21-year-old Biology Student Murdered in Oaxaca

Yaqui for Borderland Beat from: SinEmbargo

By: Juan Mayorga

Eugui Roy loved animals and opposed loggers in the southern highlands of Oaxaca. He was murdered last week, gunned down. Eugui, a 21-year-old biology student, poured body and soul into the study of wild animals. He was also passionate about nature photography. He was shot to death last week in the southern highlands of Oaxaca, one of the state’s “hot spots” with the presence of clandestine logging, poaching, and territorial conflicts.
Environmentalists condemn the murder of another colleague, now in the Sierra de Oaxaca:
Eugui Roy Martínez Pérez was killed on the morning of Thursday, May 7, in the corridor of his family’s house, very close to the boxes with frogs , snakes and other animals that he monitored as part of its research activities in the southern highlands of Oaxaca . The perpetrators shot him directly and took nothing, which has left the impression of a premeditated crime among his family and friends.
What could a 21-year-old biology student have done to get a lead response? Neither his family nor his friends understand this and demand that the authorities conduct a serious investigation that considers all possible lines.
Eugui poured body and soul into the study of wild animals. “It was not his job, it was his passion,” explains his sister, Rosalinda Martínez, who had to release several of Eugui’s “bugs” who were orphaned shortly after the forensic service collected her brother’s body. During his last days, Eugui quarantined through COVID-19 taking care of a white-tailed deer and his fawn, and writing his observations, some of them published on the blog he shared with his fellow biologists.
Although he did not publicly defend any cause, nor did he militate for any organization, nor openly opposed dangerous industries, Eugui’s work involved challenges to different interests in Loxicha, the area where the crime occurred.
               Eugui’s name could be related to snakes. Photo: Biologgers Science Dissemination
The La Magnolia ranch, owned by the Eugui family, is located within the Tierra Blanca community, in the municipality of San Agustín Loxicha. It is no secret that it is one of the “hot zones” of the state, with the presence of clandestine logging, poaching, territorial conflicts and dynamics inherited from the People’s Revolutionary Army, which had its stronghold in this corner of dense mesophilic forests.
A leaf through Oaxacan newspapers shows the bloody history in this region, including political assassinations, shooting attacks on representatives of the public force, murders of peasants critical of authorities, unjustified imprisonment of opponents, feminicide, such as the case of a man who murdered his wife was hacked to death, and the case of two adolescents detained with weapons for the exclusive use of the Army.
Contrary to the violence and marginalization of the area (or perhaps as a cause of them due to “the curse of natural resources”, nature is lavish, and flora and fauna exuberant. Research supported by the National Commission for the Knowledge and use of Biodiversity (CONABIO) has discovered there a significant number of endemic maize diversified by height of the terrain, in addition to the presence of teosinte, its wild ancestor.
“COMPASSIONATE EVEN WITH SPIDERS”:
In photos shared by his companions, Eugui observes different snakes, frogs, salamanders, lizards. But he was compassionate even with spiders. His sister remembers him crying for not having been able to save a cacomixtle-like mammal poisoned by villagers in the central valleys.
Eugui personally helped to obtain data to determine the extinction risk of the herpetofauna (reptiles and amphibians) of the Sierra de Loxicha, researchers from UNAM, from the Iztacala Faculty of Higher Studies, recalled in a public letter signed on May 11 and addressed to Governor Alejandro Murat and Attorney General Rubén Vasconcelos.
“We have personally known Eugui since 2016,” explains the letter. “Therefore, it was hoped that in the near future, he could carry out research stays and develop and increase his skills in the scientific field at the FES Iztacala, UNAM.”
Students and authorities from the Technological Institute of the Valley of Oaxaca, the Mexican Community of Nature Photographers have joined the convictions for the crime and condolences to the family (Eugui was an excellent photographer, from what his own images show), journalists and other personalities of national relevance such as Senator Emilio Álvarez Icaza.
Eugui was an innate biologist since he was 11 years old, his sister said. Photo: Hangungo.
TEN YEARS OF CAREER AT 21 YEARS OLD:
To understand why the crime of a twenty-year-old student has shaken his scientific community so much, you have to look outside the classroom and go back to his personal life. The son of a family of peasant coffee growers who always opened the doors to researchers who came to Loxicha, Eugui began to accompany the scientific community since he was a teenager.
“Eugui is an empirical biologist who starts at 11 years old. The only thing he lacked was the title, but his classmates and even his teachers have even told me that they learned a lot from his work in the field ”, recalls his sister Rosalinda.
In the name he carried his destiny, because “Eugui” alluded to a snake in some ancient tradition that his father had read about. Although she never found the bibliographic source that supported that, she liked to think that her name was related to what she liked to do the most, Rosalinda explains.
After his first contacts with scientists – decisively with the biologist Raúl Gómez Trejo, who introduced him to the world of biology – Eugui began to observe on his own and soon developed important skills to travel the mountains, find and identify species, and manipulate them for documentation.
