This story was recorded during our Día de Visita documentary project in Mexico City.
We walked over to what was the largest group congregated in the courtyard this Saturday and asked if they would be willing to participate in our Día de Visita project. From their uniforms we knew that this group had two boys in prison. One father asked is son, another mother asked her son. “Yes,” they said. We began talking.
Alex was 17 and Sergio was 18.* They were cousins and surrounded by one boy’s father, the other’s mother, three grandparents, one sister and one brother. They were all anxious to share about what visiting day means to their family.
We spend time together with them, we bring them food so they are calm, and we talk with them, give them love – which is what many here are missing – more than love, understanding. And we never fail to come to visit them, said the mother.
We are in waiting. We are sad. Never has something like this happened, never. I’ve never been separated from my family, said Sergio.
His father told us that Sergio had already finished preparatory school and was set to study veterinary at the university before he was arrested. He went on to tell us that his nephew, Alex had been studying in the preparatory school as well but had to drop out when his father became ill with a heart condition. Alex had to work to help the family. Because of his medical condition, Alex’s father can’t come to visiting day, just his mother.
Sergio also only receives visits from one parent, his father. But that is because his mother is in prison. Sergio’s father continued to explain their story. Two years ago a man in the neighborhood was killed. The police came and questioned everybody, including Sergio’s and Alex’s families. Then, two years later a neighbor told the police that Sergio, Alex and Sergio’s mother had committed the crime.
The family strenuously holds to their innocence. Sergio’s father walked us through the problems with the police reports and the witness’s statement. He said she had already recanted. They have hired a private attorney and believe the he is doing a good job representing their family. We don’t ask about innocence or guilt – all of the kids we interview are in pretrial detention and are presumed innocent. But some families, those that believe in their children’s innocence, always bring up their court cases.
But regardless of the principle of the presumption of innocence, the criminal justice system nearly always accepts the police and prosecutor’s statements and automatically assumes defendants are lying. The conviction rate in Mexico is near 90 percent.
Sergio’s father was anxious to share as much as he could with us.
To be together is very lovely, right? Because one waits all week to see them. It’s like he said, we aren’t used to being separated. We are a humble family and we have always lived together. And unfortunately, they separated us and we don’t see each other. It’s very, very difficult and its like he said, it’s just one day… It is very difficult to leave them for so much time.
*Their names and certain details are changed to protect their identity.