Why was anthropologist Miguel Ángel Gutiérrez Ávila beaten to death?

One year after anthropologist, author and indigenous rights activist Miguel Ángel Gutiérrez Ávila was beaten to death in Southern Mexico, there has been silence from the Mexican authorities. The Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) of International PEN askes people to take action.

The killing may according to PEN be related to Gutiérrez’ documentation of attacks by the authorities against an indigenous community radio station.

In a letter to the Mexican Embassy in London the WiPC writes:

A few days before his death, between 23 and 25 July 2008, Gutiérrez had visited the Suljaa’ and Cozoyoapan communities in Costa Chica, Guerrero, in connection with a documentary film he was making on indigenous cultures and traditions. Gutiérrez had been carrying out research into the indigenous people of southern Guerrero for more than 20 years, particularly in Costa Chica, and had been involved in various cultural projects there, including the community radio station Radio Ñomndaa and the establishment of the first Amuzgo community library.

During his last visit to the area, Gutiérrez documented alleged human rights violations on the part of the authorities against the staff of Radio Ñomndaa/ La Palabra del Agua (The Word of the Water), including an interview with one of the station’s founders, which he reportedly intended to include in his documentary.

According to local press reports at the time of Gutiérrez’ death, one lead pointed to the involvement of Aceadeth Rocha Ramírez, mayor of Xochistlahuaca municipality in Costa Chica. Rocha is allegedly one of a number of local political leaders opposed to indigenous movements and Radio Ñomndaa. Another lead reportedly suggested that Gutiérrez may have angered the authorities by filming members of the Federal Investigations Agency (Agencia Federal de Investigación, AFI) while they were conducting a raid on the radio station.

In August last year, the WiPC wrote to the Guerrero state and federal authorities asking them to ensure that a full and impartial investigation into Gutiérrez’ murder was carried out and that those responsible were brought to justice. However, a year after the killing, there has been no response from the authorities; nor have we received any reports on the progress of the investigation from other sources. Our understanding is that the crime remains unsolved.

>> read the whole letter

It seems that his case hasn’t received any attention in the English speaking media.

It was not the first case of this kind in Mexico, see earlier story Engaged anthropologists beaten by the Mexican police

(picture: PEN)


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Comment from: Nena Hernandez [Visitor]  
Nena Hernandez

I have known Miguel Angel since the 1970s when he was a young man doing an internship with Daniel Valdez’s Teatro Campesino in California, USA. He has been my friend throughout the decades. I will post your letter in my facebook for others to know the injustice surrounding his murder. Thank you for this article and acknowledging the work that he has done.

2009-11-11 @ 16:40
Comment from: [Member]

Thanks four comment and for raising attention, Nena. Still no coverage in English speaking media it seems. PEN is still active. Just read that 15 November is the Day of the Imprisoned Writer (DoIW). Miguel Ángel Gutiérrez Ávila is among those who are mentioned in their call for solidarity for persecuted writers. There is a new Wikipedia page about him that should be extended. I just added a link to the letter.

2009-11-12 @ 01:24

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