CELIA MARINA VASQUEZ LUNA (nicknamed :MARINITA”)
“Being here (at the finca) is my FAVORITE part of my day!”
To the Reader: Although I choose to tell Marinita’s story in first person, I gleaned much information from her grandmother who is raising her. Due to her age and the graphic content surrounding her mother’s death, Marinita herself is unaware of parts of her own story. They will be shared with her as she matures and is ready to digest the grim details. I interviewed her by casually listening to her talk and interjecting questions while we shuffled cards and played games on the porch of the coffee finca where her grandma works. Although Marinita actually refers to her grandma as “mommy” because she has always raised her, in order to avoid confusion in the story with her biological mother, she will be referred to as her grandma.
Editor’s Note: This little girl with huge, expressive, dancing brown eyes and an enchanting smile immediately steals your heart. Based on the fast rate she learns these unfamiliar games it is abundantly clear to this former teacher how exceptional she must be at learning too. It wouldn’t surprise me that if she were “tested,” she may excel in the gifted range of intelligence.
The question she asks her grandma about us strangers after the first day is whether we go to church. When she is told that yes, we do indeed go to church, she is pleased and even more willing to interact.
Celia (“Marinita”) shares her story:
Because my middle name is the same as my grandma’s first name, I’m often called by the nickname which means “little Marina” or Marinita. I go by both—Celia or Marinita. Whatever you want to call me is fine. I answer to both. I live with my grandma, Marina, and my aunt, uncle, and cousin in a nearby village called Colonia Padre Santos. I have no brothers or sisters.
My dad’s name is Jose Freddy Vasquez Villalta. He is 28 and lives far away from us right now. I really miss him. Whenever I talk to him on the phone, I cry and tell him I need him and want him to come home. Grandma says he is trying to earn money to take care of me. I am nine years old. My birthday is December 18, 2001.
Some people say I talk too much. I prefer to think of myself as outgoing and chatty. I have many friends and can talk to anyone about anything. People seem to like me and want to be my friend. I’m also active and like to be on the move, except when I am in school studying and then I can sit still and pay attention to my teachers.
I didn’t know my real mom too well. Her name was Karen Janet Escobar Luna. She and my dad were girlfriend and boyfriend, but they never lived together or got married. After my mom got pregnant with me, she never had anything to do with my dad again. When I was a baby only 39 days old, my mom brought me to live with my dad’s mom, my grandma, Marina. My mom was working in the capital and didn’t feel she was able to take care of me. I guess she felt my grandma
would do a good job raising me. I never saw much of my mom, although when I was three years old, she stopped by, grabbed my hand, and introduced herself to me as my mom. I was very confused and got nervous about it and asked my grandma if it was true. (I was afraid she was going to take me away or something.) My grandma told me it was true and that she would explain it all when I get older.
My mom died last August. I didn’t know anything about it until some people started asking me if I knew what happened to my mom. Then I saw her name on TV saying she was killed along with many other people in Mexico. I didn’t even know she was in Mexico. I ran crying to my uncle and hugged him asking him to explain what happened. My mom was twenty-eight; I was only eight years old.
Even though I had not spent a lot of time with my mom, there were certain songs that reminded me of her, and when I would hear them, I got very upset and cried. Soon I began to have nightmares about my mom. In one dream my mom was calling me to come to give her a hug, but when I got there, she disappeared. Another time my mom was at the table and I was trying to talk with her and the same thing happened. And yet another time my mom was standing at the main gate of our school and vanished. Those dreams frightened me. Sometimes for no reason at all I just begin to cry and cry and have trouble stopping.
Because those things were upsetting me and people around me, I now go to a doctor and talk to him about them. He tells me that yes, it is true that my mom is dead, but there are many people who love and care about me. Along with a group of other kids like me, he gives me ideas of what to do or say when people make comments to me about my mom. I’m doing better now and when I hear music that reminds me of my mom, I can now listen to it without crying. My other grandma, my mom’s mother, sometimes takes me along to the cemetery to visit my mom’s grave. Recently I told someone that I wished I had a mom, but she is dead and I’m very glad I have my grandma to take care of me.
Being here (at the finca) is my FAVORITE part of my day! I am allowed to come along with my grandma every morning while she works and stay until it is time for me to change into my school uniform and then walk down the path to go to school. It is fun here learning English from the finca owners. I’m not old enough to learn English at my school yet. The owners here often surprise me with special activities to do. They treat me really nice. My grandma and I walk here every morning from our village, which is about a mile away.
There are many things I have fun doing. Soccer and basketball are my favorite sports. I love music, and right now Christian music is probably my favorite kind because I learn to sing songs in Sunday School. Dancing to salsa and reggae music is fun also. Drawing cartoons is easy for me. At home I play with my dolls. I have no games. Sometimes friends come over to play.
I go to school Monday through Friday afternoons from 1-5 PM. My best subject at school is math. I’m a whiz. But I’m good at all the subjects. I have homework but can usually get it done in less than twenty minutes, sometimes five minutes. Weekends we also have a little homework. Sunday my grandma and I go to church and Sunday School. Someday I would like to be a nurse or a doctor.
Following are some of the gruesome facts reported about the Tamaulipas, Mexico, massacre on August 26, 2010, which took the life of Marinita’s mother, Karen.
At 8:09 AM in this town which is 100 miles from Brownsville, Texas, 72 migrants from Central America – 58 men and 14 women were suddenly surrounded by five vehicles of men identifying themselves as Zeta drug cartel members. They transported the group to a ranch, then insisted the group become recruits for them. When they all resisted, they were each blindfolded, lined up and shot and their bodies heaped on top of one another. Only a couple of them survived, among them an Ecuadorian man, who despite being shot in the neck, was able to escape to a military checkpoint. Otherwise, the atrocity may never
have been discovered or reported. Victims were from Brazil, Honduras, Ecuador, and El Salvador. [Marinita’s mom, Karen, was one of 12 Salvadorans killed in this massacre.]
Reports indicate that this is not a single incident, but that the drug cartels are escalating their brutal activity. Typically it has been robbing, kidnapping, and extortion. Zetas even place informants inside shelters to find out which migrants have relatives in the U.S. because they would be more lucrative extortion targets.
The Mexican Human Rights Commission estimate that in 2009 about 20,000 migrants were kidnapped in Mexico.
An editorial in The New York Times on August 29, 2010 suggests the fault may go beyond the drug cartels themselves:
“The temptation may be to write this atrocity off as another ugly footnote in Mexico’s vicious drug war. But such things do not exist in isolation. Mexico’s drug cartels are nourished from the outside, by American cash, heavy weapons and addiction; the northward pull of immigrants is fueled by our demand for low-wage labor.”
For more information on Celia’s mother’s trip north: http://www.insightcrime.org/news-analysis/how-the-zetas-tamed-central-americas-coyotes
Editor’s Note: Marinita is a fortunate little girl. She has insightful people surrounding her making certain that she is receiving grief counseling. There are those persons who are aware of her bright intellect and willing to provide for her educational opportunities to achieve her long-term goals as well. Let’s all keep Marinita in our prayers that her dreams can be realized within her own country.