A post mortem examination is scheduled for one o’clock tomorrow afternoon in Belize City for Porfilio Rodriguez also known as Vanessa Champagne Paris. The transgender resided in Independence Village, Stann Creek District and was at home when she began complaining of stomach pains on Friday night. Love News understands that her father had taken her to the Southern Regional Hospital where she died. Officer Commanding Independence Village, Assistant Superintendent of Police, Reymundo Reyes spoke to Love News.
“I cannot not say what actually killed the person. What happened is that apparently he started to feel bad on Thursday evening or Thursday afternoon after he arrived from Dangriga. When he arrived home he told his father that he bought some food at the bus terminal in Dangriga and he believes that it was that that made him feel bad. He had some stomach pain and so forth. On Friday morning his father noticed that his health was not proper and that he was looking worse and so sometime after midday his father came out to try to get a taxi. When his father went back to the house at about 12:30 to pick him up he found the young man lying on the ground inside the house in a state of unconsciousness. He was rushed to the polyclinic in Independence and from Independence he was transported to the Southern Regional Hospital and whilst undergoing treatment he died around 10pm on Friday night. At this present moment we cannot say what actually caused his death we are waiting on the results of the post mortem tomorrow.”
Love News learnt of Porfilio’s death through his friend, Caleb Orozco. According to Orozco, he is at a loss as to what led to Rodriguez’ death but he has received text messages with speculations that he was poisoned. He also said that Porfilio was aware of the struggles and challenges that she would bear for being a transgender individual.
“In speaking to her she said to me essentially “I will die as I am rather than being somebody else.” and there are very few people that can say that honestly and live that life honestly as they say. Many of us LGBT individuals understand that we live in an environment where as society expects a politician to tell the truth but for an LGBT person they expect that person to lie and lie well about their identity. Champagne intuitively understood that you have to stand your ground and that she carried the burden of responsibility to defend and protect her dignity since state systems that we have do not acknowledge her dignity as a human being.”
Numerous comments have been posted on social media regarding Porfilio’s death with one person from a prominent family in Independence family has cast blame on Orozco for Porfilio’s death, writing, quote, “This poor young man been through hell sake ah you. Where have you been? People here at home trying to help clean up the mess you contributed to in his life.” End of quote. Orozco refused to take blame, saying that the rejection and violence experienced from outsiders and even family members are the elements to blame for her struggles.
“For those few individuals who want to blame they are free to blame but they are also responsible by their inaction, omission and indifference in watching violence happen, in watching the value of respect eroded and doing nothing about it. Sometimes Champagne would simply walk the street late at night for no other reason other than to clear her head. One of the things I learnt about her is that in order to survive she had to deal with people of extreme religious thinking in order to survive and she was humble to that effect. But she also reminded me how parts of a family were also violent to her either psychologically or physically and she had to navigate her way through that. For me Champagne was a symbol of what the state has refused to do and that is to acknowledge the fundamental rights and the dignity of their own citizens. Champagne was brave enough to be herself, brave enough to live this and I said to her “If you make it in Belize City past six months you may make it to a year. If you make it past a year you may live long enough.” For me Champagne as I knew her for several weeks never had peace and it is my hope that in death she will have the peace that she could not have in life.”
In speaking with ASP in Independence Village, Stann Creek District, Love News asked whether there have been complaints of harassment made in that jurisdiction by Porfilio.
“This person made no complaints to the police of him being harassed or whatever. These are rumors coming out not as he died. Just today I heard that apparently he because of the type of person he was he had to take certain abuse from the community but to say that he made any report to the police that at any point in time he was assaulted he never made any such report.”
For the LGBT Community, Porfilio can be considered a hero in his own right and with that Orozco says there have been desire expressed to celebrate his life and what he stood for.
“I know for her she loved the idea of celebrating her identity and it’s funny you ask because I was talking to a couple of people who want to go to the funeral who want to organize themselves as LGBT individuals and so on. What we don’t know for example is whether the family would take issue with our presence and what we don’t know is whether the father in particular would take issue and we would not seek to disrupt her funeral processes but I’m sure that as an alternative we can organize and do our own little private event to celebrate the one fact that she was able to be strong even when she had nothing and that she valued her dignity even if nobody else valued it for her.”
Porfilio or Champagne Paris as he preferred to be called had made it in the news on several occasions where she appeared in the Belize City Magistrate’s Court for a charge of aggravated assault against Golda Orozco. She was also in the news as a victim of harassment and assault when she came out public as Vanessa Champagne Paris. Reports were made of her being ridiculed and abused by several members of the public as well as law enforcement officers. Love News will keep following this story.