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"A Light Inside" by Danielle Villasana: A photo book documenting the lives of transgender women in Latin America.
"A Light Inside" by Danielle Villasana: A photo book documenting the lives of transgender women in Latin America.
"A Light Inside" by Danielle Villasana: A photo book documenting the lives of transgender women in Latin America.
431 backers pledged $29,736 to help bring this project to life.

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A Light on the Difficult and Short Lives of Trans Women in Latin America

ESP—Una luz sobre la difícil y corta vida de las mujeres trans en América Latina

In partnership with FotoEvidence, A Light Inside will be published as a bilingual photo book that will be accessible throughout Peru and reach police forces, medical institutions, religious practitioners, and lawmakers—sectors that are often complicit in the abuse against trans women because of institutional prejudice and lack of understanding.

Please join me and FotoEvidence in getting A Light Inside to print and helping to create lasting, positive change for these women.

ESP—En colaboración con FotoEvidence, "Una luz adentro" será publicado como un libro fotográfico revelador y bilingüe, que será accesible en todo el Perú y llegará a las fuerzas de la policía, instituciones médicas, practicantes religiosos y legisladores — sectores que a menudo son cómplices en el abuso contra las mujeres trans debido a los prejuicios institucionales y la falta de conocimiento sobre el tema.

Por favor únete conmigo a conseguir que "Una luz adentro" se imprima y ayude a crear un cambio duradero y positivo para estas mujeres.

Nearly every week, Yasuri visits the Baquijano Cemetery to leave flowers and pray at a Peruvian saint's tomb. She said that she can no longer stand prostitution. "It makes me sick," said Yasuri, who dreams of having a family and getting married one day.
Nearly every week, Yasuri visits the Baquijano Cemetery to leave flowers and pray at a Peruvian saint's tomb. She said that she can no longer stand prostitution. "It makes me sick," said Yasuri, who dreams of having a family and getting married one day.

The human rights violations perpetrated against trans women throughout Latin America are the result of toxic societal forces. The region’s highly machismo, conservative, and transphobic culture ostracizes and stigmatizes them, posing a serious threat to their health, social security, employment prospects, and life expectancy.

At 80 percent, Latin America leads the world in homicides of transgender people and most don’t live past 35. Without legal protections, many cases of violence and murder go undocumented, leaving these human rights abuses invisible. What is visible, however, are sensationalistic narratives of trans women in traditional media that contribute to a narrow perspective that further stigmatizes them.

A Light Inside seeks to counter the stereotypical portrayals of trans women by focusing on their daily lives with friends, family, and partners in order to show that they seek the same happiness, fulfillment and love as everyone else.

ESP—Las mujeres trans en América Latina se ven drásticamente afectadas por la sociedad machista y conservadora que ejerce sobre ellas serias violaciones a sus derechos humanos. Este segmento altamente transfóbico de la región, las aísla socialmente y estigmatiza, ocasionando graves amenazas para su salud mental, seguridad social, posibilidades de empleo y esperanzas de vida.

Latinoamérica lidera con un 80 por ciento, la tasa de homicidios de personas trans y la mayoría de ellas no vive más allá de los 35 años. Debido a que las mujeres transgénero en Latinoamérica no gozan de protección legal, muchos casos de violencia y asesinato pasan desapercibidos, dejando indocumentados estos abusos de derechos humanos. Sin embargo, las narrativas sensacionalistas sobre las mujeres trans, son ampliamente visibles en los medios tradicionales, creando una perspectiva social estrecha que las estigmatiza aún más.

“Una luz adentro” busca contrarrestar los estereotipos comúnmente asociados a las mujeres trans, enfocándose en su vida cotidiana, reuniones con amigos, familiares y pareja, para así demostrar que ellas buscan la misma felicidad, plenitud y amor que todos los demás seres humanos, independiente del género o identidad sexual.

Danuska, left, and Oriana, right, talk with a young girl and her mother, not pictured, on the street while experiencing down time during work.
Danuska, left, and Oriana, right, talk with a young girl and her mother, not pictured, on the street while experiencing down time during work.

