Aldo Dávila: A Congressmember for Human Rights

Jason Klarl and Karen Legrand

Below, we present an interview with Aldo Dávila, elected member to Guatemalan Congress for the period 2020-2024. In this interview, we had the opportunity not only to learn a little about Aldo’s life, but also about his proposals and challenges as a person, activist and soon to be public official of Guatemala.

EntreMundos (EM): Can you tell us a little about yourself? Who is Aldo Dávila?

Aldo Dávila (AD): Aldo Dávila is a gay man, 41 years old and the oldest of three brothers. I’ve worked in human rights and HIV prevention for 22 years, I’m 41, I started very young in activism, I have a partner of 18 years, I live very fully, I like and I’m very passionate about what I do.

EM: Aldo, you’re the first openly gay congressmember en Guatemala. What does this mean for the country?

 AD: The first lesbian congressmember elected was Sandra Morán; a hard working, fighting woman, commited to the cause. The indicator that I won this election process is that we are a very strong community, although they believe we are a minority. A lot of people also recognized my activism around the struggle against corruption and impunity, so there were several factors that made it possible for me to win in this electoral contest. It’s an enormous responsibility but I’m sure I will overcome it and the intention is to leave congress as I came, with my head held high.

EM: In a country as diverse and conservative as Guatemala, talking about gender identities and sexual orientation is a controversial subject. What’s your opinion on that?

AD: What is not known is attacked, most of the attacks that sexually diverse people suffer are precisely because of the lack of education in every way. Homophobia, transphobia and biphobia are questions that are not addressed at home or in educational centers. Additionally, religious fundamentalists violate us, the law initiative 5272 for example massively violates our rights, that has to do with the lack of proper education about sexual orientation and gender identity.

EM: Do you consider the situation today to be better, the same, or worse in terms of human rights for sexually diverse people?

AD: 20 years ago, for example, in the capital city on sixth avenue, when someone passed by and their sexual orientation or gender identity were obviously different, they attacked you a lot, they insulted you and now, on the same sixth avenue, 20 or 22 years later, we see how young men or women can go hand in hand or kiss in the street; people are no longer surprised. That is to say that there is more visibility.

On the other hand, we see as in RENAP[1], for example, you can already change the name, although no progress has been made on the issue of gender or sex. The advocacy of sexual diversity in PDH[2], is another important step. Unfortunately the anti-rights government of Jimmy Morales violates us enormously.

EM: Can you mention five issues that will have more priority in your work as lawmaker?

AD: Historically excluded populations, youth, women, indigenous people, people with disabilities and sexually diverse people.

EM: The language of initiative 5272, says: “Protection of life and family” This suggests an attack of some kind? Now in the news there are real attacks and real violence, real murders against the LGBT community. Can you talk about the importance of defining, cataloging, punishing hate crimes, hate speech?

AD: Law initiative 5272 which in itself is unconstitutional, is reactionary and is completely anti-rights. What it intends to do is further violate our rights, not only ours, but also those of pregnant women, those of the same doctors who attend deliveries, in this case gynecologists, and the rights of youth. Why do I tell you that this is enormously unconstitutional? There they try to send women to a pre-trial detention in case they have a spontaneous abortion or an involuntary abortion. She will go to prison on what is investigated if the loss really is involuntary.

EM: What message would you give to people and to youth who are in the same position as you, 20 years ago, facing, discovering their identiy in an environment that continues to be homophobic?

AD: I am going to speak to you from the privilege that I have, that maybe one out of 500 people of diversity have. When we talk about human rights, these should be for everybody but we see that they are privileges. And I speak to you from privilege because I have a mom that accepted me when I told her, my bothers they accepted it, I counted on their support, I live in the capital city, that’s a privilege, I’m a gay man, that’s another privilege, I’m not a lesbian woman, because that’s a stonger charge, a charge of stigma, of enormous discriminiation.

What I ask of the youth is that they study, that they be brave, that they try by all means to be happy, to reach their goals, that they don’t live in the closet because that’s no place for us to live. We have to be happy and live our life fully. It’s important that we always have clear life goals, that we know where we’re going and how we want to get there. Don’t let anyone tell you “You can’t do it, you’re not going to get there”, because yes you can, yes you can if you fight willingly, with strength, with conviction…you’re going to get where you want and take it from someone who always wanted to be a lawmaker; I always wanted to be in a position to be able to help more people.

EM: What suggestions do you have for Guatemalan youth who want to make real changes to improve their lives, their communities, their towns and their departments? From your experience, is it better to get involved in activism or pursue a government position? Or would they not necessarily have to be exclusive?

AD: First of all, is having short, medium, and long term goals. If you set very large goals, very long term, you see them unreachable. Second, don’t work alone, work in unity, if one person shouts, it’s not the same as 5 shouting, a 100 shouting, or a thousand people shouting, work in unity, especially locally.

Third, work from where you are, from the local. Look for interaction with COCODES, COMUDES, or those who have power so that you don’t work alone. Fourth: when we talk about the social and the political, I think both have to go hand in hand. Civil society should demand of the politicians and the politicians should listen to civil society because it’s for them they work, we’re public employees, form there you have to land and remember that one was elected, so the candidate shouldn’t forget that they are employed by the people who voted for them and also by those who didn’t vote for them.

[1] Registro Nacional de las Personas

[2] Procuraduría de los Derechos Humanos

Photo cover: FB Aldo Dávila