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Family is No Longer Man, Wife and Kids

Unwed mothers
LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO / NPR

Women all over Latin America are redefining what “family” means. For the majority of them, it means being an unwed mother. In fact, in Colombia, 84 percent of kids are born out of wedlock, and the numbers are similar in Mexico, Argentina and Chile.

“Things have really changed,” says María Mercedes Vittar, a human resources manager and single mother of two, to NPR. “Today, we women are a lot freer. We decide what we like and don’t like. We work. We are independent. And that gives us a lot of strength. We can do it alone if we have to.”

Her daughters, Azul, 3, and Lupita, 7 months, are from different fathers. Vittar is not romantically involved with either of them, but they’re both involved in their daughters’ lives. They even spend special occasions together, for example at Azul’s birthday, her dad attended with his ex-wife and their children, Azul’s half siblings.

READ: These are the 9 Most Devastating Things You Can Tell Mom

Vittar says that her family is a lot more than just her immediate relatives, it also includes her friends, fellow single mothers, Paola Fiorita, mother of  3-year-old Lucio, and Ana Zappella, mother of 2-year-old Ambar. The good thing is that this dynamic is so prevalent that it’s now accepted.

“Things have changed so radically that now there is a huge diversity that is deemed acceptable, and it is valued. You don’t have to get married like before to have a place in society,” says Maria Esther de Palma, president of the Argentine Society for Family Therapy to NPR.

Hmmm, maybe that’s why some will pay to attend a fake wedding in South America.

Read more about the new family dynamic in Latin America from NPR here.

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A Father And Daughter Were Separated By U.S. Immigration Only To Reunite On Her Deathbed

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A Father And Daughter Were Separated By U.S. Immigration Only To Reunite On Her Deathbed

Adhy Savala / Unsplash

It is with unrelenting sadness that we report the death of Heydi Gámez García, 13, who took her life after her father’s asylum request was denied for the third time. Heydi’s father, Manuel Gámez, sent her to the U.S. after his father was gunned down by MS-13 for refusing to pay a “war tax” to the gang. He didn’t expect that Heydi would be granted asylum, but that he would be deported.

Manuel certainly didn’t envision that his goodbye hug and kiss four years ago would be the last time he would hug and kiss his daughter while she was still alive.

The Gámaz family was broken by MS-13 and failed again by the U.S. immigration system.

Credit: @amy_baker22 / Twitter

Heydi’s mother walked out on her and her dad when she was less than two months old. By the time Heydi was a year old, Manuel left for New York as an undocumented immigrant to make money to send back home. After his father was killed by MS-13, and his mother’s health started failing, he worried about who would care for Heydi and his younger sister, Zoila.

Manuel’s sister was granted asylum and cared for Heydi in his absence in New York.

Credit: @holliewolfen / Twitter

A year after his father’s death, he sent Heydi, Zoila and his brother to the U.S. Heydi and Zoila were granted asylum. Heydi learned English within a year and started teaching her father, via phone calls, how to correctly pronounce English words. They spoke every day, always asking when he’d come.

After two failed attempts to gain asylum, Heydi lost hope for being reunited and started cutting herself.

Credit: @holliewolfen / Twitter

He never wanted to make promises he couldn’t keep, like being there for her quinceañera. Heydi watched her classmates complain about their parents’ visiting their school and fell into a depression. In December, she was brought to the hospital for a psychiatric evaluation after cutting her wrist at school. She was seeing a therapist until two months before her suicide.

“Please forgive me for failing you,” Manuel wants to tell his daughter.

“I’m sorry I couldn’t be there… I never meant to leave you,” he says to her. Heydi was Manuel’s only child. Heydi’s aunt is coping with impossible guilt. She told CNN, “I was supposed to be protecting her. I would never send her to Honduras. But I never thought something bad would happen to her here.”

Manuel was released on a two week ‘humanitarian’ visit to release Heydi from life support.

