Will Hispanic Honor Killings, Homophobia Be Our New "Community Standard"?

Two years ago, as I was dismissing my English as a second language class at the Lodi Adult School, my student "Miguel" approached me.

He told me that he would be absent for the next couple of weeks as he had to return to Mexico.

"My brother was killed and I'm going home to take care of things," Miguel said.

I thought Miguel was talking about funeral arrangements.

But after Miguel left, another student who overheard the conversation interpreted "things" for me:

"He's going back to kill the guy who shot his brother."

In most Latin countries, where machismo runs high and justice is slow and uncertain, revenge murders are a common way of settling scores.

Mexico is a prime example.

What brought the brief conversation between my student and me to mind was the infamous 2002 Newark, California transgender murder case involving the victim, Eddie "Gwen" Araujo, and the two men finally convicted a few days ago of her second-degree murder, Jose Merel and Michael Magidson.

A third defendant, Jason Cazares, is awaiting a retrial pending the outcome of a November hearing.

(Note: After Araujo's death her mother, Sylvia Guerrero, petitioned the court to legally change her daughter's name. The day after the murder trial ended, the new name became official. "Edward Araujo Jr." is legally Gwen Amber Rose Araujo. Accordingly, Araujo will be referred to as a female in this column.)

Briefly stated, the case involved three incorrigibles now in their early 20s, two of whom had several incidents of consensual anal sex with Araujo. When the men found out that Araujo was biologically a male, they murdered her.

A jury rejected arguments that the charges should have been manslaughter. Said lawyer and jury member Max Stern:

"The community standard is not and cannot be that killing is something a reasonable person would have done that night." [Manslaughter Ruled Out, Araujo Juror Says,"by Henry Lee, San Francisco Chronicle, September 14 2005]

Of course, Stern is correct that murdering Araujo is not the response of a "reasonable person." But I would also argue that, given that the circumstances that were fueled by intense Hispanic homophobia, her murder was the sad but completely predictable outcome.

Here is the deadly mix of characters as reported by Rolling Stone Magazine [Killing Gwen, by Bob Moser, February 10, 2005]

Merel, Magidson and Cazares were known around town as "The Three Stooges."

According to Moser,

"Girls came and went, babies were born, jobs were lost, but nothing came between 'the Three Stooges' as Jay called them. They took genuine pride in being drunk, stoned and stupid.."

In the summer of 2002, the object of the Three Stooges affection was Araujo, whose deceit about her sexual preferences created a charged atmosphere that led to her murder.

Merel and Magidson had sex with Araujo multiple times. But when they learned the truth about Araujo, her fate was sealed. High-octane Hispanic machismo would not permit any other resolution.

Merel, when he learned he had been tricked into having sex with a man, repeatedly wept to his friends: "I can't be gay."

One Newark High School senior, Joe Magdalena, told Moser that while he can relate to the Three Stooges,

"I could never see myself doing what those boys did. But I can kind of see from their mind-set, their homophobia, what they were doing. They thought having sex with Gwen made them gay and in their world, that'd basically be death. That's the way they look at it."

Bottom line: that's how most Hispanic countries—Mexico, Central and South America most particularly—view homosexuality. Any act that somehow brings a straight Hispanic male into close contact with a gay—even inadvertently—is abhorrent.

But for a Hispanic to actually have homosexual sex with a gay man, even when blatantly deceived, can only be redeemed by murder.

And murder would only bring partial satisfaction.

Even murder would not silence the taunts directed at the "Three Stooges."

Remember Merel's words: "I can't be gay." But in Latin cultures, if you have had gay sex, you are gay.

Latin countries have made some strides toward greater acceptance of gays, but the going is slow. According to a March 2002 U.S. Department of State report, violence against homosexuals remains common in Mexico.

And the fact remains that, in a Hispanic man's world, intolerance is learned early and reinforced often.

I found this out first hand as a young boy growing up in Puerto Rico. On my first day of school, everyone around me on the playground spoke Spanish.

I had no idea what was being said. Worse, I couldn't tell if my classmates were talking about me, the newly arrived "Americano."

I decided that, to defend myself, I had to learn Spanish—and the sooner the better.

Naturally, I learned the dirty words first. And I immediately learned that the gravest insult was to hurl any of the dozens of homosexual slurs that had increasing levels of ugliness: marico, maricon, maricon de playa, mariconson.

Word of advice: only use them if you are prepared to fight.

Of course, the U.S. is not always tolerant toward gays. And we too have our dictionary of homophobic words.

But in the years I lived in Latin countries, I routinely saw shameful behavior toward gays, women and minorities.

And the Hispanic members of my own family—in-laws and nephews—are as guilty as anyone.

Believe me—the U.S., while not perfect, is more accepting by several light years than our neighbors to the south.

And now our neighbors to the south are being imported here, by government policy.

Whose "community standard" will prevail?

Joe Guzzardi [email him], an instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly newspaper column since 1988. This column is exclusive to VDARE.COM.