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L upita is in her 30s and works as a laundry maid in several houses in Mexico City. She can still remember the first time she saw a girl taken from her home village. She was 11 years old. Lupita was 20 when five men drove into the small community near Dos Bocas, outside the port of Veracruz.
They wanted to know where the pretty one was, the girl with freckles. We all knew who that was. They took her and she was still holding her doll under her arm when they lifted her into the van like a bag of apples. This was more than 12 years ago. We never heard from her again. The girl's name was Ruth, Lupita tells me. Then we heard it had happened in other villages. So we dug holes in the ground and if we heard there were narcos around, we'd tell the girls to go to their holes and be very quiet for an hour or so until the men left.
Karen Juarez Fuentes, Disappeared going to school in Acapulco. Brown skin. Brown hair. Brown eyes. Ixel Rivas Morena, Lost in Xalapa. Light brown hair. Light brown skin. Oval face. Left ear lobe torn. Dark brown hair. No more data. They go on and on. Those statistics tend to refer to victims who have been kidnapped for ransom, as people are more likely to report the crime when money is demanded.
But there is another kind of kidnapping that goes unreported. No ransom is asked for. Her body is all the criminals want. To avoid the traffickers, families are now taking to extreme measures. Some women hide in secret shelters and homes, the buildings disguised from the outside to look like shopfronts. Many poor farming families have secret places in their shacks where they can hide their sisters and daughters from the constant raids from drug traffickers. Nobody lives in that village any more.
Another way to avoid the narcos' attention is by being unattractive. And I don't know if she willingly ran away with a man, she was wanting to be loved, or was stolen, robada. I don't know. She went to school in the morning and never came home. In one town in the south of the country I visit a 17th-century convent that has been established by one of the few groups in the country that secretly works to help women leave dangerous situations.