Monday, December 22, 2008

El Robo

Guest essay by Álvaro Huerta

Carmen Mejia was the prettiest girl in her rancho, Sajo Grande. Only 13-years old and the little girl with the sparkling, green eyes already had a boyfriend, an admirer and a stalker.

Mexico in the 1950s was not the safest place for unwed girls, especially in rural states like Michoacan, where men routinely abducted teenage girls with the aim of eventually marrying them. Once taken from her home for several nights, the abducted girl had no choice but to marry her abductor to protect her honor and family name.

Carmen rarely spoke to her boyfriend, Alfredo Ramirez. They only met a few times, under the close supervision of Carmen’s mother, who watched their every move from a safe distance. Carmen and Alfredo never went on a date, kissed or held hands. He was okay with their non-physical relationship since he felt honored that Carmen selected him, a young man with moderate ambition, over others who only dreamed of courting her.

Salomon Huerta also had his eyes on Carmen. Belonging to a large and respected family, this handsome, young man could wed any girl that he desired. He had already set his eyes on Carmen and nobody could change his mind. It was only a matter of time when he would make his move.

Alcadio Perez was not so patient. What he lacked in good looks, he compensated with determination. He made no secret in the rancho that his main goal in life consisted of making Carmen his wife, at any cost.

While Alfredo played the role of the gentleman and Salomon the confident one, Alcadio behaved like a brute. He never sent Carmen flowers or love notes through her girlfriends. He had a simpler plan. He would stalk Carmen until he found an opportunity to abduct her.

Afraid of being separated by force from her family, Carmen rarely played with her friends or performed chores far from her home. She dreamed of the day when she could play outside like the other girls. Being without running water or electricity, the kids only played outside during daylight. Carmen envied her girlfriends, who played with their raggedy dolls without a worry in the world.

After carefully planning his master plan, Alcadio and his hired thugs stationed themselves inside the cornfields, adjacent to Carmen’s home. After waiting for days with only uncooked corn to eat and mescal drink, Alcadio and his posse made their move.

“The old man left the house for the day,” Alcadio whispered to his accomplices.

“Let’s wait for her to go outside,” one of the thugs responded.

“Sounds good to me,” stated the other one.

A few hours later, Carmen went outside her adobe home with an empty bucket to get water from a neighbor.

“There she is,” Alcadio told the men in a whisper. “I don’t see the old lady. She must be cooking inside.”

Oblivious of the pursuing stalkers, Carmen skipped her way to Margarita’s house for water.

Suddenly, Alcadio ran towards Carmen with the others following right behind him.

“Let me go!” Carmen screamed at the top of her lungs, as Alcadio and his men grabbed her by the arms and legs.

“Shut up!” Alcadio responded. “Your father’s not here to protect you.”

“Somebody help!” Carmen yelled out to her neighbors, who began to gather in a semi-circle after hearing all the commotion.

“Let her go, Alcadio,” a young woman in the crowd intervened.

“Yeah,” stated an older woman. “You can’t take her. She doesn’t belong to you.”

“I’m going to tell your mother that you’re involved,” Carmen’s best friend, Rosa, told one of the thugs, who also happened to be her second cousin.

Fearful of the growing crowd, the hired thugs fled the scene.

“Don’t go,” Alcadio pleaded with them to stay and help. “I’ll throw in an extra 100 pesos.”

Carmen then broke free and headed directly for her house.

Not willing to give up just yet, Alcadio grabbed Carmen from her long, braided hair, forcing her to the ground before she could reach her house. Out of desperation, Carmen reached for a rock and, without looking, hit Alcadio on his forehead, causing him to bleed profusely.

Freed again from his grip, Carmen made her way home. Almost blinded by the blood, Alcadio couldn’t catch up to Carmen.

Alcadio then reached for his silver revolver.

“If I can’t have you, nobody can,” Alcadio yelled out to Carmen, while aimlessly shooting his gun in her direction.

Hearing the sound of bullets ricocheting from the ground all around her, Carmen miraculously reached her home without a scratch.

Alcadio quickly fled the scene before the local militia arrived. As he retreated to the hills, Alcadio held a lock of Carmen’s long in his hand, which brought a smile to his otherwise bloody face.

Once Salomon learned of the incident, he wasted no time in asking Carmen to be his girlfriend, especially since Alfredo, who left to el norte for work, could not protect her from the Alcadios of the world.

Seeking justice, Salomon notified his father, Martin Huerta, who commanded the local militia, to arrest Alcadio and his men at once.

Witnesses told Martin that Alcadio headed north, yet the militia commander decided to head south in pursuit of Alcadio. Carmen later learned that Martin, her future father-in-law, had no intention of capturing Alcadio, especially since the brute’s father, Ramiro, just happened to be Martin’s first cousin.

While Martin purposefully avoided capturing Alcadio and his men, Salomon realized that Alcadio paid off his neighbor, Raul, to preoccupy Salomon while Alcadio executed his foiled master plan.

“How could you betray me?” asked Salomon, while pistol-whipping Raul.

“That’s enough!” said Martin, commanding his son to stop.

“Okay,” responded Salomon. “Now, let’s get that bastard, Alcadio.”

“Don’t worry about Alcadio,” said Martin. “He gave it his best shot, but failed. He won’t be coming around the rancho anymore, now that you and Carmen are together.”

Fortunately for my seven siblings and me, my mother, Carmen Mejia, eventually married my father, Salomon Huerta.

Throughout her life in Mexico and the United States, my mother, like her encounter with Alcadio, overcame great obstacles to make sure that she and her children had a better life.

Now, if only she could talk and walk again from her life-threatening stroke so she can tell us, once again, the story of how she prevailed against her abductor in the rancho.

[Pictured: Salomon and Carmen Huerta, circa 1954, Morelia, Michoacán, Mexico.]


Anonymous said...

Si todo de esto no es ficción, entonces es más un recuerdo que un ensayo. ¿No?

Bien hecho.

Ann Hagman Cardinal said...

I loved this. I was drawn in from the first sentence and rushed to finish it. What a compelling story. I think this wants to be a novel too, no? Based on your mother's story? I loved it!

Anonymous said...

First of all, I'm very sorry about your mother's debilitating stroke, it must hurt so much to see this strong, brave woman unable to do all she could before. As I write this I'm saying a prayer for you and your family.

She must be very proud of her son.

This was a great story. I am 44 years old and in Tucson, AZ. One of my very good friends mother was "robada". I remember I was 11 years old and I went to her house. Her mother was very young. I believe 24 at the time. My friend was my age and she had an older sister. You do the quick math in your head, as I did, being an inquisitive (read-snoopy) pre-teen and I realized she had to have become a mom when she was 13. I didn't broach the subject w/my friend, not at first, but I asked a cousin, "Why did ----'s mom marry so young?'' She told me the whole story. "Fue robada" What? There and then I got the story and the entire implication of what had happened to my friend's mom. She was also very beautiful. But she was always so sad. I never did see her smile. To this day, she is still married to the man who kidnapped her. She has 1 son, 3 daughters and grandchildren. I always look at her w/wonder @ how she lived through it. I'm glad to hear your story about a girl that fought and got away. Believe me, @ 11 years old, when you get an education about mujeres robadas, it diminishes the world for you a little bit. The bogeyman exists my friend, and can GET YOU! Here's to your mom, she fought the bogeyman and LIVED!!