HRC Mourns Layla Pelaez Sánchez, Trans Latina Killed in Puerto Rico

by Elliott Kozuch

HRC is deeply saddened to learn of the death of Layla Pelaez Sánchez, a 21-year-old transgender woman killed in Puerto Rico on April 21.

HRC is deeply saddened to learn of the death of Layla Pelaez Sánchez, a 21-year-old transgender woman killed in Puerto Rico on April 21. Sánchez was killed alongside Serena Angelique Velázquez Ramos, 32, who was also transgender. These two deaths are believed to be the seventh and eighth violent deaths of a transgender or gender non-conforming person this year in the U.S. In 2020, four of the eight deaths of trans and gender-non conforming people have been in Puerto Rico.

"HRC is mourning alongside the loved ones of Serena and Layla, the people of Puerto Rico and the entire transgender community. Serena and Layla, like us all, had family, dreams, hopes -- and they did not deserve to die,” said Tori Cooper, HRC Director of Community Engagement for the Transgender Justice Initative. “Transgender and gender non-conforming people, especially women of color, are too often the victims of a toxic mix of transphobia, racism and misogyny. People and policy must work together to protect our lives and our well-being. HRC stands in solidarity with all who knew and loved them."

According to reports, Sánchez had recently moved to the island, and was living in the Tejas neighborhood in Las Piedras. 

“We are asking the police to thoroughly, immediately, and transparently investigate these vile and atrocious murders of Serena Angelique Velázquez and Layla Pelaez. There have been four murders of trans people in less than two months. First it was Alexa, then Yampi, and now Serena and Layla. Enough is Enough. Trans people deserve to live in peace, with equity, and freedom. Enough is enough of all of the hate,” said Ivana Fred of El Comité Amplio para la búsqueda de la Equidad (CABE), a local LGBTQ organization.

In November 2019, ahead of Transgender Day of Remembrance, HRC Foundation released “A National Epidemic: Fatal Anti-Transgender Violence in America in 2019,” a heartbreaking report honoring the trans people killed and detailing the contributing and motivating factors that lead to this tragic violence. Sadly, 2019 saw at least 26 transgender or gender non-conforming people fatally shot or killed by other violent means. We say at least because too often these stories go unreported -- or misreported.

We must demand better from our elected officials and reject harmful anti-transgender legislation appearing at the local, state and federal levels because it is clear that fatal violence disproportionately affects transgender women of color. The intersections of racism, transphobia, sexism, biphobia and homophobia conspire to deprive them of necessities to live and thrive.

HRC will continue to hold the Trump-Pence administration and all elected officials who fuel the flames of hate accountable at the ballot box. 

This epidemic of violence that disproportionately targets transgender people of color -- particularly Black transgender women -- must cease.

For more information about HRC’s transgender justice work, visit

Photo from Facebook.