Living in Peru for three years allowed me to build strong relationships with women such as Tamara, who was the first trans woman I started photographing in Lima. Tamara had struggled throughout elementary school, where she was bullied by her peers, leading her to drop out in the fifth grade. At 16, she began sniffing “terocal,” or glue, to deal with depression. At 18, she began working as a prostitute. 

“I want to have a job with somebody I know, someone who trusts me. Because otherwise, they discriminate against you, they look at you up and down when you’re looking for work,” she told me.

ESP—Vivir en Perú durante tres años me permitió establecer relaciones fuertes con mujeres como Tamara, que fue la primera mujer trans que comencé a fotografiar en Lima. Tamara había luchado a lo largo de la escuela primaria, donde fue intimidada y rechazada por sus compañeros, llevándola a abandonar la escuela en el quinto grado. A los 16, Tamara comenzó a oler "terocal," una droga en formato de pegamento que le servía para lidiar con la depresión. A los 18 años, empezó a trabajar como prostituta. 

"Quiero tener un trabajo con alguien que conozco, alguien que confíe en mí. Porque de lo contrario, la gente te discrimina, te miran de arriba para abajo cuando estás buscando trabajo,” me dijo. 

Tamara comforts her mother, Evila, right, after an argument. Though many trans women don't have support from family, Tamara has a very close relationship with her mother.
Tamara comforts her mother, Evila, right, after an argument. Though many trans women don't have support from family, Tamara has a very close relationship with her mother.

Tamara’s words sounded like those of other trans women who had searched for employment but were always turned away. For most trans women in Lima, their only option is sex work, which creates hostile, exploitative environments where they're at greater risk of violence and abuse, and are less able to protect their health.

Despite Tamara’s warm, friendly, and positive attitude, she’d often told me she wasn’t going to live past 30. How could she, she defiantly asked, when society treats her as less than human? Like a self-fulfilling prophecy, Tamara's death due to HIV and Tuberculosis came less than a month after her 30th birthday.

ESP—Las palabras de Tamara sonaron como las de otras mujeres trans que habían buscado empleo, pero que siempre fueron rechazadas. Para la mayoría de las mujeres trans en Lima, su única opción es el trabajo sexual, que se desarrolla bajo ambientes hostiles y explotadores, donde corren un mayor riesgo de violencia y abuso, y su salud física y mental queda a la deriva.

A pesar de la cálida, amistosa y positiva actitud de Tamara, a menudo ella me decía que no iba a vivir más allá de los 30. ¿Cómo podría, preguntó en tono desafiante, cuando la sociedad la trata como menos que un ser humano? Y casi como una profecía autocumplida, la muerte de Tamara por el VIH y la tuberculosis llegó a menos de un mes después de cumplir 30 años. 

Evila, Tamara's mother, cries next to Tamara's casket. Tamara died from AIDS and Tuberculosis on January 11, 2017—less than a month after her 30th birthday.
Evila, Tamara's mother, cries next to Tamara's casket. Tamara died from AIDS and Tuberculosis on January 11, 2017—less than a month after her 30th birthday.

Though her death hit me very hard, passing away at such a young age is tragically common. Through years of documenting the hardships trans women face, I’ve realized that an early death is more common than a long life—every time I visit, someone else has died. 

According to a study by Peru’s Cayetano Heredia University, the Catholic church and “serenazgos,” or municipal police officers, are the two most homophobic institutions in Peru. Amnesty International found seven of ten acts of violence against trans women are committed by police. Furthermore, while countries such as Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, and Bolivia have passed gender identity laws, such as allowing trans people to change their name and gender on government IDs, Peru does not have any legislation protecting transgender people’s identity, which gravely affects their access to education, health, and employment.

ESP—Aunque su muerte me golpeó muy fuerte, la realidad de miles de mujeres trans es morir a temprana edad. Durante los años que he documentando los retos a los que se enfrentan las mujeres trans, comprendí que una muerte a temprana edad es más común que una vida longeva. Cada vez que vuelvo a visitar a el grupo de mujeres trans en Perú, otra persona ha muerto.

