Warning: this story contains graphic images below.
She calls herself Zunduri because she thinks it means “beautiful girl” in Japanese. She's a 22-year-old woman, but looks like a girl not older than 15. Her case has shocked Mexico and every person who comes across her story. For about two years, Zunduri was the slave of a Mexican family who held her captive without food or water, subdued with beatings and mistreatments—a torture repeated on a daily basis.
She managed to escape from her captors, who are already in custody. They are José de Jesús Sánchez Vera, sisters Leticia Molina Ochoa and Fani Molina Ochoa, and sisters Ivette Hernández Molina and Jannet Hernández Molina.
Her story starts off with a very difficult childhood, a story that she'd rather not remember. She ran away from home and asked for a job from a friend's mother. At first, it was a good deal, with very reasonable working conditions. She was supposed to iron clothes for the family business, a dry cleaner. This continued until Zunduri fell in love and quit her job. When the relationship ended two years later, she came back asking to have her old job again. She got it back, although with a harder rythm, and she agreed.
With a higher workload, she felt more tired, and some of the clothes she was supposed to iron were ruined as a result. Her employers told her the cost of the ruined pieces would be covered with her salary, but in amounts determined unilaterally and arbitrarily by them. The moment finally came when the debt was so high that they simply stopped paying her. Zunduri managed to escape once, but when she was found, she was threatened with charges agasint her for robbery.
When she got back to “work”, the mistreatment and torture started. She got chained in a way she could not sit down for long hours, and she had to iron clothes without a break. Food didn't come every day. Zunduri saw herself forced to eat even the plastic that covered the clothes. She relied on plastic bags when she needed to use the bathroom, as the short length of her chains prevented her from reaching the toilet. All five individuals involved participated in the beatings, but the worst one was Leticia Molina Ochoa, who Zunduri sometimes used to call “mom”.
The website Repretel describes the young woman's plight:
“Me llegaba a golpear con palos, fierros, con lo primero que pudiera estar en sus manos”. asegura Zunduri.
“Había días que no dormía, nada, me obligaba a mantenerme despierta para seguir trabajando”.
El maltrato le provocó severos daños. Zunduri cumplirá 23 años el próximo mes aunque su cuerpo es como el de una adolescente de 14.
Pero los exámenes médicos determinaron que sus órganos tienen el mismo desgaste de una persona de 81 años.
“She beat me with sticks, with iron bars, with whatever she could find at hand”, claims Zunduri.
“There were days when I got no sleep at all, she forced me to stay awake so to keep on working”.
The mistreatment caused longterm damage. Zunduri will be 23 next month, though her body looks like a 14-year-old teenager. Medical tests, however, established her organs are as worn away as those of an 81-year-old woman.
The head of Ministry Labor and Social Welfare, Alfonso Navarrete Prida, has pointed out that this is not labor exploitation, but kidnapping—illegal imprisonment that included the exploitation of the kidnapped person. This is a crime punishable by 70 years in prison.
On Twitter, people are posting pictures and videos with the accounts Zunduri has given to the press. (WARNING: graphic images are ahead.)
Caso Zunduri: hasta 70 años de prisión a quienes esclavizaron a joven http://t.co/BOh1e4B0US
— Sofia Crus (@SofiCrus) abril 29, 2015
Zunduri case: up to 70 years imprisonment for those who enslaved a young woman.
This story will break Yur soul. Woman slave Zunduri tortured for two years by Mexican family | Daily Mail Online http://t.co/aJEwUwhI9u
— #BoutThatLife (@Kuncous) abril 29, 2015
So shocking this is still going on – BBC: Compelling testimony by Zunduri, the slave at a dry cleaner in Mexico City.
The Mexican Attorney General of the Republic looks for Zunduri's mother, young woman enslaved at a dry cleaner in Mexico City.
Once again, the non-existent human rights in Mexico are exposed.
— Emilio Gómez Islas (@egomezislas) abril 29, 2015
“May they pay for every tear”, is what Zunduri asks for: MEXICO (El Universal).
Unfortunately, Zunduri's case is not an isolated story. According to the 2014 Global Slavery Index, Mexico ranks 111th in the world by prevalence of population in modern slavery, with an estimated 266,900 slaves. It is the highest-ranked nation in Latin American.
The website Publimetro recently published summaries of two similar cases in Mexico.