Yakiri behind bars. All photos by Hans-Máximo Musielik
Imagine that you are a 20-year-old woman walking at night to meet your friend or lover. Two men approach you on a motorcycle and say, "Get on, girl; we'll give you a ride." You tell them to fuck off, but they force you to get on their bike. Moments later, you have arrived at a hotel. With knives poking your back, they take you to their room. Once there, they hit you, cut you, and one of them rapes you. When he is about to cut you with his knife again, you take it away from him and slash his throat with it.
Hours later, you are the one facing charges for capital murder.
This is what happened on December 9, 2013, to Yakiri Rubí Rubio Aupart, a girl from Mexico City, who was imprisoned until recently at the Tepepan Female Center for Social Readaptation, located in the south of the city. She spent two months there on charges of "qualified murder."
Yesterday, Yakiri Rubio was freed. On Monday, at the Court of Supreme Justice in Mexico City, her charges were changed from qualified murder to excess of legitimate defense. She was released on $30,000 bail, a sum 10 times higher than what her lawyers expected for her reduced charges.
But Yakiri still faces legal trouble—she will now be tried for "excess of legitimate defense." If found guilty, she could face up to 10 years in prison.
Marina Beltrán, Yakiri's mother, talks to her lawyer from home, minutes before heading to the Santa Marta Female Penitentiary for her daughter's trial.
What exactly happened the night of December 9, 2013? It's worth exploring in more detail, because Yakiri's case has revealed a series of legal Catch-22s, irregularities, and abuses by the authorities in Mexico City that many victims of sexual violence suffer. Her story is relevant to any woman who is raped and decides to fight back.
When I started reading about the case it gave me the chills. Back then I was working in what is called the Obrera (Worker) neighborhood in Mexico City, and I used to walk the same streets as Yakiri on my way back home. I am a young woman who walks these roads at night alone. This could happen to me—or you.
According to Yakiri and her lawyer, at 7pm she left the Metro Doctores station and was walking on the Dr. Liceaga St. to meet her girlfriend, Rosa Gabriela Sánchez Vásquez, whom Yakiri had been dating for seven months. Two men approached her and tried to get her to ride their motorcycle. When she ignored them, one of them got off the bike and forced her to get on. Both the driver and the other man took her a few blocks away, to the Alcázar Hotel, located between the Justice Department of Mexico City and Mexico Arena.
Yakiri said that she couldn't escape because she was snatched by force and scared because the receptionist at the hotel, even though he saw she'd been taken against her will, didn't stop them. Then the rape and knife fight took place. According to Yakiri, she managed to get the knife of her rapist and slash his throat. He ran away, bleeding. According to the Ramírez Anaya family, Miguel Angel made it home and died next to his relatives, a few yards away from the entrance of the Prosecutor’s Office.
Yakiri left the hotel room half naked, looking for help. She said that no employee was willing to help her. She entered an ice cream store, where the employees gave her water and napkins to clean herself. Then she found two police officers and explained what happened to them. They took her to the Prosecutor’s Office, where she declared her rape. As she was waiting, Luis Omar arrived, accusing Yakiri of murdering his brother. They met in the same room. According to the Human Rights Commission of Mexico City, this procedure is completely illegal, because a victim of sexual violence "must always be in an exclusive waiting area in order to avoid any kind of contact with his or her possible aggressor.”
After 12 hours in the Prosecutor’s Office, Yakiri found out that she was going to be held in prison, facing charges for capital murder.
And what happened to the men? Miguel Angel Ramírez Anaya is dead (which is why Yakiri was in prison), and Luis Omar Ramírez Anaya is free. Yakiri has accused him of kidnapping and sexual violence, but there is no order of detention for him at this time. The General Prosecution Justice Department of Mexico City is supposedly investigating him, but meanwhile he was able to testify against Yakiri.
The family members of Yakiri are salsa musicians and activists in the neighborhood of Tepito. They have quit their jobs as musicians to devote their free time to freeing their daughter.
I met them in a meeting of the Citizen Committee for the Freedom of Yakiri, formed by her family after the rape. I went as a member of the art collective, who have supported the campaign to free Yakiri with graphic art. When I told the family that I was a journalist with a lot of interest in the case and that I am always hanging out in the neighborhood where she was attacked, they invited me to chat in their humble apartment in Tepito.
While they talked to me about the corruption in the Mexican justice system, Yakiri's father, Jose Luis Rubio, showed me pictures of his adventures dancing and teaching salsa. After a few glasses of rum, they showed me cumbia steps, and we only stopped because the telephone rang. The voice of Yaki (as her family calls her) could be heard on the other side of the line. She calls every day to say hello to the family. That night we talked a bit, and I told her that I was going to visit her.
A week later I found myself in front of the Tepepan prison with 13 members of the Citizen Committee for the Freedom of Yakiri. That was the first time she was receiving a visit from someone who didn't belong to her family, since Yakiri's parents have not allowed press, for security reasons.
Where is the justice? In Yakiri Rubio's case there are anomalies.
According to the Commission for Human Rights in Mexico City, the actions of the Prosecutor’s Office and the magistrate’s court "were focused on prosecuting a capital murder crime and ignoring a sexual violence crime."
When Yakiri entered the Prosecutor’s Office, she didn't get a test to confirm she had been raped. She was not even allowed to call her family. Lucia Lagunes Huerta, the director of CIMAC, a feminist news agency, told me that the written law and the implemented law are different things. "There is a certain logic in the world that women don't matter and that violence against us is provoked by us," said Huerta.
