A young Costa Rican man who became an unlikely hero for denouncing sexual harassment against women on the streets of San Jose died Thursday night from the stab wounds he received more than a month ago.
Gerardo Cruz Barquero, 22, was stabbed multiple times while walking in an unsafe neighborhood, San Sebastián, outside the capital in early October. His mother confirmed her son’s death to the local media.
In Costa Rica, more than 5,000 complaints of sexual harassment are filed each year
Several months back, Cruz Barquero made headlines after he recorded a man who was trying to film up the skirt of a woman who was walking on a busy street.
He later confronted and recorded the alleged harasser, who then quickly jumped in a taxi. After the video of the incident went viral, the suspect was identified as a Finance Ministry employee, who was subsequently put under a disciplinary investigation.
Weeks later, Cruz Barquero was stabbed multiple times. Because his attackers did not steal any of his personal belongings, authorities believed that the incident may have been related to the video he posted online.
The video is no longer available to the public on YouTube.
The victim’s mother said that her son had been stabbed in the head but had shown some signs of improvement over the last few weeks. On October 28, Cruz Barquero opened his eyes for the first time since the attack.
Many activists and supporters had gathered at the Rafael Calderón Guardia Hospital in San Jose, where Cruz Barquero was admitted. US Ambassador Fitzgerald Haney was among the many prominent personalities that went to the hospital to show their support.
The victim was the father of a five-year-old girl, and his wife is expecting another baby
Cruz Barquero, who became a national hero, has now become a martyr in the fight against sexual harassment that women have to face on a daily basis in Costa Rica.
Meanwhile, the alleged harasser, who has been identified only by his last name Umaña, testified that he never used his cellphone to film up the woman’s skirt. But he apologized for the “mistake” he may have made.
He also denied that he had anything to do with the attack, and said that he prayed for the young man to recover.
“This has all gotten out of hand,” he told reporters.
In Costa Rica, more than 5,000 complaints of sexual harassment are filed each year. Activists believe that more victims will come forward now that Cruz Barquero is gone.
“Gerardo Cruz died fighting for women’s rights. May he rest in peace, and strength to his family,” the National Women’s Institute (Inamu) posted on its Twitter account.
English version by Martin Delfín.