Afterword: A Fax, Two Moles, a Consul, and a Judge
m a r y l o u i s e p r a t t
The phone rings early one morning at the home of the Mexican consul in a
California city. His assistant needs him urgently in court. She has been called
in in the case of a fourteen-year-old Mexican girl who is pregnant. The
father is a twenty-six-year-old man, also from Mexico. Both are undocu-
mented. The judge has ruled as she normally does in such cases—the preg-
nant girl should become a ward of the state for her own protection; the baby
would almost certainly be put up for adoption; the man should be charged
with statutory rape, imprisoned for fifteen to twenty years, then deported.
The young girl speaks no English. She does not speak Spanish either. She is
indigenous, a Mixteca from the state of Oaxaca. So is he. Through inter-
preters the story unfolds. The two are from the same village; among the
Mixteco it is common for girls to marry at fourteen, often to older men, in
unions arranged between families.∞
In the village, the man said, the matri-
monial rituals and necessary exchanges had taken place in good order; he had
come north to find work and sent for her to join him. Now they were starting
a family.
Lives were on the line. For the judge, a crime had taken place, a girl was
pregnant at a far too young age, and her life chances were unfairly limited.
She was not old enough to make such decisions for herself. She needed to be
protected and given a chance at a life of her own. The perpetrator should be
punished. The consul saw a human tragedy in the making. Swallowed up by
the social service system, knowing neither Spanish nor English, the girl
would be isolated and torn forever from everything that was hers, including
her child. Her prospects would be grim, and she would be unlikely ever to
reconnect with her family. For the young man, were he to survive a U.S.
prison sentence at all, losing his wife and child in this way would destroy his
status in the village and devastate relations among their families. The judge
and the consul were both right; both were following the rules.
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