When I called the District Attorney's office in Mexico City (PGJDF), they wouldn't comment. But Rodolfo Ríos Garza, a member of the PGJDF, had said in a press conference: “We have statements in the previous investigation, where she enters the hotel willingly with someone and therefore there is no evidence of rape."
The judge who sentenced her to prison, Santiago Avila Negron, was accused of corruption and sexual harassment in 2004.
In the first days after the rape, the Prosecutor’s Office focused on the possibility that Yakiri may have known her attackers, and even that one of them may have been her boyfriend. By chance she had some love letters from a friend whose first name was the same as the name of the deceased attacker. This was the basis for the Prosecutor’s Office to establish this false relationship between Yakiri and Miguel Angel Ramírez Anaya. A young man, Miguel Angel Camacho Campos, said he is the one that wrote the letters because he had a crush on Yakiri, and he volunteered to take a calligraphy exam to demonstrate he wrote the letters.
The Prosecutor’s Office has not accepted his offer. If she had known Miguel Angel, or even he was her boyfriend, the authorities would try to discard the possibility of rape. That is the way the Prosecutor’s Office thinks. Until this day they have not allowed Gaby, Yakiri's girlfriend, to testify, which would help to clarify that the aggressor was not her lover, according to the Defense Committee. Nor has the testimony of Jose Edgar Vásquez Medina, uncle of the deceased, been taken into account. He said that his nephew was single and was living with his family.
In her purse Yakiri was carrying a box cutter and a knife for vegetables that, according to the Prosecutor’s Office, are the weapons she could have used to kill Miguel Angel. Yakiri says these are tools she uses at work to open boxes. The Alcázar Hotel is located in front of the Institute of Forensical Science of Mexico City, but the policeman that was in charge of investigating the scene of the crime didn't follow the protocols, and they don't have the required expert reports on the weapons, said Yakiri's lawyer.
In Mexico, it wasn't until the year 2000 that it was acknowledged that such a thing as spousal or partner rape existed. Perhaps that is why it doesn't seem so surprising that the government and the press could discard the possibility of rape if Yakiri had known her attackers or even if she had entered the hotel of her own will.
The Commission for Human Rights of Mexico City released an amicus curiae together with Yakiri’s committee denouncing the irregularities in her case.
“The Prosecutor’s Office made a historical construction of the facts based on a partial and patriarchal vision that pushed for the minimization of Yakiri’s testimony as a victim of sexual violence," the Commission wrote in its report. "This was used as the basis to treat [Yakiri] as a possible culprit, more than as a possible victim."
Jose Luis Rubio, Yakiri's father, talks on his cell phone the day of the trial, in front of the Santa Marta Female Prison.
In front of the jail there is a clothing-rental store for visitors. Just as in many prisons in the country, to access Yakiri's cell—where she has been kept the past two months—visitors are not allowed to wear blue or any kind of black or beige. Those colors are assigned to guards and prisoners. Some of the girls that were hoping to enter the prison were wearing blue, and they had to rent red skirts in that store.
To enter the prison, we had to give our names to the committee one week in advance. A guard called us by name, and when we showed our IDs, they allowed us to pass to the second level of security, where they checked us for cell phones, cameras, tape recorders, and weapons. After this we were given forms in exchange for our IDs, and they marked us with fluorescent ink. Without this ink you cannot leave the prison.
They gave us a room for half an hour, and we formed a little circle to receive the prisoner. Before Yakiri arrived, we reorganized the place to make it nicer and placed the chairs in a ring. But when Yakiri arrived she sat at a table, since she didn't notice we had reserved a place for her.
Yakiri came dressed in jeggings, jewel-studded sandals, and a big golden watch. There was a pause in anticipation. Yakiri seemed surprised to see so many visitors. I kept thinking, What would I do if this happened to me? I couldn't think of myself being so calm after suffering such an attack, much less when facing a decade-long sentence in prison.
We asked her how she was doing, and she said everything was better since they moved her from the Santa Marta Acatitla prison. In Santa Marta she wasn't able to eat or rest and just spent her time crying. She suffered a lot of violence when she was there. When we were exiting the jail, I asked her family what had happened in Santa Marta, and they said they supposed the family of the siblings had attacked her. They think Yakiri was "recommended," meaning she was signaled to the mafia so that they would harass her and make her life extremely difficult in jail.
From the limited view I had in that prison, Tepepan seemed more or less quiet. We never saw other inmates. The room we were given had a purple tablecloth.
A group of activists look through a window while Yakiri is talking to the judge during her trial.
Yakiri told us how the ordeal has changed her so far. "Before my way of thinking was simple: There is only one life and you have to live it." She used to spend her days working with her family, selling backpacks, and she didn't think much about her future. "I am now fully aware of what may happen," she said. "I know that being here calls for strength and courage."
Yakiri said she overcame depression because she "had to be strong for her family, who are still fighting for me." She smiled talking about the hundreds of letters of support that she got for Christmas. But the letters were a dubious joy—many of them were from girls who had gone through similar situations.
When I finally found the moment to speak, I asked if her opinion on justice had changed. She responded, "Before, I used to trust the police; I thought they were going to help me. But when I needed them, they didn't help me. While I was at the prosecutor’s, they only lied to me. They said I was going to be able to leave, but I never was. I don't think justice is useful anymore. If there were justice," she said, "people who are outside would be inside."
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