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El Robo: In Memory of My Mexican Mother

by Alvaro 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, an 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 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 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. It was no secret that he wanted to make 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; he had a simpler plan. He would stalk Carmen until he found an opportunity to abduct her.

Once he crafted his master plan, Alcadio and his hired thugs stationed themselves inside the cornfields, adjacent to Carmen’s home. After hiding for days with only uncooked corn to eat and mescal to 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 ventured outside her adobe home with an empty bucket to get water from her neighbor Margarita.

“There she is,” Alcadio whispered to the others. “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.

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

“Let me go!” Carmen screamed at the top of her lungs, while 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 to her neighbors, who began to gather in a semi-circle to witness all of the commotion.

“Let her go, Alcadio,” a young woman said from the crowd.

“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 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 the door of her house. Carmen desperately 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. 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, while aimlessly shooting his gun in her direction.

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 hair 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, couldn’t protect her from Alcadio and others like him.

Seeking justice, Salomon sought help from his father Martin. As the commander of the local militia, Martin had the authority to arrest Alcadio and his men.

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, since the brute’s father, just happened to be Martin’s first cousin.

Salomon realized that Alcadio paid off his neighbor, Raul, to distract Salomon while Alcadio executed his foiled master plan.

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

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

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

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

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

Throughout her life in Mexico and the United States, my mother overcame tremendous obstacles to make sure that her children had a better life.

Now, if only she could live one more day so she can tell us, once again, her favorite story of how she prevailed against her would-be abductor in the rancho.