A deep dive into ORAM Mexico with René A. Tec-López, Mexico Program Officer
Updated: Aug 30
Pictured: ORAM's Mexico Program Officer, René A. Tec-López, representing ORAM at an inclusive job fair in Mexico City.
One of ORAM's main country programs is in Mexico, where we have worked since 2019. Initially, ORAM provided legal support for LGBTIQ asylum seekers in Tijuana. When the U.S./Mexico border was shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic, ORAM had to pivot to provide alternative support to this vulnerable community in Mexico, both at the border and in Mexico’s capital. We knew it was essential to reach LGBTIQ refugees and asylum seekers where they were to best understand the community's greatest needs. That is how we met René A. Tec-López, ORAM's Mexico Program Officer.
Originally from Yucatan, Mexico, René (they/them) has lived in Mexico City for two years as a researcher and activist. In 2022, they were completing a research project on trans women from Honduras living in a shelter when they saw that ORAM was hiring a consultant to conduct a needs assessment of LGBTIQ refugees in Mexico City.
They were selected as ORAM’s consultant and began conducting research. “[I] first had to identify LGBTIQ refugees and conduct one-on-one interviews,” René shared with us. A personal challenge for René was the impact of hearing the horrible lived experiences of LGBTIQ refugees in Mexico. "It's really [hard] to hear stories that describe violence in their country of origin and during their migratory travels in Mexico," they said.
René was personally impacted by the stories of many trans women they spoke with. "In the case of trans women, especially from Central American countries, many of these trans women have been expelled from their homes. With few employment opportunities, they are forced to turn to sex work. Unfortunately, gangs and organized crime take advantage of that, and the women are forced into human trafficking and sexual slavery," they said.
They shared that now, safe in Mexico City, these women are survivors. "It is impressive to see them so resilient despite the hardships...they find ways of hope and motivation. One girl told me she wants to be a nurse. She wants to help other people and help her [trans] sisters. She's studying now and wants to study more to become a nurse and achieve her dream," René reflected on the experience.
René's consultancy ended in late 2022, and their research identified the main needs of LGBTIQ refugees in Mexico City (you can read more about it here). To continue this critical work, René was offered the role of Mexico Program Officer to further develop ORAM's work in Mexico City in collaboration with organizations on the ground.
"It was important to make a name for ORAM in Mexico because it wasn't yet well known," René shared. René created a six-month plan to connect with other LGBTIQ and refugee organizations in Mexico City to present ORAM's work. "We want to implement projects in LGBTIQ and refugee shelters, similar to programs ORAM does in other countries," René said.
Since René officially joined the ORAM team in June 2023, they have made notable achievements in advancing ORAM's presence and work in Mexico. One is launching ORAM Mexico social media accounts on Facebook and Instagram in Spanish. "This was very important to me because most refugees in Mexico come from Spanish-speaking countries. All ORAM's information was in English, so this was necessary so people could access this information in Spanish," they shared.
Pictured: René holding an ORAM banner at Mexico City's Pride march.
René has also participated in important events across Mexico City including marching in Mexico City’s LGBTIQ Pride parade and attending an inclusive job fair. Mexico City’s Pride parade is the second largest in the world and at the inclusive job fair, René shared about ORAM’s work and many participants reached out to them to learn more about our work.
Pictured: Attendees at the inclusive job fair in Mexico City where René represented ORAM.
After attending these important activities, René organized their own event called "Dialogues on LGBTIQ refuge and asylum," where René invited three LGBTIQ and refugee shelters to discuss their work and challenges. This event was meant to identify areas of opportunity in which ORAM can participate and build future collaborations.
Pictured: Images from the "Dialogues on LGBTIQ refuge and asylum" event René organized and moderated.
Based on the conversations with the three partner organizations, René is working on advancing two projects in collaboration with them. One is a guide for LGBTIQ refugees in Mexico, and the other project is the documentation of stories of LGBTIQ refugees in Mexico City.
René looks forward to strengthening ORAM's presence in Mexico City. "ORAM can be another actor in this space of organizations that work with LGBTIQ refugees and support the work already started by partner organizations," they said.
One day, they hope ORAM can have a physical space for queer refugees in the country. "I would love for ORAM to have our own shelter that exclusively serves LGBTIQ refugees. We greatly appreciate the work of our partner organizations, but with the increase of LGBTIQ migration to Mexico, we need more spaces. This is my dream," René shared.