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Avelar herself survived being shot in the 1990s by a serial killer who had been gunning down trans sex workers. “There is no documentation whatsoever, no publication nor record — there is nothing.”Avelar knew of just one witness who still survived, a woman named Paty who she said was 78 years old, a miracle in a country where violence and HIV are so widespread very few trans women survive to middle age. Paty’s health sounded fragile and if she died before her memories could be recorded, any hope of documenting the atrocity would die with her.The ones taken from the Savior of the World were almost mythical to Avelar, who was a baby when the events occurred.“We don’t even really know much ourselves, but a little while ago one of the survivors told us what happened and said to us, ‘Why don’t you document this, that I was a victim of that attack? I decided to work with Nicola Chávez Courtright, co-founder of a small organization documenting the history of El Salvador’s LGBT movement called AMATE, hoping she would have ideas on how to start substantiating Paty’s memories.But Alarcón can still rattle off the names of many of the dozen he remembers being thrown into the truck that night.There was his roommate Cristi, whom he remembers as a gentle 26-year-old who would bring him gifts of coats or shoes from trips she’d frequently make to Guatemala and Mexico.
Outsiders called them all “homosexuals,” but the sex workers — some who lived as women all the time, others who dressed as women primarily on the job — called each other “crazies” even though some used it as an insult that would roughly translate to “sissy.” (Alarcón asked Buzz Feed News to refer to him using male pronouns.)As Alarcón reached the opposite corner, he could see his friends were still there.
But he asked that we not publish his legal first name because he was worried about his safety for talking about the war.
Besides, he said, “La Cuki” had been “my nomme de guerre — my homosexual one.”Alarcón hid from the men rounding up his friends that night by throwing himself to the ground in a small garden.
The story of how a group of trans women vanished in the midst of El Salvador's civil war has been passed down from generation to generation, creating a legend that gave them a place in the history of a country that often seems to wish they would disappear. Lester Feder set out to document the mysterious incident for the first time.
SAN SALVADOR — La Cuki Alarcón was late to work on the night that his roommate disappeared, which is why he is still around to tell what happened.
In 2014 alone, at least 12 women and two gay men were killed, according to media reports.