Según un estudio realizado por la Universidad Cayetano Heredia de Perú, la iglesia católica y los "serenazgos," o los policías municipales, son las dos instituciones más homofóbicos del Perú. La Amnistía Internacional ha encontrado que siete de cada diez casos de violencia contra las mujeres trans son cometidos por la policía. Además, mientras que países como Chile, Argentina, Uruguay y Bolivia han aprobado leyes de identidad de género, tales como permitir que las personas trans cambien su nombre y género en las identificaciones gubernamentales, Perú no tiene ninguna legislación que proteja la identidad de las personas trans, lo cual afecta gravemente su acceso a la educación, la salud y el empleo.

Kiara is taken by “serenazgos,” or municipal police officers, on the streets of downtown Lima where she works. Trans women are often arrested and verbally and physically abused by officers.
Kiara is taken by “serenazgos,” or municipal police officers, on the streets of downtown Lima where she works. Trans women are often arrested and verbally and physically abused by officers.

An in-depth look at the causes and consequences of transphobia is severely lacking in Peruvian media. My goal is to use my creative project to foster understanding and generate conversation about the challenges trans women face and also to educate Peruvian society about gender identity.

I need your help. Please consider supporting to make this book a reality.

A Light Inside will join other FotoEvidence books at the intersection of art and advocacy. The intimacy of the photography in this long-term project promises to produce a stunning and powerful photo book to be used for educational purposes. The book will also challenge sensationalistic narratives of trans women in Latin America by showing daily life moments.

ESP—Una mirada profunda a las causas y consecuencias de la transfobia se encuentra gravemente ausente en los medios de comunicación peruanos. Mi objetivo con este proyecto creativo, es fomentar la comprensión y generar conversaciones sobre los desafíos que enfrentan las mujeres trans y por consecuencia educar a la sociedad peruana sobre la identidad de género. 

Necesito tu ayuda. Por favor, considera apoyar este libro para que sea una realidad. 

“Una luz adentro” se unirá a otros libros de FotoEvidence en la intersección de arte y defensa. La intimidad de la fotografía en este proyecto a largo plazo promete producir un impresionante y potente libro fotográfico con fines educativos. El libro también desafiará las narrativas sensacionalistas de las mujeres trans en América Latina mostrando momentos de su vida íntima y cotidiana.

Alice, center right, laughs with her friends at a volleyball tournament during a campaign to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS.
Alice, center right, laughs with her friends at a volleyball tournament during a campaign to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS.

The Book / El libro

 A Light Inside will include approximately 80 color photographs and a text by Leyla Ariana Huerta Castillo, a prominent trans activist in Peru. It will measure 8 x 20 inches and will be printed on 170 lb Arctic Volume paper and with a semi-soft binding.

The book is edited by Régina Monfort, who since joining the FotoEvidence team as photo editor, has worked with award-winning photographers in translating their long-term projects into enduring testimonies in book form. The book's design is by Melike Taşçıoğlu, who is an Associate Professor at Turkey's Anadolu University Faculty of Fine Arts Graphic Design Department.

I will dedicate this book to Tamara and all the trans women who have inspired me with their strength and truth. 

ESP"Una luz adentro" incluirá aproximadamente 80 fotografías en color y un texto de Leyla Ariana Huerta Castillo, una prominente activista trans en Perú. Medirá 8 x 20 pulgadas, impreso en papel de volumen Ártico de 170 libras y con un atascamiento semi-suave.

El libro será editado por Régina Monfort, que cumple el rol de editora de fotografía del equipo de FotoEvidence. Régina ha trabajado con fotógrafos galardonados, ayudándolos a convertir sus proyectos de largo plazo en fuertes testimonios con formato de libro. El diseño del libro será diseñado por Melike Taşçıoğlu, profesora del Departamento de diseño gráfico de la Facultad de artes plásticas de la Universidad Anadolu de Turquía.

Quiero dedicar este libro a Tamara y a todas las mujeres trans que me han inspirado por su fuerza y por su honestidad consigo mismas.

