From left: Xochitl Ramirez Valesco, Christine Wenman, Aven McIntosh, Richard McIntosh and River McIntosh, in Tepoztlan, Mexico in November 2022. Photo: Supplied
A group of Yellowknifers will host a dinner next week to highlight the case of a woman who they say has been wrongly arrested and detained in Mexico.
Christine Wenman, Richard McIntosh and the Wheler family are holding the event at Sundog Trading Post on November 13 for their friend Xochitl Ramirez Velasco.
Kerry Wheler told Cabin Radio she and her husband, Brett, met Ramirez Velasco in Mexico in 2005 while volunteering for Atzin, a non-profit that helps women and families in the village of Tlamacazapa to receive education, sanitation, nutrition, clean water and healthcare.
“She’s an amazing human,” Wheler said of Ramirez Velasco.
“She is full of joy and light and she radiates that to people around her … I still sort-of can’t believe this has happened to her.”
According to Atzin, Ramirez Valesco is a 43-year-old Indigenous woman who has been involved with the organization since 2005, first as an intern and then coordinating its social development programs.
“Aware of the risks involved, Xochitl has worked tirelessly as a human rights defender and community organizer to alleviate extreme poverty,” the organization said in a video about her case.
In what it described as “an alarming case of mistaken identity,” the non-profit said Ramirez Valesco was arrested half a year ago in Cuernavaca, a city about 50 km northeast of Tlamacazapa. She was charged with aggravated kidnapping related to an incident in March 2019.
Atzin said while a woman was identified as participating in that kidnapping, it was not Ramirez Valesco, who was working with them in Tlamacazapa at the time.
The organization said Ramirez Valesco is still being detained at a state prison without adequate medical care to address epilepsy. It has launched a campaign about the case and is raising funds.
Wheler said Monday’s event aims to make Yellowknife residents aware of Ramirez Valesco’s case and the work Atzin does, while sharing the beauty of Mexican culture.
“It’s a celebration of all of those nice things – and then just the hard reality of some of these injustices,” she said.
The gathering will start at 5pm on Monday. Entry is by donation.
Attendees can look forward to sopa de tortilla, a traditional Mexican soup, as well as Sundog’s signature homemade ice cream. Organizers said the event will include a brief presentation and “some surprises” to celebrate the people, culture and landscapes of Mexico.
The group said all proceeds from the gathering will support Ramirez Valesco’s defence, her basic needs, and her son’s living costs while he completes his studies.