sao Paulo. According to official data, seven died, and eight were seriously injured. News reports suggest even more deaths. Unfortunately, this is one case of violence among the hundreds that occur against those who inhabit public spaces around the world.

Our city is no exception. According to the Human Rights Diagnosis and Program of Mexico City 2016-2021, the most frequently reported conflicts involving homeless individuals relate to “discrimination by the population and authorities, harassment, and mistreatment by police officers.” On the other hand, the Human Rights Commission of Mexico City has documented numerous cases of violence against homeless populations in recommendations such as 7/2015, 2/2012, and 13/2011.

Why does this happen? There are multiple factors, with stigmatization being one of the most recognized. Much of the population is unaware of the life stories and the painful circumstances in which most people end up on the streets. They are considered lazy or addicted individuals, nothing more. The reality is that public spaces are inhabited by a great diversity of people whose rights have been violated or neglected by their families, society, and the state.

Fredi, a man who has experienced life on the streets of the Mexican capital, responded to the question of possible reasons for adopting that way of life in an interview conducted by the Colectivo Psicocalle in October of last year: “To be on the street, you don’t need to have money, you don’t need to dress well, you don’t need a great family… the only thing you need to be on the street is to have that part of pain… I mean, pain is what connects you, bro. They’re never going to tell you their story because that’s not something we share. Among friends, we don’t tell each other that… What makes you stay on the street is that you’re the same… It bonds you, it’s inevitable, someone’s going to punch you… that’s why you end up on the street.”

For him, as for many others, the streets are a refuge found when fleeing from contexts of domestic violence or discrimination. Sometimes it is the only option presented due to the lack of appropriate responses from the government and society. One of the keys to changing the landscape faced by those who end up on the street lies in promoting empathy and, thereby, fostering dignified and inclusive treatment at both the cultural and institutional levels.

It is also necessary to raise awareness about what philosopher Adela Cortina has called “aporophobia,” which is the fear of the poor and the rejection of those who do not seem to have anything to contribute in an individualistic system of endless exchanges. We must become aware of our phobias in order to listen to the demands of justice and prevent prejudices from manifesting in subtle or as brutal forms as the massacre we commemorate today.

Therefore, in an effort to raise awareness, different civil society organizations and organized homeless individuals (Red Enlacalle) have coordinated to promote August 19th as the “Day of Struggles of Homeless People” throughout Latin America. The date is already official in Brazil and Uruguay and has been presented as an initiative before the Congress of Argentina. It is a commendable and valuable effort towards building truly inclusive societies in our region, and in Mexico, we want to add our voice and contribute to the history of the fight for equality.


María Cristina Pérez Venegas

María Cristina Pérez Venegas

Licenciada en Derecho y Maestra en Teoría Política. Es voluntaria en Mi Valedor @cristinaperezve

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