The horrifying massacre of 72 Central and South American immigrants by the hands of Zetas shocked the world. Preliminary investigations, based on testimony by the sole survivor of this attack, report the immigrants were first given the option of paying their ransoms in cash or as cartel slaves. Having no cash and refusing to join Zeta forces, the 58 men and 14 women, were blindfolded and bound before being executed on spot.
We know what happened to them, but what about the others? What happens to those who are unable to pay, but still desperately wish to survive?
Below you will read the story of Marisolina, a young immigrant from El Salvador who’s only dream, like many before her, was the American dream. An immigrant who, with no means to pay ransom, was forced into the dark world of Zeta slavery.
Marisolina didn’t have relatives in the United States, much less in El Salvador, who would or even could pay the Zetas, who kidnapped her, the $3000 dollars they demanded to release her.“You’re going have to come up with another way to pay us, Guerita”, they repeatedly threatened her in the first few days of her captivity.
There was nobody to answer for her, no one to defend her. Within a week of kidnapping her near the railways of Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz, the Zetas had decided how she would pay her debt; Marisolina would become the safe house cook, in charge of preparing all meals for fellow immigrants who had been kidnapped, and those who held them captive. “At first I just cooked for them, but when they began to trust in me, they gave me their clothes to wash.“
One evening, after serving dinner, a man everyone called “El Perro”, who was in charge of the safe house, after getting very drunk and high on cocaine, asked me to sit down and talk for a while. It was at this moment he asked me: “Guerita, do you know why my clothes are always so dirty?”
Marisolina spoke of the fear she had of this man who always had a weapon in hand and took great pleasure in constantly abusing the immigrants he held captive. “I told him I imagined (because of the stains) he worked on the trucks which were used to transport the Central Americans.”
“El Perro” let out a hardy laugh and replied: “I’m the butcher. I don’t do any type of mechanics. My job is to I get rid of the trash that doesn’t pay.”
Still visibly terrified, Marisolina recalls that exact moment: “Mockingly, and without any remorse, he told me he was in charge of killing the immigrants who couldn’t afford to pay their ransom. He said: Fist I cut them into pieces so they fit into the drums, then I light them on fire, I let them burn until there’s nothing left of the little assholes.”
That night she couldn’t sleep. She was alert and spooked by every sound. She heard people coming and going from the house, but was too scared to try to catch a peak of what was happening. The next morning “El Perro” brought more clothes to be washed.
No longer able to contain her tears she finally, after several long minutes, continued her story: “I washed, so many times, the blood of those people. As I scrubbed at the blood, pieces of meat fell out. Everything smelled of soot, which to me, was the smell of death.”
Marisolina was held captive for three months by a group that called themselves Los Zetas. In their get togethers and business meetings, she was in charge of serving meals to the leaders.“When they were together, I would hear them say Los Zetas was a very respectable organization. Sometimes they took me to a hotel they rented in Coatzacoalcos, it was there I learned to recognize La Compania’s, as they called it, chain of command.”
The soldiers, she revealed, where those in charge of guarding the immigrants day and night.“Then there were the Alfa. I heard them, many times, speaking to police, immigration officials, and train conductors. They would advise them when large numbers of immigrants were coming on the train, or when they were detained.”
Trying to minimize her Salvadoran accent, she recalls the location of at least six butchers, one for each safe house. “Above the butchers were the big bosses, they were the ones who gave the orders of which immigrants to kill.”
She covers her face with shame and sadness as she recalls how she knew many of the immigrants which were killed. “One day they ordered me to take food up to a room I had never entered before. Just the smell of the place made me cry. They had them tied up there. They were the ones that couldn’t pay. They were the ones on the list to be killed. Their eyes were covered and their hands were bound. The only way to get out now, was by dieing. I gave many of them their food at night and by morning they were gone. I saw so many disappear. And it hurts me that I couldn’t help any of them, even though many, so many begged me.”
One night, after a military strike on one of the Zeta safe houses led to the rescue of other immigrants, “El Perro”, who by that time considered Marisolina his friend, asked her to accompany him to the store to by cigarettes and sodas. It was outside of the store she was released, but not before being warned she would die if she ever revealed what had occurred.
Long walks and days and nights without eating or sleeping, preceded her denunciation of the Zetas who had held her captive. She didn’t want to talk to the police, she trusted no one. She agreed to the assistance offered by the National Commission of Human Rights only after being reminded her testimony could help prevent others from suffering the same.
Unfortunately, Marisolina’s nightmare did not end there. The greatest deception came when the Attorney General’s office informed them her situation had changed. After reviewing her testimony, they had reasonable suspicion she was part of the Zeta’s criminal organization, thus her legal status had changed from that of the victim to the indicted.
Marisolina for her part, after everything that has happened and learning how the Zetas operate, can’t believe she survived, let alone, that they released her just like that.