One Mexican Family's Story
The human cost of the violence tearing through Mexico is frequently invisible to people in the United States. The resistance and courage of those challenging the many forms of this violence are even less visible. Mexico’s La Jornada published the story of part of one remarkable family’s drama this past Wednesday, February 16:
By Fernando Camacho and Rubén Vilalpando
The home of Sara Salazar Hernandez, mother of the human rights defender and activist Josefina Reyes, killed on January 3 of last year, was burned last night in Guadalupe, near Ciudad Juárez, just hours after she made a public appeal that her children Elias and Malena Reyes and her daughter-in-law Luisa Ornelas, be returned alive.
The three people were kidnapped on February 7 in Chihuahua, as reported by this paper. Seven months earlier, on August 18, 2010, Josefina Reyes’ brother Rubén was murdered with 19 shots in Guadalupe in the Juárez Valley.
Sara Salazar explained in a phone interview with La Jornada that last night she was informed that her house in Guadalupe had been burned at about 7:30 pm, although the area is heavily guarded by Mexican Army troops, who have an installation only 100 meters from where the attack occurred.
“At this point we are doing badly, and we don’t expect anything from the authorities. We continue in our vigil and hunger strike here in front of the Justice office building for Chihuahua state (in Ciudad Juárez), demanding the presence of my children. First, I want that they appear, that these people’s hearts are moved, because they are sick, and then when they turn them over to us, we will see what more to do,” she said.
For her part, another of Sara Salazar’s daughters, Marisela Reyes, who is on a hunger strike for the last eight days, denounced the fact that “the house is 100 meters from the Guadalupe military base, and it is strange that every time something happens there are military personnel nearby that don’t act to stop the crimes against them.”
She added that they know from phone calls they received that hooded persons spread gasoline on their home, nearly half of which was burned. Late last night, the fire continued without being put out, since the town has no fire department. The home had three bedrooms, living room, kitchen and hall, and is behind the gym where the soldiers stay. They had not removed furniture, clothing or documents from the house, since the whole family was in Ciudad Juárez supporting the hunger strike.
Just before the fire at her house, Sara Salazar had asked of those who kidnapped her children Malena, Elias and his wife, Luisa Ornelas that they be freed.
“Today I speak to you as persons, who like my children, have suffered the blows of a decadent economy in the region, and that, despite that, have to provide sustenance for your homes,” Salazar Hernández said in a public letter addressed to the kidnappers.
“I know that you have nothing personal with me or with any member of my family; I know that there are larger economic interests that you have to serve out of personal needs. I address this to you who, I am sure, have feelings hidden in your hearts; to you who have in your soul the horror of your work.
“I want to appeal to the goodness that I know still exists in your humanity, for you to free my children and daughter-in-law so that I may have the fortune to be able to embrace them, to kiss them, and say to them a thousand and one times how much I love them and how important it is that they are with me alive and to give thanks to God for having touched your hearts,” Josefina Reyes’ mother said.
In Mexico City, meanwhile, a group of activists met yesterday in front of the national Inspector General’s office on Paseo de la Reforma to begin a fast by which they demanded the appearance alive of the three disappeared people.
“It is worrisome that those affected by [President] Felipe Calderón’s war on drug trafficking are human rights activists,” said Manuel Otero, a member of the University Networks collective.
La Jornada cartoonists Rafael Barajas and José Hernández and columnist Pedro Miguel will begin a campaign on Facebook and Twitter with the phrase, Presentación con vida de Malena, Elías y Luisa”, Otero said.
[Translation by FOR]