Women of the Night & Day (Mujeres de la Noche y Dia)
Channel surfing this morning looking for the Cooking Channel, I found a powerful channel. The Church Channel, there was a show on called the “The Sisterhood Stories.” Addressing the global problem of children being sold into the human trafficking trade and used as sex slaves.
By no means did we have a “Leave It To Beaver” existence, thank goodness, but my siblings and I were very sheltered, protected and timed. Our elders were very vigilant! We were all very aware of our surroundings. You just couldn’t but help, it was all around you.
I was young, everyone in our town of 2,000 knew each other, and knew it went on; prostitution, human trafficking and slavery, although human trafficking and slavery weren’t called that in the 1960’s. Everyone just accepted this, as well…..the “way of life.” It was accepted as it was something that had to be done for their survival and the town’s survival also! The young ladies had a need to escape their countries and had a service (their bodies) and Huron could help them escape their country and pay minimally for their service. It was viewed as a business!
I grew up in a town named Huron which seemed at times like it was lawless. We not only had human trafficking we had a heroin epidemic.
I recall I was about 16 years old, one morning awoke to my Mama, calling my name from her bedroom upstairs, kinda whispering loudly as to not awake my brothers and sisters. She was peering from a corner of the drapes. She had heard the sound of a car pulling up and leaving. By the time she looked out her window a body laid on our front yard. He had been dumped from a car like trash. She called the police. We were all very shaken up by that for a long time.
I knew the young man from school, he was probably 18 years old. His name was Joe, a very handsome young man. He had died of an overdose of heroin. May you Rest in Peace Hermano, I had not thought of you in many years.
This was very common, not in our front yard, but in Huron.
I would see “them” as I walked to and from school or when I walked to Lassen Market to buy corn flakes and milk. I would see the girls looking like little girls dressed up to pretend play; although with way too much make-up, very scantily-clad and cheap perfume that gave me a headache. They were trying to look older than they were.
Let me paint you a picture of Huron. My family arrived here from Chicago sometime in the late 1940’s. I’m sure what drew them here was that Huron was an agricultural town. They could work here. I’m sure that’s what drew many law-abiding Mexican families in search of the American Dream of improving their lives. They wanted the best for their children, they wanted their children to study and become productive citizens. They simply wanted a better life for their children. My family did not come here demanding or asking for anything.
They we’re willing to work to attain a part of the American Dream. And work they did!
But, as in most communities there exists the ugliness and darkness, we prefer to avoid, ignore or pretend it doesn’t exist!
Even with all this, I have fond childhood memories of Huron. But, I saw it change from the town where everyone knew everyone. To playing hide-and-seek till late, and playing hop-scotch on the streets while we ate watermelon on a hot summer evening.
To a large influx of people arriving from border towns. I saw graffiti appearing where once we had never had that. I saw gang activity developing.
If you think we had had a lawless town then, it was now the Wild West Pancho Villa style! Where the police hid! It was time for my family to leave. The year after I left college in 1971, they moved to Coalinga.
I recall hearing instances that police were paid off to ignore these problems by the bar owners either with money or sexual favors. And, it goes without saying, the bar owners always had his pick of all the girls also. They were his property! Imagine having 10 to 20 girls working every night. You could conceivably make a lot of money. At one point I think we counted approximately twelve cantinas in Huron and just four churches. El Michoacan, Jimmy’s Place, Smokehouse, El Rancho, Mechi’s Place and many more of which names I have thankfully forgotten.
Men would get out of work and hit their favorite cantina and girl. Or move from cantina to cantina in search of something that cannot be found in bars! I recall hearing of wives who had left their husbands because the husbands repeatedly spent all their checks at the cantina!
Very young Mexican girls; ages twelve to twenty were herded into town like cattle. This occurred often; I would say once a month if not more.
As I became older I heard stories from my Mama, of how some of these young girls suffered crossing the border; they were raped and beaten. And most horrific, is while here they would be abused, exploited and beaten repeatedly also.
We all know the reasons why they leave their countries. Here they at least had a roof over their heads, they had food, some even had pretty clothes and jewelry, but in exchange lost there souls.
They were taken to bars, where they were forced to drink, dance and have sex with many men. Typically the bar had rooms or a trailer for them to use for their “business.”
They were all housed together in “chantes” infested with mice and cockroaches. They slept on a thin mattress on the floor with a vegetable crate as their nightstand, always with the rosary and a Virgin de Guadalupe picture. They were paid $20. per Juan. I’m not sure how much of that they actually kept.
I have wondered what happened to these young ladies. As a woman I feel their struggles and pain.
I would like to think some married and became part of main-stream society. But, I also know a body and soul filled with so much trauma would find it difficult to function in a role of a traditional family. I pray that they were able to break those chains and live productive lives.
While others gave into the lifestyle of alcohol and drugs as they became old women. I wonder how many succumbed and became drug addicts. Perhaps ending were they started, in a cigarette, beer, urine smelling bar infested with rats, cockroaches, men and women seeking to get rid of their pains.
I also now realize why my family was so strict. When I was young I just thought they were mean people! It was because of all these toxins around us, that they wanted to protect and shield us.
I now know my experiences were my training, so I would be ready to be able to help. I know about this lifestyle because I would hear my uncles, Mama, neighbors and the whole town talking about these young girls. They were the “talk of the town.”
I have since learned if we focus on the prostitutes or the heroin addicts we don’t have to deal with our own issues and problems.
I am aware of the seriousness of the problem, but to just talk without action is not productive.
I can’t do everything, but I must do something!
I am aware and concerned for children of the world who are broken and discarded. I know God wants me to be available to what He wants to put in my heart and hands to allow His life to pierce the darkness. I know I must:
1. Pray incessantly
2. Be Aware
3. Practical assistance