“He had a very large capacity for observation and a privileged eye to see animals,” recall his colleagues from the Bachelor of Biology at the Technological Institute of the Valley of Oaxaca.
At the date of his death, Eugui had collaborated with researchers from Costa Rica, Spain, and Australia. He participated in scientific expeditions that rediscovered a frog believed to be lost (Charadrahyla altipotens) and is credited with discovering a species of snake that is still in the process of being described.
His main aspiration was to document the fauna of his childhood place, the southern highlands of Oaxaca. “I was working on a book to record all the endemic species there. He was quite advanced, “explains his sister. Derived from this, he knew the sierra inch by inch.
                       He walked in the early morning. Photo: Biologgers Science Dissemination
“He walked like no one else on the hill, he toured the entire mountain range, all the canyons,” recall his colleagues, who speculate that on some of these solo walks, which he did mainly at night and early morning as these are the best times to document reptiles and amphibians, I would have seen something that bothered someone.
“I was very much against illegal logging and poaching. Especially since illegal logging had increased in these times of quarantine; Many trucks were coming down from the hill ”, explains one of his colleagues.
As far as they know, family and friends refuse to believe in a personal motive, much less passionate, of those that the local prosecutors usually present to hastily file cases. They know that Eugui’s work was starting to become noticeable, including the times when his ranch became a small laboratory due to the number of researchers concentrating on what would otherwise have remained a little-visited area on the mountain.
His family, represented by his sister Rosalinda, hopes that the crime will not go unpunished and that Eugui’s legacy will survive. For this, colleagues and friends have fed the Facebook page “Justice for Eugui Roy”.
“I ask for justice and for a real investigation. When we last went to his grave and when we said goodbye with a broken heart, we told him that we killed the man and took the human being, but a legend was born, “says his sister.
FULL INTERVIEW WITH HIS SISTER:
–Any link to your activities?
I cannot agree, say yes, because there is a research (investigative/ case) folder in progress. We do not rule out any possibility. There are many indications that are still unclear about my brother’s death. We do not really know, we have discussed these doubts directly with the authorities and they are going to decide how it was and with the investigation, which we ask that it be carried out thoroughly, they help us. It could be one of the aspects.
–The southern sierra is very conflictive…
Loxicha has been characterized for being a zone of high backwardness, for being a zone with a lot of violence. The EPR (People’s Revolutionary Army) was there for a long time. Where we were, this type of violence is quite common due to issues of all kinds, from the one that made me ugly to the chiefdom. So with Eugui we cannot rule out any of the lines of research.
–One way to understand what happened is how Eugui was killed…..
Eugui was killed by gunshots, so it is speculated that whoever did it went straight to that. To carry out the crime in the morning, while he was doing his activities with his bugs that he had as samples, which were enough. It was my turn to free some.
This was in the corridor of the ranch house. One morning in the corridor, they caught him doing some early activity. He was working on his amphibians and reptiles, he was monitoring a mother deer with his deer and it was the last publication he made in his diaries, taking his notes, measurements … all that is proper to biology.
But he was not only dedicated to that, he was dedicated to preserving all the animals he had. He had his samples, his little boxes with animals. I found them and released them.
–History in defense of something?
Eugui is an empirical biologist who starts at 11 years old. He has always loved nature, it is something that my father instilled in us, who was a coffee farmer, who always taught us to love, respect nature, and listen to it, because he told us that he speaks to us.
So Eugui from a young age asked: ‘What is this little bird saying, dad?’ At 11 years old, he is already starting to get involved with biologists who are interested in investigating in that area. They take hold of her hand and they take their first steps with him, then he begins to investigate on his own and to do his own research.
At 21, he had collaborations with scientists internationally and had discovered several new species that he was in the process of publishing. He worked specifically with snakes and frogs, but whatever topic there was, he was there.
In the city of Oaxaca, which was where he lived, they spoke to him to say: ‘Hey, Eugui, you have to come and rescue an opossum, for example.’ The last rescue was a slightly large mammal and he went and even cried because he couldn’t save him because they poisoned him, so he was very sad.
He was always everywhere, he went on missions to the mountains of Oaxaca, to the Pacific, to the Isthmus with his colleagues in Biology. He was interested in the Loxicha area because it is the ranch where he grew up and was. He wanted to make a record, he was working on a book to make a record of all the endemic species there. He was quite advanced making his publications.
He had no specific cause other than caring for nature. You would talk to him and he would tell you: ‘If you kill this spider, that will harm nature because …’. Eugui was the ‘gatherer’ of my colony. They spoke to him and asked him: ‘Hey Eugui, this appeared in my house, what is it?’
‘I’m taking it, I’m going to release it.’ So he was always responsible for preserving nature, caring for the land, this awareness that the land was saying something to us and we had to take care of it.
“Did he or you investigate something risky?”
Not yet. Well, maybe, in that process of walking, people often see things that people don’t want them to see. Eugui walked a lot at dawn because at that time they were sampling. But to the communities he entered he went with permission from the authorities and the locals, always being very transparent with his sampling, saying we found this species and this.
