Lesly Palacio was born on May 5, 1998. Lesly Palacio was last seen on August 29, 2020. She was reported missing on September 1, 2020. Her body was found on September 9, 2020. She was 22 years old. These are the hard tangible facts of her case.
What isn’t so easily conveyed on paper, however, is that she was also kind, dreamed of owning a business, loved music, was optimistic, liked to cook for her family, and most importantly…she was and still is… loved. She was in school for phlebotomy and was helping her mother with her cleaning business. Her life mattered, as do all the lives of all the womxn and people in the BIPOC community who go missing or have been murdered, yet whose cases we don’t hear much about.
The news outlets that reported Lesly missing and her subsequent tragic finding were mostly local outlets and often focused on the alleged perpetrators of the crime, not on Lesly and her story. Her family and friend’s efforts to spread her story on social media truly helped propel her case to a larger audience through #justiceforleslypalacio. Ultimately, her case deserved (and still deserves) more attention because too many BIPOC, especially womxn, become statistics, and all too often the perpetrators of these crimes don’t get brought to justice. Arrest warrants have been issued for Erick Rangel-Ibarra and Jose Rangel in connections with Lesly’s murder. They have so far evaded the police.
Tragically, this is often the case when crimes against womxn are committed- the men sought for her murder were long-time acquaintances of the family. Violence against womxn is a horrifically commonplace occurrence around the country and around the globe. Those who commit such acts of violence are often known to the victims and are often people that womxn have known and trusted.
According to Statista, in 2019 alone there were almost 400,000 cases of reported missing persons files in the United States, almost half of which were members of the BIPOC community. 235,000 of said cases were of womxn under the age of twenty-one and 63,000 of age twenty-one and over. As of October of 2020, The National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) reports 19,501 open cases this year. Due to systematic failures, we know that these numbers are a gross underrepresentation of actual cases of missing and exploited people.
Official figures from the FBI amass individuals under the category of race; not ethnicity. Therefore mixed-raced, white Hispanics, and individuals whose race was not logged, default under the category of white; underrepresenting the large impact of missing individuals in the BIPOC communities.
“According to Statista, in 2019 alone there were almost 400,000 cases of reported missing persons files in the United States, almost half of which were members of the BIPOC community. “
Furthermore, a study done by the Urban Indian Health Institute found that, out of 5,712 cases of missing Native American womxn, only 116 were logged and accounted for under the Department of Justice national database- NamUs. That’s 2%. This is in large part due to a shortage of record-keeping in local police departments, lack of news coverage on BIPOC missing person cases, and the racial misclassification of individuals. Unfortunately, the data for how many missing person cases end in homicide is not widely available. A study done by the Sovereign Bodies Institute revealed that 60 percent of missing person cases in indigenous communities of Northern California end in homicide. This type of data collection has not been replicated on a national level.
In Latin America, statistics regarding missing and murdered womxn have spiked exponentially. 1,200 womxn went missing in Peru between March 11, 2020, and June 13, 2020- and those are only the ones that have been reported. It’s clear that the pandemic has contributed to these crimes but being a womxn in Latin America has always carried risk. Womxn in Latin America, especially in the northern triangle, have been and are being killed in record numbers. While some countries are faring better than others, much work is left to be done. Womxn’s rights activists and organizations have been gaining traction the last few years; protests and groups have been sprouting everywhere from big cities to small villages- but they’re up against a formidable opponent. Hundreds of years of colonial oppression and a society that often discriminates on class in addition to race and sex have created a ‘two-steps forward five-steps back’ momentum. This makes it more important than ever to continue using our voices to share our struggles, successes, and hope.
This series aims to amplify the voices of our missing BIPOC siblings. We seek to add one more platform towards the fight of bringing our people home and tackling the violence against our communities. Every month, we will highlight a recent missing person’s case with the aspiration of helping with the search. Lesly Palacio’s case showed us the power of when our community bands together. Just as the Latin American movement #NiUnaMenos, #SeeThemKnowThem yearns to provide a centralized location for the dissemination of information about missing person cases in our community. We were too late for Lesly but we will not be too late again. We will not let our people fall through the cracks.
#NiUnaMenos, #NiUnaMas #NosQueremosVivas #SeeThemKnowThem #WeWantUsAlive
Listening to “Canción Sin Miedo” by Vivir Quintana ft. Mon Laferte while writing this.