HRC mourns África Parrilla García, transgender woman shot, killed in San Juan, Puerto Rico

by Laurel Powell

This entry has been updated to incorporate additional reporting.

África Parrilla García, a 25-year-old transgender woman, was killed in the Santurce area of San Juan, Puerto Rico on February 1, 2024. Garcia’s death is at least the sixth violent killing of a transgender or gender expansive person in 2024. We say “at least” because too often these deaths go unreported — or misreported.

Unfortunately, HRC has been able to uncover relatively little information about África’s life at this time. África was initially misgendered and deadnamed by police and in news reports - an all too common occurrence where, in reports about her death, she was identified by a former name and her gender assigned at birth. Anti-transgender stigma is exacerbated by callous or disrespectful treatment by some in the media, law enforcement and elected offices. According to HRC research, it is estimated that approximately two-thirds of all known victims were misgendered by the media and/or by law enforcement. In the pursuit of greater accuracy and respect, HRC offers guidelines for journalists and others who report on transgender people. HRC, Media Matters and the Trans Journalists Association have also partnered on an FAQ for reporters writing about anti-trans violence.

“África Garcia is more than just a name in a newspaper - like all victims of violence who are trans or gender non-conforming, her life had meaning. It had value. Gun violence impacts far too many in Puerto Rico and across the United States, and we join África’s community in mourning her passing.“

Tori Cooper, Director of Community Engagement for HRC's Transgender Justice Initiative

Emma is at least the 10th transgender or gender-expansive person to be killed in Puerto Rico since HRC began tracking in 2013; and the 6th victim from Puerto Rico to have been killed with a gun. Guns play far too large of a role in the epidemic of fatal violence against the trans community, with HRC finding that 70% of all trans or gender-expansive people killed since 2103 were killed by a gun. More than 25,000 hate crimes in the U.S. involve a firearm each year, which equates to almost 70 cases each day, according to a 2022 report from Everytown for Gun Safety in partnership with HRC and The Equality Federation Support Fund, “Remembering and Honoring Pulse: Anti-LGBTQ Bias and Guns Are Taking Lives of Countless LGBTQ People.” The report also notes a marked increase in anti-LGBTQ+ hate crimes, especially against transgender people. In 2022, the most recent year for which data is available, the FBI recorded a record-high number of hate crimes related to gender identity, including a 33% jump in hate crimes on the basis of gender identity from the year before.

Police in Puerto Rico do not collect LGBTQ+ identifying information. Although Puerto Rico’s hate crime laws expressly include both sexual orientation and gender identity, prosecutors in Puerto Rico rarely apply it. In June 2023, the Human Rights Campaign declared a National State of Emergency for LGBTQ+ Americans, as a result of the more than 550 anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced into state houses that year, over 80 of which were signed into law—more than in any other year. As of this writing, almost 400 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been introduced into state houses since the beginning of 2024.

We must demand better from our elected officials and reject harmful anti-transgender legislation at the local, state and federal levels, while also considering every possible way to make ending this violence a reality. It is clear that fatal violence disproportionately affects transgender women of color, especially Black transgender women. The intersections of racism, transphobia, sexism, biphobia and homophobia conspire to deprive them of necessities to live and thrive, so we must all work together to cultivate acceptance, reject hate and end stigma for everyone in the trans and gender-expansive community.

More resources:

  • Learn more about the fatal violence cases that HRC is tracking where details are unclear. You may find a list of these cases here.

  • Watch this PSA campaign elevating stories of trans joy and love.

  • Join HRC's CountMeIn campaign to take action for transgender and non-binary people.

  • Read these guidelines and this FAQ for journalists to ensure greater accuracy and respect in reporting.

  • Learn about how transgender and non-binary people are combating transphobia, stigma and anti-trans violence through our Celebrating Changemakers series.