Success Stories – Ariel Martinez
My name is Ariel Martinez,
This is a name that I have had to earn back ever since I escaped from Mexico. I had many other names, names given to me throughout my abduction. Some of my names were animal, worthless, pig, piece of XXX and the list gets worse.
In 1991 when I was eleven years of age, I was abducted by my father with my two sisters and taken to Mexico without my mother’s knowledge. When I think back to those three years in Mexico, I feel lucky to be alive.
I am 12 years old, sitting in a room. The floors are painted blood red and the walls snow white. I am wrapped in a thin and dirty blanket, which barely protects me against the numb stinging cold that permeates the air and ice-cold floor I sit on. I am so intensely cold that my bones feel brittle, so brittle they could shatter like thin ice. And this only reminds me that I am alive. It is only superficial pain and misery. The pain of my flesh and bone acts as a comfort in comparison to what lay beyond the room’s dark and cold walls. What lay outside the walls of this room is 100 times more miserable and painful, ready to invade, ready to mutilate and destroy every cherished dream and memory that gives me innocence. Only the room’s silence and darkness provides solace.
This sort of scene was an almost daily occurrence during my abduction. During this ordeal my sisters and I became my father’s puppets. He taught us to hate, to hate those we once cherished. His hate became our hate. He did this all, in an attempt to hurt and destroy our mother. My father was so consumed by his hate that he was determined to destroy or harm everybody that had supposedly wronged him or interfered with his plans. I soon became one of those interferences.
My tacit, never-verbal disobedience was met constantly with beatings, starvation, and ostracism. One especially severe ordeal began when I was accused of betraying my father’s request to apologize on his behalf to several other adult friends of the family for his behavior. That night I was beaten so severely I had difficulty standing on both feet the next morning. I crept on all fours and then gained the strength to stand on my feet; I limped towards the darkened bathroom and then stared at my silhouette for a few moments. I began to remove my shirt and felt an intense ripping pain in my back, as if I were peeling a giant band-aid off a half-healed wound. He is a 200 plus pound man. As always, he first began by punching and kicking me around the floor as I scrambled away on all fours like a terrified dog. This was not enough, this time he ripped the antenna off the television and tore into my back with such ferocity it cut me open, over and over and over.
By this point, my lungs were too empty of air for me to cry out in pain, I truly thought I was going to die. The next morning he left me there in that abandoned apartment, alone in the cold, without food, where I slipped in and out of consciousness for the next three days fearing his eventual return.
I truly lived in a constant state of terror, I lived from moment to moment, short of breath from watching his every gesture, every look, listening to every inflection, not certain whether he was about to lash out unprovoked or hug me.
During my ordeal we moved from city to city, living in abandoned apartments, sometimes on the brink of starvation. As a result of our conditions my father eventually moved us to my grandmother’s maid’s farm outside of Mexico City. He left us there under the care of her family, visiting once or twice every month. This was a time of great happiness and relief for me. I no longer had to fear the mere look of his paralyzing and piercing stare, no longer under his constant watch, fearful that he might snap at any moment unprovoked.
Throughout my abduction I attempted to escape four times. The first time occurred after my father had abandoned me on the farm. He eventually returned a few months later and learned of my attempted escape. As he drove me away from my friends, from my only sanctuary, he snapped. He knew but had hid it until the last moment. I froze in my seat without anywhere to hide or move and just felt the piercing pain of his iron fist, blow after blow, smashing my face like a toy. He beat me and beat me, quieting my thoughts of escape, for a long while.
The brainwashing and lies became more intense. He had twisted my sisters more and more since I had last seen them, convincing them to hate me with a passion, to hate me like they hated my supposed demon possessed mother. They only saw me as the enemy, a sin that had befallen the family, a sickness that had to be corrected. They were intent on scrutinizing my every action and word, controlling me, threatening me, and trying to crush my will. I hoped that I would eventually escape even if it meant that I would have to live on the streets by myself, hungry and exposed even at the risk of my own death, because death, was better than this.
