WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas
19 Sep 2022 | Press Release

WOLA Human Rights Awards Honor Maya Achi and Q’eqchi’ Women, David Morales and Rep. Joaquin Castro

Washington, D.C.— On September 21, the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) will honor and celebrate the courage of activists and communities who have relentlessly fought for justice and present them with its prestigious Human Rights Award.

Máxima Emiliana García Valey and Demecia Yat will accept the award in representation of the Maya Achi women of Rabinal and the Maya Q’eqchi’ women of Sepur Zarco in Guatemala who, after several decades, have ensured those responsible for their sexual violence faced justice. Salvadoran lawyer David Morales will receive the award for his ongoing fight for justice for human rights in El Salvador, in particular for the victims of the El Mozote massacre, and Representative Joaquin Castro (D-TX) will be celebrated for his unwavering commitment to upholding human rights across Latin America.

“Over recent years, we have witnessed a dramatic rollback on human rights, with governments promoting new versions of the dangerous and authoritarian approaches we saw in the past gaining ground and factors such as climate change threatening our future and the planet’s survival,” says Carolina Jiménez Sandoval, President of WOLA. “What has not changed, however, is the utter resolution of the human rights movement to fight for human rights and justice. Our honorees are a prime example of that bravery, courage and persistence. We are proud to be their allies.”

The Maya Achi women of Rabinal and the Maya Q’eqchi’ women of Sepur Zarco have shown exemplary determination to bring to justice the paramilitary and military officials responsible for sexual violence against them during the Guatemalan internal armed conflict in the early 1980s. These women fought endless obstacles over the course of decades for government prosecutors to bring charges and for the courts to hear their cases. Today, they are an inspiration to millions of women and girls around the world who are seeking justice for wartime rape and other forms of gender-based violence.

“We achieved justice, but the road has been a very long one and there’s still a long way to go. We want to see more justice for all women. We will continue with our fight until we have all the justice we deserve,” says Máxima Emiliana García Valey.

“For me, it was very important to open a path for other women, to provide a space and strength to other women to fight for justice. We are very grateful for this award and for being able to enjoy it while we can,” says Demecia Yat.

Salvadoran human rights lawyer at Cristosal, David Morales, is the lead prosecuting lawyer representing the victims of the massacre of El Mozote, where scores of people were killed by members of a U.S.-trained elite force during El Salvador’s civil war in the early 1980s. His uphill battle for justice continues to this day, as he fights the attacks of President Nayib Bukele who is leading a campaign to suspend human rights.

“It is an honor for me to receive the WOLA Human Rights Award. I receive it as a personal recognition but also as a recognition of the work of everybody at Cristosal, who have supported relatives of victims of the El Mozote massacre in their long search for justice,” said David Morales. “I’m very proud to receive this award from WOLA, an organization that, for decades, has supported the process for democratic construction in the Americas, and that has a history of such great solidarity in favor of Central America.”

WOLA is also honoring Representative Joaquín Castro (D – TX) for his unwavering commitment to human rights at the U.S.-Mexico border and in U.S. policy towards Latin America. Castro has worked to promote policies that protect vulnerable migrants at the border and regionally and has consistently uplifted human rights concerns in Mexico, Central America, Colombia, Brazil and elsewhere in Latin America.

“I am deeply honored to be acknowledged among the dedicated and inspirational nominees at this year’s WOLA Human Rights Awards and Benefit Gala,” said Congressman Joaquin Castro. “For years, I’ve worked closely with foreign and domestic leaders to strengthen democracy, promote human rights, and create inclusive economic opportunities across the Americas. As we continue to make progress on human rights, I look forward to working with my fellow nominees to uplift the voices of marginalized communities and local organizations and push for equality and justice for all.”

Attendees of the 2022 WOLA Human Rights Awards Ceremony and Benefit Gala include Members of Congress, policymakers, and other prominent leaders in the non-profit, media, and business sector.

The Emcee of the 2022 ceremony is musician and artist Gina Chavez. Award presenters include José Luis Sanz, author and award-winning investigative journalist at El Faro, María Otero, former Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights, and Representative Jamie Raskin.

Since 2006, WOLA’s annual Human Rights Award has recognized organizations or individuals who exemplify a commitment to WOLA’s vision of the future, where human rights and social justice are the foundation for public policy. Previous honorees include the Ethnic Working Group of Colombia’s Truth Commission, Fundación Mi Sangre, the Fray Matías de Córdova Human Rights Center, Efecto Cocuyo, Rep. Norma Torres (D-CA), Mexican actor Gael García Bernal, Salvadoran online newspaper El Faro, Commissioner Iván Velásquez Gómez of the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), and former President of Chile Michelle Bachelet.

Further Information


Learn more about past honorees.


For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

Felipe Puerta [email protected]

Josefina Salomón: [email protected]


[email protected]