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Reineke, Colibri Center recognized with human rights award
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Reineke, Colibri Center recognized with human rights award

  • Reineke, right, and Reyna Araibi, outreach coordinator for the Colibri Center, with the Letelier-Moffitt Award.
    via FacebookReineke, right, and Reyna Araibi, outreach coordinator for the Colibri Center, with the Letelier-Moffitt Award.

Tucson's Colibri Center for Human Rights, and its director, Robin Reineke, received one of three Letelier-Moffitt Human Rights Awards this week at the Carnegie Hall Institution for Science in Washington, D.C.

The nonprofit Colibri Center works to identify bodies found in the desert and reunite dead migrants with their families.

The Letelier-Moffitt awards are granted each year by the nonprofit Institute for Policy Studies to honor human rights workers in the Americas. The awards are named for former Chilean diplomat Orlando Letelier and Ronni Karpen Moffitt, IPS workers who were assassinated in 1976 car bombing in Washington, D.C.

"The dead call us to action. Before we can heal our border, we must remember the humanity of migrants, or we risk losing our own, " Reineke said.

Prior to founding the Colibri Center earlier this year, Reineke, 32, worked with the Pima County Medical Examiner's Office, where she was part of a team that pioneered the effort to identify thousands of migrants who died in Southern Arizona's deserts.

"The word for hummingbird in Spanish is Colibrí," she said while accepting the award Tuesday. "In 2009, the remains of a man were found in the desert of southern Arizona. His body was one among hundreds of others discovered that year. Upon examination, investigators found a small, dead hummingbird in his pocket. We named the Colibrí Center for Human Rights for this man, the thousands of others who have died in the deserts of the American southwest over the past decade, and to honor the symbolism of the hummingbird — seen in many Latin American cultures as a symbol of hope, and a messenger between the living and the dead."

" As painful as it is, I want more people to see it. To understand that this is what our border has become for many — a place of death, suffering, and fear," Reineike said. "Over the past decade and a half, more than 6,000 bodies have been discovered on the U.S.-side of the border with Mexico. To put that death toll in perspective, in just 12 years, our wall has already been more than 40 times more deadly than the Berlin Wall’s near 30-year existence."

Also recognized with this year's awards were the Mesoamerican Women Human Rights Defenders, a Mexico City nonprofit that has brought together feminist activists throughout Latin America, and Juan E. Mendez, an Argentinian lawyer who is a former political prisoner. Mendez is the U.N. special rapporteur on torture, and worked for many years with the international group Human Rights Watch.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported Reineke’s age.


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