He had not made any public pronunciation of such a subject ?
He was very young, he was involved in his studies Yes, he was 21 years old, so he was conserving himself and starting to leave a history of the species he found so that in a moment they would go extinct. And with that record to be able to take care of them.
–History with the family?
The normal things that can happen with neighbors, but nothing transcendental. This leaves us totally in uncertainty. Why? His friends wonder why he was such a good person. We had not had any type of threat in this regard until his death.
–Promise of herpetology?
He had a history since he was 11 years old. When the biologist Raúl Gómez Trejo, who at the time was also taking samples, arrived, he arrived at our ranch and we invited him. We have always been very supportive of the people who visit us.
Eugui was interested in what he did and asked him. Then Raúl began to clarify his doubts, to help him take his first steps in these investigations, and later on his own he began to investigate and read. Eugui had an eye to see very interesting species. I was touched that sometimes he was driving and he said: ‘Stop, stop, there is a snake there.’ And I didn’t even see her with the glasses. I would take pictures of them and say: ‘What are you doing here if it’s not your place?’.
I have heard comments that he was the promise of herpetology in Oaxaca, because his companions endorsed it. Sometimes even the greats asked Eugui to accompany them to the field because he was very good. It was not his job, it was his passion. He loved what he did.
At 21 years old, he had already collaborated with international figures in publications in Spain, Costa Rica, Australia. He already had a broad career at 21 years old. We used to say to him: ‘You already have a whole career, what you need is the title, because you need it to get you going.’
After several years, very reluctant, he said: ‘Okay, I’m going to enter the race. He was in the second semester and his classmates said that Eugui was his teacher. ‘ He said to them: ‘We are going to go out in the field and I am going to do an exam, because this is so and so.’
Some of his teachers who have contacted me have told me: ‘Eugui taught me a lot. He had an experience in the field that even I didn’t have. ‘ He worked on a blog called Biologgers by Nature. Eugui was part of them, there is his latest publication.
–Special name ?…
Eugui. My dad used to tell us that it meant feathered serpent in some language, as he read in a book. My brother never found it, but he loved that the activity he liked best was related to his name. Researchers have said that it has roots in Peru and Spain. He was a god from a culture that resembled a serpent, like the feathered serpent.
I ask for justice and that it be really investigated. When we last went to his grave in his grandparents’ crypt, when we said goodbye with a broken heart, we told him that we killed the man and took the human being, but from now on a legend was born.
On social networks, friends and fellow environmentalists joined the demand for justice and asked the governor of Oaxaca, Alejandro Murat Hinojosa, and the Attorney General, Rubén Vasconcelos Méndez, to find those responsible.
The Mexican Center for Environmental Law (CEMDA) condemned on Monday the murder of Mexican environmentalist Eugui Roy Martínez Pérez , which occurred last week in a community in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca.
“We condemn the murder of the young biologist Eugui Roy Martínez Pérez, which occurred last Thursday morning in the coffee zone of Tierra Blanca, in the municipality of San Agustín Loxicha, Oaxaca,” the organization said on its official Twitter account.
According to local media, Martínez Pérez was killed by shooting a firearm at the Magnolia ranch in that municipality, where he was undergoing quarantine due to the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus pandemic, which amounts to 35,022 in Mexico cases and 3,465 deaths.
The 21-year-old was a student of the second semester of the Biology degree at the Technological Institute of the Valley of Oaxaca and was dedicated to the care, defense and preservation of reptiles and amphibians.
In social networks, friends and fellow environmentalists joined the demand for justice and asked the governor of Oaxaca, Alejandro Murat Hinojosa, and the Attorney General, Rubén Vasconcelos Méndez, to find those responsible.
In addition, the general director of the National Technological Institute of Mexico, Enrique Fernández, demanded justice on behalf of the educational institution.
“From the National Technological Institute of Mexico we demand justice for our student, likewise we ask that the procedures in the administration of justice be carried out with strict adherence to the legality and veracity of the facts,” said the manager on his social networks.
SIX ENVIRONMENTALISTS KILLED IN 2020:
With the one of Eugui Roy Martínez Pérez there are already at least six murders of environmental activists this year, since 2020 began with the death of Homero Gómez González and Raúl Hernández Romero, defenders of the monarch butterfly.
In March, Paulina Gómez Palacio Escudero, in charge of preserving the sacred territory of Wirikuta, was assassinated in Zacatecas, and that same month, the environmentalist and human rights defender Isaac Medardo was shot dead in Jiutepec (Morelos).
While last April the environmentalist Adán Vez Lira, an opponent of the open pit mining facility, was killed in Veracruz, just one month ago.
According to Front Line Defenders, Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries for the defense of human rights and the environment.
According to this NGO, in 2019 – the first year of Andrés Manuel López Obrador in the Presidency – the murder of 24 human rights defenders in the country was documented, out of a total of 304 records worldwide.
Meanwhile, CEMDA has documented 440 attacks on environmentalists from 2010 to 2018, including threats. Stay Tuned for this post to follow.