Helen Brigette Maldonado MaldonadoAge 28 (born 29 Nov 1992)
12 Nov 2021
Guayaquil, Guayas (Ecuador)
Helen was one of 68 inmates killed during a riot in Penitenciaría del Litoral de Ecuador on the night of Friday 12th November.
The country's prison system has been under a state of emergency since 29th September after the worst prison massacre recorded in the country, which took place in the same prison. A list of those killed in the riot given to their families shows Helen as the 34th victim.
She was 20 years old when she decided to give in to her transformation. Her preference for the feminine and her delicate treatment cost her pain, rejection, loneliness ... Nothing prevented her skin from giving space to the name she chose: Helen.
Each letter was engraved on her arm along with ink-stained stars. That is now one of the few signs to identify her remains . Helen Maldonado was murdered on the violent night of November 12, 2021, in Penitenciaría del Litoral de Ecuador. She died 17 days before her 29th birthday, while serving a 30-month prison sentence after a few grams of H.
Before the massacre, she and other trans-women asked for help. Odalys Cayambe says that they knew that a new bloody attack was being prepared and they begged for their transfer from the Peni to the priority area of the Regional prison a few meters away, where serving sentences is a little more bearable for the [LGBT+] population.
“Helen is just the voice of what we have asked the State for years: respect for identity, gender expression, clothing in the prison system. We are and were there - in men's prisons - because we have a penis; the rest don't matter to them ”.
Odalys directs the Trans Community Network of Ecuador Vivir Libre, which since 2017 has supported more than 200 transsexual women who were and are incarcerated for street fights, drug use or because they are accused of robbery by clients seeking sexual services. That is how she met Helen, in ward 6. She still does not know how she got to the transitional area, where she was massacred. The torture, says Odalys, begins much earlier, as soon as they set foot in the cells. “Being inside is a matter of survival, of existing and resisting. One way of resisting is prostitution, they are forced to be slaves of the system, to be mules… ”.
Helen made her living as a hairdresser and sex worker and had been in prison for more than a year, serving a 30 month sentence in a men's prison for possession of a small quantity of heroin.
Diane Rodriguez , national director of the Ecuadorian Federation of LGBTI Organizations, recalls that Helen Maldonado arrived in Guayaquil and worked in a hairdresser and also worked as a sex worker. Helen was arrested for micro-trafficking of drugs and was serving a sentence of two and a half years, according to information published by the digital medium EdicionCientonce , which also indicates that in March 2022, Helen could request a change to the semi-open rehabilitation regime , which consists of to serve the rest of the sentence outside of prison with family, labor, social or community reintegration activities.
Although Helen was not an activist in the LGBTI community, "she knew about and was linked to organizational spaces, but she did not articulate as an activist, " says Diane. Community members who knew her, says Diane, remember that Helen was a shy person and that her arrest was a surprise, because she was not linked to any gang.
When the massacre started, Helen was able to call her mother and tell her what was happening, Diane recalls. Helen's mother and sister lived through the ordeal of families searching for the bodies of their loved ones. Both had to identify Helen's body, first among the remains of those who were dismembered, not finding her there, they were taken with the cremated bodies, where they recognized her body.
According to a report published in Indómita , one day before the massacre, “Helen Brigitte took a photo, in profile, smiling, loose hair, shorts and a red, white and blue striped diver and sent it by WhatsApp to a group of friends with two words: "I'm fine ." Shots had already been heard all week in the Penitentiary.
Despite the fact that Helen was a trans woman, she was being held in a men's prison. Their story is a "voice", Odalys Cayambe , director of the trans organization Vivir Libres, told local media. The mistreatment that Helen received as a person of gender diversity, also happens with 60 other trans women who are in the Penitentiary , according to Cayambe told Indómita .