A Light Inside in the media / "Una luz adentro" en los medios

  • The Washington Post: “The harsh reality of a trans woman’s struggles through life until death” (2017) 
  •  PDN: “Working as an outsider: Danielle Villasana on capturing portraits of transgender women” (2017) 
  • Remezcla: “PHOTOS: Danielle Villasana Captures the Struggles and Resilience of Trans Women Living in Peru”(2016) 
  • PBS Newshour: “Photographer captures intimate moments among a group of trans women in Peru” (2015)

About Danielle Villasana / Acerca de Danielle Villasana

Danielle Villasana is an independent photojournalist based in Istanbul whose documentary work focuses on human rights, women, displacement, and health across the world. 

A Light Inside, her ongoing project of transgender women in Latin America, won the 2015 Magnum Foundation’s Inge Morath Award and placed as a finalist for the 2018 FotoEvidence with World Press Photo Award. 

Danielle is an alumna of the Eddie Adams Workshop, a past attendant of the New York Times Portfolio Review, was selected for the 2015-2016 Emerging Talent Roster at Getty Images Reportage, contributes to Redux, and is a fellow with the International Women’s Media Foundation.

Danielle strongly believes in giving back through photography, education, and community. In 2014, in collaboration with the US Embassy in Peru, she founded Fotos por el Cambio, a yearly photography workshop that aims to empower communities and emerging photographers. 

Danielle is also a member of The Everyday Project's Community Team where she writes, edits, and produces pieces for Re-Picture and where she recently helped build The Native and Everyday Projects mentorship program, which aims to nourish emerging photographers from underrepresented regions worldwide.

Her work has been included in solo and group exhibits and has been published in The New York Times, the Washington Post, National Geographic, PRI's The World, PBS News, ABC News, News Deeply, and Al Jazeera, among others.

Ultimately, Danielle strives to work by the advice of her mentor, Donna De Cesare: “You’re a human being first and a journalist second.”

ESPDanielle Villasana es fotoperiodista independiente con base en Estambul, cuyo trabajo documental se enfoca en los derechos humanos, las mujeres, el desplazamiento y la salud en todo el mundo.

Su proyecto documental de largo plazo “Una luz adentro,” sobre mujeres transgénero en Latinoamérica, ganó el premio Inge Morath de la Fundación Magnum de 2015 y fue finalista para el 2018 FotoEvidence en el Premio Mundial de la fotografía de prensa.

Danielle es una alumna del taller Eddie Adams, asistió a la revisión de portafolios de New York Times Portfolio Review, fue seleccionada para la lista de talentos emergentes de 2015-2016 de Getty Images Reportage, contribuye con Redux, y ganó la beca otorgada por The International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF.)

Danielle cree firmemente en entregar y generar consciencia a través de la fotografía, la educación y la comunidad. En 2014, en colaboración con la Embajada de Estados Unidos en Perú, fundó “Fotos por el Cambio”, un taller de fotografía anual que tiene como objetivo empoderar a las comunidades y a los fotógrafos emergentes.

Danielle es también miembro del equipo comunitario de los Everyday Projects donde escribe, edita y produce piezas para Re-Picture y donde colaboró recientemente para construir el programa de mentoría, que tiene como objetivo ayudar al desarrollo de los fotógrafos emergentes de regiones subrepresentadas en todo el mundo.

Su trabajo ha sido incluido en exposiciones individuales y colectivas y ha sido publicado en The New York Times, The Washington Post, National Geographic, PRI's The World, PBS News, ABC News, News Deeply, and Al Jazeera, entre otros.

En última instancia, Danielle se esfuerza por trabajar bajo el consejo de su mentora, Donna de Cesare: "Primero eres un ser humano, después un periodista."

Reward Options / Opciones de recompensas

 1. Coming Home 

 2. Standing in the Light 

 3. Friendship

 4. Tamara

5. NEW! Yasuri carrying flowers.

 6. NEW! A Light Inside 

Risks and challenges

If the book is successfully backed we don't expect any significant obstacles to fulfilling our commitment to backers. FotoEvidence has a committed team that has published and delivered several successful crowd funded books on time and within budget.