We continued to move; my father got a new job, remarried, and we moved into a two-story house in an upscale community. I hoped things would now be different. I thought my new stepmother would be loving and compassionate towards me. Once again, I was wrong. Things grew more intense as my stepmother provoked my father to beat me even more. My stepmother would also beat me, from time to time, working me even harder, making me stay up all night cleaning the house and yard without food or water. I became their personal slave. No hedge, no floor, and no bed ever went unkept. Laughed at and mocked like a disfigured animal.
My downtime was spent in that dark cold room, worrying about when my father, sisters, or stepmother would walk in and give me more work, or sometimes beat me. I didn’t dare run, fight or defend myself when they kicked, punched, and slapped me. Only bleeding or the silence of my cry would sometimes stop them.
The reality is that I was damned; no happy dream would solve my perilous situation. No angel would swoop down and carry me away from this red hell. No mother, father, sister or brother, not even a stranger would embrace me. Those dreams and my vivid fantasies kept me going and somehow gave me meaning. But they would not be my salvation. If I wanted to be free it was up to me. I no longer had a father or sisters and maybe not even a mother. I had to promise myself that I would do it, I would risk my life. I would dive into the depths of my soul; I would conquer my fear, and then drag myself inch by inch from hell to freedom. No monster would stop me, no fear would cage me.
I had to take a leap of faith alone, with my heart, mind, and memories as my guide.
Almost three years into my abduction, I methodically planned and organized my fourth and final attempt to escape. I first found my mothers phone number amongst my elder sister’s things. I then began to secretly call my mother and the U.S. embassy for about a period of a week at a nearby but hidden pay phone location.
I began to wonder if I was doing the right thing. My elder sister Audrey always told me things would get better; she said dad would eventually stop beating me. But then again he was not beating her.
These words were all too familiar and empty; I knew that I had to escape. If I stayed I would be sucked back into the cycle of hatred and misery again and again, until my father either beat me to death or until I took my own life.
Early in the morning I dressed as if I were going to school with a different pair of clothing under my school ware. I ran down the dusty and barren hillside in fear that my sisters or somebody else might see me. I eventually reached the bus stop and there I caught a bus into the city. Fortunately I did not have to worry that my sisters might notice my absence at school since they attended a different school.
I eventually arrived in Mexico City at the location where I had planned to meet the U.S. embassy personnel. There I waited and waited, for 45 minutes in anticipation. Fear did not cross my mind anymore. I was over that. I had started something and with or without the help of the U.S. embassy I would finish it, even if it meant that I had to walk across the border myself. They eventually picked me up. I spent a few hours at the U.S. embassy where my passport was prepared. They then escorted me to the airport directly onto my plane.
I returned home on Mothers day of 1994 when I was 13 years old.
Today I stand before you not as a victim, but as an advocate. The combined efforts of the MCCH and the Friends of the MCCH have prevented abduction, reunited children with their rightful parents, and helped rehabilitate with counseling, those people affected. But we still face an enormous task. My own success is not a result of only my individual achievements, but because my mother, my friends, and my therapists stood behind me. They filled the gaps that most families are unable to fill on their own today, those gaps that the MCCH now helps to fill. Those that did help me, many of them strangers, contributed not only their money, but more importantly time to help those close to me, to reach out, to give me a glimmer of hope that maybe others still truly cared, that perhaps, I had a chance for a better life.
That is our mission today, to protect your children from abduction, to give victims and their families a chance; A chance for a parent to hold their child in their arms again, a chance to rebuild their lives, a chance for happiness despite their tragedy. I know I would not be here before you today if it were not for the generosity of those strangers.
These children and families need your support. It is clear we cannot shut our eyes to this ugly reality. We must confront this evil with resolve, standing up to stop these abductions. I ask you all to help us continue making our mission a reality.