Last week, a 14-year-old girl was put in jail in Mexico last week after running away in an attempt to escape her own wedding ceremony for which she had been sold. The girl’s family had been offered 200,000 pesos (around US$9,300) for her hand in marriage.
The girl has only been identified in media as Anayeli “N” and was supposed to marry a neighbor in Mexico’s Guerrero state. Her mother had accepted the payment, and the would-be groom’s family had hired a band, killed a cow, and prepared a marriage meal to take place last Monday.
Once Anayeli found out about the plan, she decided to go against it. On the morning of the wedding, she escaped her family’s house in Joya Real and sought shelter in the home of her friend, 15-year-old Alfredo “N.”
“She thought it was her older sister who was going to be married, she never thought it would be her, because she was a minor,” said Abel Barrera in an interview. Barrera is the director of the Guerrero-based Tlachinolloan Human Rights Center.
He added that when Anayeli discovered the wedding was for her, “she preferred to flee without notifying anyone, regardless of the fact that her mother had already agreed [on the price] and the expenses paid by the groom’s father.”
Barrera noted that even though arranged marriages have been illegal under Mexican law since 2019, arranged marriages for minors still happen, especially between families in rural regions. “None of that interested the girl,” he said. “she simply wanted to preserve her freedom, her life, and her safety.”
When Anayeli went missing, the groom’s family asked Joya Real’s Community Police officers to track her down. After sweeping the small village, they found her and Alfredo hiding and took them both to jail.
By Tuesday, members of Barrera’s team as well as state police and other representatives made sure the teens were released from jail, and the two were put into protective custody for their own safety. Barrera said that “this must be understood in the context of extreme poverty” because marginalized indigenous communities are often neglected by the state.
“The government has forgotten these communities,” he added. “Here there is no way to find a job, to develop any artistic ability.” Anayeli’s father was recently murdered by unknown attackers, and her mother was left to fend for the family on her own. Arranged marriages are generally seen as the only way out.
ARTICLE: ELIZABETH HERTZBERG
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: INDEPENDENT