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Support

  1. Select this reward

    Pledge US$ 10 or more About US$ 10

    Your name in the book

    To thank you for your kind support, your name will appear in "A Light Inside" in a list of the Kickstarter backers who made this book possible.

    ESP—Para agradecerte por tu amable apoyo, tu nombre aparecerá en "Una luz adentro" en una lista con quienes apoyaron para hacer posible la realización de este libro.

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    Pledge $25 or more About $25

    Postcard from "A Light Inside"

    One hand-written thank you on a postcard with an image from “A Light Inside” + acknowledgement in the book

    ESP—Una postal de una de las fotografías del libro "Una luz adentro" con un agradecimiento escrito a mano + un agradecimiento con tu nombre en el libro

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    Pledge $50 or more About $50

    Postcard + A Light Inside pins!

    One hand-written thank you on a postcard with an image from “A Light Inside” + acknowledgement in the book + 3 "A Light Inside" pins

    ESP—Una postal de una de las fotografías del libro "Una luz adentro" + un agradecimiento con tu nombre en el libro + 3 broches de “Una luz adentro"

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    Pledge $75 or more About $75

    The book and bling!

    One signed book with a hand-written thank you + acknowledgement in the book + 3 "A Light Inside" pins

    ESP—Un libro "Una luz adentro" firmado + un agradecimiento con tu nombre en el libro + 3 broches de “Una luz adentro”

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    Pledge $150 or more About $150

    Signed book AND print!

    2 signed books with a hand-written thank you + acknowledgement in the book + one 8"x10" signed print from "A Light Inside"

    ESP—2 libros firmados + un agradecimiento con tu nombre en el libro + una fotografía impresa y firmada del libro “Una luz adentro” de "8x10"

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  6. Select this reward

    Pledge $225 or more About $225

    Pay it forward with bling!

    3 signed books with a hand-written thank you: 1 for you and 2 donated to an organization in Peru + acknowledgement in the book + 3 sets of buttons: 1 for you and 2 to donate with the books

    ESP—3 libros firmados: 1 para ti y 2 serán donados a una organización en Perú + un agradecimiento con tu nombre en el libro + 3 pares de broches de “Una luz adentro:" 1 para ti y 2 para donar con los libros

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    Pledge $450 or more About $450

    Pay it forward + treat yourself!

    4 signed books with a hand-written thank you: 2 for you and 2 to donate to an organization in Peru + acknowledgement in the book + 3 sets of buttons: 1 for you and 2 to donate with the books + one 8"x10" signed print

    ESP—4 libros firmados: 2 será para ti y 2 serán donados a una organización en Perú + un agradecimiento con tu nombre en el libro + 3 pares de broches de “Una luz adentro:" 1 para ti y 2 para donar con los libros + una foto firmada "8x10" del libro “Una luz adentro”

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    Pledge $650 or more About $650

    Special thank you

    4 signed books with a hand-written thank you: 2 for you and 2 to donate to an organization in Peru + acknowledgment in the book + one 16"x20" signed print + one set of "A Light Inside" pins + a personal thank you letter from Tamara's mother

    ESP—4 libros firmados: 2 será para ti y 2 serán donados a una organización en Perú + un agradecimiento con tu nombre en el libro + una foto firmada "16x20" del libro "Una luz adentro” + un par de broches de “Una luz adentro” + una carta de agradecimiento personal de la madre de Tamara

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    Pledge $1,200 or more About $1,200

    Love forever <3

    5 signed books with a hand-written thank you: 2 for you and 3 to donate to an organization in Peru + acknowledgment in the book + two 16"x20" signed prints from "A Light Inside" + one set of "A Light Inside" pins + a personal thank you letter from Tamara's mother

    ESP—5 libros firmados: 2 serán para ti y serán 3 donados a una organización en Perú + un agradecimiento con tu nombre en el libro + dos fotos firmadas "16x20" del libro "Una luz adentro” + un par de broches de “Una luz adentro” + una carta de agradecimiento personal de la madre de Tamara

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Funding period

- (30 days)