Julie Rosen, Acting Director of CPLC’s domestic violence shelter in Phoenix, Ariz. – from Rebekah Zemansky on Vimeo.)
dc/vawa: Julie Rosen (rough cut) from Rebekah Zemansky on Vimeo. In the fall of 2010, I did a story that grew out of the same reporting behind this blog (Unidentified Dead Common on the Border) for Cronkite News called Trapped in violence: Undocumented abuse victims face hurdles. The story explored how provisions in The Violence Against Women Act are designed to help undocumented women who are experiencing domestic violence, women who may be less likely to report or leave situations that are dangerous for themselves and their families because they are afraid of deportation and family seperation (especially if their abuser has legal status in the U.S.). Extra material from the story became a supplementary page, Undocumented Abuse.
“It’s gonna be a tough week or two,” Robin said. “I just can’t believe it’s been two years.” Two years ago – that’s how long Robin has been trying to find out what happened to her coworker-turned-friend-turned-sister. Maria Dorantes, better known to her friends and family as Chayo, was last heard from on February 25, 2011. Family had made arrangements with a smuggler to help her cross the U.S.-Mexico border in the next few days.
Manuel Cortez Rodriguez was born in Moroleon Guanajuato, Mexico and he was 31-years-old when he contacted his family on November 3, 2011. Rodriguez was planning on crossing the U.S.-Mexico border very soon somewhere between the states of Arizona and Sonora. November came and went without either his arrival or any further communication. So did the months that followed. Today Rodriguez’s family is still trying to find out what happened.
When Eddie contacted me in August 2011 neither of us knew how long the search for his brother-in-law Andy might last. After working with law enforcement, humanitarian volunteers, activists and the medical examiner, Andy’s family is still waiting for answers. Some have consulted psychics known as brujas. Some have driven the highways of Arizona stopping at local hospitals, police stations and prisons. Others have retraced Cota’s route from Tijuana to Cananea, posting flyers with his name and photographs along the way.
In February, Eddie hadn’t heard much from Robbie and Johnny about their search along the Mexican side of U.S.-Mexico border for Andy, missing since July 2011. “We haven’t heard anything from them,” Eddie said.” “I know they went to Canenea and those places but I don’t know where they are right now, we don’t know where they are now.”
Yesterday he called back to update me on their trip. “They came back empty handed with no information, they asked people and they didn’t have anything,” Eddie said. “They reported that the Mexican police, they looked around and nobody had any information.”
But he had something more pressing to discuss. “That’s some breaking news that the medical examiner called from Arizona, they have some information that they called the dentist,” Eddie said.
Eddie and his wife Monse had planned to drive down in February to look for her missing brother Andy along the U.S.-Mexico border in southern Arizona. But, energized by the words of the psychics they consulted, her family developed other plans. “All of the sudden Monse’s family is getting excited they want to go look for them,” Eddie said at the end of January. “Every time Monse and I we want to do something they get, the family gets excited and they start some activities.”
Eddie and Monse had planned to talk to radio stations and visit shelters. “Monse and I, we meet these people so Monse can tell her story here what’s going on with the brother,” Eddie said.
I checked in with Eddie this weekend to see how the holidays had gone. In mid-December, he’d mentioned that he and his wife Monse were discussing coming south to look for Monse’s missing brother-in-law Andy again. They hadn’t come yet but he did have some news for me: the brujas are back. “I’m trying to go convince there’s no such thing, you know, don’t believe those people,” Eddie said. But about two weeks ago, Andy’s sister in Tijuana went to one and the information she shared with Eddie’s wife Monse has Eddie worried.
A year ago, through his brother-in-law Eddie, I learned how a Los Angeles area hair salon owner named Andy had gone missing along the U.S.-Mexico border, trying to return home after burying his mother in Sinaloa. A few weeks after his disappearance, Andy’s large family of brothers and sisters, spouses and cousins, nieces and nephews-in-law were scared and anxious. They turned to each other and individually they turned to outside sources including friends, hospitals, law enforcement and psychics on both sides of the border, even questioning the potentially dangerous coyote smugglers paid to safely guide Andy home – but they weren’t finding answers. One year later, they know barely anything more than they did when Andy first went missing. Here’s what they know (also used to generate Andy’s timeline):
Born in Sinaloa in November 1965, Andy came to the United States in the 1980s.
A year ago, Andy’s family was coming to the realization that something had gone wrong. Instead of making an illegal and dangerous border crossing from Mexico to the U.S. somewhere in southern Arizona, Andy had disappeared. Now, just over a year later, they still do not know what happened to him. But they have worked with me on developing a timeline of Andy’s travel between Mexico and the U.S. which is posted today.
This summer Eddie has described what he considers troublesome developments when it comes to how his family is handling Andy’s disappearance, now nearly one year ago. “The family of Monse, they’re going to these people like card readers, they are like, you know, what you call this…?” “Like psychics?” I asked. “We’re dealing with those those brujas, you call them, brujas,” Eddie said.