Credit: @holliewolfen / Twitter

He finally got to hold her hand and comfort her as she left this life behind. “We love you,” he whispered to her. “Don’t leave us.”

The last thing Heydi told anyone was that she lost hope in being reunited with her father.

Credit: @MaryJaneKnows / Twitter

She was crying as she told her aunt that she feels hopeless and that one day, she’ll become a lawyer to help her dad’s case. She then said she wanted to be alone and was found two hours later in a closet. She didn’t leave a note.

She was declared brain dead a week later at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in Queens.

Dr. Charles Schleien told CNN that she was in a “neurologically devastated state” upon arrival with “no hope for recovery.” He went on to disclose that the Gámaz family “chose to turn tragedy into the gift of life. Heydi is an organ donor and her final act will be to save others.”

The mental health impacts of family separation at our borders can only be told one story at a time.

Credit: @apbenven / Twitter

It is the only empathic way to relate to the emotional scars of our community. Every story is important. Every life lost to policies that don’t incorporate the most visceral human desires, like growing up with your father by your side, is one life too many. 

What on earth are we doing?

Credit: @JoeGould50 / Twitter

How can anyone go about business as usual? How do we humanize brown-skinned people to every voter and decision-maker? The only way we know how is to continually voice your concerns to your representatives and create space for these stories. Don’t look away. The grief of the Gámaz family is all of our grief. 

A Manuel, you did not fail your daughter. We all did. We are so sorry.

A Former Peruvian President Was Arrested On Corruption Charges While In The US And Peruvians Are Sick And Tired Of It

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A Former Peruvian President Was Arrested On Corruption Charges While In The US And Peruvians Are Sick And Tired Of It

Anibal Solimano / Getty Images

It is no secret that Latin American governments have forever been involved in the muddy waters of corruption and political scandals. It is pan de todos los dias to see governors, secretaries of state, diplomats and even presidents arrested, accused of either stealing citizens’ money or receiving bribes from companies or organized crime. Whole political apparatuses have fallen, as witnessed in Brazil, where two ex presidents, the iconic Lula and his successor, Dilma Rousseff, have been found guilty of corruption at the highest levels of government. It doesn’t matter on what end of the political spectrum a government: both leftists and conservatives 

The former Peruvian president Alejandro Toledo is the latest high profile Latin American politician to have been arrested for corruption charges. He was arrested on July 18 in the United States, and the process for his extradition has started. 

First things first: so who is Alejandro Toledo?

Credit: CBC.ca

Alejandro Celestino Toledo Manrique served as the 63rd President of Peru from 2001 to 2006. He won the election in April 2001, defeating former President Alan García. He was born in 1946 and like many Latin American politicians he did his postgrad studies in the United States. He is a graduate of Harvard University and the University of San Francisco. The beginning of his administration was met with enthusiasm by Peruvians. As Knowledge @ Wharton recalls: “Amidst great expectations, Alejandro Toledo became President of Peru in June 2001. His arrival in power put an end to 10 years of Alberto Fujimori’s authoritarian government and marked the beginning of a new democratic era”. 

And second, you gotta know some facts about the company Odebrecht.

Odebrecht S.A. is a Brazilian conglomerate founded by Norberto Odebrecht, from Salvador in the State of Bahia. The company’s portfolio includes a list of diversified businesses in the fields of engineering, construction, chemicals and petrochemicals. The company has been facing legal problems since 2015, when it was revealed that Brazilian politicians had been receiving “irregular donations” also known as bribes, or mordidas pa los cuates. This led to a wider investigation that has involved politicians in Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Colombia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Panama, Venezuela and, obviously, Peru.

In short, this company has bribed politicians that range from state ministers to legislators, mayors, governors and even presidents, as is the case of Alejandro Toledo.

As reported by The Times UK, the company has admitted guilt: “In 2016 Odebrecht, once one of the world’s biggest construction companies, admitted to the US justice department that it had paid about $800 million in bribes to politicians, officials and business figures in 12 countries.” 

