On Nov. 13, Mexico's first out nonbinary magistrate and LGBTQ+ activist Jesus Ociel Baena Saucedo was found dead in their state of Aguascalientes home alongside their partner Dorian Herrera. They were 38.
According to state prosecutor Jesus Figueroa Ortega, both were found bearing wounds from an unidentified sharp object, with one of them holding what Mexican officials called a "cutting instrument." As of this publication, the cause of death is unknown.
Baena Saucedo made history last year when they were elevated to the magistrate post in the Electoral Tribunal and was sworn in next to a Pride flag. Due to becoming a more prominent figure in Mexico, they were subjected to many written and verbal threats that had violent rhetoric and language.
Many thousands of mourners took to the streets in Mexico City and 12 other cities across the country for a candlelit vigil and to protest the government's lack of a response on the evening of Nov. 13 after Baena Saucedo's death was made known to the public.
Baena Saucedo was born Dec. 9, 1984, in Saltillo, Coahuila, Mexico, where they spent their childhood and teen years. They received their bachelor's and then a master's degree in law from the Autonomous University of Coahuila and, shortly thereafter, got their doctoral degree in electoral law from the Autonomous University of Durango in Aguascalientes.
At first, Baena Saucedo worked at the University for Professional Development where they were an electoral law, legislative process and public management lecturer for two years. After receiving their doctorate, they worked for the National Electoral Institute as an electoral secretary and at Cuauhtémoc University and the Autonomous University of Aguascalientes, respectively where they taught electoral law.
In addition to their work, Baena Saucedo was a prominent LGBTQ+ activist their entire adult life where they used their expertise and experience as an electoral law specialist to make things better for the queer/trans/nonbinary community in Mexico. They pushed to have LGBTQ+ candidates and issues included in all of Mexico's political parties, urged the use of gender-inclusive language and issuing government documents that accurately identify people based on their gender identity. This past May, Baena Saucedo became the first Mexican citizen to be issued a gender-neutral passport.
Equality Illinois Deputy Director Mony Ruiz-Velasco said, "Ociel was truly extraordinary. As the first out nonbinary magistrate in Latin America, their legacy for visibility and justice for LGBTQ+ people continues to transcend borders and their impact is felt beyond Mexico. Ociel and I had the opportunity to collaborate on a podcast in 2021 in Aguascalientes Mexico, our hometown, where we discussed the rights and protections for LGBTQ+ people in Illinois and Mexico. Ociel's joy and love was evident in their work and their actions. Ociel courageously insisted on visibility for non-binary and LGBTQ+ people in Mexico and our world is better because of them. May Ociel's life be an inspiration for all of us as we continue our work for justice, dignity, and peace for LGBTQ+ communities."
Association of Latinos/as/xs Motivating Action Executive Director Manuel Hernández-Nuñez said, "The loss of Jesus Ociel Baena Saucedo serves as a poignant reminder of the often life-threatening challenges that LGBTQ+ individuals endure worldwide, just for being true to themselves, unapologetically. They lived authentically, fearlessly advocating for LGBTQ+ visibility, rights and protections. While their loss deeply saddens us, we are committed to carrying on the legacy they've left behind. In honor of Jesus Ociel Baena Saucedo and all those we've lost to anti-LGBTQ+ violence, ALMA Chicago remains steadfast in our advocacy for a more just world where individuals can be who they are without the fear of harm or death.
Their life reminds me that even in the face of daunting challenges, our dedication to advocating for the community remains unwavering and selfless."
A Catholic funeral mass took place Nov. 15 at Aguascalientes Cathedral with a large Pride flag draped over both caskets. Both Baena Saucedo and Herrera will be buried in Saltillo at a later date.