And this is why Toledo has been arrested 

Credit: @elcomercio_peru / Twitter

According to The Times UK, Toledo”is accused of receiving $20 million as part of a huge bribery scandal involving the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht”. Toledo was acting as a visiting scholar in Stanford University and he has appeared before a judge in San Francisco. The Peruvian government has requested an extradition. Toledo had fled to the United States in 2017 after being accused of receiving bribes. Toledo was accused by Odebrecht’s executive director in Peru, Jorge Barata, of receiving $20 million for hiring the company to build a motorway to Brazil. Todas unas joyitas los gobernantes

So what now? Well, things will move slowly

Credit: @BBC / Twitter

Judicial processes are very, very slow. According to the Xinhua News Agency, Peruvian Foreign Minister Nestor Popolizio considers that the extradition process could take a year: “The official said he was basing the estimation on a similar case, in which Panama’s ex-president Ricardo Martinelli fled to Miami, U.S. state of Florida, to avoid facing justice”. In the meantime, Toledo will remain under the custody of United States authorities.

Toledo denies the charges against him and, as reported by CE Noticias Financieras , he has “stated on several occasions that everything is an attack by his enemies and is the victim of political persecution”. One of Toledo’s lawyers, Heriberto Benítez, told the N-Channel Toledo is the victim of “political persecution”. The Peruvian government will move cielo y tierra to get Toledo back to his home country. As CNN reports, Peruvian Justice Minister Vicente Zeballos has said: ““The government is engaged in a full-on fight against corruption.”

Four Peruvian ex presidents are now in jail or arrested: it takes a second to take that in! Another former president killed himself.

Credit: acasoyotra / Twitter

Imagine being a Peruvian and dealing with the fact that four of your most recent ex presidents of your country are in jail. The usual suspects are Alberto Fujimori, Toledo, Francisco Morales Bermúdez (a dictator), and Ollanta Humala, the country’s first indigenous president. It must be a tough pill to swallow: millions of people actually voted for these people, only to be betrayed.

The country has had to face one political shakeup after another, which makes foreign and local investors hesitant about spending money and generating jobs, which stalls the economy (this process is much more complex than this, of course, but we are putting it con peras y manzanas).

Another former president, Alan Garcia, died by suicide in April. CNN remembered his death covering the Toledo arrest: “Another former president, Alan Garcia, shot himself in the head to avoid arrest in April, in connection with alleged bribes from the Brazilian builder”

Are these arrests actually a sign of political and social progress?

Credit: @sleepflowrr / Twitter

However, it is not all bad news. The fact that justice is served even in the highest echelons of power speaks of a strong judiciary system, something that is rare in Latin America. In an opinion piece written by Sonia Golenberg for The New York Times she writes: “Peru is not more corrupt than other Latin American states. Nor are its courts a model of fairness and efficiency. But as overwhelming evidence of bribes taken by presidents across the political spectrum is emerging from abroad, Peruvian judges are under extreme pressure to react. As a consequence, the country’s discredited justice system is, for a change, gaining some credibility and independence”. 

Social media users from other Latin American countries are demanding that their politicians also be arrested.

Credit: @mgaznine2m / Twitter

This Ecuadorian is asking when the former president of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, will follow a similar fate. Some of Correa’s closest collaborators, such as the former Vice President, Jorge Glass, was recently sentenced to six years in prison. 

Mexicans are also asking nosotros cuando?

Credit: @CastilloFco2 / Twitter

Enrique Pena Nieto, Mexico’s most recent former president, has been implicated with Odebrecht. And the previous two presidents, Vicente Fox and Felipe Calderon, also have cola que les pisen according to various media reports. The Mexican government has made some high profile arrests of former state governors, but expresidentes remain largely untouched. 

Even Chileans are demanding justice.

Credit: @hectorespinoza / Twitter

This user is asking when former president Michelle Bachelet will be summoned by a court. When she was president, questions surrounded her family, particularly her son Sebastian Davalos and some allegedly shady real estate deals. 

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